Teaching and learning Spanish in primary and early secondary schools in west central Scotland
This thesis explores four aspects of the teaching of Spanish in primary and secondary schools in Scotland: the implementation practicalities of the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Programme (MLPS) for schools; primary teachers' competence in teaching Spanish; pupils' attitudes and their foreign language competence. The research which took place between 1999 and 2002 involved teachers and pupils from 39 primary schools and 9 secondary schools in three local authorities in West Central Scotland. It was based on semi-structured, in-depth interviews with head teachers, teachers and pupils and 42 class observations undertaken during schools visits, as well as on 39 questionnaires completed by primary teachers, 43 by primary head teachers, 9 by secondary ML principal teachers and 2974 pupils between P5 (nine years of age) and S1 (12 years of age), and 197 interviews to assess pupils' linguistic competence. The study is contextualised by a detailed account of the political and curricul um developments in the world of MLPS in Scotland and in England in the period from 1960 to 2002, and by an analysis of the research literature associated with this field. Following an analysis of the implementation practicalities encountered by primary schools teaching Spanish and their liaison arrangements with associated secondary schools, the research examines the methods used by primary teachers in the Spanish lessons and the extent of their use of the target language in terms of the pupils, the report presents findings on the reasons for and level of pupils' contentment with learning Spanish before they embarked on the experience (P5), through P6, P7 and their first year in secondary school (S1); their attitudes to the activities used in the Spanish lessons; their perceptions of difficulty in learning the language and of the usefulness of that learning in primary school; and S1 pupils' preferred choice of languages for S2. Finally, the research explores the pupils' linguistic competence between P6 and S1 in the four skill areas. The thesis concludes that much remains to be done in Scotland in terms of MLPS implementation issues such as the supply of suitably trained teachers and liaison arrangements. Primary teachers used a variety of activities in their Spanish lessons which fostered positive attitudes to language learning in pupils. However, many teachers lacked confidence in their linguistic competence, arguably due to a poor provision of continuous professional development from the authorities. The positive attitudes found in pupils in their first year of Spanish learning were found to decline with age and progression through to secondary school. The implications of the study for the teaching of modern languages in primary schools and a number of areas for further research are identified.