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ESR13 Project

Multilingualism and language learning among minor refugees

Lead beneficiary: Centro Provinciale per l'istruzione degli adulti Palermo 1 (CPIA1)

Main supervisor: F. Faloppa; ESR13 Committee: A. Bucca


In 2016 more than 14,000 Unaccompanied Minors Asylum-Seekers (UAMAS) arrived in Italy, 41% based in Sicily. More than 1,000 UAMAS in Sicily receive education at CPIA1, the largest of its kind in Italy. Their language learning may be affected by many factors, e.g., L1 literacy, oral languages acquired during the journey. This project addresses the complex contribution of these factors on language learning and evaluates the efficacy of teaching methods and the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR) for the assessment of UAMAS.


  • Evaluate teaching methodologies in language classes for unaccompanied minor refugees by comparing traditional approaches to new learning methodologies that involve storytelling, (sociolinguistic) autobiographic narratives, and pictorial visualisation of stories

  • Compare the efficacy of the two teaching methodologies in literate unaccompanied minor refugees to those who are illiterate or have low literacy levels in their first language.

  • Investigate the contribution of environmental factors, such as, age of onset, length of exposure to Italian, on language outcomes.

  • Investigate the contribution of environmental factors unique to unaccompanied refugee groups, e.g., length and conditions of the journey, acquisition of heterogeneous oral languages for resilience, education in the country of origin and during the journey, social network in Italy, on language outcomes.

  • Explore the hypothesis that social media and networks may be beneficial to unaccompanied minor refugees to maintain and broaden their sociolinguistic networks (and to practice their languages) and investigate the contribution of social media in language learning.

  • Use the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR) when testing the language competence and acquisition by unaccompanied minor refugees and address whether any adjustments are required for this population.

Planned secondments:

In the 1st year 6 months at UREAD to receive research training and work on the study design (Dr Faloppa). In the 3rd year 3 months at UREAD to work on the interpretation and gain experience in public engagement at BMR.


ESR14 Project

Grammatical & lexical development in migrant primary school children

Lead beneficiary: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Main supervisor: D. Papadopoulou; ESR14 Committee: F. Faloppa, T. Marinis


The aim of this project was to provide educators information about the main difficulties migrant children face during L2 development and guidelines regarding appropriate educational techniques for these children. Current research shows that some educational techniques can accelerate and improve the learners’ linguistic performance but it is unclear whether this applies to children with a migration background.


  • Explore the migrant children’s grammatical and vocabulary knowledge in their L2, through the use of standardized tests.

  • Employ a series of educational techniques by means of implicit pedagogical tasks and processing instruction, as well as explicit language teaching, aiming at improving and accelerating bilingual children’s grammatical and lexical performance in the L2.

  • Conduct pre- and post-tests, whose aim is to test the migrant children’s performance on a series of linguistic phenomena, such as vocabulary, determiners, agreement, tense and aspect, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the educational techniques in several time periods.

  • Investigate which educational techniques are most appropriate for migrant children and which educational techniques work best for the linguistic phenomena under investigation.

  • Explore whether factors such as (bi)literacy and cognitive abilities have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the educational techniques.

Planned secondments:

In the 1st year 3 months at UREAD to work together with ESR13 and create synergies between the projects and also to receive training on the design, task development and data analysis (Dr Faloppa and Prof Marinis). In the 2nd/3rd year 7 months at refugee camp Diavata in Thessaloniki, where AUTh students provide voluntary work. During the secondment the ESR will collect data, gain experience with refugee children and provide support to the education team of the refugee camp. Experience in public engagement and dissemination at M2G throughout.


ESR15 Project

Language and literacy education in migrant children in educational settings

Lead beneficiary: University Milano Bicocca

Main supervisor: F. Foppolo; ESR15 Committee: M. T. Guasti, F Arosio


The increase of immigrant children is challenging European countries as their educational needs are different from monolingual children. Different countries face the problems in different ways. In order to ensure integration and the achievements of good standards, it is necessary to adopt a unified evidence-based policy. One element of this policy is the role of and attitude towards the L1 on the educational achievements in the L2.


  • Collect information about language policies for immigrant children across European countries as a function of educational settings; collect information about their learning achievements during school years and evaluate the practices in the lights of the achievements.

  • Working with different communities of immigrant children (Chinese, Polish), establish whether supporting the oral use of the L1 and literacy in the L1 of immigrant children improve the oral acquisition and literacy in L2.

  • Examine the efficacy of different methodologies for improving L2 acquisition and literacy, as a function of children age: musical activities, augmented communication (with the use of visual symbols), reading activities, specifically designed interactive apps.

Planned secondments:

During the 1st year 3 months at the UREAD to work together with ESR13 and ESR14 and create synergies between the projects. In the 2nd year 2 months at MEDEA to become familiar with augmentation communication techniques, to organize the study on improving L2 in immigrant children and gain experience with immigrants in the health context. In the 3rd year 4 months at BC for experience in public engagement and dissemination.

Photo: Luca Prestia

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