Misconceptions and difficulties in the acquisition of metalinguistic knowledge.
University of Exeter
Language and Education
This paper describes the outcomes of an investigation into the misconceptions and difficulties encountered when learning grammar. The study is based on evidence collected from a class of twelve-year-olds who were engaged upon a workscheme focusingon grammar,andtwocohorts of PGCE Englishstudents undertakingan intensive grammar course. The analysis suggests that learning metalinguistic knowledge can be made problematic for several reasons. Firstly, learning is confounded by the acquired misconceptions which learners bring with them, often misconceptions created by teachers and textbooks. Secondly, there are specific characteristics of English grammar which cause confusion, particularly the mobility of word class. Finally, the process of acquiring metalinguistic knowledge can be hampered by cognitive difficulties relatedto the conceptual demands of grammar, the transfer of learning from passive to active understanding, and the patterns of inter-connected learning in grammar. The paper suggests that toomuch professional energy has been attributed to the debate about whether grammar should be taught or not, whilst insufficient research resource has been allocate to investigating how pupils learn. The findings point to a need for development of metalinguistic subject knowledge in teachers and for further research on pupil acquisition of metalinguistic knowledge.
Language and Education, Volume 14, Issue 3 October 2000 , pages 151-163