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Research Intelligence

Spring 2024

Research Intelligence issue 158: Unheard voices: Language education outside the mainstream

Unheard voices: Language education outside the mainstream

Research Intelligence issue 158

For several decades, a range of schools, services and workers, from across the charitable and other not-for-profit sectors and non-governmental organisations, have been providing enriching to life-changing language education to countless learners of all ages from all walks of life. These valuable places of community or alternative education have been embraced by learners as safe inclusive spaces that foster lasting relationships. Nevertheless, they have historically been overlooked by the mainstream sector and underappreciated or unrecognised by society at large.

This issue of Research Intelligence, guest edited by Virginia L. Lam and Sahar Y. I. Alshobaki, aims to give voice to those who work in, or have supported, diverse forms of language education. It sheds light on the impactful work of the settings and services, and the issues they face. Through these articles we gain insights into different forms of language education outside the mainstream, the professionals who have evolved and adapted their practices for the learners and communities they serve, and the challenges these provisions and groups have faced or overcome, the essence that marks out such unique people and places of education.

Contributions to this issue:

  • Virginia L. Lam examines modern foreign languages (MFL) education and communities, including heritage language tuition in complementary schools.
  • Zara Fahim, Yuni Kim and Eva Eppler consider barriers to formal qualifications in heritage languages.
  • Yoshito Darmon-Shimamori provides a parent and teacher’s perspective on practitioners’ development of MFL literacy.
  • Liz Black explores research-informed continuing professional development outside the mainstream.
  • Ruth Durant provides a practitioner’s reflections on informal EAL provisions, including the role of friendship.
  • Samson Maekele Tsegay and Muhammad Azeem Ashraf discuss linguistic immobility in study-abroad contexts.
  • Zehui Yang highlights equality initiatives, including design-based research, to empower non-native English-speaking teachers.
  • Alison Phipps considers reflexive language pedagogies for cultural justice.

Elsewhere in this issue:

  • In a special feature celebrating BERA’s 50th anniversary:
    • Chief Executive, Nick Johnson, writes about BERA’s formation and the first decade of its history.
    • Sara Delamont (BERA President, 1983–84) shares her personal experiences in an edited extract from an insightful reflective piece on BERA at 50.
    • From BERA’s archive, we uncover a summary of main findings from a 1981 survey of educational researchers in Britain.
  • A new feature to showcase high-quality educational research books focuses on the winner of the 2023 BERA Educational Research Book of the Year award, Making Schools Better for Disadvantaged Students (Routledge) by Stephen Gorard, Beng Huat See and Nadia Siddiqui.
  • Ros McLellan presents the recent work of BERA’s Publications Committee and the editors and authors involved in the association’s publishing portfolio, highlighting the exciting new publications launching in 2024.
  • We share photographs from BERA’s AGM and awards ceremony hosted at Woburn House in November 2023.
  • Leanne Henderson reflects on her experience as a BERA Early Career Researcher Network Convenor for the past five years.

Guest Editors

Profile picture of Virginia Lam
Virginia Lam, Dr

University of Roehampton

Experienced university educator with a 15+years' history of working in UK higher education including in leadership roles. Key work in lectureship, academic writing, research design and analysis and e-learning. Engages in funded knowledge exchange...

Profile picture of Sahar Y. I. Alshobaki
Sahar Y. I. Alshobaki

Research Student at Roehampton University

Sahar Alshobaki is a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow (School of Education). She has taught languages (English and Arabic) online and face-to-face in the UK, Austria, Turkey, and Palestine in the primary and secondary school...