A Study to Examine the Reactivation of Language Skills in a P.G.C.E. Modern Foreign Language Programme
University of Wales
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Modern languages students who are training to be languages teachers not only have to learn the craft of the profession but are also under constant pressure to maintain their foreign language skills, especially as they have to put their language competence under the close scrutiny of their mentors and university tutors in the challenging environment of the classroom. This study is a three-year investigation of PGCE modern foreign languages students, their attempts to reactivate lapsed language skills and a tutor-led guided learning initiative to offer a targeted language support programme. The study of language attrition (De Bot and Stoessel, 2000; Hansen, 2001; Meara, 2004) has proved particularly fruitful as a theoretical underpinning to the research. Data on language loss and relearning were gathered by means of a reflective log undertaken by PGCE languages students. These formed the basis of a guided learning initiative that took place in a university School of Education. Students were encouraged to reflect on the process of language attrition and to identify strategies that allowed successful language regeneration. The aim of this initiative was to improve the reactivation of lapsed language skills, to encourage reflection on the process of metalearning and to help students to develop into more confident and competent teachers. Following six months of guided learning, there was an indication that overall gains in grammatical knowledge were limited while there was an improvement in vocabulary. The greatest gains were demonstrated by those students who successfully integrated their language learning activities with their professional training and showed a commitment to maintaining their language skills on a regular and consistent basis. It is recognised that the guided learning initiative has had an impact on practice and the way tutors perceive their role in supporting students' professional and subject knowledge development. The findings will inform the future delivery of the programme.
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