Independent language learning with the help of online mentoring
Language Futures is a project that uses volunteers to provide highly personalised foreign language mentoring to students in school.
The model was established in 2009 in Linton Village College, and is now fully established in 10 schools, with a further 10 using elements of the model. Across the 10 schools there are currently around 150 students learning with the support of target-language mentors, and approximately 30 mentors working with these schools.
Language Futures combines digital resources and language-proficient volunteers with project-based learning, peer collaboration and teachers’ expertise. The programme supports students to choose their own language, so that in one classroom five languages might be being learnt. This means students can learn a language that’s relevant or meaningful to them, and EAL students have the opportunity to build confidence by studying their own language.
The model is currently being delivered through a partnership of organisations, including Whole Education and the Association of Language Learning, and is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
Since 2009, Language Futures has consistently returned equal or better outcomes than classes who weren’t using the project, as well as increased engagement with and enjoyment of language learning; independence and agency in learning more generally; and GCSE take-up. At Linton Village College, Cambridgeshire, where the approach is most in use, approximately 90 per cent of Language Futures students go on to study languages at GCSE compared to 48 per cent nationally. Volunteers also report a positive impact on themselves.
However, there are three geography-based barriers to addressing the shortage of Language Futures mentors in schools: finding mentors for all requested languages, consistent mentor attendance, and travel arrangements.Therefore, the first objective for the funding is to enable current Language Futures schools to recruit and retain more mentors through a mix of face to face and online channels. This will enable schools to offer more students their own choice of language, giving them a better educational experience.
The grant funding will also help to bring Language Futures into the digital sphere, training volunteers in online tutoring. Developing this online mentoring would help address these geographic barriers.
Language Futures will achieve their objectives via five specific activities. First, they will develop and test with schools which online platforms (e.g. Skype, Webex, other) work best for them to deliver online tutoring. They will then work in partnership with online tutoring providers in an ongoing quality assurance process.
Third, they will support the training of all teachers, and then commence the delivery of the mentoring sessions. Finally, they will design a learning and evaluation process around the use of online mentoring.
But their plans do not end there, as their second main objective is to enable the Language Futures model, incorporating online mentoring, to scale to more schools beyond the lifetime of this grant, in order to reach as many students as possible and engage them with language learning.
For more information about the Language Futures’ Click, Connect, Learn project contact: [email protected]