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Conversations about language education research in an open online course

Now there is a free open online reading circle for language teachers who want to get acquainted with language education research. Una Cunningham and Tore Nilsson at the Department of Language Education at Stockholm University have started the CIRCLE.

Happy teachers standing in a row.
Photo: fauxels/Pexels

When Stockholm University announced funding for open online education last year, Una Cunningham and Tore Nilsson at the Department of Language Education had an idea. They knew that language teachers in schools have little opportunity to become familiar with language education research, as they do not usually have access to university libraries or to support in reading. They saw an opportunity to bring relevant research to the attention of language teachers.

Conversations about language education research

Una Cunningham and Tore Nilsson were granted funding and developed CIRCLE (Current inquiry and research conversations in language education) as an open online course. The course has a flexible approach with nine modules where language teachers are invited to read and talk together about language education research. The fact that the course is open means that anyone can participate - there are no entry requirements, no fee, no examination or grades.

- In order to reach as many people as possible, we run CIRCLE as a reading circle in English, and hope that teachers in many countries want to participate in one or more of the modules, says Una Cunningham, and continues:

- We have chosen to address some particularly important issues, such as the place of grammar in language teaching and whether pupils' first language or only the target language should be used in language lessons. We know that these issues are often identified as problems when language teachers discuss teaching dilemmas.

Modules as open resources

CIRCLE contains a total of nine modules - the first four were published during Spring 2021 and the remaining five are coming in the autumn. The material from the modules will then remain as an open resource for other teachers or teams who want to create their own research reading circle. Each module offers an online seminar.

Students studying together.
Photo: cottonbro/Pexels

CIRCLE - an open online course with nine modules

Each module offers freely available research articles, study questions to support and focus reading, an interview with one or two well-known researchers or a video lecture, a discussion forum and an online seminar.

Spring modules:

Grammar teaching - when? why? how? 

Teaching speaking 

Target language only? 

Teaching fluency 

Autumn modules:

Teaching pronunciation 

Language learning beyond the classroom 

Willingness to communicate 

Vocabulary development 

Teaching listening