Collaboration with University of Birmingham: the Zobel Project

Local French teachers are collaborating with researchers at the University of Birmingham to develop new teaching materials to inspire pupils to learn French, at school and beyond.  

CPD workshop held at the University of Birmingham campusModern Languages study is an exciting and strategic choice, as graduates enjoy excellent employment prospects, with 90% entering work or further study within 6 months of graduation.

The new teaching materials reposition French as an internationally significant language, offering pupils the chance to learn about French in North America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. To challenge pupils’ perceptions of French as a European language, the teaching materials develop a case study of a renowned French Caribbean author, Joseph Zobel.  

Throughout 2017, French teachers throughout Birmingham have been providing feedback on Zobel Project teaching materials at meetings, workshops and networking events on campus. A group of local teachers have taken on leadership roles as Project Advisors: Clare Haley (University of Birmingham School, Selly Oak), Dennis Preware (George Salter Academy, West Bromwich), Amy Whetstone (King Edwards VI, Aston) and Raheem Zafar (Holte School, Lozells).

The teaching materials have been developed as part of a research project on Joseph Zobel led by Dr Louise Hardwick, Reader in Francophone Postcolonial Studies in the Department of Modern Languages. The research is UK Government funded through the Arts & Humanities Research Council, as part of the priority area ‘Translating Cultures’. To date, Zobel Project has involved communities in the Caribbean, France and UK, and activities are recorded on the project blog: www.josephzobel.wordpress.com 

A CPD workshop held at the University of Birmingham campus in June 2017 (pictured) offered the Project Advisor teachers a guided demonstration of the materials from the research team. The teachers provided detailed, invaluable feedback, drawing on their own extensive experience of teaching French in Birmingham schools.

The workshop led to lively discussions, with excellent feedback and practical suggestions about maximising the compatibility of the resources with the National Curriculum.

As part of this flagship collaboration with University of Birmingham French researchers, in the academic year 2017–2018, Zobel Project resources will be trialled in schools. The Project Advisor teachers will continue to play a leading role in trialling resources and gathering data. This important collaboration strengthens the connections between the University of Birmingham, the University of Birmingham School, and wider schools in the local community.