Insights into Teacher Beliefs and Practice in Primary-School EFL in France
2. Teaching Beliefs in Language Education
3. Language Education in French Primary Schools
4. Research Questions
- What do French primary teachers believe about language learning and teaching in general, and teaching young learners English in particular? Do they have specific views about technology integration in this area?
- What links can be identified between such beliefs and reported classroom practice? Are there particular groupings of beliefs/practices that allow the identification of particular teacher profiles?
- Are there connections between different aspects of teacher beliefs, age, experience, language proficiency, specific teaching and institutional contexts, and beliefs and practices in primary EFL?
- Teaching context
- class levels
- pedagogical practices
- language competences
- frequency of use of activity types
- pedagogical planning (projects, lessons in teaching units, or stand-alone activities)
- Technology integration
- digital tools in school
- tools used for English teaching, frequency of use
- obstacles to technology use
- Biographical and professional profiles
- previous teacher training
- specific training courses related to language teaching and/or classroom technology integration.
- language profiles (CEFR self-assessment grid: Council of Europe 2021).
5.3. Data Analysis
6.1. Teacher Beliefs about Language Teaching and Learning
- Imitation-interaction: the majority of the primary teachers who responded to our questionnaire (60%) took an identifiable position with respect to their beliefs about language learning and teaching, corresponding to either a PPP or a CLT approach. However, both groups agreed on three items: they all view language learning essentially as a process of imitation, best begun early, and in which interaction plays a central role;
- PPP or structured teaching: this subcategory of teachers prefers to follow a grammatical syllabus and provide a correct model for learners, using a presentation-practice-production approach and correcting learner errors immediately, even during communicative activities. They see errors as due to L1 transfer and likely to spread in small-group work (though no preference for whole-class activities is expressed);
- CLT or implicit teaching: These teachers embrace communicative language teaching principles without necessarily presenting language items in advance or restricting materials to elements already taught explicitly. They see no need to present and practice grammar rules one by one, as indicated by negative correlations with these items, which are favoured in the Structured class. These teachers are in favour of teaching in the target language and want learners to express themselves in small group interactions with their peers. Errors should not be corrected during communicative activities but rather tackled via specific remedial exercises;
- Sceptical teachers: a sizable minority of teachers (40%) positioned themselves outside the PPP/CLT dichotomy, adopting something of a “none of the above” position. It may be that our questionnaire items were too simple, admitting of many different interpretations of a particular statement, and this might discourage the purist. A second explanation is that, as generalist primary teachers with somewhat limited specific training, some respondents may not have a fully articulated view of language education and are adopting a somewhat eclectic approach to their language teaching.
6.2. Correlations between Teacher Beliefs and Contextual Variables
- CLT teachers were a relatively small but well-defined group, with strong, coherent views based on an implicit approach to language teaching. They represent one quarter of our sample. These teachers tended to have higher English proficiency and more in-service training; they were more likely to use the widest range of teaching activities and were more likely to teach higher-level classes. They saw a range of reasons for difficulties with technology, not least their own digital skills.
- PPP teachers account for one third of respondents; they scored lower than both CLT teachers and the largest, Sceptical group on English proficiency and training. They reported the smallest range of teaching activities and were the least likely to teach older pupils. Their teaching/learning beliefs seem to demonstrate something of a fixed mindset and a desire for control (Dweck 2015): they focus on grammar and error correction, and see language aptitude as important. Barriers to technology integration for PPP teachers were essentially lack of equipment or time.
- The largest group of respondents belong to a Sceptical group, which tended to disagree with the majority of our propositions concerning teaching and learning languages and therefore took no strong theoretical position. These teachers had average English proficiency (A2-B1), were more likely to teach mainly listening and speaking skills, and felt they lacked both time and skills for effective use of technology. It is interesting that such a large proportion of our sample (40%) should appear so relatively undecided on teaching/learning theory, given that our sample responded voluntarily to our questionnaire and so might be expected to be especially motivated with respect to language teaching.
