Creating Welcoming Learning Environments: Disseminating Arts-Based Methods in Including all Learners in their Education

Jane Andrews of the University of the West of England describes a research project that brings together teachers, the local authority, educators with a specialism in supporting EAL learners, researchers and creative artists to explore arts based methods for promoting English language development and culturally inclusive education.


Jane Andrews

What’s the project about?

Dr Jane Andrews and Dr Maryam Almohammad at the University of the West of England, Bristol have been working on a 12 month research project since September 2017. The project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) who have “translating cultures” as one of their current research themes. The project is a collaboration between teachers, local authority and school staff who specialise in supporting children developing English as an additional language, creative artists and the researchers. Together we are aiming to develop and trial some teaching techniques which combine arts-based methods and supportive techniques for celebrating children’s languages and developing their English language skills. The project is working with school-based staff in both primary and secondary schools. Colleagues who work at Integra Schools in South Gloucestershire (Lois Francis and Dominique Moore) are collaborators on the project.

Why this topic?

The focus for our research comes out of the arts-based methods used in a larger 3-year  AHRC funded research project entitled Researching Multilingually at Borders. In that project researchers from different academic disciplines (global mental health, anthropology, law, modern languages, intercultural communication, education) worked together with creative artists using drama, poetry, music and textiles. The project explored the role of language in contexts where people experience pain and pressure at times of migration. The sites for the research included the Islamic University Gaza, the Lira district of Uganda, the border state of Arizona, USA, Scotland, the Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria and Ghana. The current project was funded by the AHRC to extend the reach of the 3-year project to explore how arts-based methods can be combined with work celebrating children’s linguistic diversity and supporting their developing English.

What has the project done so far?

We have developed our way of working which has collaboration firmly at its heart. We have built on the work of Julian Edge who proposed a model of CPD named “co-operative development” which seeks to ensure that all participants are empowered to share their knowledge and expertise while learning with and from others. Using this approach we offered a series of one day workshops in which participants shared their current approaches to supporting children’s developing English and celebrated their different languages. Colleagues took part in a hands-on workshop experiencing one or more creative arts techniques and planned how the techniques experienced could be adapted and transferred into their specific school contexts.

The creative arts input was provided by Katja Frimberger who demonstrated drama techniques for use in class including singing in different languages and setting up a “Bristol’s got talent” friendly competition. Katja also shared a film she had made in which students and staff at Glasgow University spoke to camera in their different languages as a way of extending exposure to the institution’s shared languages, see below.

Lyn Ma of Clyde College, Glasgow provided input into how crafting techniques such as collage and model making can be used to provide young people with opportunities to express themselves to their peers and teachers. In the workshop participants created decorated suitcases and explained how and why we had chosen to decorate them as we did.

Naa Densua Tordzro and Gameli Tordzro (University of Glasgow and Pan Africa Arts, Scotland) introduced participants to using musical instruments in an exploratory way to generate a sense of community. Naa Denua and Gameli also shared with us traditional Adinkra symbols from Ghana whose meanings we learned about and discussed. We then chose symbols we wanted to print using silk screen printing techniques.


Naa Densua Tordzro leading one of the workshops

The project has one more workshop planned for May 2018 and it’s also the time when previous workshop participants have been trying out their arts-based activities in school. Film making projects have been planned and one school has audio recorded children and young people making announcements for the school day (for use on the school’s public address system) in their home languages. We are looking forward to hearing back from all of our workshop participants at our end of year conference.

How can I learn more and get involved?

There are a range of ways in which you can get involved, contribute and find out more.

  • Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date with the project’s development @CWLE_EAL
  • We will run a conference for teachers and school-based staff on “Creativity and EAL” where ideas tried and tested in schools will be shared on Thursday 12thJuly at UWE, Bristol. The conference will be free to attend. Register to attend here. We welcome expressions of interest from colleagues wishing to offer a workshop or a short talk about work involving creative arts for supporting children developing EAL. Please email
  • We are planning a book to gather teaching ideas about how to connect creativity, multilingualism and EAL. It will be published by Multilingual Matters. Please get in touch if you’d be interested in contributing to this book.
  • We’ll soon be launching a website with video clips from the workshops so visitors to the site can find out more. The site will be at


UPDATE: Post was updated on 5.6.18 to reflect changes to the Twitter and website addresses of the organisation.

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