Does pupil use of ICT increase attainment in MFL?

Master's Thesis, 2011

65 Pages, Grade: none



1. Introduction

2. Literature Review
2.1 Research Methodology
2.2 Questionnaire
2.3 Focus groups
2.4 Data
2.5 Ethics

3. Findings and analysis
3.1 Questionnaire
3.2 Focus groups
3.3 Data

4. Conclusion and recommendations

5. Bibliography

6. Appendix
I Questionnaire
II Questions for focus groups
III Consent form
IV Letter to colleague
V Invitations
VI Interview with W1
VII Interview with W2
VIII Interview with S1

1. Introduction

The former British government was very committed to promote and integrate ICT in education. This can be seen for example by founding the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) to help facilitate the introduction and advancement of modern technology into classrooms. Due to the current financial climate BECTA in its current form ceased to exist in January 2011 (Becta 1, NA). Even though money needs to be saved, parts of BECTA will continue to run which shows that the government still sees the need to teach the pupils the use of technology.

However, the current government wants to shift the emphasis and the talks about the introduction of an English Baccalaureate (EBacc) have relit the discussion if more academic subjects such as Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), science and humanities would prepare pupils better for the modern workplace (The Guardian, 2011). Ministers hope that the decline in pupils continuing to study languages and science could possibly be stopped if schools would be rated according to the new requirements set out in the EBacc. League tables show that schools offer more “softer alternatives such as media studies and sports science” (The Guardian, 2011). By putting pressure on the school to achieve better results in the countrywide comparison the government hopes that this will result in schools changing the options of subjects available to their pupils.

The government‘s reason for introducing the EBacc is the idea “that young people should have access to a minimum core of knowledge as a foundation for what Eric D. Hirsch (1988) refers to as ‘cultural literacy’.” (Parliament records, 2011).

In Cultural literacy: what every American needs to know Hirsch identifies four main areas as cultural literacy (Hirsch, 1988): Every member of the society should possess a common body of knowledge and it is the schools’ task to convey this knowledge which will not create an elitist education but empower especially those who have been disadvantaged groups of society so far (Hirsch, 1988).

The schools’ curriculum therefore needs to be adapted with the aim to empower all citizens to be able to engage in the national discourse. The curriculum should not be selective but include a variety of subjects and ensure the “fully-developed understanding of a subject” (Hirsch, 1988, p128). Hirsch does not just want to promote literacy but promote cultural awareness. It is rather unexpected that the English government bases the introduction of the EBacc on a publication by an American Professor concerning the American society 20 years ago. Either way, Hirsch’s idea of uniting a nation through their cultural awareness is a topic that the European Union has adopted as well.

The European Commission has identified languages as an important part to form a united Europe: “EU language policies aim to protect linguistic diversity and promote knowledge of languages - for reasons of cultural identity and social integration, but also because multilingual citizens are better placed to take advantage of the educational, professional and economic opportunities created by an integrated Europe” (European Commission, NA). The Commission has also set out an ambitious goal aiming for a “Europe where everyone can speak at least two other languages in addition to their own mother tongue” (European Commission, NA). Through cultural identity and language studies which always include learning about the culture of the country in which the language is spoken the European Commission wants to create a competitive, educated and peaceful Europe.

Yet, especially in England language lessons are regarded as difficult and a waste of time, writes Andrew in a blog talking about his experience: “English is the world language and having another language up your sleeve is not going to be much of an asset, when everybody from that country already speaks better English than you could probably ever speak their language.” This sentence does not reflect Andrew’s view but he claims he heard this sentence a lot when he was at High School and not just from his peers (Aston, NA). Studies back up the unpopularity and perceived difficulty of language learning which result in lack of motivation (Stables, 1999). In 1999 the UK was the only major EU nation, which had not made MFL a statutory subject of the Primary School curriculum and only in 2005 followed the example (and pressure?) of the other European nations.

The English government, despite no longer making languages compulsory, still rates language learning as an important part of education by including it in the seven domains of subjects required for the EBacc certificate (Parliament records, NA).

Despite common belief only 6% of the world’s population speak English as a first language and 75% of the world’s population do not speak any English at all. This is also reflected on the languages used on the internet where only 51% are in English. “Chinese has almost caught up with English and Russian and Spanish are increasingly prominent” (Languages work, NA).