6.3. Classroom Teaching Activities in Relation to Other Contextual Variables
- For each language competence, we found a pattern where some teachers used a wide range of activity types, some a more limited, basic range, and some none at all. A wider repertoire of teaching activities was often associated with higher English proficiency, more training and teaching experience, and pedagogical planning at the level of unit or project rather than activity.
- There was no correlation between teacher age and teaching activities proposed, and little correlation with pre-service training. The influence of teacher education on teaching activities is seen at the in-service level, such that teachers who had taken courses in EFL teaching since graduation tended to offer a wider range of activities;
- Upper levels of primary education tended to be offered a wider range of activities related to reading and writing, and interaction; for listening and speaking this variety in activities was available at all levels.
- Correlations between teaching activities and both technological environment and teacher beliefs were apparent only with respect to oral/aural/interaction and not reading/writing competences. Teachers who used a broad range of activities in interaction tended to have better access to technology and reported more regular use and perhaps higher self-efficacy; they were also more likely to espouse CLT principles than their peers.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
The successive years of French pre-school and primary school education are referred to by two-letter acronyms: GS (grande section) is the last year of pre-school, CP (cours préparatoire) is the first year of primary school, followed by cours élémentaire (CE) 1 and 2, and cours moyen (CM). Cycle 3 also includes the first year of lower-secondary school.
Ministry of Education statistics put the general proportion of female teachers in French primary schools at 85.6% and their average age at 41.6 years (MENJS 2019).
The Computer and Internet Certificate (C2i) certifies the level acquired by a student in mastering multimedia tools and the Internet. The C2i2e certifies professional skills in the pedagogical use of digital technologies for teachers and trainers.
In France, an Institut National Supérieur du Professorat et de l’Education (INSPE) is a component of a university concerned with the training of primary and secondary school teachers and educational advisors. The Ecoles Supérieures du Professorat et de l’Education (ESPEs) were created in 2013, succeeding the Instituts Universitaires de Formation des Maîtres (IUFMs). In 2019, the ESPEs were renamed INSPEs.
The activities proposed in the questionnaire were selected after discussion with local EFL support staff based their experience of classroom observation and teacher education.
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|Cycle 2 (GS1, CP, CE1; 5–8 Years)||Cycle 3 (CE2, CM1, CM2; 9–11 Years)|
|Understanding oral language—listen and understand simple oral messages read by the teacher relating to everyday situations.|
Continuous oral production—using a model, recite, describe, read, or retell.
Participate in a conversation—participate in simple exchanges to be heard and understood in diverse situations relating to everyday life.
Discover cultural aspects related to the regional or modern language—identify major cultural landmarks in the pupils’ everyday environment.
|Listen and understand—Employ your auditive short and long-term memory to memorise common words and expressions; use auditory and visual cues to understand the meaning of unknown lexical items.|
Read and understand—use the context, illustrations and personal knowledge to understand a text; recognise isolated words in a short text; recognise the phoneme–grapheme relationship specific to the language.
Continuous speaking—memorise and reproduce statements; express yourself modifying pace and volume; participate in simple exchanges.
Writing—write words and expressions for which the spelling and syntax have been memorised; use simple structures to write a sentence.
React and interact—ask simple questions; employ a range of ritualised conversations.
