FELL organises a termly series of seminars on topics related to the learning of young children and ways to support it through mainstream education and through specific interventions.

All are welcome to attend and there is no need to register.

Kindergarten of the future in Bavaria: program and evaluation

25 October 2017 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room K/L

Speaker: Professor Hans-Günther Rossbach, University of Bamberg, Germany

Convener: Dr Maria Evangelou, Children Learning and FELL Research Groups

‘The signs of ideas’: dimensions of vocabulary knowledge in English as an Additional Language (EAL) pupils

01 November 2017 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room K/L

Speaker: Professor Vicki Murphy, Department of Education

Convener: Dr Maria Evangelou, Children Learning and FELL Research Groups

Samuel Johnson famously said that ‘Words are but the signs of ideas’ and as such they arguably constitute the most important building blocks of Language.  Vocabulary knowledge is key to good communication and understanding for all pupils but especially so for EAL pupils who may have different levels of English lexical knowledge relative to nonEAL peers.  In this talk, I will discuss what we know about Paul Nation’s three dimensions of vocabulary knowledge - form, meaning, use -  in the context of EAL pupils, and I will argue that while EAL pupils are often as good as, or in some cases better than, nonEAL pupils on measures of form, we know far less about EAL pupils’ knowledge of word meanings and use in English.  Furthermore, the research we do have suggests there are considerable gaps between EAL and nonEAL pupils overall on these dimensions, contributing to gaps in academic achievement.  I conclude by highlighting the need for more research on these under-explored areas and greater effort in developing appropriate pedagogical approaches suitable to multilingual learners.

The role of input in language acquisition: Insights from computational and behavioural studies

08 November 2017 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room K/L

Speaker: Dr Jelena Mirkovic, York St. John and University of York

Convener: Dr Maria Evangelou, Children Learning and FELL Research Groups

Language assessment of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds: creating tests across different linguistic and socio-cultural contexts

15 November 2017 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room K/L

Speaker: Dr Kamila Polišenská, University of Manchester

Convener: Dr Maria Evangelou, Children Learning and FELL Research Groups

Language assessment of children with English as an additional language (EAL) poses unique challenges. Clinicians often see EAL children’s lower scores on standardised language tests as indicative of language impairment (LI), even when no impairment exists and there is only a need for sufficient exposure to English to catch up with their monolingual peers. Conversely, clinicians may use bilingualism as an excuse for poor language ability when an LI is actually present. Assessments in all of the languages spoken in the UK just do not exist, and even if they did, it would not be practical for teachers and/or clinicians (even with the assistance of an interpreter) to carry out all of the language specific assessments. Education is delivered through the medium of language and it follows that if a child struggles with the language of instruction, i.e. English in the UK, they will not be able to progress with their learning. In this session, I will introduce non-word repetition tasks and review evidence on what they can and can’t contribute to language assessment in the UK and cross-linguistically. Asking children to repeat nonsense has proved surprisingly informative about their language abilities, and has been put forward as a possible clinical marker for LI. A key motivation for developing this novel non-word repetition task, and a strength for clinical assessment, is that it taps verbal processing and memory skills rather than language knowledge and is therefore relatively unaffected by cultural and social differences. Aligned with this, I will also discuss the practical challenges of adapting a language test for particular contexts (e.g. cultural, linguistic, and social).

Supporting young children's development through parenting interventions: an analysis using Theory of Change (Public Seminar)

20 November 2017 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room G/H

Speaker: Dr Maria Evangelou, Department of Education

Convener: Professor Alis Oancea, Director of Research

The role of the parent has been clearly defined in the literature as having a positive influence on children’s emotional, behavioural and educational development, more so than other factors such as maternal education, poverty, peers socio-economic status and schooling (DfES, 2003; Desforges with Abouchaar,2003). Supporting the capacity to parent is of prime interest when considering how to improve opportunities for the most disadvantaged families and their children. The presentation will address evidence on the rationale of preventative policies as well as what we know from theories about parental involvement and its role on children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development. It will attempt to shed light on what we know about supporting parents as their children’s first educators through interventions that are initiated both by the government and the voluntary sector. The presentation will use Theory of Change, as a well articulated theory of change has been seen as an effective way to an intervention’s success allowing the programme developers to describe in detail the rationale behind the development of their intervention, the theoretical framework that underpins their work, and to identify the potential causal links that might be bringing change to the agreed outcomes as a result.  The presentation will highlight two different examples of such interventions, one funded by the government and one stemming from the voluntary sector.

Maria Evangelou is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of Education, University of Oxford. She is the Director for MSc Education; the pathway Leader for the MSc in Child Development and Education; the convener of the Families Effective Learning and Literacy (FELL) Research Group and the co-ordinator of the Departmental Research Theme Language Cognition and Development.

Her research focuses on the evaluation of early childhood interventions; the language and literacy development of early years; parenting education and support; the methodological issues involved in research and the role of evidence-based practices in education.  Her methodological expertise covers longitudinal studies, quasi-experimental designs, mixed methods and systematic reviews.

She has led many large grants evaluating parenting programmes including the Evaluation of the Parent Early Education Partnership Project (PEEP), and the Early Learning Partnership Project (ELPP). She led the longitudinal Transition study of the EPPSE project in 2007-08. Maria was awarded the Brian Simon Educational Research Fellowship from the British Educational Research Association (BERA) for 2006/7 for the project: A systematic review on 'hard-to-reach' families.  During 2009 she led the literature review on children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development that provided part of the evidence-base to inform the review of the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum in 2010.  She was one of the Principal Investigators of the Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England funded by the DfE, and led the parenting strand.  She is currently involved in four research projects funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and one funded by Horizon 2020.

Evaluating the effectiveness of morphological instruction for children with reading and spelling difficulties

22 November 2017 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room K/L

Speaker: Dr Danielle Colenbrander, University of Bristol

Convener: Dr Maria Evangelou, Children Learning and FELL Research Groups

Research suggests that instruction in the morphological structure of words can improve children’s reading and spelling skills. However, few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of such instruction for children with reading and spelling difficulties. Therefore, we ran a pre-registered randomised controlled trial comparing a method of morphological instruction called “Structured Word Inquiry” to a comparison treatment called “Motivated Reading”, which consisted of vocabulary instruction and guided discussion of written texts. In this talk, I will present preliminary results from the trial, and discuss practical issues associated with implementation of these interventions.

Children Learning/FELL seminar - title to be announced

29 November 2017 17:00 - 18:30
Seminar Room K/L

Speaker: Dr Emma Blakey, University of Sheffield

Convener: Dr Maria Evangelou, Children Learning and FELL Research Groups

2016-17 Bath interns presentations

06 December 2017 17:00 - 19:00
Seminar Room K/L

Convener: Dr Maria Evangelou, Children Learning and FELL Research Groups

Speakers: (titles to come)

  • Aghogho Omonigho
  • Bethan Thomson
  • Emma Powell