Feature Article – The Establishment of the Research Institute for Bilingual Learning and Teaching (RIBiLT)

Based on a successful application for an initial grant from the Research Grants Council’s Institutional Development Scheme, the Research Institute for Bilingual Learning and Teaching (RIBiLT) was established in January 2016 to become a focus for the development of research in the School of Education and Languages (E&L). RIBiLT was founded with the aim of fostering and extending the research capability of academics in the area of bilingual learning and teaching, and to facilitate research output and the development of good practices for bilingual education in Hong Kong schools.

A number of Distinguished Professors have been approached to serve as mentors of selected academic staff in E&L. The Distinguished Professors help the academics to identify key research issues, generate discussion on identified topics, and formulate potential research plans. They play a crucial role in helping our relatively junior colleagues to understand and formulate relevant research plans, as well as in connecting them to the international network on various interconnected academic fields.

So far, the following Distinguished Professors have accepted our invitation:

1.Professor Wei Li, Chair of Applied Linguistics, the Centre for Applied Linguistics, Institute of Education, University College London
2.Professor Jeanette Littlemore, Professor of Applied Linguistics and Head of the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics, the University of Birmingham
3.Professor Liz Hamp-Lyons, Visiting Professor in English Language Assessment, the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment, the University of Bedfordshire
4.Professor Ernesto Macaro, Professor of Applied Linguistics, the Department of Education, the University of Oxford
5.Professor Chi-chung Lam, Professor, the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
6.Professor Chin-chin Tseng, Professor in the Department of Chinese as a Second Language, the National Taiwan Normal University.

These distinguished academics are helping the School in the following ways. First, with a small grant, they are invited to Hong Kong to offer seminars and workshops to share the latest development in their research areas with colleagues in the OUHK and other academic organisations. Second, the academic staff in E&L are sent to key overseas institutions with proven related research track records for academic exchange, so that they can update themselves on state-of-the-art research activities. Third, some resources are devoted to supporting academics to participate in selected conferences on certain themes to interact and exchange research ideas with other participants. Last but not least, conferences and workshops are organized to invite overseas scholars to share research findings and help academic staff to generate further research ideas and strategies.

The Inauguration Ceremony of RiBILT took place on 6 December 2016. Mr Lester Huang, the Chair of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR), joined the ceremony as the Guest of Honour and delivered a short speech. Professor Yuk-shan Wong, the OUHK President, also kindly delivered a short speech in support of RIBiLT. The ceremony was followed by an inaugural seminar given by Professor Wei Li, who spoke about ‘Translanguaging as a Theory of Language: Some Conceptual and Methodological Considerations (跨言實踐作為語言理論:一些概念和方法的考慮)’.

During his visit, Professor Li also offered a seminar entitled ‘New Chinglish and the Post-Multilingualism Challenge’, as well as an internal seminar for academics in E&L.

In December 2016, two E&L academics visited the University of Birmingham where they had a very fruitful discussion with Professor Jeannette Littlemore in terms of research collaboration and publication. Prof. Littlemore will be visiting the School as a Distinguished Professor and will be delivering three seminars at the OUHK in January 2017.

Members of RIBiLT have also had some significant achievements. Dr Vanliza Chow, Assistant Professor, gained support from the RGC for a research project entitled ‘A Study of the Language Specificness of Two Nursing Specialties’. Also, Dr Danny Leung, Associate Professor, secured RGC support for his IIDS project to organise a series of seminars and workshops on corpus-based approaches for research.

Recently, RIBiLT applied successfully to the EDB to run two in-service professional development courses for school-teachers on conducting extended learning activities in English for two key learning areas in secondary schools.

In the future, RIBiLT will continue to organize programmes of research support and development as follows:

First, the Distinguished Professors will hold workshops to share the latest thinking in their research areas with academics, and generate possible research ideas with them. Upcoming workshops are being held by Professor Jeanette Littlemore in January 2017 and Professor Liz Hamp-Lyons’ in February 2017.

Second, more seminars will be organised for E&L colleagues and relevant academics to present their research ideas and findings. Further, selected academics will be sent to key research sites for intensive attachment visits. They will take courses and meet with scholars there, thus allowing them to gain insights into the latest developments in the field.

Finally, towards the third year, RIBiLT will organize an international conference on bilingual learning and teaching for external academics from related areas. They will be invited to come and share their research findings, as well as exchange ideas with the academic members of E&L who have participated in this project.

RIBiLT looks forward to seeing you in its upcoming events.

* The original draft of this article was supplied by RIBiLT.



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