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Ricerca per l'innovazione della scuola italiana
Didattica laboratoriale e innovazione del curricolo - Area linguistico-umanistica

Dependency grammar in teaching practices: repercussions on the teaching-learning process and interactions with the development of language skills

Tipo di ricerca: Osservativa
Ambito: Ricerca istituzionale

In the two-year period, 2016-2018, a research-training project was carried out in collaboration with a network of 5 schools (four comprehensive institutes and one professional-technical institute) in Palermo, based on the stages of the DBR model, entitled “The didactics of dependency grammar: from the theoretical model to the grammar laboratory in the classroom”.

The research project, involving 22 teachers and about 400 students from primary school to the first two-year period of upper secondary school for each year, showed, through a descriptive approach, mainly based on the analysis of the practice, how the introduction of the dependency grammar model leads to a change in teaching practices, not only in terms of content, but also concerning the teaching method. Unlike traditional grammar, dependency grammar is a scientific model that describes the language’s structure and how it functions. The model’s coherence, verifiability in the uses of the language, economy and translatability into graphic representations favours reasoning and reflection on the language, starting from the students’ implicit linguistic knowledge. In the 2018/2019 school year, the research project “From dependency grammar to reading-writing… and back” was launched to deepen the relationship between grammar, according to the dependency model, reading and writing in curricular design and in the didactic implementation of teaching/learning processes, through the identification, experimentation and validation of didactic proposals. The experiment, which was interrupted due to the health emergency, ended in the 2020/21 school year. Its aim was to verify and deepen the results, which emerged in the first year, but also to reflect on and to experiment how the aforementioned educational proposals could be redesigned and implemented in a different context, such as schools at the time of the health emergency.


  • To investigate what happens when you bring dependency grammar into the classroom and integrate it into the teaching and learning process, both at the level of teacher choices and behaviour, and concerning the impact on the interest and learning of students, even those with various difficulties.
  • To investigate the relationship between reading/writing/grammar in curriculum design and in the didactic implementation of teaching/learning processes from primary school to the two-year period of upper secondary school.
  • To investigate the constraints, positive and negative factors of teacher training experiences in applying the dependency model to teaching grammar.

Research questions

  • Does the introduction of the dependency grammar laboratory encourage motivation and interest in students to study languages, even students who experience some difficulty, at every level and grade, and potentially the learning process?
  • Does linguistic reflection based on the dependency approach favour the process of understanding and producing texts?
  • How can understanding, writing and grammatical reflection be integrated into teaching-learning proposals?
  • Which topics of linguistic and grammatical reflection are most useful in understanding the text in a vertical perspective from primary to upper secondary school, and what linguistic aspects can be addressed starting from the text?