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Enhancing Literacy Development in European Languages

Final Report Summary - ELDEL (Enhancing Literacy Development in European Languages)

For the relevant information, please see the attached document entitled: ELDEL Publishable Summary Final Report, and further supporting documentation in the in document entitled: Results and Key Findings to Date. Below, we provide the report without diagrams and tables.

eldel’s RESEARCH AND TRAINING OBJECTIVES

Enhancing Literacy Development in European Languages (eldel) was a Marie Curie ITN focusing on literacy development in five European languages, which ran between September, 2008 and August, 2012. The network was composed of seven Partners located in five countries – United Kingdom, France, Spain, Czech Republic and Slovakia. The broad scientific aims of the eldel project were: first, to produce a model elucidating the relationships among psychological (psycholinguistic, cognitive) and environmental (orthographic, linguistic, educational/instructional, cultural) factors determining the development of literacy skills in European languages (see Figure 1); second, to uncover the key components of an effective, culture-appropriate intervention program for the prevention and remediation of literacy problems in the languages under study; and third, to advance basic research into how individuals learn and process information during spelling and writing in different languages. As an ITN, an equally important aim of eldel was to provide cutting-edge training for young researchers of literacy.

To achieve these over-arching aims, the research program comprised six Workpackages of cross-linguistic studies that explored the language-specific and language-general factors affecting literacy development. Senior scientists with expertise in developmental, educational, experimental, and clinical psychology, as well as speech and language therapy, worked with 22 research fellows (16 ESRs, 6 ERs) on studies involving direct cross-national (and cross-linguistic) collaboration between Partner sites (see Figure 2). eldel’s industrial partner, Oribi, a specialist in software for the support of people with literacy-related difficulties, offered secondment placements and participated in the eldel Conference.

MAIN ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO DATE. All Workpackages were linked by their cross-linguistic and literacy themes, and all contributed to the long-term aim of building a comprehensive model of literacy development (Figure 1). Yet, each Workpackage approached its research using methods best suited to its area. Here, we highlight some of the findings to date (with much work still on-going) and network-wide results and benefits of the scientific and training programmes (for more details see the appended Results and Key Findings to Date).

eldel’s SCIENTIFIC ACHIEVEMENTS.
• SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES:
o eldel’s 3-year longitudinal study reveals that literacy development is predicted by the same set of three ‘foundation skills’ across alphabetic languages (Caravolas et al., 2012).
o New teaching programmes created to enrich vocabulary of children at risk of reading comprehension difficulties are found to benefit English pre-schoolers and Spanish primary-school pupils (Hayley, 2012; Gomez & Defior, in prep).
o Studies of eye movements during writing reveal that young writers behave similarly to experienced writers who are working under cognitively demanding conditions. Confronted with difficult spelling/grammar decisions, both groups hesitate and make regressive fixations and they make similar grammatical errors, suggesting that the mental processes of writing do not change with age, rather, they automatise as writers gain expertise (Alamargot et al., 2010).
• ASSESSMENT TOOLS: Harmonized, parallel test batteries in 5 languages. Our cross-linguistic collaboration across sites led to one of eldel’s most important accomplishments, namely the production of diagnostic assessment batteries of children’s oral language and literacy abilities in each of the 5 languages represented. This achievement has very high impact in all of the participating countries, and in particular Czechia, Slovakia, and Spain where such tools were previously largely non-existent. An important follow-on project of the network will be the publication of the eldel Cross-linguistic Assessment of Language and Literacy Skills.
• RESEARCH DESIGN: Harmonized methodological approaches to research design and statistical analysis. eldel’s networking context enabled the teams to overcome the challenge of developing directly comparable designs and analyses across languages, and to implement projects despite obstacles at local or national levels.
• RESEARCH ETHICS: Harmonized rigorous procedures for complying with EU- and national standards of research ethics. eldel’s work with children and vulnerable populations necessitated rigorous ethical standards to be observed. Our Ethics Committee oversaw that ethics training, and research procedures were upheld in each Workpackage and in each country, thus setting enduring standards for future ethical research procedures.
• RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT: Cross-fertilization of research ideas, methods, tool developments throughout the network. The six-monthly eldel workshops and Conference generated exchanges of information and research strategies between Workpackages, planning joint further studies, and, establishing links for future research with non-eldel research groups.

eldel’s TRAINING ACHIEVEMENTS.
All 22 research fellows successfully completed network-wide training in research ethics and regularly attended and contributed to the core six-monthly workshops, which offered training in statistical techniques, presentation skills, grant application skills, and other generic research skills. In addition the Senior Scientists offered training in evaluating and understanding one or more of the following specialist areas: (a) specific literacy skills (e.g. phonological skills, spelling, reading comprehension), (b) typical vs. clinical populations (e.g. children with developmental disorders, dyslexia), (c) research methodology (e.g. longitudinal, intervention, experimental psycholinguistic, naturalistic), and (d) use and development of measurement tools (computer-generated, eye tracking, cross-linguistic tests). All fellows presented their work to the consortium at least once over the course of their contract, and most also presented on behalf of ELDEL at national and international conferences.

