Inge Birnie

Dr

  • United Kingdom

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Personal profile

Personal Statement

am a senior lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Strathclyde. My research interests are focussed on (minority) languages in and for learning. I am the co-chair of the Scottish Council of Deans of Education Languages Group (SCDE LG) which has representatives from all Initial teacher education institutions in Scotland. The SCDE LG is responsible for the creation of the National Framework for Languages and the associated languages profile and resource bank, as well as the creation of the Plurilingual Classrooms in Action Massive Open Online Course, hosted through FutureLearn. I was responsible for creating the content for the learning activities that focussed on diversity and intercultural awareness.

I was a member of the Council of Europe’s European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) Expert Group on Early language learning (for children ages 3 to 12), working with an international team on a three-year project entitled ‘Inspiring Language Learning in the Early years – why it matters and what it looks like for children aged 3 – 12). This project was included in the Council of Europe’s Ministerial Recommendation on “the importance of plurilingual education for democratic culture” as a key resource in ‘encouraging children and teachers to develop their linguistic skills, learn new languages and open themselves to the languages around them

Currently I coordinate the four-year follow-up project entitled PALINGUI – language learning pathways of young children – making language learning visible, which focusses on supporting teachers and educators in creating multilingual learning environments where children are encouraged to act as agents of their own language learning, regardless of the manner in which the language was acquired (in the home, in the community, as the language of the education system or as an additional language). In this role I have organised international meetings to disseminate the findings and results of this project, and this has resulted in the establishment of the PALINGUI research and knowledge exchange network to share findings and practical support for teachers and educators.

 

 

Research Interests

My interests in promoting (minority) language use resulted in a £25,000 research grant from Bòrd na Gàidhlig which looked at the extent to which spoken Gaelic is used in public community settings. The findings of this study have contributed to the successful establishment of the social enterprise An Taigh Ceilidh (the meeting place) in Stornoway (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar), a designated social space where individuals can come and use Gaelic to socialise, meet, sing, share stories, strengthen community and social networks and create new friendships.

The promotion of social networks to use minority or endangered languages is also at the heart of my research in the use of social media and other technologies to support the use of minority languages. I am the Chair of Working Group 4 of the COST+ Action Language in the Human Machine Era (LITHME), where I am involved in organising workshops, international whole action group conferences, and the training school, where I have also delivered input on the role of current and future technologies on the continued use of minority or endangered language and sustaining language diversity.

 

 The promotion of Gaelic in a range of different domains to sustain its use has also resulted in my involvement as co-investigator with the Diversity in Science towards Social Inclusion Erasmus+ project (worth €108,000 to the University of Strathclyde). This has allowed me to create a holistic view of language and culture that goes beyond the traditional bounded notions of identity through the creation of culturally sensitive activities within the sociology of science paradigm. The success of this project resulted in a further, funded project (£10,000 from the Royal Society of Chemistry) called Rannsachadh  àrainn eucoir – am Puffin bochd) to further develop these notions and situate these in contemporary society.

 

I have also been successful in attracting funding (£3,000 Soillse) for an innovative cross-disciplinary project that brought together academics, researchers, practitioners and members of the public through a collaboration between three universities (University of Edinburgh, Stirling and Strathclyde) to explore the impact of bilingualism and language loss on patients and their caregivers. This results formed the basis of a The Conversation article which has, to date, attracted over 25,000 readers.

Teaching Interests

I lead and teach on a range of different modules across the School of Education, many focussed on the teaching and learning of languages or on the Early Years and Childhood practice. I supervise a large number of doctoral students, typically with a focus on language learning and teaching. I am currently the chair and Editor in Chief of the Northern Scotland Journal (Edinburgh University Press) and amregistered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). I was awarded a Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Institute in 2021. I have acted as an external examiner for EdD and PhD doctoral thesis and I was invited to be external expert on an initial teacher education reaccreditation panel. I hold a number of external examiner positions at the University of the Highlands and Islands (including the BA Gàidhlig is Leasachadh and MEd Foghlam delivered through the medium of Gaelic), The University of the West of Scotland and the University of Cumbria.

I regularly appear on BBC programmes, including news contributions and input to current affairs programmes to talk about my work in Gaelic and education.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

External positions

external examiner STREAP, University of Aberdeen

1 Sept 20201 Sept 2023

Member of the expert group on Early Language learning, European Centre for Modern Languages

1 May 20171 May 2019

Keywords

  • languages
  • Gaelic
  • language revitalisation
  • minority languages in education

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