Page d'accueil // Recherche // FLSHASE // Education, C... // Doctoral Training Unit CALIDIE

Doctoral Training Unit CALIDIE


The Doctoral Training Unit (DTU) on “Capitalising on Linguistic Diversity in Education” (CALIDIE) is situated within the Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) and is affiliated with the Education, Culture, Cognition and Society (ECCS) research unit and the Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET). In addition, the DTU emerges from and has strong links with the UL Research Priority Education: Focusing on Multilingualism and Diversity (RPE).

The doctoral programme CALIDIE is funded under the framework of the PRIDE scheme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR). Within the PRIDE programme the DTU represents the central entity. It consists of several supervisors, presents a joint strategy for research and PhD training, and provides an innovative high quality training environment.

Research Focus

The CALIDIE DTU focuses on the fundamental question of how learners’ linguistic repertoires interact with their learning. It investigates in particular how multilingualism – conceptualized as the interplay of multiple linguistic repertoires (mother tongue(s), language(s) of schooling, foreign, second languages) – affects learning practices and processes, and how multilingualism can be capitalized on and transformed into a resource for educational success and social well-being. CALIDIE complements and enriches existing research by investigating this central question in a specifically rich research location, from a ‘cross-curricular and vertical perspective’ and using an ‘interdisciplinary approach’.

Adopting such a conceptual and organizational frame, which innovates in terms of focus, location and approach, we aim to complement current research literature but also to provide a robust base for imagining more equitable and effective educational practices and policies. We want our DTU to impact on the development of multilingual pedagogies that are sensitive to multilingual learner repertoires, and take into account more complex pathways of learning.






The CALIDIE-cube visualizes the specificities but also the interconnectedness of the different research perspectives and projects, and how we will achieve a truly interdisciplinary, cross-curricular and vertical perspective: It combines different methodological approaches within both the quantitative and qualitative research paradigms, and shows how the three disciplines of the DTU – linguistics (including socio- and applied linguistics), pedagogy (including language education, and language didactics), and psychology (including cognitive, developmental and educational psychology) – work together. Moreover, CALIDIE adopts a horizontal, cross-curriculum perspective, and a vertical perspective as the studies are conducted in different age contexts, from early education to tertiary education. Finally, our research is organized into three axes: language practices (Axis 1), language learning and achievement (Axis 2), and language and STEM learning (Axis 3), which are described below.



Research Axes

The Doctoral Training Unit CALIDIE is organised in three thematic clusters:



Research Axis 1: Language Practices

The first research axis of the DTU examines how multilingualism and student learning connect from a sociocultural perspective. We see learning as anchored in socially situated, semiotic and interactive practice. We thereby seek to explain how learning is related to cultural, institutional, and historical contexts and examine the role that participation in social interactions and culturally organized activities plays in enhancing or hindering the construction of curricular knowledge. Our axis focuses on language practices as key to understanding multilingualism and learning. It centers around two main questions: How are multilingual practices involved in building knowledge, expertise, and recognition in and across settings of formal, informal and non-formal education? How can knowledge about learners’ multilingual practices be used more effectively to enhance curricular learning? Our axis starts from the premise that there is a need for more studies investigating empirically how learners’ multilingual repertoires sustain, enhance or hinder learning in the multiple spaces of their lives where learning occurs. This also implies the need for appropriate, new methodological perspectives.



Research Axis 2: Language Learning and Achievement

The DTU’s second research axis shifts the focus from the practices to the processes of language acquisition, as well as examining language learning outcomes (language achievement/proficiency), and the assessment of such outcomes. Language learning in multilingual contexts involves the acquisition of several languages or language varieties as second or third languages in different social and institutional contexts. While this DTU investigates as its main question how multilingualism affects student learning and how it can be transformed into a resource for educational success, this axis focuses more specifically on language and literacy development throughout schooling as well as on achievement and the assessment of achievement. We will ask: How do multilingual pupils develop oral and written language structures in home and school languages throughout schooling? How can we enhance the language skills of multilingual preschool children in specific educational interventions? Can we identify classrooms that perform systematically above the statistical expectation? How can we optimize the (computer-based) assessment of language learning outcomes in multilingual students through developing quantitative state-of-the-art measurement instruments that incorporate the use of behavioural data in the assessment process?



Research Axis 3: Language and STEM Learning

The DTU’s third research axis shifts the focus from the language itself to the way language shapes the acquisition of (pre-)mathematical and scientific literacy in the so-called STEM branches (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Although typical school curricula systematically deploy language and STEM instruction as two distinct and separate fields of instruction, evidence from psychology and cognitive neuroscience indeed consistently indicates that language plays a critical role during numeracy and scientific literacy acquisition. In the third research axis of CALIDIE, we will thus predominantly adopt a cognitive psychological perspective in order to examine how STEM-learning is shaped by language in multilingual learning contexts. Concrete research questions within this strand will be: How do young children’s (multi-lingual) language profiles affect numeracy acquisition? How does the
language of instruction influence mathematical and scientific literacy of students studying in secondary schools with multilingual modes of instruction? Which facets of numerical, mathematical, and scientific skills acquisition are facilitated or hindered by learners’ multilingual profiles and/or by multilingual instruction methods? Is there a linear relationship between language proficiency and proficiency in STEM subjects or is this relationship discontinuous with identifiable threshold effects?






