L-R: Conference Director, Dr T.J. Ó Ceallaigh, Department of Language and Literacy Education, MIC; Professor David Lasagabaster, University of the Basque Country; Dr Karen Ní Chlochasaigh, post-doctoral researcher at DCU Institute of Education and The Educational Research Centre and Professor Laurent Cammarata, Associate Professor in Education, University of Alberta, Canada pictured at the recent All-Ireland Research Conference on Immersion Education at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.
Second All Ireland Research Conference on Immersion Education at MIC
Immersion education is now firmly established as a successful and effective form of bilingual education for all students according to Dr. Eugene O’ Brien, Vice President for Academic Affairs, MIC, who was speaking at the Second All-Ireland Research Conference on Immersion Education held in Mary Immaculate College on May 18th & 19th,2018.
This was among a number of key findings discussed at the two-day event, which was attended by over 200 delegates representing eleven different countries. The conference was organised in conjunction with Mary Immaculate College, An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta; Institute of Technology Tralee; Gaeloideachas; Foras na Gaeilge and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta. Academics, practitioners and professionals alike exchanged and discussed new directions and research in the field of immersion education including Linking Teaching, Learning, and Assessment in Immersion; School Self-Evaluation, Leadership and Educator Development and Navigating Policy and Innovation in Multi/Bilingual Communities.
Opening the conference Dr. Eugene O’ Brien, Vice President for Academic Affairs, MIC, said “The benefits of immersion education are indeed many but research has also exposed some of the challenges. As a consequence, the field of immersion is dynamic and is still evolving in new directions, through new applications of theory and in response to emerging challenges. I hope that this conference will promote critical debate on these issues”.
While language immersion education has been shown to be effective in general, educators, policy-makers, and parents often have concerns about the suitability and effectiveness of immersion for students who are at risk for academic difficulty. At the conference, Dr. Karen Ní Chlochasaigh, a post-doctoral researcher at DCU Institute of Education and The Educational Research Centre shared findings from a study which investigates the effect of immersion education on achievement, progress, and attitudes in all-Irish schools in disadvantaged areas in the Republic of Ireland (DEIS schools). In her keynote address, Dr. Ní Chlochasaigh stated “Evidence from this study suggests that by the end of primary school, students in these schools achieve as well as, or better than, their counterparts in English-medium DEIS schools in both English reading and mathematics. Pupils also gain the additional benefits of bilingualism and a high standard of fluency in Irish”.
Keynote speaker Professor Laurent Cammarata, Associate Professor in Education, University of Alberta, Canada highlighted the important exchange of research knowledge and pedagogic practice that took place at the conference and the crucial role they play in supporting high-quality programme implementation and development. He went on to say; “I heartily congratulate the many individuals and institutions whose collaborative efforts have worked to shape an outstanding program for this immersion conference. Collaborative, coordinated efforts and synergies, such as these, to gather and share new research, perspectives, and ideas are critical for the field and for the continued success and growth of Irish-medium education in Ireland and language immersion education across the globe”.
Conference Director, Dr. T.J. Ó Ceallaigh, Department of Language and Literacy Education, MIC, noted the pressing need for immersion pedagogy to be anchored in research to tackle the persistent challenges and to address the myriad questions in all-Irish education in both Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht contexts. Dr. Ó Ceallaigh commented “Designing, implementing, and refining language immersion education which successfully promotes additive bilingualism, biliteracy, multicultural competence, and academic achievement requires considerable support. It is critical that this support is powered by scholarship in immersion teaching and learning, visionary leadership and community innovation and advocacy. This conference provided an international forum which brought together the latest academic and policy discussions, and promoted critical debate on these often-complex interconnections of language immersion education”.
A renowned international scholar on immersion education and conference participant, Professor Diane J. Tedick, Professor of Second Language Education at the University of Minnesota, USA noted “This Second All-Ireland Research Conference on Immersion Education was a huge success. Drawing an international roster of delegates, the conference showcased the work of scholars engaged in research on language immersion education in Europe, North America and beyond. The conference served as clear evidence that both graduate students and faculty in Ireland are engaged in cutting-edge research and practice. Most impressive is the commitment to offering sessions and materials in Irish (with or without English interpretation). Very much looking forward to the Third!”
Professor David Lasagabaster, University of the Basque Country, also commented on the depth of scholarship and breadth of experience represented by the participants at the conference. After his keynote address, Professor Lasagabaster said “This conference has been a great opportunity to get to know more about the situation of Irish and Irish-medium education. It provides an excellent opportunity to share research results, experiences and reflections in the field, while it also serves as a forum to get informed about immersion experiences in other contexts. A most commendable academic event!”
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