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.

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.

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

The project follows a qualitative research paradigm with ethnographic research methods and takes place in three different primary schools in Luxembourg. It investigates to what extent 9-11-year-olds use their language repertoires to communicate and learn across different school subjects (German, French, Mathematics, Science and Arts). The focus lies on translanguaging. While studies in Luxembourgish preschool, Year 1 and Year 2 classes show that teachers have begun to draw on children’s semiotic repertoires, this project targets Years 4 and 5.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.