Research fellows further received generic research skills training at their host institutions. Advanced training in relevant skills was provided by visiting researchers, during workshops, and short courses. The fellows’ training outcomes are summarised in Table 1 and their publication and dissemination achievements are further detailed in the Outputs section of this report. Three ESRs completed a Master’s thesis during their training; 9 ESR-PhD students continue to work toward completion of their dissertations.
eldel’s SCIENTIFIC AND SOCIETAL IMPACTS.
The eldel ITN used four main routes to dissemination: Publishing, conferences/workshops, reports to the media, and the website. Through all of these streams of activity, we have reached scientific and academic audiences, educators, educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, as well as the general public. The highlights from each area of activity are listed below.
PUBLICATIONS. The full list of our publications is provided on the website (http://www.eldel.eu/eldeloutput) and this list is updated regularly. To date, the network has been very productive and to date has published:
• 23 peer reviewed journal articles (7 international, 16 national) including a leading publication in the high impact journal Psychological Science (Caravolas et al., 2012), 6 articles in local journals, and 14 book chapters. Numerous scholarly papers are still in preparation or under review.
• Publications in magazines for general audiences.
• Numerous reports for teachers and parents of children who participated in the network’s studies.
CONFERENCES/WORKSHOPS. Conferences and workshops have provided a major forum for the dissemination of eldel’s research findings. These included:
• eldel international conference in Prague, which hosted five world-leading keynote lecturers, interactive paper from 60 external researchers, and spoken or poster presentations from all eldel researchers. Also, 50 Czech and Slovak specialist practitioners attended our special symposium on literacy development (http://www.eldel.eu/eventsarchive).
• eldel presentions at international meetings of the prestigious Society for the Scientific Studies of Reading, the British Dyslexia Association, and the Experimental Psychology Society.
• Strong representation at numerous national meetings, which ensured that our findings were relayed to domestic audiences in each of our 5 participating countries (see http://www.eldel.eu/eldeloutput).
• eldel also joined COST Action IS0703, and the Prague team co-hosted the: Training school on learning to write effectively.
• Public dissemination events of the network’s research to local parents, teachers, practitioners and the general public in their regions.
BROADER SOCIETAL IMPACTS.
IMPACT ON POLICY. Senior members of eldel have taken up opportunities wherever possible to inform and meet with policy makers in their countries. Notably, the Czech team met representatives of the government body NUV (http://www.nuv.cz/) and presented eldel’s findings to its school psychology department at the „Integration, inclusion and risk of education” meeting, Czech Ministry of Education (see outputs). The Spanish team has equally been advising and consulting for the regional (Junta de Andalucía) and national ministries of education regarding learning and teaching literacy and best practice in dealing with learning disabilities. The UK-Bangor team led a recent literature review for the Welsh government, informed by findings of the eldel projects, into current research and interventions for pupils with dyslexia. Senior members of eldel continue to be called upon to update educational policy makers on cutting edge research into literacy development and prevention of illiteracy.
REPORTS TO THE MEDIA. The eldel project was presented in popular magazines (e.g. Ideal (Spain)) and television programs (e.g. Milenium (Czech Republic)) as well as in local newsletters (e.g. CRL) of all host universities and numerous national specialist practitioner organizations/groups, which explained the main objectives and the educational and societal value of the studies.
WEBSITE. The ELDEL project has a dedicated, regularly updated network website: www.eldel.eu. The site currently provides descriptions of each WP’s project, archives of events, as well as the list eldel’s outputs. We also have links to local eldel websites in several of our partner countries with information for the public about new publications and findings, test tools, relevant events, and awareness raising materials.

Contact Details: Markéta Caravolas, Network Coordinator, m.caravolas@bangor.ac.uk; Joanne Cornes, Network Administrator, j.cornes@bangor.ac.uk.
School of Psychology, Brigantia Building, Bangor University, Wales, UK LL57 2AS.