Speaking spontaneously : an examination of the University of Cumbria approach to the teaching of modern foreign languages
Communicative Language Teaching in the modem foreign languages (MFL) curriculum in English schools has become the norm and yet is relatively under-theorised. This thesis sets out to explore through an in-depth case study of one school, the theory and practice of a model of CLT developed by the University of Cumbria. Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in English secondary schools typically involves pupils learning to communicate around set topics, for example 'holidays.' Activities such as role plays and listening exercises focus on this topic language. However, despite this communicative focus, studies have shown pupils lack confidence, creativity and spontaneity in speaking and interacting in the target language. Modem foreign languages lessons which employ the University of Cumbria Approach (UCA) immediately strike the observer as being different. The teacher and pupils speak the target language almost exclusively, with constant interaction in the target language. Lessons feature songs, mimes, a team competition, and competitive activities and are well-paced and dynamic. More traditional lessons may feature these, but rarely together. This study set out to identify if the UCA had a unique combination of features, through transcription and analysis of lesson observations and interviews with pupils and teachers. The most striking feature of the lessons was pupils' use of the target language: spontaneous, fluent, playful, argumentative, often not about the lesson's focus but about apparently trivial matters. Pupils clearly had things they wanted to communicate in the here and now. The first central conclusion of this study is that pupils were beginning to engage in spontaneous, unpredictable, real-time conversation in the classroom. The second main conclusion is that the teacher is key in creating the conditions for this to happen. She promotes and facilitates this conversation through management of both the target language and the creation of a communicative classroom context. Finally, it is argued that the DCA is unique in that it is a form of CLT which combines product (pupils learn the target language) with process (pupils engage in spontaneous, interactive communication). The two combine to create a rich and dynamic learning experience.