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Teacher Response to Policy and Practice in the Teaching of LOTE

Crawford, Jane C. (1999) Teacher Response to Policy and Practice in the Teaching of LOTE. Griffith University.

Abstract

In the last three decades there have been policy changes in Australia which have seen languages other then English change from being a problem for non-English-speaking migrants to become a national asset in an increasingly global and interdependent world and worthy, therefore, of inclusion in the core educational program for all children. In Queensland this led, in 1991, to the LOTE Initiative which introduced the Years 6 to 8 core program, thus considerably expanding the teaching of languages, particularly Asian languages.

The changing emphasis on languages is related to changing expectations in terms of proficiency outcomes and the need for more active, learner engagement with the language to achieve these. The decision to extend the core program to seven years and to adopt a task-based approach using content from other areas of the core curriculum is in response to these demands for experience of language in use leading to improved proficiency outcomes.

The form a curriculum takes in classrooms depends very much on the beliefs, assumptions and knowledge of the teachers involved as they interpret policy directives and adopt or adapt these in the light of their reading of the context. Syllabus directives are thus but one part of the teaching context and their interpretation influences and is influenced by the teaching culture.

The present study involved two stages. The first was a survey of teachers across Queensland exploring their perspectives on the goals and outcomes of the current program, teacher proficiency, use of the target language, the status of languages in the curriculum, and issues such as time allocations, compulsion, current resources and guidelines and continuity between different parts of the program. Phase 2 then involved five focus group discussions in which participants were invited to explore some of these issues in greater depth.

Analysis of the data suggests that the context of language teaching in Queensland is a complex, moving mosaic with teachers espousing a range of positions with regard to the goals of the program, the desirability of using the target language as the main medium of instruction and, indeed, whether languages should be part of the core program, particularly at the secondary level. Responses were influenced by a number of factors, including the language taught, school affiliation (primary or secondary), the teachers’ own proficiency, and their proficiency orientation. There was evidence, for example, that a somewhat distinctive primary LOTE culture is developing with respondents making different assumptions about the role and purpose of LOTE in the primary curriculum and the proficiency level required by teachers at that level. Continuity is becoming an issue of access not just to the same language in Year 8 but also to a teaching approach which recognises and builds on prior learning.

Responses suggest also that the move to a task-based syllabus in which teachers and students engage in meaningful interaction in the target language will require a considerable change in approach as the majority of teachers report using English as the main medium of instruction at all levels of schooling except Years 11 and 12. The use of an analytic approach to curriculum design will also need to be addressed in professional development associated with the new syllabuses as it is rather different from the traditional communicative approach with which teachers in Queensland are familiar and which tends to have all students learning the same structures at the same time. The core program has resulted in mixed-level classes which make this problematic but respondents did not see the proposed changes as providing possible solutions to the problems faced in these classes.

The fate of educational reform such as the inclusion of LOTE as a key learning area depends very much on how it is interpreted by those making sense of it. This negotiation of meaning is influenced by the context in which it occurs and by the beliefs, assumptions and knowledge of those engaged in the process. This study suggests the new syllabus will challenge many existing practices and that there may be very different patterns of response in that teachers’ perceptions of their task are influenced by a range of factors including school affiliation and sector, language, personal proficiency, experience in the target culture, age and teaching experience and even whether or not they are teaching their LOTE full-time or are also involved in another teaching area.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 417
Item Type: Thesis
Keywords: foreign language education, second language learning, teacher beliefs and attitudes, LOTE education
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Cultural and Language Studies in Education
Institution: Griffith University
Copyright Owner: Copyright 1999 (Please consult author)
Deposited On: 01 Oct 2004
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2012 19:44

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