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Plugging Future Teachers into Technology as a way of addressing
Education Inequalities

What is this project about?

Educational inequalities are one of our global challenges (cf. ‘quality education’ in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Agenda), and they must be tackled to ensure societal development.  Both the UK and Italy face its own educational challenges.  For example, the UK is well-known for its issues in first/additional language education; and Italy has one of the lowest English language proficiency indexes within Europe according to the 2021 English First English Proficiency Index.  Most recently, educational challenges have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced schools to shut down and deliver their classes remotely.

 

Our proposed collaboration aims to research the use of technology as a way of reducing educational inequalities in the UK and Italy.  More specifically, this project focuses on the introduction of corpus linguistics (CL) to future primary-school teachers in both countries.  A corpus is a principled textual collection; and CL is a computerized way of investigating these texts. Although CL has revolutionized the way we describe, theorize and study languages, there is a paucity of empirical studies on the use of CL to reduce educational inequalities in primary schools. In the UK, one of the few exceptions relates to an ESRC-funded project in England that required pupils to use a program designed for adults (Sealey, Thompson & Scott, 2004).

 

The proposed collaboration will entail the organization of two workshops for future teachers in the UK and in Italy.  These workshops will have a three-fold function:

  1. they will be a means to collect data about the pedagogical integration of technology in future teachers’ practices through pre-/post-workshop questionnaires and post-workshop interviews;

  2. they will ensure the engagement of non-academic stakeholders from the inception of our planned collaboration, allowing us to develop a research agenda which is informed by their needs; and

  3. they will allow us to undertake ethical research by giving something back to the local non-academic communities involved in the project.

What is the potential impact?

The project team holds the view that (i) impact should underpin every step of our interdisciplinary collaboration and (ii) academic and non-academic stakeholders need to be involved in the project to ensure long-term impact.  Guided by these two principles, our collaboration will have the following impact.

  • Academic impact

    • Further the links among the applicants, who bring a wealth of different expertise to the project (Jogie: technological inequalities; Macaluso: economic inequalities; Pagani: inequalities in education; Viana: language-related inequalities).

    • Contribute to the exiting literature on the intersection of language, technology and teacher education.

    • Explore avenues for institutional collaboration amongst the Universities of Bologna, East Anglia, Milano-Bicocca and Roehampton, which has been underexplored to present.

  • Non-academic impact

    • Engagement with non-academic stakeholders – namely, future language teachers in the UK and Italy – from the project outset.

    • Educate future teachers on the pedagogical use of technology and raise their awareness of how technology may be used to reduce educational inequalities.

    • Create a pathway for long-term impact in language education through the engagement of future teachers as agents of change in their local communities.

Research Collaborators:

Dr Vander Viana (Principal Investigator)

Dr Vander Viana is Associate Professor in Education at the University of East Anglia. He directs the Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), coordinates all the Master’s courses in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning and is the founder/leader of the Language in Education Research Group. He has published widely on his areas of research expertise, which include English language (teacher) education, corpus linguistics, and academic/pedagogic discourse analysis. His most recent books include Corpus linguistics for English for academic purposes and Teaching English with corpora: A resource book.  He reviews for and serves on the editorial board of high-impact journals, and he has a track record of more than £400k in funded research and outreach projects.

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Dr Mariele Macaluso

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Dr Mariele Macaluso is a postdoctoral researcher in economics at the University of Bologna, while she is currently moving to the University of Foggia. Her research focuses on the impact of institutional and technological changes on the labour markets, primarily related to migration and inequality. As part of her work, Mariele is currently working on the influence of skill-based policies on the selection process and the socio-economic performance of immigrants in the destination countries; and the impact of new technologies (AI and robotics) on gendered working dynamics and labour mobility. She has recently been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Research on Labor & Employment (IRLE), University of California - Berkeley, where she primarily contributed to a project on migration and inequality at Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative (BIMI). Mariele is involved as a researcher in three interdisciplinary BA projects on the impact of robots on employment, industrial growth, and inequality in the OECD countries; the role of technology in addressing education inequalities; and how child bereavement policies addressed inequalities during Covid-19.