Learning Pathway DesignParticipatory English Language TeachingJordan
Mosaik EducationAuthor: Ben Webster
Mosaik Education’s weekly English Language class in Amman Jordan supports 15 refugees, the majority of whom are from Sudan and Somalia.
The objective of the class is to support young refugees in developing their English language skills, as well as critical thinking skills. Participatory methodology is inspired by the dialogic ‘Dogme’ method, which places emphasis on conversation to advance learning and understanding. Instead of using a core textbook, this approach allows learners to foreground their own experience and interests as a basis for content and teaching materials, which are largely open digital materials sourced by the students and shared on whatsapp.
As an example, leaders they admired as content in one class, students chose names from the global South: Bobi Wine, Malala Yousef, John Garang, Nelson Mandela. These are unlikely to feature in a commercial ELT coursebook, but for the learners they represented inspiring leaders they could relate to.
Language skills are a significant barrier, 1 often caused by poor or minimal English Language Teaching (ELT) provision in refugees’ country of origin. This is further perpetuated by a lack of access to learning opportunities for refugees during displacement. In the context of Jordan and Lebanon, a CEFR B1 level of English is normally required for online courses and scholarships at local universities. This leaves prospective students either unaware or unmotivated by English-based higher education opportunities. Applications are denied or, even if they do manage to enrol, students struggle to adapt to the demands of the course 2. More broadly, refugees’ “vulnerability lies in not having enough English … skills”, as international languages provide a key link to education, training and employment opportunities in refugee contexts3.
A qualitative evaluation of the pedagogical approach found that the students found the Participatory Method as more motivating and engaging than others they had experienced, and that they appreciated the opening of space for the voices of the marginalised to be heard in course content. ‘It is interesting, because the subjects come from us. It is the videos and interesting things we found and recommended for the class. We feel like the lessons are relevant for us – the subjects that we love, and we are learning about things that are interesting us’ (Sudanese student).
One of the main limitations of this approach (as it stands) is reliance on strong teaching skills for the method to be successfully employed. In order to scale it, the method would require careful consideration of teacher training, mentorship and support.
Secondly, limiting the use of a textbook means tha ELT using dialogic methods may not be seen by some key stakeholders (community centre managers, parents) as ‘traditional’ or ‘valuable’ education.
The value that students place on being part of co-creating material they use in learning could of significant value in scaling and adapting online learning (whether academic, language or other skills) to multiple contexts.
1 Gladwell, C., Hollow, D., Robinson, A., Norman, B., Bowerman, E., Mitchell, J., Floremont, F., Hutchinson, P. (2016). Higher education for refugees in low-resource environments: research study. Jigsaw Consult, United Kingdom.
2 El-ghali, H. A. and Al-Hawamdeh, A. (2017) Higher education and Syrian refugee Students: the case of Jordan. Available at: http://www.aub.edu.lb/ifi ; El-ghali, H. A., Berjaoui, R. and DeKnight, J. (2017) Higher education and Syrian refugee Students: the case of Lebanon. Available at: http://www.aub.edu.lb/ifi
3 Capstick, T. and Marie Delaney, M. (2016) Language for resilience: The role of language in enhancing the resilience of Syrian refugees and host communities. Available at:
( https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/language-for-resilience-report-en.pdf )