Target language use in Modern Language classrooms: Perception and change among newly qualified teachers in Scotland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract / Description of output

In this thesis I investigate the practices and perceptions of some Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) of modern foreign languages (MFL) in Scotland in relation to how they use the target language (L2). I seek to answer the questions “In what different ways do student teachers of modern languages use the target language in Scottish secondary school classrooms?’, ‘What reasons do they give for how they use it?” and “In what way(s), if any, do newly qualified teachers of modern languages change teaching pedagogy in their initial stages of teaching in relation to the use of the target language and what reasons do they give for any changes they make?”. The issue arises because of the continuing gap between what initial teacher education (ITE) advocates in respect of L2 use and what qualified teachers say they do, in so far as there is evidence in this area. There is little empirical evidence relating to how and why MFL NQTs develop the practices and perceptions of qualified teachers. Data was gathered through an online questionnaire issued to all modern languages teachers in Scotland and semi-structured interviews were conducted with a small group of PGDE (Secondary) Modern Languages students at the end of their PGDE year and at the end of their first year of teaching as NQTs. Audio-recordings of the NQTs were also made during this first year of teaching. Data from the four sources were analysed using an inductive approach, remaining flexible in terms of extending, modifying and discarding categories. The findings revealed that the NQTs used considerably less target language during their NQT year and had changed their views on the target language substantially since their PGDE year. They reported that they found it difficult to use L2 for discipline, grammar teaching, explaining things and for social chat. At the same time there were huge changes in their practice and big changes in their views vis-à-vis L2 use. Significantly, the data revealed that these changes in practice and views happened very quickly, were a lot starker and occurred a lot faster than previously thought. This situation seems to have many causes – influences from experienced colleagues, survival tactics, how teachers develop their own pedagogy and identity as teachers. This thesis recommends that those involved in ITE and Career Long Professional Learning look particularly at the two areas of situated learning and teacher cognition in relation to the use of the target language. It further recommends collaborative research between teachers in schools and other agencies, such as Education Scotland and local authority quality improvement officers, together with teacher educators to develop an understanding of how to promote effective learning and teaching strategies in relation to the use of the target language in class.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
Award date27 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • target language
  • L1/L2
  • ITE
  • modern foreign languages
  • teacher cognition
  • SLA


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