|Language and Learners||Language Teachers Should|
|L1||Languages are learned by imitation||T1||Present language explicitly before production activities|
|L2||Languages are learned via authentic interaction||T2||Teach communicatively from start|
|L3||Learners need explicit teaching and corrective feedback||T3||Teach grammar rules one by one|
|L4||Learners differ in language aptitude||T4||Include unknown elements in materials|
|L5||Motivation is key||T5||Correct errors immediately|
|L6||Learners need to exchange and express themselves||T6||Use correct model for practice|
|L7||Learners who start earlier do better||T7||Beware groupwork: learners propagate errors|
|L8||Most errors come from L1||T8||Avoid interrupting to correct errors|
|L9||L2-only teaching is more effective||T9||Design remedial activities to address errors|
|L10||Interaction in groups is essential||T10||Offer communicative activities without pre-teaching language|
|T11||Prefer whole-class activities to groupwork|
|1. Structure||Explicit teaching (L3)||0.776||++||−|
|Error correction (T5)||0.747||++||−||−|
|Explicit presentation (T1)||0.623||++||−−|
|Grammar rules (T3)||0.432||0.407||++||−−|
|Practice model (T6)||0.422||+||−|
|2. Implicit||Communicative teaching (T2)||0.779||−||++||−−|
|Communicative activities (T10)||0.763||++||−−|
|Unknown elements (T4)||0.578||−||++||−|
|3. Interactive||Expression + exchange (L6)||0.764||+||−|
|Interaction in groups (L10)||0.635||++||−−|
|4. Natural||Authentic interaction (L2)||0.544||0.431||+||+||−−|
|5. Motivation||Avoidance of interruption (T8)||0.566||0.404||−||++||−|
|Remedial activities (T9)||0.683||++||−−|
|6. Error||Error propagation (T7)||0.754||+|
|L1 transfer errors (L8)||0.586||+||−|
|Whole-class teaching (T11)||0.533|
|7. Aptitude||Aptitude (L4)||0.843||+|
|8. Immersion||L2 only (L9)||0.789||+||−|
|Early start (L7)||0.583||+||+||−−|
|Variables||Responses||% (All Respondents)||Teacher Beliefs|
|TEACHING LEVEL||Teaches Year 3 [CE2]||No||68||0.499|
|Teaches Year 4 [CM1]||No||61||64||69||50||0.071|
|Teaches Year 5 [CM2]||No||63||63||76||52||0.014|
|TEACHER EDUCATION||Pre-service education||ESPE/INSPE||12||0.747|
|In-service English course||No||73||77||87||50||<0.001|
|Extended stay abroad||No||83||85||90||73||0.031|
|University language background||No||86||0.727|
|ENGLISH PROFCIENCY LEVEL||CEFR self-assessment||A1||6||4||11||2||0.011|
|ORGANISATION OF TEACHING||Pedagogical planning||by activity||21||0.534|
|by lessons in a unit||74|
|in projects w/other subjects||6|
|USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN ENGLISH TEACHING||Use of Internet during English lessons||Never||11||0.329|
|Use of interactive whiteboard during English lessons||Never||37||0.607|
|Use of computers during English lessons||Never||46||0.637|
|Use of speakers during English lessons||Never||19||0.174|
|VIEWS OF TECHNOLOGY||Main obstacle to implementing English activities using digital technology||Faulty or missing equipment||28||19||37||22||0.016|
|Lack of time||28||34||31||17|
|Insufficient level of students||5||5||6||4|
|Variables||Responses||Teaching of EFL Competences|
|Basic||Oral only||Oral + Written||p-Value|
|TEACHING LEVEL||Teaches Year 3 [CE2]||23||30||46||0.008|
|Teaches Year 4 [CM1]||21||23||56||<0.001|
|Teaches Year 5 [CM2]||15||19||56||<0.001|
|TEACHER EDUCATION||In-service English course||13||19||39||0.001|
|ORGANISATION OF TEACHING||Pedagogical planning||by activity||38||21||11||<0.001|
|by lessons in a unit||54||76||83|
|in projects w/other subjects||8||3||6|
|USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN ENGLISH TEACHING||Use of Internet during English lessons||Never||25||7||6||0.003|
|Use of interactive whiteboard during English lessons||Never||54||30||32||0.054|
|Use of computers during English lessons||Never||58||31||49||0.007|
|Use of speakers during English lessons||Never||29||19||14||0.051|
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Whyte, S.; Wigham, C.R.; Younès, N. Insights into Teacher Beliefs and Practice in Primary-School EFL in France. Languages 2022, 7, 185. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages7030185
Whyte S, Wigham CR, Younès N. Insights into Teacher Beliefs and Practice in Primary-School EFL in France. Languages. 2022; 7(3):185. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages7030185Chicago/Turabian Style
Whyte, Shona, Ciara R. Wigham, and Nathalie Younès. 2022. "Insights into Teacher Beliefs and Practice in Primary-School EFL in France" Languages 7, no. 3: 185. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages7030185