We are two colleagues working at Manchester Met who share a mutual interest in the importance and role of language in the classroom. We see the potential for CLIL pedagogy to make a positive impact on learning and are keen to explore this further. We are currently working on a project to develop game based learning materials to teach aspects of the primary mathematics curriculum in French and/or English. Prior to our successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), we were already working collaboratively on aspects of CLIL pedagogy to explore the synergies between the teaching of mathematics and MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) within the English education system. This work has involved developing and delivering a series of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) workshops with primary practitioners and hosting a range of CLIL training events.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership arose out of a request from a local software company who expressed an interest in extending their educational product range and were looking for innovative ideas around the teaching of languages in primary schools. Approval for the project was granted with funding secured from Innovate UK and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

A KTP is a funding route targeted at small to medium sized companies who are looking to work with the university sector to develop an aspect of their work for which they do not possess the in-house expertise. In the case of this KTP, the role of the academics is to provide the pedagogical expertise, to support the company to achieve their aims and objectives and facilitate the development of the resource, ensuring that it is both mathematically and linguistically sound. For the academics, it also provides an opportunity to develop and work on our own research interests. 

Our Knowledge Transfer Partnership [KTP] involves working with a small, local software company to develop a range of innovative game based learning resources to teach aspects of the primary mathematics curriculum in French. This development involves the creation and trialling of an initial prototype to test the feasibility of this product range for the company, the appropriateness of CLIL as a pedagogical approach and the viability of gaming as a context for CLIL. It is anticipated that should the prototype and product range be successful, it may then be developed further to incorporate other areas of the curriculum and languages.

Glen Jones, MD of the local software company, Cyber Coach Smart said:

“By working with the academics, and focusing on cutting edge pedagogical approaches, we believe we will be producing a product that contributes to the childhood learning of languages and mathematics throughout the world.

“We are confident that good innovative products will always find a market and look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with Manchester Met’s Faculty of Education.”

This KTP project will run for two years from October 2016 until June 2018. During this two-year period, it is anticipated that we will be able to gain insight into how CLIL can be effectively embedded within the primary curriculum, both here in the UK and further afield. It is also envisaged that working extensively on developing mathematics content through a gaming context will provide further opportunities to develop our knowledge and understanding of the synergies between mathematics and second language learning. The end goal is to produce a series of cutting-edge, innovative game based learning activities that will help learners’ deeper conceptual understanding in mathematics.

We are currently at the prototype development stage, which we anticipate will be completed, and ready to launch in schools from January 2017. As part of this work, we are keen to develop partnerships with colleagues in other universities and schools across Europe and beyond to help develop our knowledge and understanding of CLIL. We are very interested in working with colleagues in other universities, schools and their students to develop good CLIL classroom practice. We are looking for schools, teachers and children who would be interested in trialling our game based resources. In the first instance, schools, teachers and children would be involved in trialling and evaluating the prototype (January –March 2017). We would then hope that the schools, teachers and children would participate in the development of the full prototype and product range. Involvement would include participation in the collection of research data using questionnaires, teacher and pupil interviews as well as lesson observations. 

If you are interested in finding out more about any aspect of our work, or would like to be involved in our research, please contact Pauline Palmer: p.m.palmer@mmu.ac.uk and/or Sarah Lister (s.lister@mmu.ac.uk) or join us on Twitter @MMU_CLIL. There will also be an opportunity to meet with us at the Primary and Secondary MFL Conference to be held at the University of Westminster on Saturday 26th November.

Authors: Sarah Lister & Pauline Palmer, Manchester Metropolitan University