Language learning and teaching in Macedonia: policy and delivery
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Greenwich
Unit of AssessmentModern Languages and Linguistics
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Language, Communication and Culture: Linguistics
Summary of the impact
Inter-ethnic communication was identified as key to building social
stability in Macedonia after the political turmoil of 1999-2001. But the
three main ethnic groups - Serbian, Macedonian and Albanian - had only a
low level knowledge of each other's languages. Professor Benati was able
to apply his pioneering research on how best to help people learn a second
language to provide the basis for (a) a fundamental change in the
country's language education policy and (b) a significant improvement in
grammar teaching methodology throughout Macedonia.
The Macedonian project was based on studies of Input Processing and
Processing Instruction. Professor Benati was one of a small international
team who started the theoretical framework on this field of Second
Language Acquisition in the mid-1990s. Input Processing argues that second
language learners will process information available to them from the
language's surface structure more effectively if their attention can be
drawn to those items of the language which carry grammatical significance.
The normal tendency of learners is to pay attention to lexical items as
they carry most meaning but in order to learn the syntax, ways must be
found of making the grammatical items more salient for them. Learners can
be taught to note the grammar, often without resorting to conscious
knowledge; input processing studies demonstrate how. Processing
Instruction looks at ways in which materials can be presented to learners
so that Input Processing happens in the most successful way possible
through input enhancement.
The key research underpinning Professor Benati's understanding of Input
Processing and Processing Instruction was carried out between 2001 to
2007, during which time he investigated the effects of Processing
Instruction under a variety of conditions, teasing out variables and
testing the relative effects of this psycholinguistic approach to grammar
instruction [3.1]. The main variables were the taught language: English,
Japanese, Italian etc; different forms like gender and tense, and
syntactic structures like word order; and then the different
learners and their mother tongues. Of particular interest to the
Macedonian project was how technology could best be utilised within this
learning and teaching methodology. This was the focus of Professor
Benati's 2007 book Delivering Processing Instruction in Classroom and
Virtual Contexts. It examines empirically the differential effects
of delivering Processing Instruction by instructors in classrooms compared
with students working individually with computers.
The period 2008-2013 examined further aspects of Processing Instruction.
The 2008 monograph [3.2.2] demonstrated how training on one particular
grammatical feature impacts on the acquisition of other features affected
by a similar processing problem. The 2010 book [3.3.2] examined the impact
of learning through discourse or conversation as opposed to closed
sentences, again on the basis of a number of classroom-based empirical
studies. The 2013 book [3.3.3] examines the interplay between individual
differences such as age, working memory and aptitude, and Processing
Instruction. Other monographs relate research findings to their classroom
applications in different contexts eg Japanese Language Teaching
(2009) [3.3.1]. Overall, this research indicated the
importance of manipulating input to provide a focus on grammatical
features. Grammar tasks should be designed to ensure that learners process
input correctly and efficiently by noticing and processing forms in the
input, eventually making correct connections between a grammatical form
and its meaning.
Professor Benati has also undertaken research to make theory and research
accessible to non- specialists, and to identify the links between theory
and practice in second language learning and teaching, and links between
research findings and their classroom implications and applications. He
has published a further three monographs to address these issues for the
benefit of teachers and practitioners.
References to the research
(REF1 submitted staff in bold, **REF2 Output)
3.1 Benati, A. (2001). A comparative study of the effects of
processing instruction and output- based instruction on the acquisition of
the Italian future tense. Language Teaching Research, 5(2),
This is one of the most cited articles within the Processing Instruction
3.2 The publications on language processing and processing
instruction listed below are considered key publications in the field and
have made important advances in understanding the effects of processing
instruction and providing solutions for grammar teaching
3.2.1 Lee, J. F., & Benati, A. G. (2007). Second language
processing. London: Continuum Intl Pub Group. Retrieved from http://gala.gre.ac.uk/1381/
**3.2.2 Benati, A. G., & Lee, J. F. (2008). Grammar
Acquisition and Processing Instruction. Clevedon: Multilingual
Matters. Retrieved from http://gala.gre.ac.uk/1403/
3.3 Second Language Teaching and Second Language Acquisition
These monographs have also made significant contributions to the field of
SLA (see reviews: http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/key-terms-in-second-language-acquisition-9780826499158/).
3.3.2 Van Patten, B., & Benati, A. G. (2010). Key Terms
in Second Language Acquisition. London: Continuum. Retrieved from http://gala.gre.ac.uk/1335/
3a A. G. Benati. Processing Instruction and Individual Differences.
