Teachers` Beliefs about Grammar - College of Social Sciences and

Teaching Grammar for Writing:
Espoused Beliefs and
Pedagogical Practices
Annabel Watson
University of Exeter, UK
[email protected]
The ‘Grammar Wars’
Research: Grammar reviews: “insufficient quality
of research” (Andrews et al. 2006)
Politics: perceived link between standard English
and social cohesion (Clark 2005)
Policy: UK Secondary schools saw grammar reintroduced & re-framed with Literacy Strategy
(1998) sentence and word-level objectives
(revised 2008)
Beliefs and Practice
“in the absence of uncontested conclusions
about what constitutes good practice, teachers
base instructional decisions on their own
practical theories” (Borg & Burns 2008)
Context (Pajares 1992)
ESRC ‘Grammar, for Writing’?
Randomised Control Trial looking at impact of
contextualised grammar teaching
32 Schools
Qualitative study: teacher interviews, student
interviews, writing samples
Teacher (espoused) Beliefs
“the practical application of rules”
“In terms of grammar teaching my heart sinks, in terms
of teaching children about language it doesn’t”
Value crafting and
What is
“It’s all about effects on the reader and have you
done that on purpose …is it successful, if it is you
need to know how and why, and to be able to
articulate it, we need a common vocabulary”
“I still panic a little bit about getting it right”
“generally with grammar I’m quite confident… to
teach it… my confidence is less so”
Concerns about
Case Study Methods
2 Teachers who ‘opted-in’ from the original project
3 Interviews from the original project, coded into ‘belief
profiles’; participants commented on these
Observed teaching a ‘Writing’ scheme of work that they had
created to a class of year 8 (7th grade) students for 9 hours
(recorded and transcribed)
1 Stimulated-recall interview asking them to explain their
pedagogical decisions (using lesson transcripts)
1 ‘Think-aloud’ protocol where they marked 2 pieces of writing
and offered comments on how to improve
•English teacher in charge of ALevel English
•Advanced Skills English
•School = large, rural, nonselective, co-educational, low
ethnic-diversity, medium SEN &
free school meals
•3 city high schools (term-byterm) = non-selective, coeducational, medium ethnicdiversity, medium SEN & free
school meals
•Observed teaching two 7th
grade classes: Set 2 & Set 5
•Observed teaching one 7th
grade class: mixed ability
•Teaches these classes 3 times
a week for 1 hour each time
•Teaches this class once a
week for 3 hours each time
Participant History
•Undergraduate: English &
American Studies Degree
•Undergraduate: Theatre Degree
•Teacher Training: PGCE
•Teacher Training: GTP (on the
job training, school-based)
•6 years teaching at secondary
school level
•10 years teaching at secondary
school level
•Previously: Only worked in this
school. Was a Learning Support
Assistant for 2 years before
training to be a teacher.
•Previously: Worked at University
/ 2x colleges / 2x schools in
Performing Arts / Art / Drama /
English / Psychology.
Jane: ‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind:
Writing to Analyse / Review / Comment’
•Genre focus
•Teaches grammatical objectives as main aims e.g. “understand key terms
that help to describe and analyse language, such as word classes”
Repeated pattern, consisting of:
•Explicit explanation of grammatical term / pupils write definitions
•Pupil exercise identifying term (e.g. abstract nouns)
•Analysis / annotation of text models for grammatical feature
•Discussion of effects of the grammatical feature, linked to genre / purpose
•Pupils write in the style of the text model
•Speaking and listening activities debating issues from the texts analysed
‘Inspirational Writing’
•Creative / Personal Expression focus
•Grammar (sentence variety) is a ‘secondary’ or ‘hidden’ objective in places
Repeated pattern, consisting of:
•Introduction and discussion of stimulus material; idea-generation
•Students write
•[sometimes] Teacher reference to sentence variety & statement of effects
•Revision of writing [sometimes with attention to sentence variety]
•Peer / self-assessment of writing (initially focusing on gut reaction)
•Stimulus material occasionally takes the form of a text model
•One activity explicit language focus: using inventive adjectives (e.g. “the
silver wind” “the flinty wind”) – included discussion of effects
•Explicit teaching of terminology
•Terminology ‘dropped in’ and
glossed by the teacher
•Some decontextualised exercises
(the grammar is put into context
•Grammar only raised in relation
to students’ own writing
•Close analysis of text models
always comes before writing
•Limited use of models – students
write then revise
•Extended open discussion of the
nuances and effects of different
words / sentence patterns in
•Teacher tends to state effects /
recipe approach e.g. ‘adverbs at
the start of a sentence grab
Contexts: School and Curriculum
Tightly Controlled
I was asked to write a scheme that would span about 12 lessons. I was
asked to write a non-fiction writing scheme, developing students’ ability to
analyse, review and comment, so I was given those 3, that triplet
I was given the old-style objectives
Loosely Controlled
Nobody’s actually asked me what I’m doing. I don’t know if (a) they can’t be
bothered or (b) they’re jealous but they don’t even ask me what’s going on in
here. I could be teaching them French
I didn’t want to think about objectives … it’s about them finding
their own way there
Jane: Collaborative / Team
I wouldn’t have chosen to do
this, I would never have done
this, but that’s what I was told,
or asked to do
Clare: Rebellious / Individual
I’m an art stroke music
teacher parading around as
an English teacher
I was a bit of a rebel really
we do teach students word classes
(referring to earlier project)
to be honest a lot of the stuff
that I’ve done here is very
similar to the kind of stuff
that we tend to teach
I’m just really bored with the kind of
stuff that people do these days in
secondary schools
You’re not just some knobhead who
comes in and just gets a lesson off the
system and just stands there and delivers
it. A monkey in a suit can do that
Reflections on Pedagogy
Use of Models
part of understanding is being
able to talk about the effect that
it produces
I couldn’t expect a student to write in a
particular style if they hadn’t had any
experience of it
I still do genuinely wonder how useful it is for them to be given lots of
grammatical terminology which they don’t really seem to understand
that was the objective. It wouldn’t have been my natural choice
Reflections on Pedagogy
Pedagogical Knowledge
(Reflecting on the central use of close analysis of text
models before students write)
I’m just trying to think of an alternative approach
there. What else could you do? I don’t know, I
think maybe that’s the way I was taught, I don’t
know, was that the way I was taught to teach? I
don’t know. I don’t know why I chose to do that.
