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Professor Suzanne Graham – University of Reading

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  • Professor Suzanne Graham

    Transforming the Landscape of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL)

Professor Suzanne Graham

sg1Professor Suzanne Graham started her career as a Secondary French and German teacher. She was very interested in what happens when pupils move from GCSE to A Level foreign language study.


Suzanne was particularly fascinated by why some individuals decide to carry on learning languages at a higher level and others don't, and why some are more successful at making that transition than others. This formed the basis of her PhD, which delved into learners' motivations, strategies for learning and decisions to continue with language study.


In a later study, Suzanne gathered data from more than 600 French learners aged 16 to 18 on their motivation for language learning. Her analysis provided evidence of the relationship between learners' understanding of how to improve their own learning, their self-efficacy - the belief in their ability to complete tasks successfully - and their motivation to continue language study. Later work looked at these issues in relation to listening in a foreign language, and how teachers can help learners to become both more proficient and confident in understanding what they hear.


Suzanne has also conducted research into language learning at primary school, exploring issues such as learner motivation across primary to secondary school transition, and the impact on learning of how much teaching time primary schools dedicate to languages and how proficient in the taught language the teachers are. This research has fed into The Language Magician https://www.thelanguagemagician.net/, an EU-funded computer game that allows teachers to assess their students' learning in a non-threatening way. A collaboration with several European universities and cultural bodies, The Language Magician has been accessed by more than 700,000 teachers in multiple countries.


Suzanne's work has influenced language education and learning at all levels, from initial teacher education, to practice in schools and universities, and from curriculum and learning materials development to assessment frameworks, nationally and internationally.


To ensure her research can be easily applied, Suzanne presents many of her findings in an accessible way via the Professional Development Consortium (PDC) website - https://pdcinmfl.com/tag/pdc/. Here she lays out 8 clear principles for practice and provides supporting materials and hands-on help.


Since 2012, the PDC website has had over 66,000 hits from over 140 countries. Suzanne leads the PGCE Secondary Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) course at the University of Reading, and it is underpinned by the PDC 8 principles, helping future teachers to develop their practice in a research-informed way with benefits for the learners they go on to work with. Suzanne's work, along with that of Dr Rowena Kasprowicz, is also feeding into CPD being provided by the Department of Education (DfE) National Centre for Language Pedagogy led by the University of York.


Most recently, Suzanne has been working with the Open World Research Initiative scheme, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, on 'Creative Multilingualism', a project exploring how different kinds of texts (poems, newspaper articles) have differing effects on foreign language learning in secondary schools. This interdisciplinary approach will "help us to gain an enhanced understanding of the creative dimension of linguistic diversity, and the contribution it makes to our creative potential as human beings."- https://www.creativeml.ox.ac.uk/


The work of Creative Multilingualism also feeds into the PGCE Secondary MFL course, where the latest research-informed perspectives on how to use literature and other media form part of the training
In the future Suzanne would like to take her listening comprehension research further, finding new ways to help teachers to develop their pupils' listening skills.

 

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