Update: AILA 2008 Research Symposium

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

The 15th World Congress of Applied Linguistics will be held in Essen, Germany from August 24 to 29, 2008. The conference theme is “Multilingualism: Challenges and Opportunities.” The congress is organised by the German Association of Applied Linguistics (GAL e.V.), the University of Duisburg-Essen, Congress Centre Essen (CCE), and further partners.

On behalf of the German Society for Foreign Language Research (DGFF), Prof. Dr. Karin Aguado (University of Kassel, Germany) and I will be co-chairing a full three-hour research symposium which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 26, 16:00-19:00 (Congress Center Essen / Messe Essen, Norbertstrasse, 45131 Essen, Room L (Süd)).

The symposium is intended as a forum for dissemination and discussion of current empirical research on foreign/second language learning and teaching in Germany. Its main objective is to present the breadth and diversity of large-scale, medium-scale and small-scale quantitative and qualitative research in this area to an international audience of experts.

The symposium will have three main sessions. Each session will be scheduled for a one-hour time slot. The individual sessions will be facilitated by renowned scholars as well as early career researchers and devoted to the following issues (arranged in the order outlined below). Please note the partial change of program in session three.

Current Research on Teaching and Learning Foreign/Second Languages in Germany

Session 1
Prof. Dr. Günter M.J. Nold (University of Dortmund, Germany) (60 minutes)

Sociopragmatic and grammatical awareness – findings from the DESI project

DESI (German-English-Student-Assessment-International), a large-scale assessment study commissioned by the German federal board of education, was designed and implemented by an interdisciplinary consortium of applied linguists and educational researchers. Two of the tests in the test battery that was developed were sociopragmatic and grammatical awareness tests (N=11.000; ninth grade students). The empirical results of these tests will be discussed both with an emphasis on theories of language awareness raising and on questions related to theories of second language acquisition in the fields of sociopragmatic and grammatical development.

Session 2
Prof. Dr. Marita Schocker-von Ditfurth (Freiburg University of Education, Germany) / Prof. Dr. Michael K. Legutke (University of Giessen, Germany) (60 minutes)

Task-based language learning in EFL classrooms

Research on task-based language learning has been running strong for 20 years now, but has been dominated by a psycholinguistic research paradigm for a long time. While some of these research findings have been important in terms of learning about the mental processes involved in second language acquisition, they were largely focused on isolated tasks of individual, usually adult learners, and therefore did not take into account the complexity of the contextual factors that influence learning in the foreign language classroom. The presentation focuses on the complex issues that arise when researching the methodological implementation of a task-based approach on the classroom level as well as on the level of teacher education.

Session 3 (a)
New: Jan-Oliver Eberhardt (Hamburg University, Germany) (30 minutes)

The intercultural competences of pupils learning French as a foreign language An explorative study carried out with German tenth-graders

Intercultural competence is seen as an important objective of foreign language learning, not only in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe 2001), but also in modern-day German Educational Standards (Bildungsstandards für die erste Fremdsprache (Englisch/Französisch) für den Mittleren Schulabschluss, KMK 2003).

However, up to the present day there is a lack of studies which, on the one hand, prove empirically the adequacy of intercultural educational objectives as well as the soundness of existing models of intercultural competence with regard to adolescents and, on the other hand, which endeavour to evaluate the intercultural competence of pupils learning foreign languages in secondary schools.

This is the reason why, in my dissertation, I conducted a qualitative/explorative study with tenth-grade pupils which included an open questionnaire (N=106) and several in-depth interviews (N=15) in which the pupils had to assess photos / scenes displaying critical incidents (focussed on France and francophone countries). The data analysis was based on the standard procedures and techniques of Qualitative Content Analysis (Mayring 2003).

In my talk I will be presenting some of my research findings, focusing on the following questions in particular:

  • Which facets of intercultural competence can be observed?
  • Do these competences differ to varying degrees in tenth-grade pupils?
  • How do my research findings relate to the intercultural objectives and goals cited in the German Educational Standards?

Council of Europe (2001): Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Mayring, P. (2003): Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken. Weinheim: Beltz UTB.

Ständige Konferenz der Kultusminister der Länder in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (KMK) (2003): Beschlüsse der Kultusministerkonferenz. Bildungsstandards für die Erste Fremdsprache (Englisch/Französisch) für den Mittleren Schulabschluss. Neuwied: Luchterhand.

Session 3 (b)
Sevilen Demirkaya M.A. & Nazan Gültekin M.A. (University of Bielefeld, Germany) (30 minutes)

MIKI – Research of the pre-school language support program for ethnic minority children in Bielefeld, Germany

Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, this project focuses on examining the second language development of ethnic minority children who participate in a support program at the pre-school level.


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