French language learning in junior secondary school: student perception, classroom interaction and implications for retention
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 09:53 authored by Signe Ernist
This research was undertaken due to the researcher’s concern with improving retention in elective foreign language learning in the Australian secondary school context. Although more than 300 languages are spoken in Australian homes (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017), when it comes to learning languages at school, it has been observed that the level of student participation in elective stages of language study is low. In the state of New South Wales, the prevalent ‘mono-lingual mindset’ (Clyne, 2005) has led to a situation where, once the mandatory 100-hour study period of a foreign language is exhausted in junior secondary school (Years 7 & 8), more than two thirds of the student population never study a language again. This qualitative research project, conducted in one case study school in Sydney, explored Year 7 & 8 language learners’ perceptions of the process of language study and their reasons for opting in or out of elective courses. It collected classroom data through non-participant observation, surveys and class interviews. Data analysis with a Conversation Analytic approach has revealed that learners’ perceptions have a major impact on their ongoing involvement with the subject. The double nature of fun that the teacher and students talk into being in classroom interaction is unveiled to be a key element in the formation of learner perception. The findings of the study have lead to the construction of a model that explains how learner perception of language learning as fun is formed in the teacher talk dominated classroom environment and what criteria need to be met to sustain this perception as a catalyst for continued language learning. The study sheds new light on the formation of learner perception, provides new directions for teacher professional learning, and addresses factors that influence retention in elective stages of language study.