European Journal of Language Policy

The policy and practice of teacher target language use in post-primary foreign language classrooms in Ireland

European Journal of Language Policy (2015), 7, (2), 165–179.

Abstract

The theory and practice of language education are not always aligned. Best practice as described in the literature and prescribed in policy does not necessarily make it into the classroom. This paper discusses one aspect of language teaching, classroom target language use, and investigates the relationship between policy and practice in post-primary German language classrooms in Ireland. The study uses a mixed methods approach to empirically investigate the use of the target language as prescribed by policy makers, reported by teachers and observed in the classroom. First, relevant documents including the German syllabus and school inspection reports were analysed and semi-structured interviews were conducted with German teacher trainers. Secondly, a questionnaire regarding teacher language use was sent to all schools in Ireland where German is taught and was distributed at events of the German Teachers’ Association of Ireland (GDI). Thirdly, 19 German classes given by six different teachers were observed, recorded, transcribed and analysed for target language use. The results of this study highlight some discrepancies between the prescribed, self-reported and observed use of the target language in second level German classes and it is suggested that the lack of a consistent guidelines for teachers results in lower level of target language use.

La théorie et la pratique de l’enseignement des langues ne sont pas toujours alignées. Les meilleures pratiques telle qu’elles sont décrites dans la littérature et prescrites dans la politique ne sont pas nécessairement mises en œuvre dans la salle de classe. Cet article traite un aspect de l’enseignement des langues : l’utilisation de la langue cible en classe. Il étudie la relation entre la politique et la pratique dans les classes de langue allemande dans l’enseignement secondaire en Irlande. Cette étude utilise une approche de méthodes mixtes pour une enquête empirique de l’utilisation de la langue cible, telle qu’elle est prescrite par les décideurs politiques, rapportée par les enseignants et observée dans la salle de classe. En premier lieu, les documents pertinents sont analysés, y compris les rapports de syllabus et d’inspection de l’enseignement de la langue allemande, et des entretiens semi-structurés sont menés avec des formateurs d’enseignants allemands. Deuxièmement, un questionnaire concernant l’utilisation de la langue par les enseignants est envoyé à toutes les écoles en Irlande où l’allemand est enseigné. Il est aussi distribué aux réunions de l’Association des professeurs d’allemand de l’Irlande (GDI). Troisièmement, 19 cours d’allemand donnés par six professeurs différents sont observés, enregistrés, transcrits et analysés pour repérer l’utilisation de la langue cible. Les résultats de cette étude mettent en évidence quelques divergences entre l’utilisation de la langue cible telle qu’elle est prescrite, auto-rapportée et observée dans des cours d’allemand en secondaire. Il est probable que l’absence de lignes directrices cohérentes pour les enseignants résulte en moins d’utilisation de la langue cible.

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Riordan, Emma