An Investigation into Oral Digital Storytelling in Primary English in Switzerland

Lustenberger, Andrea (2022). An Investigation into Oral Digital Storytelling in Primary English in Switzerland. EdD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates oral digital storytelling (DST) in the young learner foreign language (L2) classroom and was motivated by my practice as a Swiss primary teacher and English language methodology lecturer at the teacher training college in Zug. To date, there has been little research on the potential role of oral task-based DST in the L2 classroom at primary level. This year-long study explores opportunities and challenges of collaborative oral task-based DST in English L2 classes in a Year 4 primary classroom (ten-year-olds). It examines how L2 learning can be promoted, and what prior knowledge is needed to engage in the tasks. It further explores the effect of collaborative DST on speaking proficiency, and the use of language(s) - and notably translanguaging. The main data consist of video- and audio-recordings of four pupils working in dyads on collaborative oral tasks, and semi-structured interviews with the children and their Year 4 teacher. My original research and data-collection plans were significantly affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, making adaptations necessary. These included: analysis of an English lesson observed before lockdown; an individual DST task for the children to complete as part of home-schooling; a pupil questionnaire about their different experiences of DST in pairs at school and at home alone; and an interview with the children’s Year 5 teacher to gain some qualitative insights into her perception of the impact of DST on the children’s English. The data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis and the underlying approach to the research was ecological constructivism. The findings suggest that DST can provide a bridge between the mandated textbook to connect it with the children’s lives and play a motivating role in supporting the development of L2 oracy, particularly where supported by: the explicit teaching of effective collaborative work; the provision of task-based language support resources; and the presence of an audience. A further significant finding was the positive role of using L1 and translanguaging in the L2 classroom. Translanguaging, little-known in Switzerland, is unsupported by Curriculum 21, the recently implemented curriculum to harmonise education across the various cantons in Switzerland. My findings also give insights into how structured oral task-based DST can enhance pupils’ oracy in an L2, pupils’ and teachers’ Information and Communication Technology skills, and pedagogy more generally – an important set of findings given the necessity for more theoretical insights in technology-supported task-based DST.

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