3M project header
3M project header

More opportunities with multilingualism

Project leader
Joana Duarte
2017 - 2021

The 3M project (More opportunities with Multilingualism) focused on primary school teachers who wanted to integrate multilingualism into their teaching practice. Teachers are increasingly exposed to multilingualism in the classroom and are often quite aware of its benefits. They are, however, often unaware of how to use all these languages in their specific settings. Within the 3M project, researchers and teachers have jointly developed activities to enhance the opportunities of using multilingualism in the classroom.

What is the motivation for the project?

Primary school teachers are increasingly confronted with pupils who speak a language other than Dutch at home. In addition, more and more primary schools start offering English at a young age and primary schools in the province of Fryslân are required to offer Frisian. So, there is a variety of languages that primary school teachers are confronted with, but they do not always know how to deal with all these languages in the best way in their educational practice. The schools' and teachers' questions about multilingualism, such as "How do we integrate a foreign language into our current trilingual education without speaking the language ourselves?" were the starting point of the 3M project.

What problem does the project solve?

Teachers are often uncertain about how to deal with multilingualism in the classroom. In a partnership between schools, teachers, post-graduate students and researchers, activities were developed to help teachers and pupils work with multilingualism. With this we wanted to achieve that:

  • The language divide between the vehicular languages in education (Dutch, English, Frisian) would be reduced;
  • Migrant languages (Arabic, Turkish, Polish, etc.) would be more appreciated;
  • Languages other than Dutch would be used more in the classroom.

Project team

  • Joana Duarte (project leader)
  • Mirjam Günther-Van der Meij (project leader)
  • Frans Hiddink (teacher researcher)
  • Maaike Pulles (teacher researcher)
  • Laura Nap (researcher)
  • Linde Kootstra (researcher)
  • Albert Walsweer (teacher researcher)
  • Suzanne Dekker (PhD student)
  • Dirkje Elgersma (Project Support)
  • Douwe Runia (project support)
  • Ilona Jankowska (Polish student assistant)
  • Doaa Abdul Hussain (student assistant Arabic)
  • Hessel Yntema (student assistant Frisian/English)
  • Wendy Dijkstra (student assistant)
  • Mirthe Nutma (student assistant)
  • Laura Ottens (student assistant)

Students from the Pabo were involved in the project as student assistant or within the learning area Language & Identity. They participated in the development of activities and in the research into the implementation of the activities.
Project approach

The 3M project consisted of two phases. In phase 1, researchers and students worked with 8 schools to develop multilingual activities. A bottom-up approach was used, based on the questions and ideas from the field of education. The activities were implemented at these schools and then evaluated and optimised. In phase 2, the same activities were implemented and re-evaluated in 6 other schools. In these schools, the implementation of the activities was also investigated by looking at the use of multilingual didactic approaches and classroom interaction (classroom and peer). Half of the teachers followed a mentoring programme in phase 2, where they received additional support in implementing the activities.

Main results

The developed activities are accessible for everyone via the toolbox with nearly 100 multilingual activities. Knowledge clips and sample videos of multilingual lessons will soon be available in the toolbox for further information and inspiration.

E-3M is a digital learning environment for pupils in grades 5 and 6 in which the themes of nature (birds) and technology (bridges) can be covered in six different languages.

The research carried out during the project shows that:

  • (Young) children already have clear language attitudes and language hierarchies, but that these can be influenced through didactics that are open to all forms of multilingualism;
  • Despite a positive attitude towards multilingualism, teachers need time and space to reflect in order to acquire the practical skills needed to implement multilingual teaching.

The 3M project won the second prize and public award of the European Language Label 2019, and the third prize of the RAAK Award 2021.

Sustainable Development Goals

This project contributes to...