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The impact of choice: teaching and learning languages in English secondary schools

Parrish, Abigail (2017) The impact of choice: teaching and learning languages in English secondary schools. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis reports on a study conducted in English secondary schools investigating choices made regarding the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages. Data was collected from head teachers (n = 70) and heads of modern languages departments (n = 119) as well as from students in Year 10 (n = 666) to examine not only the decisions made by schools and students, but also the impact of these choices on students’ self-determined motivation. Whilst there are many studies investigating students’ motivation in schools, many investigating foreign language learning motivation and many using self-determination theory (SDT) this study is unique in bringing them together and linking motivation to choice. The study collects data on the languages taught in schools, which is well-documented, but goes further in examining both the reasons reported by schools for these choices and the factors and stakeholder views which schools take into account when making their decisions. The primary data collection method used was questionnaires, completed principally online. In addition, interviews were conducted with head teachers and students. Echoing previous work in SDT, findings suggest that students’ motivation is linked to having a choice, and that providing a free choice is significantly more motivating than ‘guiding’ students onto particular pathways (often done by ability). It was also found that decisions in schools tended to be made by looking inward at language learning in the school itself, focusing on the views of stakeholders closest to the process such as head teachers, heads of department and students rather than those beyond the school gates, and in an operational, rather than strategic way, focusing again on internal factors such as staffing. Students also made their decisions by looking inward at themselves, and did not report being influenced by the views of others. In line with previous work considering the importance of languages, students’ view of the usefulness of a language to them personally was the key factor in deciding whether or not to take a language. On the basis of this new area of study for MFL, recommendations for practice are made, namely that schools provide a free choice to all students or make languages compulsory in order to increase motivation, and that schools carefully consider the ways students view the usefulness of a language in designing their curriculum.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Department of Education (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.714421
Depositing User: Miss Abigail Parrish
Date Deposited: 25 May 2017 08:57
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2020 13:07
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/17145

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