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Planta, Eric UL

Doctoral thesis (2016)

Abstract The reason to conduct this study was based on personal experiences in learning and teaching foreign languages, bilingual teaching methods and the steps of development children have to take in ... [more ▼]

Abstract The reason to conduct this study was based on personal experiences in learning and teaching foreign languages, bilingual teaching methods and the steps of development children have to take in order to gain competencies in the German language. My participation in the module creation of the Teacher Education Program for the University of the Greater Region additionally aroused my awareness of the topic of multilingualism and finally was responsible for the decision to work on the scientific questions of this thesis. The dissertation describes the process of research in order to answer the question if pupils who attend an interregional school with a multilingual language concept are able to show better skills in reading and writing in the German language in comparison to pupils who attend a classical monolingual language-oriented High School. Furthermore it was observed how their language skills progressed in one year, how the status of competencies looks like in comparison to the results of a test of reading and writing skills in German which was taken in the school year 1973/74, how girls developed different from boys, how the language the children usually use at home influenced the results of their tests and how these results were affected by the educational level of the household the children originate from. The opinions and suggestions of the teachers and their pupils as the witnesses of school practice were also taken serious to create an overview of the difficulties. The research design of this study is presented as a polymethodological approach, which is combined with Mixed Methods. In the beginning and at the end of the school year 2013/14 the pupils of both school types were tested with reading and writing items of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Sprachtest ADST, which is a standardized German language test. Through this the effectiveness of the treatment, which corresponds to the school’s German curriculum could be tested as well. Besides it was possible to compare the results of the current tests to the outcomes of the same test battery, which was carried out forty years ago. To support the conclusions of the tests the pupils and their teachers had to fill out a questionnaire in order to identify more background information. By using these tools it was not just possible to receive further background variables but additionally practical problems of teaching German in schools were easily to recognize. As a consequence appropriate suggestions for improvement could be presented aside. The data I received in this combination of longitudinal and cross-sectional study made it feasible to analyse most of it quantitatively and parts of the teachers’ questionnaire answers also qualitatively. The used sample comprised all in all ten teachers and 208 pupils. The test results show that the general proficiencies in German reading and writing of the pupils who attend the school with the multilingual concept do not get ahead of the ones of the children who learn the language in a traditional school with a monolingual German based educationin connection with a classical foreign language educational program. Noticeable is that the multilingual educated children improved more obviously in one school year than the comparable pupils of the High School, who nevertheless showed their qualities on a higher level of competency. The pupils of both schools developed their skills in the progress of their annual education, which underlines the effectiveness of the curriculum-defined treatment. Moreover it became apparent, that both school types were not able to confirm the results of the sample of the ADST forty years ago. Nevertheless the results of the two schools tested here do not give reason to resign. On the contrary it is possible to realise that it is not too late to act. The partial competencies in which the pupils of today performed worse could be exposed with the help of the insights of the text at hand and the direct leverage points to start with corrections and adaptations might be offered here as well. Regarding the outcomes of this study it becomes conceivable to define the work of the language teaching research, which needs to be done in the next years as the imperative necessity to support the idea of a sensible European multilingualism strategy with the focus on the local requirements through the creation of a comprehensive language concept and curriculum. With the help of such an approach regional multilingualism might be in the position to reach people in the field as well as the public at large. A close look at the differences of the test results between the genders revealed, that girls performed better in both tests. This could also be confirmed for the girls of the monolingual school over the multilingual one. The reasons for the differences between the academic achievements in languages between the sexes seem to arise outside the responsibility of the schools, which is underlined through the fact that the gap between the boys’ and the girls’ performance did not increase between the two tests the children had to take. Some approaches to adapt the boys’ language competences outside of school are presented and evaluated in the text. Supplementary it could be shown that the social origin including distance or affinity of the families to education did not have a significant influence on the children’s capacity to perform in the ADST. There also was no direct influence of the family origin to development of the skills from the first to the second test. Additionally, I could manage to show an influence of the languages children use at home to the achievements in the language tests. It was evident that pupils who solely speak German at home showed the best results, ahead of children who at least speak German with one of their parents. Boys and girls who do not speak German at all at home obtained the worst results. The influence of the habits of language usage at home had no significant effect on the skill development from pre-test to post-test. The central statements of the teachers’ questionnaire included the solicitation to improve the German language in school classes in a way that the needs of almost all pupils could be satisfied. Furthermore it is necessary to combine and unify all languages, which are present in a certain region and its schools to one overall curriculum and concept in order to reach the whole population with an integrated language-supporting plan. The starting point might be an adjusted educational policy hand in hand with an adapted education for teachers, who need to be sophisticated for a new understanding of the meaning of languages in the framework of the requirements of a 21-century Europe. The thesis demonstrates and recommends a concrete example including a practically relevant gathering instrument in combination with a self-assessment tool for teachers and pupils, which consequently follows the goal of a specific implementation of a language-aware teaching of the various school subjects. Furthermore the study includes implications for educational- and language policy with hints for a more effective exhaustion of our children’s existing language resources. One of the most important statements of the pupils’ questionnaire is their order of priority of importance of the school subjects for their own forthcoming professional life. This opinion is also reflected in the perceptions of the parents’ behaviour concerning the enrolment of their children to institutes of higher education in the Saarland. They clearly underlined that the most important school subjects in this respect are English, Maths and German. This fact should be taken into consideration for the determination of future educational goals and also for the actual strategic focus of the Saarlandian France Strategy, the Lorraine Germany Strategy and the ambitions of Luxembourg on the basis of an educational policy to strengthen the relationship to the border regions. An idea like the feuille de route as well as the intention of a reinforcement of the French language requires the persuasion of all people, who will be affected by new language developments. The moving closer together of the countries of the Greater Region must not lead to a growing distance to all other European countries and beyond not to the rest of the world. Therefore I personally speak up for an overall Saarlandian Language Strategy, which includes the German language as the fundament for further language learning, which furthermore includes French and English as equitable partners and which shows an appropriate attention to other occurring languages of the region and its people. In the forthcoming years it will be the task of Applied Linguistics and the Language Teaching Research in the Greater Region hand in hand with the teachers in the field to conceive an all-encompassing and realisable language concept and also to combine it with a viable school curriculum. The thesis in hand should be in the position to offer interesting and important cognitions to support the mentioned new language approach. [less ▲]

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