Cand.Philol. Gunn Elin Heimark's dissertation for the degree of Ph.D.
The titel of the dissertation is:
A practical approach in theory and in praxis. Lower secondary school teachers' understanding of a practical approach to the teaching of foreign languages.
In the government White Paper no. 30 (2003-2004) Culture for learning, the slogan “practical approach” is first used in connection with the teaching of foreign languages in Norway. The goal was to address an increasing dropout rate in lower secondary school subjects such as German and French. However, the concept is hardly mentioned in the Subject curriculum for foreign languages (LK06), or in any other policy document. The present study investigates how Norwegian foreign language teachers understand the concept of a “practical approach”, in theory and in praxis – as performed in the classroom. It also examines whether, and to what extent, the teachers’ practice is consistent with their thinking, and how their understanding of a practical approach compares with the way it is presented in the theoretical framework of the thesis.
The mixed-methods study combines qualitative and quantitative methods, with samples comprising foreign language teachers in Norwegian lower secondary education. The first part has interviews with and observations of six teachers of French in the counties Oslo and Akershus, while the second is a national online survey in which 85 teachers of German, French and Spanish took part.
The results show that the teachers’ understanding of a practical approach has much in common with the way the concept is presented in the theoretical framework. To a large extent their understanding also corresponds with general descriptions of communicative language teaching. The teachers first and foremost link the practical approach to an extended use of the target language, mainly oral, and often in so-called tourist situations. In addition, they associ-ate it with the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and the use of games/competitions and tactile activities. A systematic approach to the teaching of vocabu-lary, grammar and culture is consistent with a practical approach insofar as it supports the students’ communicative skills in the target language. However, the study shows that ICT and an oral use of the target language play a smaller part in the respondents’ actual teaching than what is claimed in their statements. These findings should be followed up in further research on foreign language teaching, and will have implications for the training of foreign language teachers in Norway.
For information in Norwegian see: