Kelly Barron teaches primary French at Presbyterian Ladies College, where staff are encouraged to engage in and initiate research to improve understanding of students and learning. AISWA Languages Consultant, Kate Reitzenstein interviewed Kelly about her research and found that it has led to a desire for future research into language learning:
Kate: Why did you embark on the Action Research?
Kelly: Action Research is a reflective, systematic inquiry that focuses on a relevant problem in teaching and learning for the purpose of enacting meaningful change, which is the main reason for my research. In addition to this, I relished the idea that my research would be specific to my school, engage all stakeholders and educate on the huge impacts of learning a second language on academic and social development.
Kate: What did your research aim to find out?
Kelly: My Action Research tension was: The benefits of learning a second language on wider academic studies and student development. I chose this area to focus on as I was genuinely fascinated to discover whether there was a correlation between second language learning and academic achievement, focusing particularly on literacy and numeracy, within the context of PLC.
Kate: What were the interesting findings?
Kelly: There were a number of interesting discoveries.The study found that, on average, students from Years 3 to 6 scored one third higher in national tests including NAPLAN, South Australian Spelling and PAT Mathematics and Reading. The results from whole Junior School questionnaires distributed also highlighted the huge support for language learning from all stakeholders. Over 90% of PLC Junior School parents and colleagues questioned, acknowledge the benefit of learning a second language on academic and social development.
Kate: If you could extend or change the study, what would you do?
Kelly: I would investigate the standardized test results of those year groups who haven’t had the opportunity to learn a language, to the extent and frequency of those students up to the current Year 6, to find out how their test results compare e.g. the current Year 9 students. I would also like focus more on the developmental benefits of learning a second language and discover more established research about this. Finally, I would like to investigate the specific reasons why parents in PLC believe that langauge learning impacts positively on their child’s academic and social development.
Kate: Now that you have conducted this study, what you you intend to do next?
Kelly: I would like to publish and present my research in a variety of forums. Due to the success of this Action Research, PLC has asked me to investigate into another area which is of great interest to me. This would involve conducting research into the processes currently in place at PLC for students who arrive with English as an additional language, but also, those who are bilingual in the languages we offer. My findings would then contribute to a further enhanced program for these individual students.
We thank Kelly Barron for sharing her experience of conducting Action Research. Her research summary can be accessed below.