Dobrochna Futro

Artwork created by school children participating in the project.

HEI: University of Glasgow

Host organisation: SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages

Duration of the internship: Part-time between October 2021 and  March 2022

PhD title: Translanguaging art: Investigation into multilingual practices of contemporary artists and their implications for language pedagogy


Why did you decide to undertake an internship?

I was fortunate to be allowed to undertake the internship in the final period of my PhD after I had written the first full draft of my doctoral dissertation. At this stage, I was looking for ways of gaining additional experience to support my development as a researcher beyond the PhD. During my PhD I worked predominantly with children, but one of the forces driving my doctoral research was the need to provide teachers with a pedagogical model that would be useful for them.

I realized that an internship with SCILT could offer an opportunity to work with an organization that has years of experience in providing support for teachers and I very much wanted to learn from them. To my delight, SCILT saw the potential of my research and was interested in developing the internship project directly related to it so I was able to see how the approach I developed can be taken, adapted and used by teachers in their own contexts.

How did you plan your own internship?

At some point during my PhD I was helping in a project that aimed to provide training for primary school teachers in Scotland interested in learning and teaching Polish. This is how I met Karen Faulds, Professional Development Officer at SCILT – she was also involved in that project. When the opportunity to design my own internship arose I contacted her to ask whether SCILT might be interested in hosting me and, to my delight, they not only said yes, but invited me to the project Bilingualism Matters, a research and information centre at the University of Edinburgh, headquarters of the international network of organizations and researchers committed to make the latest, research-based evidence on multilingualism and language learning available and accessible to families, communities, and professionals in education, health or policy. This set me up for a truly wonderful internship.

What was your internship and what did you do?

The aim of the project was twofold 1) to develop a blueprint for a collaborative professional development for teachers of both mainstream and complementary schools in Scotland that promotes multilingual and multicultural approaches to language learning and teaching across sectors, 2) to evaluate the existing practices, strengths and challenges experienced by teachers and their pupils in the implementation of the goals recommended by Bilingualism Matters for the UNESCO Future of Education Initiative. With Karen as my mentor, I developed a series of CPD workshops for mainstream primary and complementary school teachers. The workshops were based on my doctoral research in which I worked with primary school children as my co-researchers to explore the use of art-based multilingual approaches to language learning and teaching in a multilingual context. I also created a handbook for teachers with a toolkit of activities the teachers can implement to encourage multilingual and multicultural approaches in language learning and teaching and led four online workshops. Alongside the workshops, teachers applied the approaches in their own contexts working with pupils in schools.

The project culminated in the online exhibition of the artworks created by pupils participating in the project, a video of which can be viewed below. I also gave a talk to SCILT Professional Development Team and a collaborative presentation with and to practitioners at the SCILT Knowledge Sharing Event. The outcomes also included writing a report for Bilingualism Matters Network and a collaborative article for the Scottish Languages Review.

The internship was an opportunity to help improve the exchange of knowledge between policy, research and practitioners as well as the potential to influence and guide future practice in the sector.

More artwork created by school children during the project.

What aspects of the internship did you find most rewarding?

It was a very powerful experience to see my doctoral research applied and developed further by practitioners. Seeing the approach I have developed being used by teachers and hearing from them how it enriched their practice and their pupils’ learning was hugely rewarding. The aim of the project was also to forge and strengthen the links between complementary and mainstream school teachers and it was very gratifying to see how it enabled the children attending Saturday schools to share their community school work and achievements with their mainstream school peers and be rewarded for this work by their mainstream school teachers.

In addition to teachers sharing their plans and ideas on adapting and adopting the approach in their future teaching SCILT invited me to develop a bigger project with them and Bilingualism Matters the following year. This time we want to explore the potential of art and art-making for developing multilingual approaches to language learning and teaching with complementary and mainstream school teachers irrespectively of the language they teach. We are currently looking for funding to support it.

Has the internship influenced your future plans at all?

The internship was hugely important to my professional development. It provided an external evaluation of the value of my doctoral research, and further motivated me to complete my PhD and be resilient in developing a career where I can continue contributing to society by conducting and disseminating art-based, applied, participatory research as I saw the impact it can make.

What are some of the skills you have picked up or improved through the internship?

I gained practical experience of designing professional development sessions based on my research, leading CPD workshops online, improved my ability to talk about my research to non-academic audiences, and developed my working with people skills in the supportive environment of the SCILT Professional Development team.

Do you have any tips for researchers looking to do an internship?

I suggest you consider the benefits the internship could offer for you and your future development, and decide when is the best time to do it. Try to find an organisation that shares your goals and values. You may already know some people working in your dream place – do not be afraid to get in touch and ask early so you have time to develop the internship plans together in a way that best benefits both you and your host organization.

Where can people find out more?

SCILT website: scilt.org.uk

Exhibition website: scilt.org.uk/PolishthroughArt/tabid/8517/Default.aspx

Twitter: @dobrochnafutro

This article was published on 1 July, 2022