Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What the project is about

The impetus for this proposal is a recent review of Key Stage 3 Grammar Teaching, published by DfES in 2007, which concluded that teaching should make use of formal and informal English in different settings, and that grammar teaching must be driven by real examples.
We will construct a web-based teaching and learning platform consisting of an interactive structured English language course, tailored to the goals of the National Curriculum’s Key Stages 3-5. This will consist of lesson modules dynamically accessing a grammatically analysed corpus of English.
The objectives of this project are to:
  1. Translate our rich corpus resources into effective English language teaching tools and curriculum materials for teachers to use in the classroom;
  2. Provide pupils with high-quality web-based learning materials in both classroom and self-directed modes; and
  3. Provide quality Continuous Professional Development (CPD) resources to enable teachers to make the most of the resource.
Our partner is the School Improvement Service of the London Borough of Camden.


The dynamic selection of real language examples taken from the corpus has many potential benefits:
  • Since the source material is independent from the teaching modules (the system design is modular and extensible) modules can easily be revised;
  • A great deal of context and contextual information is available (e.g. the setting in which a conversation is conducted, who the speakers are, etc.), as well as audio material;
  • Material can be selected for a particular student group or purpose (e.g. to teach students the features of formal English, or how to write a letter).
The proposed platform will have a modular design to provide a very high level of adaptation for teachers and students.
The specific outputs are:
  • A fully-functional web-based system for teaching and learning the English language and its grammar, built in Moodle, interfaced with the ICE-GB corpus;
  • Course materials for English language students at Key Stages 3-5 and equivalents used in the classroom by teachers or in a self-directed mode by students working alone. Examples will be sourced directly from the corpus providing context, alternative examples, etc.
  • A course management component for teachers including:

    • tools for creating courses from existing modules;
    • tools for selecting modules from restricted material sets;
    • guidance on the selection of modules;
    • randomisation controls, etc.
  • Exercise and project materials;
  • Continuous Professional Development materials for English language teachers to support the above;
  • Evaluation results of the platform;
  • User documentation on the system, integrated into the website;
  • Technical documentation, including the interface to the corpus management system.
The main beneficiaries will be teachers and students of the English language in the local community, but with the long-term aim of producing a resource that is available across the UK. Teachers will benefit from the availability of pre-written, but flexible and adaptable, courses and modules for building their own course plans. They will be able to access corpus materials, including texts and audio recordings. Students will benefit through the acquisition of grammatical concepts being made relevant to them through lessons and interactive hands-on exercises.
Further benefits:
  • Teachers can monitor students’ progress, and can support their homework, exercises, projects and self-study;
  • Teachers can decide on course modules, and then select specific text genres to teach (formal/informal, spoken/written, etc.). They can also select materials written by different authors in different periods and opt for different complexities of analysis;
  • Teachers can select source materials and determine a set of possible lessons, exercises and student projects.
The resource will be will be compliant with the Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA), and can also be used for the following categories of students: ESOL students (English for Speakers of Other Languages), ‘Skills for Life’ students, and Adult Education students. The use of web technologies is designed to maximise access from schools, libraries (via the People’s Network, www.peoplesnetwork.gov.uk), and home.
The entire development system will be available over the internet from UCL and requires no additional software at the user’s end, aside from standard internet browser programs. This will enable the community in general, and teachers and students of English in particular, to gain access to the system.

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