New Programme – Conversations about language and literacy: promoting equity and attainment through engagement

In the first of our introductions to the new programmes, Dr Lynne Duncan and Dr Sarah McGeown tell us a little more about ‘Conversations about language and literacy: promoting equity and attainment through engagement’.

Dr Lynne Duncan is a Senior Lecturer in the Psychology department at the University of Dundee. Her research has focused on the impact of meta-cognitive skills, instruction and social disadvantage on reading and early language among monolingual and multilingual learners. Recent work in the UK includes a co-production project with Fife Council Education Service to help practitioners track language development in the early years.

Dr Sarah McGeown is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. She works across disciplinary boundaries (psychology and education) and with non-academic communities to produce research on reading across the primary school curriculum, from initial acquisition to later comprehension processes. She has just completed a project with six Scottish local authorities to support teachers’ professional development in the area of children’s literacy.


Why do you think this is an important issue to consider/interrogate/explore?

The Scottish Government has identified closing the attainment gap between the most and least deprived children as a key priority.  We thought it would be an important time to put together a programme that focuses on language and literacy research as recent figures reveal that this gap is proving resistant to change. Our goal is to provide a forum for the many stakeholders in research and practice to come together to discuss the remaining challenges in this area. Although a foundation of links between stakeholders is slowly being established, there are still surprisingly few opportunities for wider exchange between the many groups with direct experience and knowledge about language and literacy in Scotland.


How did you hear about the Scottish Universities Insight Institute?

Lynne attended events organised by the SUII programme entitled ‘Children and Young People’s Experiences and Views of Poverty and Inequality’ and was really impressed by the format of the activities and the inclusive discussion that took place. We both then attended the information sessions hosted by SUII, which were incredibly useful in putting together the application.


Who else is working with you on this, and how did the programme team come together?

Our programme team consists of Dr Edward Sosu (Lecturer in Education, University of Strathclyde), Amina Shah (Director of Programmes, Scottish Book Trust), Carrol Herbertson (Fife representative, National Parent Forum of Scotland) and Peter McNaughton (Head of Broad General Education, Fife Council).

The Programme team came together through conversations with existing contacts (Edward, Amina and Peter) and new contacts (Carrol) about this application.  We felt it was crucial to have input from practitioners, parents and third-sector organisations when developing the application, to ensure it was relevant and would meet the interests of the intended audience. In addition, discussions were also had with the Scottish Government and Education Scotland prior to submitting the SUII application, to ensure the proposal and content of workshops aligned with their current interests and needs.  After receiving SUII funding, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland have attended our Programme team meetings and have become closely involved in the development of the workshops.


How have you structured the programme?

Our programme consists of four workshops to address the attainment gap in a developmental sequence from preschool language to literacy acquisition and growth, with further equity issues in language and literacy being examined in relation to EAL/multilingual children, before a final focus on inspiring all Scottish children to read for pleasure.


What kind of participants are you hoping to involve?

Our aim is to involve researchers and academics from Scottish, UK and International Universities, external third-sector organisations, policy-makers, practitioners and other interested parties. It is very important for us to connect these participants with parents and community groups, and to include the voices of children living in Scotland whenever possible.


And finally, what difference do you hope to make with this project?

Our programme has been designed to ensure that language and literacy research is having maximum impact on policy, practice and communities in Scotland. Our outputs will include policy briefings related to the literacy attainment challenge, teacher resource packs to address needs from the field of practice, parent information packs to widen the reach of practical advice and podcasts of workshop activities to increase professional and public awareness of issues affecting the development of language and literacy.

What we want to establish is a Scottish Interdisciplinary Language and Literacy Network, which will continue to attract new members and to seek future funding for the continuation of events and resource development.


Further information on this programme, including upcoming events, can be found here.

Author: scotinsight

The Scottish Universities Insight Institute supports programmes of knowledge exchange which address and provide insight on substantial issues that face Scotland and the wider world. Our programmes break down disciplinary and organisational barriers in bringing together academics from different backgrounds, policymakers and practitioners to mobilise existing knowledge in fresh ways through sustained and collaborative focus on a shared issue. Our member universities are: Aberdeen, Dundee, Heriot Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde, and Glasgow School of Art.

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