Ghent University (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 5642-5651
ISBN: 978-84-617-2484-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
In recent years, Dutch grammar education (L1) in Flemish primary (PE) as well as secondary education (SE) has been the subject of much debate. Research into the grammatical knowledge of students in SE (n=359) suggests that their knowledge falls short of the final attainment targets (Van Vooren and Devos, 2008; Devos and Van Vooren, 2010).

Additional research now tries to pinpoint the reasons underlying this trend, focusing on the attitude of teachers, which, according to Borg (2012), is an ‘understudied’ aspect of language teaching. This research, centring around L1 teachers of Dutch in SE (n=255) and PE (n=318), applies two methodological instruments: a 5-point Likert-scale attitude questionnaire (Clason and Dormody, 1994; Maurer and Andrews, 2000), and teacher interviews. Teacher variables include gender, years of classroom experience, school type and school grade.

The research in SE reveals that, in general:
(1) teachers’ attitudes correlate with students’ performances, in that 52% of the teachers are rather pessimistic about their students’ level of grammatical proficiency,
(2) 76% of them believe that the general level of language proficiency has dropped in recent years and (3) 47% of the teachers are of the opinion that grammar education is a poor relation in the Dutch language curriculum, especially with a view to learning foreign languages.

The second study conducted in PE shows that, in general,
(1) 75% of the teachers think that their students’ general level of language proficiency has declined,
(2) 71% of them want to spend more time on grammar than the curriculum prescribes,
(3) 80% of the teachers believe that Dutch grammar in PE is insufficiently aligned with Dutch grammar in SE and
(4) 81% of them are of the opinion that Dutch grammar instruction is out of step with foreign language grammar instruction.

One of the major problems this attitude study reveals, concerns the poor alignment between grammar in the Dutch language curricula of PE and SE. The majority (62%) of the teachers in PE, for instance, are completely oblivious to Dutch language expectations in the 1st year of SE. Additionally, 70% of them feel there is little, if any, interaction between teachers in PE and SE about the instruction of Dutch. Supporting this statement, the majority (63%) of the teachers in SE share this opinion. This perceived problematic alignment between grammar in the Dutch language curricula of PE and SE may have major implications for (future) curriculum design (Fullan, 2007).

[1] Borg, Simon (2012), Current approaches to language teacher cognition research: A methodological analysis. In: R. Barnard and A. Burns (eds.), Researching language teacher cognition and practice: International case studies. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, pp. 11-29.
[2] Clason, Dennis L. and Thomas J. Dormody (1991), Analyzing Data Measured by Individual Likert-Type Items. In: Journal of Agricultural Education, 35-4, pp. 31-35.
[3] Devos, Filip and Valerie Van Vooren (2010), Een correlatief onderzoek naar de kennis van spelling bij laatstejaarsleerlingen ASO en VWO. In: Logopedie, 23-3, pp. 63-68.
[4] Fullan, Michael (2007), The New Meaning of Educational Change. New York: Routledge.
[5] Maurer, T.J. and K.D. Andrews (2000), Traditional, Likert and Simplified Measures of Self-efficacy. In: Educational and Psychological Measurement, 60-6, pp. 965–973.
[6] Van Vooren, Valerie and Filip Devos (2008), Grammaticaonderwijs: het oude zeer. In: Over taal, 47-4, pp. 90-92.
Grammar education, teachers’ attitudes, curriculum design.