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Title: Foreign languages in primary education in England : an ethnographic case study of three school contexts
Author: Malone, E. H.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5993 0616
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 2016
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This study focuses on primary foreign language teaching and learning. It seeks to reveal the perspectives and practice of three different stakeholders: specialist teachers, generalist teachers and head teachers. The study then places these beliefs and practice within a local, national and international context, considering the supporting factors for Primary Foreign Languages (PFL), as well as the challenges. It is a timely piece of research as it was conducted during the period when foreign language learning, for the first time in England, became statutory in primary schools. Furthermore, it took place during a timeframe of rapid change at all levels of education, which has had an effect on the translation of policy to practice. Data collection took place in two phases. In Phase One, an initial PFL practice mapping online questionnaire was sent to all schools in the Local Authority (LA) (n=69). Three schools agreed to participate. In Phase Two data collection methods employed in each of the three schools consisted of participant observations, semi-structured interviews, a self-reflective diary, informal conversation with staff and analysis of policy documents. The findings of the study show that all stakeholders in each school were supportive of PFL. However, this support did not translate into practice as the responsibility for PFL often rested solely with the specialist. As a result, the subject and specialists could be described as annexed, not fully integrated into the curriculum, and the specialists sought support from private companies instead of internally within the school. The majority of generalist teachers did not feel qualified to deliver the subject and there was a lack of future training options open to teachers wishing to train as PFL specialists. Those teachers who did express an interest in learning how to teach PFL felt that they could not engage fully with this endeavour due to internal and external pressure imposed upon them to achieve the highest possible pupil attainment in English and Maths. A disconnect was also revealed between the teachers’ most popular rationale for PFL teaching, which was preparing children to be ‘21st century global citizens’, and their actual practice. The teachers in the study recognised that, through learning a language and experiencing its culture, it may be possible to move from “egocentricity and ethnocentricity to a more altruistic sense of mutual benefit” (Byram, 2008:131). However, while espousing support for the teaching of intercultural understanding (ICU), the study reveals a lack of understanding in practice from stakeholders, policy writers and teachers. Overall, there is much goodwill for PFL as a subject, however, due to national and international drivers, it occupies a vulnerable place within the curriculum.
Supervisor: Jones, M. ; Peiser, G. ; Rowley, A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: LB Theory and practice of education ; LB1501 Primary Education