A-level English language and English literature : contrasts in teaching and learning
This study is an investigation of methods of teaching and learning in the A-level English curriculum consisting both of the traditional A-level English literature and the more recent arrival of A-level English language. It is generally assumed in commentaries on A-level English teaching that language is taught differently from literature because of differences in aims, content and ideology. English language is seen as a deliberate move away from the more 'pure' academic study of literary texts and towards more 'applied' and even partly 'vocational' study in which independent and collaborative forms of learning are strongly encouraged. There is, however, little empirical evidence about how students are taught and how they learn in these different courses. The study addresses these limitations by carrying out an intensive, qualitative study of the teaching styles of ten teachers who teach across the two A-level English subjects. Video recordings of twenty complete lessons (i. e. 10 English language and 10 English literature) were analysed using a formal framework of analysis adapted from the study of discourse analysis. This system identifies the organisation of the classroom discourse so as to allow for a comparison of the patterning of teaching exchanges across the two subjects. The study also investigates, using semi-structured interviews, how the teachers perceive the learning objectives of the two subjects, and the match between those objectives and the teaching and learning methods used to achieve them. The findings suggest that teachers do not vary their teaching style when teaching across the two English subjects at A-levels supporting an extensive statistical study of students' perceptions of the instructional practices employed by teachers which also found a lack of pedagogic distinctiveness between the two subjects. The analysis revealed that teacher-led recitation is a prominent feature of the discourse in both A-level English language and literature.