The study presented here was a two year longitudinal study investigating the progress and preparedness for secondary school of young learners of French in England. The study investigated which teaching approaches within the primary modern languages (PML) classroom lead to better outcomes for learners, both in terms of their knowledge of the underlying grammatical system and vocabulary of the language, and their ‘readiness’ for further study at secondary school level. Little is known from research about the relationship between the nature of language teaching in primary classrooms and learning outcomes. The study explored this issue using a longitudinal design. Two different approaches to language teaching were investigated: an oracy-based approach (with a main focus on speaking and listening skills); and a literacy-based approach (which combines reading and writing development with oracy development). Data provided by schools (questionnaire responses and classroom observations) enabled us to evaluate the French teaching experienced by learners.
The study tracked a group of 250 learners from Year 5 of primary school (aged 9/10) until the end of Year 7 (first year of secondary school). The principle research question was: what is the impact at the end of Key Stage 2 of two different teaching approaches in Primary Languages on:
♦ Children’s knowledge of the underlying system of the foreign language (gender, adjectival agreement, simple present tense verbs?
♦ Children’s preparedness for language learning at secondary school, in terms of their confidence in foreign language learning, their level of motivation and the longer-term development of their knowledge of the language system at secondary school?
Data was collected at five different time points by way of French assessment tasks and motivation questionnaires. Details of the research methodology and data collection are included in Suzanne Graham’s presentation included in the Documents and Video page.