The National Centre for Languages (CILT) runs the Languages Work website with the aim to motivate young people to learn languages. CILT claims that language skills are not just in huge demand in different industries but can help with travelling, building international friendships and equip with the necessary qualification to work abroad and even to understand English better (Languages work, NA). According to the website “74% of employers are looking to employ people with conversational language skills, customers addressed in their mother tongue are much more likely to do business with you, studying a foreign language improves your oral and written skills in English too, and also helps develop key communication skills that are crucial in the workplace” (Languages work, NA).

Despite all these arguments the majority of pupils still rate other subjects, including maths and science as more important for their future even though they do not find them necessarily easy (Stables, 1999).

The promotion of language learning forms part of my position as an MFL teacher and I have previously tried to engage pupils in activities like a lunchtime handball club where they had to use German expressions to communicate with each other. I have spent time pointing out to my students why I personally think it is important to learn languages and listing reasons given by Languages Work and other organisations. I often find that their parents have great influence on their opinion and attitude to learning. Governmental guidelines, EU policies and my own biography clearly outline the importance of language skills. I cannot change the pupils’ view immediately and maybe never will and have therefore decided to combine the seemingly popular subject ICT with MFL to research if this can increase pupils’ motivation towards MFL.

On the other hand pupils regard ICT as a necessity and so do their parents which increase their willingness to attend an ICT lesson as they can see its needs. Computer games are popular and the majority of pupils can be classified as “Digital Natives” as Marc Prensky calls the current generation of pupils. According to his research a college graduate will have spent an average of only 5,000 hours reading, “but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV) (Prensky, 2001, p1). “Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives” which makes it easy to convince pupils that learning about ICT is a necessity (Prensky, 2001, p1).

I trained to teach MFL but was employed as an ICT teacher by my current school with a timetable split between both departments. All my lessons were timetabled to be in an ICT suite with 30 computers. Having seen the difference in pupils’ motivation towards my two subjects I have been thinking of ways of combining the seemingly unpopular language lessons and the widely popular ICT activities in order to increase their motivation. A lot of teachers who book my room to deliver an ICT based lesson are unsure how to teach certain things and are often not aware of programs and facilities available to them. Prensky calls these teachers “Digital immigrants” as they still have to learn “the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet” (Prensky, 2001, p1). Having taught ICT and MFL for almost two years, I have been able to combine both subjects, as I am aware of their curricula and have acquired the skills to deliver it.

One of the aims of this research is to find out if pupils’ motivation and consequently their attainment can be increased by including more pupil use of computers in MFL lessons. I will use pupil data, surveys and focus group interviews to triangulate my findings to be able to draw valid conclusions. I will analyse the assessment data of three Year 7 French classes of which two will have been taught by me in the computer suite and the other one shared with a colleague mainly in a more traditional classroom.

I also want to collate data from the pupils themselves, which is why I intend to hand out a questionnaire to all three classes, asking about their preferences, but also their history of learning languages so far. To discuss their answers in more depth and to complete my research I plan to arrange focus groups with volunteers.

This Action Research and its findings could help me and other colleagues identify areas that help increase pupils’ motivation and others that hinder it (Mertler, 2005). Also, I would like to find out which elements of the two subjects pupils find most enjoyable and helpful for their learning, as lessons could then maybe be tailored to suit those better.

Even though I will not express my opinion on national educational policies, the research should also highlight the impact governmental decisions can have on education in practice with emphasis on language learning.

2. Literature review

I started my research looking for literature generally discussing motivation for foreign language learning. I then narrowed this down to teaching MFL with the help of technology and what impact this had on pupils.

Before moving on to the discussion of literature about the teaching of MFL and the impact ICT can have, I think it is important to define what learning is and present different established learning theories.

Learning is important for a variety of reasons: it supports the development of competencies in a variety of school subjects as well as enabling an individual to carry out a diverse lifestyle. It also helps to develop the capacity for lifelong learning, preserves cultural values and traditions and aids new discoveries and inventions. (Ellis, 2007) Learning is important for any individual and the society it lives in. Having said that many theories have been developed to aid the process of learning according to an individual’s needs, to classify individual learning needs in groups and therefore achieve the best results for the individual and the environment. The twentieth-century learning theories can be classified in two groups: behaviourist and cognitive family.

