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Literacy difficulties among bilingual and second language learners

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, April 05, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Bangor University’s School of Psychology invites applications for PhD study in the area of Literacy difficulties among bilingual and second language learners. The studentship is available to start in October 2019. The successful candidate will be based in the Bangor Literacy Lab, within the School of Psychology, under the supervision of Dr Markéta Caravolas.

Project: Early detection of literacy difficulties among bilingual and second language learners in Welsh primary education.
This project will use cross-linguistic and developmental methodologies to study the precursors and early manifestations of dyslexia among children learning in a bilingual or additional language context. For increasing numbers of school children, a challenge in literacy acquisition arises because they are learning in a second or additional language, and there is a gap between their first/dominant language (L1) and the language of instruction (L2). The impact of this gap is greatly exacerbated for those children who, in addition, have language-related learning disorders, such as dyslexia. For educators and clinicians in L2 contexts, it is often difficult to determine whether a child’s presenting literacy problems merely reflect insufficient knowledge of the language of instruction, or, whether they are due to a deeper, cognitive disorder that may require significant interventions and adaptations to the child’s curriculum. Such diagnostic decisions are often marred by the unavailability of reliable, validated and normed test batteries for assessing literacy and literacy-related skills across the child’s languages.
These issues will be addressed using cross-sectional and longitudinal study designs in the context of Welsh primary education, where early (Reception to Year 2) tuition is often delivered through the medium of Welsh, although many pupils are L1 speakers of English or another language. Parallel batteries of Welsh and English language and literacy measures, developed by Caravolas and colleagues as part of the Multilanguage Assessment Battery of Early Literacy (MABEL), will be used to investigate the cognitive markers of risk, and the literacy profiles of young L2 learners of Welsh who experience literacy difficulties. Furthermore, questions regarding cross-language transfer of literacy and related skills will be investigated, as will the utility and long-term predictive stability of a fully bilingual test battery.
An important practical outcome of the project will be to offer practitioners access to reliable, evidence-based materials for the assessment of L2 learners of Welsh who are at risk of dyslexia. This project, based at the Bangor Literacy Lab and with links to the Miles Dyslexia Centre, offers an ideal training opportunity for a PhD student with interests in typical and atypical language and literacy development.

The School
Bangor University’s School of Psychology was established in 1963 and now has one of the largest student cohorts in the UK and a cosmopolitan feel due to the presence of staff and students from over 20 countries. It has consistently performed exceptionally well in the UK’s annual National Student Survey (9th in NSS 2018) and is currently ranked in the top 20 in the 2014 REF with a cosmopolitan mix of academics, many of worldwide renown in their fields. Bangor is a friendly and affordable university town, with good transport links, located in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK, situated between the picturesque peaks and valleys of Snowdonia National Park and the golden beaches of the Isle of Anglesey.

Requirements: Applications are invited from exceptional candidates with a first class or strong upper second class honours degree, and appropriate Master’s degree in Psychology, or a closely related discipline such as Education, Speech and Language Therapy, or Linguistics. An excellent command of English is essential, and a command of Welsh is desirable. The University values diversity and equality at all levels and encourages applications from all sections of the community. We welcome applications for full-time study, and studentships are available for ‘+3’ basis (i.e. three years of full-time doctoral study or its part-time equivalent), depending on the needs of the applicant. It is important to note that PhD funding is contingent on the successful completion of a Masters’ or equivalent degree.

Further information: Applicants are welcome to approach Dr Markéta Caravolas (, before submitting their application, with further inquiries about the project.

Funding Notes

Studentships commence in October 2019 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant and includes an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities and overseas institutional visits.

How good is research at Bangor University in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 21.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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