PhD Project Descriptions



Research Axis 1: Language Practices



P1.1 "Learners as cultural mediators: Exploring the role and value of children’s multilingual practices for learning"

Concerning the connections between multilingual practices in school-based formal and informal and non-school based settings this project aims to examine the multilingual practices of migrant youth, who draw on their multiple linguistic repertoires to act as interpreters and cultural mediators for their families, parents, siblings, and peers. Expanding the focus of existing research, the project seeks to understand what kind of knowledge, identity positions, and social roles emerge for learners from such activities, and how schools can draw on children’s abilities to mediate in intercultural encounters for the enhancement of learning of the overt curriculum. This research contributes to theorizing communicative repertoires as sources of empowerment/disempowerment and it feeds into current attempts by the Council of Europe to include cultural mediation as a competence in the European Framework of Reference for languages and to develop appropriate descriptors.

  • Research areas: Sociolinguistics, Ethnography, Educational studies
  • Doctoral Student: Anastasia Badder
  • Supervisor: Associate Professor Gabriele Budach



P1.2 “From school to work: Multilingual practices of youth in vocational education and training (VET)”

This project analyses verbal and non-verbal practices of youth during their apprenticeship when transiting between the two sites of their apprenticeship: the vocational school and the workplace. It seeks to examine not only the linguistic and semiotic repertoires apprentices deploy in these two contexts, but also the consequences of not having the expected repertoire in a given context and the strategies learners use to cope with these situations. In addition, it examines which repertoires and genres are (de)legitimised in each setting and through which practices. The project contributes to the emerging field of vocational pedagogy, both the ‘poorer cousin’ in research on education and a field where thus far the multilingual practices of its learners have not been investigated, despite their overwhelmingly migrant background.

  • Research areas: Sociolinguistics, Nexus Analysis, Ethnography, Multimodal approaches to discourse
  • Doctoral Student: Constanze Tress
  • Supervisor: Associate Professor Ingrid de Saint-Georges



P1.3 “Translanguaging for learning: A study of multilingual practices in the primary school”

The project investigates how children use their multilingualism to communicate and to make meaning for learning languages and for learning across subjects (e.g. math and arts), while engaging with the learning App iTEO which aims to support language and content learning in the classroom. This research adds to existing research on multilingual teaching and learning practices by scrutinizing the practices and ideologies of teachers and parents, which helps to further develop an evidence-based understanding of translanguaging in classrooms.

  • Research areas: Educational Studies
  • Doctoral Student: Sarah Degano
  • Supervisor: Associate Professor Claudine Kirsch




P1.4 “Internationalisation and multilingualism in doctoral education: A focus on the second language academic writing process”

The project investigates the practices and social representations of multilingualism experienced by students and teaching staff of STEM-subjects in Higher Education, taking the international and multilingual university of Luxembourg as an example. This research examines how learning processes unfold in this environment and what role language(s) of instruction that differ from the student’s first languages play in this context. Adding to work on multilingualism and internationalization in higher education, this project will provide new insights into the curriculum by examining the multilingual practices of students and staff in the context of teaching, learning, and research, thereby facilitating a more nuanced understanding of how multilingualism is used in the learning of subjects, particularly in the sciences.

  • Research areas: Educational Studies, Applied / Sociolinguistics, Research in Multilingualism in Higher Education
  • Doctoral Student: Stephnaie Hofmann
  • Supervisor: Professor Adelheid Hu




Research Axis 2: Language Learning and Achievement



P2.1 “The development of orthographic practices of multilingual pupils”

The project will investigate how multilingual pupils in primary and secondary school make use of phonological, morphological, and syntactic information in informal and formal writing. To this end, we will examine the linguistic structures (grammar and vocabulary) of pupils’ authentic written productions and interview the pupils in question in order to contextualise their writing and to get insights into their normative expectations in relation to their texts. In doing so, we will be able to provide detailed information on how multilingual pupils’ literacy skills develop throughout schooling. Scrutinising the entirety of home and school languages and writing in formal and informal registers will provide a better understanding of pupils’ literacy resources, the transfer of literacy skills, and the influences of language registers on writing processes.

  • Research areas: Linguistics, Written language acquisition
  • Doctoral Student: Linda Brucher
  • Supervisor: Associate Professor Constanze Weth



P2.2 “Enhancing children's oral language skills in a multilingual educational setting: A preschool intervention study”

Concerning the fostering of student’s language skills by interventions in preschool: Scientifically sound language intervention programs which effectively narrow the language proficiency gap between children with diverse language backgrounds are urgently needed to cater for the needs of today’s increasingly diverse student population. The Project will start by developing a preschool language training course in Luxembourgish that consists of games fostering speaking and listening with a focus on vocabulary acquisition, the use of narrative, and, on the level of phonological awareness, the detection of phonemes. We will then administer this intervention, asking classroom teachers to use structured and multi-contextual teaching techniques. To conclude, we will analyse whether this intervention has improved children’s, and in particular multilingual children’s, oral language skills in preschool, and whether the intervention in the preschool language Luxembourgish shows transfer effects to oral language skills in German in Year 1 of primary school.