Leverhulme Trust, Visiting Fellowship Grant Dr T. Angelovska (Ref.
F00345/F). Jan 2012-Sep 2012. £18,470.
The research conducted by Professor Benati in establishing how individual
differences might have an impact on processing instruction was supported
by a Leverhulme Visiting Fellowship grant, with Dr Angelowska (University
of Munich) working for nine months with Professor Benati.
3b A. G. Benati. OSCE High Commissioner of National Securities (Ref.
035/10). €58,821. Professor Benati was the co-ordinator of a team, the
editor of the teacher's guidebook and the trainer for a teacher training
Details of the impact
Macedonia has faced high levels of community conflict and tension in
recent years, bordered as it is by Kosovo and Albania with a large
Albanian population living within its borders. A coalition of stakeholders
including the Macedonian government and Bureau of Education, OSCE
(Organisation for Security & Cooperation in Europe) and British
Council saw improved inter-ethnic communication as a way to reduce
tension. But the three main ethnic groups - Serbian, Macedonian and
Albanian - had only a low level knowledge of each other's languages.
Professor Benati is one of a group which developed the discipline of
Processing Instruction which showed that people learn from immersion in a
language and from implicit or unconscious searching for meaning in the
form and structures they hear. They found that methods which enabled this
implicit acquisition were more successful than traditional methods, which
give explicit grammar instruction followed by mechanical practice.
Professor Benati has led many classroom-based empirical studies in the
last 20 years in order to develop practical tools for teachers,
particularly in the teaching of grammar. He was invited to apply his
research for the first time on a project of this scale, to introduce a new
education policy and practice in the teaching of second languages across
Macedonia. The project was implemented between May 2010 and December 2011.
The underpinning research on input processing and processing instruction
represented the foundation for the development of a new model of grammar
instruction which provided teachers in Macedonia with more effective and
appropriate ways of teaching grammatical features, eg syntactic features,
verbal morphology and nominal morphology, in the language classroom.
The two major outcomes of this project were the publication of a teaching
guidebook, and the development and implementation of a training programme
for school teachers on grammar teaching. The Guidebook was launched on 19
October 2011 at the Centre for Conferences and Studies in Skopje. The
launch sparked wide interest in the professional and academic community.
The event was attended by sixty participants including the Deputy Minister
of Education and Science, representatives from the Department for the
Promotion of `Communities' Languages and faculty deans from state and
private universities in the Republic of Macedonia. Hundreds of copies of
the Guidebook, published in four languages, Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish
and Serbian, were disseminated during the event. The event was covered by
the national TV station "Kanal 5" and a number of newspaper articles were
published. Since then, thousands of copies of the Guidebook have been
disseminated among language teachers throughout Macedonia, in
collaboration with the regional offices of the Bureau of Education and
Between August and December 2011, 444 language teachers from 37 primary
and 17 secondary schools from 3 different cities (Skopje, Tetovo and
Kumanovo) were trained using the teacher training programme on grammar
teaching and the Guidebook. Twenty-eight training sessions were delivered
in two languages (Macedonian and Albanian). Teachers of other foreign
languages (English, German and French) benefited from the training as well
as those teaching Macedonian and community languages. Responses and
comments received from the training were positive and encouraging. The
feedback confirmed that the training was well-designed and provided
important insights into language curriculum development. It enhanced
teachers' knowledge and ability to develop effective grammar tasks and to
deliver them in the language classroom. The plan is to cascade the
training to all schools in the country and to develop further training
modules, for instance on the best way to give feedback to students.
An additional value of the project is the knowledge sharing and
cooperation between institutions that previously worked in isolation from
each other. As a result of the success of the project, state advisors from
the Bureau of Education Development are cooperating with state and private
university professors in adopting a new strategy to develop effective
policies and methodologies in teaching a second language in Macedonia. A
web site has now been set up where teachers can have online access to the
training programme and the guidebook (Benati, A. (2011) (Ed.) A
Guidebook for Language Teaching. High Commissioner For Minority
Languages OSCE & British Council Macedonia. (Translated into
Macedonian, Turkish, Serb, and Albanian.)
The research and its application are relevant to the acquisition of all
second languages. Professor Benati and colleagues have since applied it to
the teaching of Arabic and Japanese.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Letters of support provided by two British Council Managers. The Head
of Sector for Professional Development, and the Director of the Bureau
of Education Development, both at the Bureau for Development of
Education, Republic of Macedonia, and a further British Council Manager
are corroborative contacts.