Lots of games and little challenge: a snapshot of modern foreign language teaching in English secondary schools

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Abstract

The number of pupils learning modern foreign languages (MFLs) beyond the age of 14 has fallen substantially over the last decade. Among other reasons, shortcomings in teaching methodology have been blamed for this situation. The methodology has been accused of applying the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach in a selective way and not providing pupils with a sense of progress and achievement. As there is little empirical evidence from MFL classrooms, this study set out to investigate current teaching practices and evaluate the claims made about the application of CLT. Fifteen lessons in German, Spanish and French at KS3 were observed and the classroom activities were analysed for their focus on meaning and the opportunities they afford for the active use of the target language. The findings show a predominance of teacher-led and controlled activities, which required minimal language production by the pupils. The only traces left of the CLT approach were pseudo-communicative ‘fun’ activities which functioned as a disguise for form-focused exercises. Although this was a small-scale study, the findings suggest a culture of low expectations which poses little intellectual and linguistic challenge to pupils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage Learning Journal
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jun 2016

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