Dr Ingeborg Birnie

Senior Lecturer



Personal statement

I am a senior lecturer in the School of Education. My research interests are focussed on (minority) languages in and for teaching that go beyond the bounded notions of identity and culture. I lead the Council of Europe's European Centre for Modern Languages PALINGUI - language learning pathways of young children – making language learning visible - project and I am the co-chair of the Scottish Council of Deans of Education Languages Group which is responsible for the National Framework for Languages and associated resources as well as the Plurilingual Classrooms in Action MOOC (hosted through FutureLearn) - for which I created the content for the diversity and intercultural awareness section. The promotion of social networks (real and virtual) for the use of (minority) language(s) is at the heart of my research and I am the Chair of Working Group 4 of the COST+ Action Language in the Human Machine Era (LITHME) and also influences my work with the Erasmus+ project Diversity in Science towards Social Inclusion. I lead and teach on a range of different modules across the School of Education, many focussed on the teaching and learning of languages or on the Early Years and Childhood practice. I supervise a large number of doctoral students, typically with a focus on language learning and teaching. I am currently the chair and Editor in Chief of the Northern Scotland Journal (Edinburgh University Press). I am registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) and am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Institute. I have acted as an external examiner for EdD and PhD doctoral thesis and I was invited to be external expert on an initial teacher education reaccreditation panel. I hold a number of external examiner positions at different Universities. I regularly appear on BBC programmes, including news contributions and input to current affairs programmes to talk about my work in Gaelic and education.

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Research Interests

My interests in promoting (minority) language use resulted in a £25,000 research grant from Bòrd na Gàidhlig which looked at the extent to which spoken Gaelic is used in public community settings. The findings of this study have contributed to the successful establishment of the social enterprise An Taigh Ceilidh (the meeting place) in Stornoway (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar), a designated social space where individuals can come and use Gaelic to socialise, meet, sing, share stories, strengthen community and social networks and create new friendships.

The promotion of social networks to use minority or endangered languages is also at the heart of my research in the use of social media and other technologies to support the use of minority languages. I am the Chair of Working Group 4 of the COST+ Action Language in the Human Machine Era (LITHME), where I am involved in organising workshops, international whole action group conferences, and the training school, where I have also delivered input on the role of current and future technologies on the continued use of minority or endangered language and sustaining language diversity.


 The promotion of Gaelic in a range of different domains to sustain its use has also resulted in my involvement as co-investigator with the Diversity in Science towards Social Inclusion Erasmus+ project (worth €108,000 to the University of Strathclyde). This has allowed me to create a holistic view of language and culture that goes beyond the traditional bounded notions of identity through the creation of culturally sensitive activities within the sociology of science paradigm. The success of this project resulted in a further, funded project (£10,000 from the Royal Society of Chemistry) called Rannsachadh  àrainn eucoir – am Puffin bochd) to further develop these notions and situate these in contemporary society.


I have also been successful in attracting funding (£3,000 Soillse) for an innovative cross-disciplinary project that brought together academics, researchers, practitioners and members of the public through a collaboration between three universities (University of Edinburgh, Stirling and Strathclyde) to explore the impact of bilingualism and language loss on patients and their caregivers. This results formed the basis of a The Conversation article which has, to date, attracted over 25,000 readers.

Professional Activities

Protecting minority languages in the human Machine era
The 15th Conference of the European Science Education Research association (ESERA)
"Feumaidh luchd-obrach sgoile Gàidhlig a bhith aca"
Gàidhlig aig luchd-obrach sgoiltean
LITHME COST+ Action Whole Action Conference
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia International Conference

More professional activities


Integrating primary and pre-school virtual exchange projects into language teacher education
De Britos, Angela (Co-investigator) Birnie, Inge (Principal Investigator) Mouat, Clare (Co-investigator)
Amount awarded: €400,000

The INVITED project (integrating primary and pre-school virtual exchange projects into language teacher education) seeks to promote the use of virtual exchange (VE) projects in primary and pre-school language education and to develop teachers' competences regarding VE by integrating VE projects with young learners into pre- and in-service language teacher education. Project members are teacher educators from five different universities in Europe in cooperation with local schools.

The project is going to implement a survey on teachers´ experiences with VE in pre-school and primary language education to find out about teachers´ needs.
A community for teachers interested in VE is created in the form of an e-twinning group to exchange experiences and materials and display good practice.
A teacher education module that includes the implementation of a VE project in a local school is developed, adapted for a professional development course and made available on the ESEC platform.

The project provides opportunities for pre- and in-service teachers to connect through the online community and offers support for their VE projects. It develops a teacher education module that will be part of the partners´ curricula and made available as an online training course. These outcomes will help promote the use of VE in young learner language education, develop teachers´ competences regarding VE and foster children´s and teachers´ cultural, linguistic and digital competences.
01-Jan-2023 - 01-Jan-2026
“Delivering 1 + 2 Languages” – pre-service teachers’ perspectives
De Britos, Angela (Co-investigator) Birnie, Inge (Principal Investigator)
This study aims to build on a previous study conducted by Birnie (2021) to evaluate the experiences and attitudes of new entrants to the teaching profession in Scotland towards languages in order to support these students’ pre-service provision in line with the latest Scottish Government short-life working group recommendations on the 1 + 2 policy. Furthermore, this study will aim to identify the attitudes of student teachers towards languages themselves; an important indicator of how they will conceptualise this in the classroom but also their perceived confidence and competence in different languages. Where teachers feel confident and competent in the delivery of a curricular area, they are more likely to be able to deliver this successfully (Valdera Gil & Crichton, 2020) and therefore any measures that can be taken to support student teachers pre-service will impact on the delivery of this area of the curriculum in primary schools. This will guide future development on the post- and under-graduate Initial Teacher Education Programmes and provide a valuable insight into the future support needs of early-career teachers.
Rannsachadh Àrainn Eucoir: Am Puffin Bochd (English: Crime Science Investigation: The Poor Puffin)
Ross, Kirsty (Principal Investigator) Birnie, Inge (Co-investigator) Essex, Jane (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2022 - 30-Jan-2023
Plurilingualism in Action - FutureLearn Massive Open Online Course
Birnie, Inge (Academic)
MOOC to develop teachers' understanding of learning and teaching languages to explore the transformative role of languages in education.
PALINGUI – Language learning pathways of young children – Making early language learning visible
Birnie, Inge (Principal Investigator)
ECML project - Language learning pathways are becoming more and more diverse as a result of linguistic and cultural diversity. This diversity means that young people can grow up with multiple languages and cultures, different practices and customs, as well as different ways of speaking and writing. The new PALINGUI project of the European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe (ECML) will be looking at these diverse linguistic journeys of young learners in educational contexts and how to make these visible through a range of methods and tools. These will make it possible to identify, understand and document language learning of children age 3 to 12 and thereby create learning opportunities allowing them to progress along their language learning pathways.
01-Jan-2020 - 31-Jan-2023
Enacting Plurilingualism: Exploring teachers’ perspectives on the classroom realisation of languages education principles
McPake, Joanna (Principal Investigator) Huang, Alan (Principal Investigator) Birnie, Inge (Principal Investigator)
The principal research questions this study sets out to answer are:
1. How do newly qualified and more established languages teachers link the principles set out in the National Framework for Languages to current and / or future classroom practices?
2. What kind of professional education do they consider most valuable in developing the competences they need to do this effectively?
20-Jan-2018 - 19-Jan-2018

More projects

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Dr Ingeborg Birnie
Senior Lecturer

Email: ingeborg.birnie@strath.ac.uk
Tel: 444 8088