An investigation into attitudinal responses of years nine, ten and eleven students towards the programmes of study of the modern foreign language National Curriculum in three West Essex 11 -16 LM comprehensive schools

Levy, Stephen P. (2002) An investigation into attitudinal responses of years nine, ten and eleven students towards the programmes of study of the modern foreign language National Curriculum in three West Essex 11 -16 LM comprehensive schools. Masters thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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Questions which prompted interest in this area of research in 1988: Has the introduction of the National Curriculum with its concomitant statutory requirements made any measurable difference to students' responses to MFL classroom
activities? If so, then in what way and to what extent might MFL study be now more (or less) appealing to more able 13-15 year-old students in local 11-16 LM Comprehensives?

The last large-scale attempt to explore pupils' views on MFL classroom activities was in 1985, as part of the Assessment of Performance Unit (APU) surveys in Secondary Schools. There has been no attempt using the techniques of applied research to investigate pupils' views since the introduction of GCSE or indeed the National Curriculum. Despite this the research of Chambers, Clarke and Stables and Wikeley in
the 1990s provided significant insight into the health of the subject at secondary level. Many of the concerns raised in these works are echoed in action research based in local
schools in West Essex-in particular, the impact of target language teaching, the question of relevancy and the declining popularity of languages.

The research aims to record students' responses to the PoS and to find possible reasons for these constructs. The results will be compared with other findings including those of the APU from 1985. Using the Programme of Study as a means of measurement seems a worthwhile starting point. This statutory requirement of the National Curriculum forms a blueprint for MFL teaching and learning and could constitute the framework of an investigation into student responses to MFL tasks and skills. Fmihermore, teachers teach increasingly by consensus. Professionals should constantly seek to exploit better the preferred learning activities of their students; if MFL staff do not know what these are they need a working model to find out this information.

The research also makes use of APU questionnaires to assess the perceived enjoyment, usefulness and difficulty of MFL study as well as measuring the level of desired contact
with other European students.

Findings of the investigation in 2000:-
Many of the findings of this study may be said to repOli favourably on aspects of the PoS in MFL.
Among the more positive responses were:
• communicating with each other in pairs and groups, and with their teacher. This largely underlined the popularity of role-plays;
• developing understanding and skills through a range of language activities, e.g. games, role-play, surveys and other investigations discuss their own ideas. Discuss interests and experiences and compare them with those of others. Listen,
read or view for personal interest and enjoyment, as well as for information This reflected the preference of many teenagers for exercising a degree of control in the pace and direction of the tasks set;
• listening and responding to different types of spoken language. Skimming and scanning texts, including databases where appropriate, for information. This suggests that such exercises are popular for reasons that are likely to be related
to pace of work;
• using a range of resources for communicating, e.g. telephone, electronic mail,
fax, letters;
• redrafting writing to improve its accuracy and presentation, e.g. by wordprocessing.
Using dictionaries and reference materials. Students are not always
comfortable with the seemingly random nature of language and welcome quick
methods of eliminating doubt and establishing accuracy;
• Express agreement, disagreement, personal feeling and opinions. Learning by heart phrases and short extracts, e.g. rhymes, poems, songs, jokes, tongue twisters. Pupils enjoy such activities but are critical when the material is unappealing.
However,many of the findings indicated less positive experiences of the students in MFL. These included:
• A significantly low level of perceived enjoyment in MFL study among average and more able students in all three schools in the study falling from an already low base in Year 9 to lower levels in Year 10 and Year 11;
• This experience is often more pronounced in MFL than in other GCSE subjects;
• A reluctance to use the target language as a means of communication. Elements of the PoS most strongly connected to this finding were: using language for real
purposes, as well as to practise skills, using everyday classroom events as a context for spontaneous speech, initiating and developing conversations, developing strategies for dealing with the unpredictable, producing a variety of types of writing, asking about meanings, seek clarification or repetition in the TL.
• Teachers do not always accurately assess the popularity or unpopularity of MFL classroom tasks;
• Definitions of difficulty are often determined by levels of motivation;
• The desire for contact with the target language community is minimal and there are low levels of integrative motivation in all three schools;
• Ethnocentricity does not appear to contribute to this;
• Comparisons with 1985 APU findings indicate a far more negative outlook for MFL study in some West Essex schools with virtually no interest in post 16 MFL study.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Research Areas: B. > Theses
Item ID: 13620
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2015 12:05
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:46

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