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LSIS Research Development Fellowship (RDF) projects 2011-2012: I can hear what you're saying but I can’t understand a word of what you have written. Ways of increasing spelling and literacy skills amongst not native UK citizens

Principal focus of the project

Researchers focused on how the nature of immigration into the UK raises issues around employment and education, specifically that an inability to spell correctly leads to failure in exams and progression through ESOL qualifications, which in turn inhibits vocational qualifications and thus employment. The researchers focused on spelling as research suggested this was the most difficult qualification to achieve, and also explored methods of improving spelling within the cohort with literacy issues that could be resolved by phonetic based learning.

What is this about and what were the main findings?

The project concluded that the structured approach for supporting spelling was successful. Learners had mixed preferences regarding visual and phonetic memory aids for spelling, but silent letters were better recalled by phonetic than visual cues. There are complex motivational issues that affect learners' engagement with spelling. Some participants seemed to be unwilling to leave their 'comfort zone' and be seen to be working on basic skills such as spelling. The researcher felt it was important to teach spelling in this way in small groups and that it is not appropriate to teach in this way within mainstream classes.

Resource form
Number of participants who worked with the project:
Name(s) of authors

John Carlson - Sunderland College

Name of associate programmes

LSIS Research Development Fellowship


A research report exploring learning strategies to improve spelling abilities for English Language learners from other countries who have difficulties in achieving certification in writing.

Web link for this resource: John Carlson- RDF written submission.pdf