Language acquisition and well-being of young refugee students in primary education
From February 2019 onwards, Hanneke Leeuwestein will start with her PhD project (funded by the National Initiative for Education Research/Nationaal Regieorgaan Onderwijsonderzoek/NRO). The goal of this project is to study if a new lesson package for learning Dutch as a second language, aimed at young refugee students, is effective. We will also investigate how children’s language learning is related to their general well-being. The project is a combination of applied and fundamental research. The applied part will result in a badly-needed Dutch language package for the first grades, and instruments for assessing well-being. The fundamental part will teach us more about how language learning and well-being in young refugee students are related.
Young refugee students in Dutch primary education
This project is important for young refugee students, as they are a vulnerable group in primary education. Teachers find it difficult to meet these children’s educational needs. The first reason for this is that there is a lack of tools for teaching Dutch as a second language, particularly for the first grades of primary education. Second, young refugee students often find it difficult to initiate adequate learning behavior, as reported by their teachers. Teachers observe that there are more conflicts and less task-directed behavior in international classes than in regular classes. This often leads to less optimal learning behavior in these children, which the teachers suspect to arise from underlying distress or trauma. In line with this, both language and social-emotional well-being are of crucial importance for child development and school learning. Moreover, they are intricately related. However, thus far the effects of well-being and distress on the learning achievements of young refugee children have not been studied. This project will address this gap.
In this project, we work together with many different partners. The team consists of researchers from the Department of Developmental Psychology (Hanneke Leeuwenstein, Marijn van Dijk, Peter de Jonge) and Pedagogical Sciences (Elisa Kupers, Elianne Zijlstra, Hans Grietens), professional partners from Bereslim (publisher of early edutainment), Molendrift (institute for mental health care), the municipality of Enschede and a large number of schools in the cities of Enschede and Groningen. For instance, the publishers from Bereslim will develop a special version of the Bereslim digital storybooks with a bilingual (Dutch-Arabic) option. We will combine this with the lesson package “Talking with Pim” which was developed by the municipality of Enschede (also see (Dutch) video below). Hanneke Leeuwenstein will investigate the usability of the materials and conduct the effect study. In addition, she will validate a well-being observation tool for teachers and investigate its relation with language learning. The outcomes of the project will be shared with and disseminated to educational professionals.