Reflections on Pedagogy
Need to Contextualise
I haven’t got a problem with
grammar if it is taught within the
context of something.
Conceptions of ‘Grammar’
anything to do with creative writing is all
based on grammar… they’re taught
rigorously how to correctly paragraph and
use sentences …
Crafting after Ideas
I would only approach that kind of thing after they’ve already thought about
it, they’ve already used their imaginations, and now it’s, it is a sort of recipe,
it’s a tool to help them get those ideas down in a more sophisticated way
Reflections on Pedagogy
Affective factors / values
I wanna produce writers
The writing isn’t about letters and newspapers, it’s about
seeing something or experiencing something and you
just wanna get it down on paper
I’m teaching these kids the way I wish that I’d been taught
Linguistic Subject Knowledge:
I wouldn’t say that my own
knowledge of grammar is
particularly good, so I’d just teach
them what I feel comfortable with
and it seems, that that is enough
(Interactive Whiteboard;
Availability of ICT)
Linguistic Subject Knowledge:
I’m not sure that I’d get the
answers that I’d want, and maybe
I wouldn’t be confident enough to
say ‘you’re wrong’ or ‘I’m wrong’
School / Department:
You’ve got to toe the line… you all
have to teach the same thing…
people become institutionalized
Belief Change and Developing Pedagogy
it’s not essential [to know the terminology] because, as you could
see from looking at the students’ work, some of them that hadn’t
understood the word classes could still do the task at the end
I wouldn’t teach it in the same way
It’s been really useful you being here because you’ve forced me to
be much more reflective than I would normally be… school life
doesn’t allow you time to reflect as much as you’d like to really.
Implications: teaching grammar
How grammar is taught is influenced by a range of factors linked to teachers’
beliefs, identity, and linguistic and pedagogical knowledge including:
How teachers position themselves in relation to the curriculum and their
departments / schools: “how teachers learn from policy is closely connected
to who they are” (Stritikus 2003:49)
Wider educational aims and values
Different conceptions of ‘grammar teaching’
Uncertainty about the value of some aspects (particularly relating to
Teacher linguistic subject knowledge
Knowledge of the full range of pedagogical approaches to teaching
Implications: Beliefs & Practice
Reciprocal development (about what and how to teach)
Are affective aspects (Clare) more resistant to change?
(Rokeach 1968)
Influence of ‘high-control’ curricula and ‘tightly-framed’
pedagogies (Lam & Kember 2006)
Andrews, R., Torgerson, C., Beverton, S., Freeman, A., Locke, T.,
Low,G., Robinson, A., & Zhu, D. (2006) ‘The effect of grammar
teaching on writing development.’ British Educational Research
Journal 32, (1) 39–55.
Borg, S. & Burns, A. (2008) ‘Integrating Grammar in Adult TESOL
Classrooms.’ Applied Linguistics 29 (3) 456–482
Clark, U (2005) ‘Bernstein’s theory of pedagogic discourse:
Linguistics, educational policy and practice in the UK English/literacy
classroom’ English Teaching: Practice and Critique 4 (3) 32-47
Lam, B-H & Kember, D. (2006) ‘The relationship between
conceptions of teaching and approaches to teaching.’ Teachers and
Teaching: theory and practice, 12 (6) December 693–713
Pajares, F. (1992) ‘Teachers' Beliefs and Educational Research:
cleaning up a messy construct.’ Review of Educational Research 62
(3) 307-332
Rokeach, M. (1968) Beliefs, attitudes, and values: a theory of
organization and change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Stritikus, T. (2003) ‘The Interrelationship of Beliefs, Context, and
Learning: the case of a teacher reacting to language policy.’ Journal
of Language, Identity and Education 2 (1) 29–52
Thank You
Annabel Watson
University of Exeter, UK
[email protected]
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