Ghent University (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN17 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 7367-7371
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0310
Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain
In recent years, the level of Dutch grammar in Flemish and Dutch secondary schools has been the subject of much debate. Research by Van Vooren and Devos (2008) into the grammatical knowledge of ninth graders (n=359) suggests that their knowledge falls short of the final attainment targets, as set by the Flemish Government. Additional research now tries to discover the reasons underlying this trend, not only by focusing on student cognition but also on teacher cognition (Devos and Van Vooren, 2014) as an ‘understudied’ aspect of language teaching.

Do seventh graders reach the final attainment targets for grammar as set out by the Flemish Government (Flemish Government, 2014), and are there any differences with ninth graders, or differences according to gender and school type?.

Seventh graders (n=50) and ninth graders (n=50) were asked to identify parts of speech (e.g. preposition) and parts of the sentence (e.g. direct object) in a grammar test, all of which are described in the final attainments targets (Uyttendaele, 2014). The sentences were lifted from a manual used in the seventh grade.

The research reveals that, in general:
(1) seventh graders hardly attain the targets prescribed for Dutch grammar;
(2) ninth graders score much better than seventh graders;
(3) female pupils do better than male pupils, and
(4) pupils studying Latin do better than those who do not.

The study confirms previous research into grammar knowledge (Devos and Van Vooren, 2014) and teachers’ attitudes towards grammar education (Devos, 2012): 52% of the teachers are rather pessimistic about their students’ level of grammatical proficiency and 47% of the teachers are of the opinion that grammar education is a poor relation in the Dutch language curriculum.

[1] Devos, Filip (2012). Grammatica in het Vlaamse lager en secundair onderwijs: een verkennend attitude-onderzoek bij leerkrachten [Grammar in Flemish primary and secondary education: an exploratory study into teachers’ attitudes]. In: Over taal 51(5), pp. 134-137.
[2] Devos, Filip and Valerie Van Vooren (2014). Teachers’ attitudes towards (the alignment between) grammar in the L1 language curriculum of primary and secondary education. In: ICERI 2014 Proceedings CD. Sevilla: IATED, pp. 5642-5651.
[3] Flemish Government (2014). Secundair onderwijs - A-stroom - Nederlands - Vakgebonden eindtermen [Secondary education – top bracket - Dutch - Final attainment targets for specific subjects].
[4] Uyttendaele, Jan (2014). Taalbeschouwing volgens de nieuwe eindtermen Nederlands [Language according to the new final attainment targets for Dutch].
[5] Van Vooren, Valerie and Filip Devos (2008). Grammaticaonderwijs: het oude zeer [Teaching grammar: a sore spot]. In: Over taal, 47(4), pp. 90-92.
grammar education, attainment targets, secondary education, curriculum design.