The behaviourist theories are centred on the assumption that humans are passive beings and therefore react to stimulus while the cognitive theories state learners as interactive individuals. Both families of theories share the opinion that the motivation of a learner is a key factor to his contribution to the learning process and therefore the learning outcome (Ellis, 2007).

Howard Gardner came up with a list of seven intelligences: linguistic, logicalmathematical, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, inter-/intra-personal and spatial, which is why, according to him, different children need different ways of teaching to access, understand and store information (Gardner, 1999; Kornhaber, 2001). Providing learners with different activities that support a variety of learning styles is commonly known as differentiation. It is the teacher’s responsibility to supply the right learning experiences to help the learners achieve their full potential (Pachler, 2001).

Skinner as a behaviourism theorist supports the idea that learning is a response to a stimulus which results in changed behaviour. The teacher also acts as a role model and has to be specific about what appropriate responses to his stimuli are (Morris, 1995). Unlike Skinner, Bruner argues that the acquisition of knowledge is an active process, where the learner connects new knowledge to already known facts. Through scaffolding by the educator the learner can acquire new knowledge (Cameron, 2000). This means that a teacher should teach with the already learned content in mind and “provide opportunities to learn in problem solving settings”, embedded in context and make the learning process meaningful for the students (Ellis, 2007).

Piaget thought in a similar way expressing that one has to carefully assess the level of a group to create the right challenge for them. In his opinion children learn by actively doing things themselves. He centres his theory around two main terms: assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the child’s action according to what it has witnessed in his environment. The child copies the processes it has seen by others and builds up his knowledge. Accommodation however is the child’s application of knowledge to a new situation and adapting the previous experience to suit the new circumstances. This process can be applied to learning a new language as well, where it is called ‘restructuring’ (Cameron, 2000). Pavlov agrees with Piaget that learning is active and a response is made according to events in the environment.

He differentiates two forms of (associative) learning: classical conditioning (linking a stimulus to an event) and operant conditioning (the use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form of behaviour). Based on experiments with animals (the best known experience includes dog) a learner will give the right response if the right stimulus is provided (Wood, 1988).

Vygotsky is the founder of social constructivism who differed to Piaget by highlighting the importance of the social background (Bolster, 2010). Vygotsky defined learning a “social, collaborative and interactional activity” (Cohen, 1996). He stated that motivation was a crucial element in the learning cycle. The need to communicate with others creates this motivation. Through interaction with others children learn the language and develop thinking skills. Children watch, listen and re-play what they have seen or heard. Another theme of his theory is the ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). He defined this zone as the gap between what a child can do without and with help of someone, which does not necessarily have to be an adult. Teachers need to be aware of the ZPD to be able to set exactly the right challenge for their pupils which again ties in with Bruner who says that children need to be given the right amount and way of help (Cameron, 2000). Vygotsky is also often associated with problem-solving learning. His theory “challenges the conventional wisdom that there is one correct response to every question and that students must acquire a finite body of knowledge before they can arrive at this answer” (Wilson, 2000).

The impact of ICT on teaching and learning as well as motivation of pupils has generally been extensively researched and there are numerous accounts of how specific subjects have profited from the increased use of ICT, e.g. Clerehugh, Dugard, Sutherland.

One study that has to be mentioned before all is by Yvonne Clerehugh who researched in a similar setting to mine: She is an MFL teacher at a High School in Norwich and focused specifically on the impact that pupil use of ICT can have in MFL lessons.

Her findings show that ICT can support pupils’ learning of MFL and increase their attainment if it is done in the right way (Clerehugh, 2002). She has successfully used ICT as a tool to differentiate and give pupils more space to produce work (Clerehugh, 2002). She found that the ICT lessons were also a great motivator for disaffected pupils who were forced by governmental guidelines to continue learning a language (Clerehugh, 2002).

Even though researchers vary at their definition of the word motivation, it seems that some consent can be found by saying that “motivation is responsible for why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity (and) how hard they are going to pursue it” (Dörnyei, 2001, p8). An intrinsic motivation stems from the inherent reward from doing a certain activity. Dörnyei moves on to describe when human motivation is at its highest: competency of people, being set worthwhile goals and getting feedback.

