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Multilingual sequences in history lessons: processes used to solve intercomprehension tasks and appropriate learner profiles

Responsibility: Prof. Thomas Studer and Amelia Lambelet (RCM)
Research assistant: Pierre-Yves Mauron (RCM)
Duration: 2012-2014

Final report (french)                     Executive Summary

The goal of the project "Multilingual sequences in history lessons: processes to solve intercomprehension tasks and appropriate learner profiles" is twofold: First, the project will adjust worksheets designed in the context of materials development for improving intercomprehension at the secondary II level (reading texts in the source language in history lessons) for use in secondary school I. Second, the project aims to shed light on key processes in text comprehension when reading an unfamiliar language at school (history lessons at secondary school I). The project will also explore the degree to which intercomprehension can be periodically applied in cognitive and interactional learning processes, and determine for which learner profile this approach is or is not appropriate.

To date, empirical studies on text comprehension or understanding individual words in an unfamiliar language have demonstrated that certain individual factors such as multilingualism (particularly in related languages) or the level of ability in another related language promotes the decoding process. Little attention has, however, been paid to processes that take place when students read texts in an unfamiliar language at school.

The current project aims to identify the processes involved in solving intercomprehension tasks in the classroom. The project considers learner profiles that are more or less suitable for such exercises as well as direct exposure (group interaction, problem solving, placement in the lesson plan, etc.).

There are four dimensions to the project:

  1. The psycholinguistic dimension: Which cognitive processes are involved in reading texts in an unfamiliar language?
  2. The dimension of the "individual profile": Is introducing an unfamiliar language via reading texts suitable for all learner types? Are there learner profiles particularly well suited to dealing with this type of problem?
  3. The curricular dimension: How can reading activities in the source language during history lessons be acknowledged and incorporated (from the perspective of the teacher and the learners)?
  4. The didactical dimension: How do activities for reading texts in the source language actually work with regard to processes of interaction within the working groups?