  • Research areas: Psychology, Educational Sciences, Developmental approach
  • Doctoral Student: Joanne Colling
  • Supervisor: Associate Professor Pascale Engel de Abreu




P2.3 “The use of value-added (VA) scores for the identification of highly effective pedagogical practices for diverse student populations”

Concerning the identification of best practice classrooms through VA scores the PhD project aims to repurpose VA scores as a tool for identifying and disseminating innovative pedagogical and/or didactical approaches of particularly successful educational practitioners (as opposed to VA scores as a tool for teacher/school accountability). Concretely, the project will start by reviewing and integrating the inconclusive current body of knowledge on VA scores. In a second step, we will apply and compare the different VA modelling approaches and techniques on representative longitudinal large-scale data emerging from the Luxembourg school monitoring programme in order to identify best practices in the realm of VA modelling. To conclude, we will hopefully deliver proof of concept for the utility of VA scores in the reliable empirical identification of schools/classes that make highly heterogeneous and multilingual groups of learners in general, and minority students in particular, perform systematically above statistical expectations.

  • Research areas: Psychology, Psychometrics & Educational Measurement
  • Doctoral Student: Jessica Levy
  • Supervisor: Dr Antoine Fischbach




P2.4 “Exploring innovative directions in the computer-based assessment (CBA) of language competency”

Concerning the optimisation of quantitative measurement instruments, the PhD project will start by revisiting existing, and developing new, CBA instruments in order to combine a partly existing, and partly newly developed set of CBA instruments that targets students’ language capacity in multiple languages. We will then implement these instruments within the Luxembourg school monitoring programme. On the basis of the resulting data set, we will focus on investigating which specific test-taking behaviours in the language assessment drive test performances. Our aim is to better understand how performance differences in overall language competence between multilingual and monolingual students evolve against the backdrop of specific actions and to which specific actions this performance difference can be attributed.

  • Research areas: Psychology, Assessment & Psychometrics, Educational Studies
  • Doctoral Student: E'Louise Botes
  • Supervisor: Associate Professor Samuel Greiff



Research Axis 3: Language and STEM Learning



P3.1 “The influence of language profiles on early numerical and (pre-) mathematical learning”

Given the recent evidence that language is playing a critical role in several numerical processes, the necessity to examine cognitive processes underlying (pre-) mathematical learning in multilingual contexts becomes evident. In order to depict the characteristics and (dis)advantages of numeracy acquisition in children with different (multi-)lingual profiles and contexts, the PhD project will examine preschool and early primary school children’s numerical development, with a special focus on the children’s (multi)-lingual profiles and environments. This will provide new insights into cognitive processes underlying (pre-)mathematical learning in multilingual children, as well as improve our understanding of numerical learning and its interaction with language.

  • Research areas: Psychology, Cognitive neuroscience approach
  • Doctoral Student: Janice Ebara
  • Supervisor: Professor Christine Schiltz




P3.2 “The influence of the instruction language on mathematics in a multilingual educational setting”

Research has shown that students who are part of a multilingual school system, in which the language of instruction of mathematics switches at a certain point in the curriculum, are able to correctly solve very basic mathematical tasks presented to them in two languages. However, the tasks are solved differently based on the characteristics of the target language. For more language laden numerical tasks, students with increased exposure to the second language of instruction and even proficient multilingual adults continue to solve the tasks more accurately and faster in the first language of instruction.
The PhD project will analyse the (dis)advantages of the continual use of the same language of instruction compared to the switching of the language on secondary mathematics performance in a multilingual setting.

  • Research areas: Cognitive psychology, Educational studies
  • Doctoral Student: Sophie Martini
  • Supervisor: Dr Sonja Ugen




P3.3 “Interaction between language of instruction and language proficiency in science education”

Despite the intriguing finding that insufficient language proficiency is particularly detrimental to learning processes in science, CLIL research has rarely addressed the question of potential learning deficits generated when scientific content has to be acquired through an insufficiently mastered language of instruction. The PhD project will address this question directly in the educational context of Luxembourg imposing a change of the language of instruction onto a large proportion of pupils in the middle of their secondary school career and ask the question of the costs and benefits of such a curricular strategy. We will clarify whether there exist threshold effects in the relation between language proficiency and science learning or whether the relationship is linear. In order to address this question, we will combine an experimental approach with the implementation of science learning classes in different languages of instruction with the rich data on student learning that is available through the Luxembourgish school monitoring (Épreuves Standardisées).

  • Research areas: Psychology, Assessment & Psychometrics, Educational Studies
  • Doctoral Student: Constanze Liewen
  • Supervisor: Professor Romain Martin