Teachers’ Reported Beliefs about the role of Grammar, and their Observed Pedagogical Practices of Foreign Languages Teaching in England
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
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The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate teachers’ beliefs about a fundamental aspect of foreign language teaching: grammar. Whilst progressively reinstated in the national curriculum and consistently sustained by foreign languages teachers’ practices, grammar’s perceived irrelevance for assessment criteria of the nationally adopted method of assessment - the General Certificate of Secondary Education – kept it caught in conflicting discourses of policy, linguistic research and teaching practices. Whilst foreign languages policy and practice kept converging towards increasing focus on forms in language education along correspondences with linguistic research, the assessment has remained focused on generic communicative, skill-focused criteria. My small-scale research aimed to find how foreign languages teachers translated grammar teaching policy and possible theoretical guidelines in their teaching practices, by collecting data through interviews, observations and think-alouds. The findings revealed disparate educational contexts, approaches, as well as interpretations of grammar teaching. It led me to realise the necessity to probe further into a much more thorough theoretical and methodological underpinning of foreign languages education. As this study concludes, the secondary foreign languages curriculum has become disapplied, and schools and teachers have been left to devise their idiosyncratic foreign language learning strategies and rationales. As foreign languages teaching becomes anchored in the primary education curricular provision, this research hopes to document the need to frame theoretical and methodological guidelines, a consistent foreign languages education rationale, leading to a consistent and convincing education and provision of future foreign language teachers.
Economic and Social Research Council
This ESRC funded study was set out to explore teachers’ perspectives, asking them, as research participants, to report their beliefs about the value of grammar teaching in foreign languages in England. The above aims were pursued by means of three research questions: 1. What are teachers’ beliefs about the role of grammar in foreign languages teaching? 2. How is grammar taught and used in the classroom by teachers? 3. What factors influenced the development of teachers’ pedagogical systems? My small-scale, interpretive study aimed to strongly contextualise foreign language teaching in England, aware of the difficulties to generalise from descriptive research, but also aware of the credibility that a well-documented description of the situated nature of local processes has in developing understanding of language teaching. My study planned to reinforce the contextual relevance of participants’ views and pedagogical interpretations of national policy guidelines and theoretical frameworks. From its interpretive epistemological stance, my study’s findings concerning discrete participant’s beliefs and practices in discrete contexts were therefore generalised and validated by the very situated nature of the collected data.
Myhill, Debra A.
Watson, Annabel M.
PhD in Education