He refers to Atkinson’s Achievement Motivation Theory which entails that people with a high need for achievement anticipate success more than failure, in contrast to people who seem to have a low need for achievement (Dörnyei, 2001).

According to Dörnyei there are four types of extrinsic motivational factors: external regulation (teacher’s praise or parental confrontation), introjected regulation (following rules), identified regulation (accepting the usefulness of learning something) and integrated regulation (regulations are fully assimilated but lack enjoyment of the task).

Another area of motivation is related to the social background. The value of education, support from family and peers as well as cultural beliefs of learning can motivate a learner further (Cohen, 1996). Alison Bolster started her study on Gardner’s theory of integrative motivation: “an interest in and empathy with the speakers of that language as a necessary precursor to motivation for language learning” (Bolster, 2010, 237). The school at which the research was conducted was an independent selective girls’ school, where half the pupils had a migration background, some were bilingual and most of them had travelled overseas. The parents are generally very supportive of language learning and from the answers collected in interviews it becomes clear that there have been conversations at home about the importance of learning languages (Bolster, 2010).

Even though the previous named factors might not be applicable to the study I am about to carry out, this next one is. All but one pupil reported of their positive experiences of learning French and their positive relationship with their teacher. One girl mentioned difficulties with the teacher and that she dislikes the subject. It seems that the relationship with the teacher might have an impact on her attitude towards the subject and in connection with that to her motivation to try to achieve well in the subject (Bolster, 2010).

For my research I also looked at governmental guidelines and initiatives to compare them with essays that describe the practice. This would give me an overview of what requirements have to be met and how schools are dealing with them.

Some documents are still under review and then groundbreaking publications such as Harnessing Technology: transforming learning and children ’ s services published by the Department for Education (DfES) in 2005 might be replaced by new government taking into account the drive towards the EBacc which does not include the subject ICT (DfES 1, 2005). However, ICT is still regarded as an integral part of language learning at Key Stage (KS) 2 and 3 (QCDA, N/A). ICT can be very helpful to include authentic material in lessons, which helps to motivate pupils (Deaney, 2010).

One way of motivating learners in MFL classrooms is to allow working with a partner (Shaw, 1998). Shaw conducted a research involving Year 9 pupils who had been identified as MAPS. 29% found using computers unhelpful but regarded textbooks as useful resource. Pupils’ motivation could be maximised by seeing progress, receiving feedback and a sense of achievement. 72% of the pupils thought it important to learn a foreign language, while 13% thought the opposite and 15% did not voice their opinion (Shaw, 1998). It will be very interesting to compare these findings to my data.

In all recent publications related to the integration of ICT into lessons, the authors make the point that ICT tasks have to be skilfully prepared to develop their full potential for enhancing teaching and learning (Deaney, 2007). Another problem that was commonly mentioned was the lack of time and training to acquire the skills the teachers needed “to develop confidence and overcome anxiety” (Yunus, 2007, p83).

Beastall remarks that there is a space between teachers and pupils which has grown with a change in the relationship between the two groups and a shift in power. She states that “Formerly teachers knew everything and kids didn’t”, which is not the case anymore due to new digital habits and the pupils’ easy access to information online (Beastall, 2006, p101). She argues that “the computer enables the child to think and to become a reflective learner” (Beastall, 2006). This indicates that computer play a very important role in education and generally in personal development. However, Green disagrees with Beastall by claiming that it is not the equipment but the quality of teaching that has the greater impact on learning (Green, 2000). This is supported by a further article in which it is stated that teachers are the key factor in implementing technology in the learning process (Sutherland, 2009).

Schick’s research on interactive tutorials adds another dimension to the discussion. In his opinion computers are not truly interactive but only react to the user’s input. Unlike Beastall, Schick believes that computers do not make pupils think and reflect. Computers are not truly engaging and it takes a lot more than just a machine to teach a subject (Schick, 1995). He insists that learning is not just provision of material and a teacher explaining it but involves other factors, such as computer software, the student’s motivation and relationship to teacher and material. Schick emphasises the influence which motivation and methodology have on learning. He says that teachers need to teach the students how to access all the available information and use the technological advances in an empowering manner (Schick, 1995).

In 2004 the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) commissioned a study to investigate the motivational effect of ICT on pupils (Passey, 2004). The study reported that ICT can increase pupils’ motivation regardless of gender, ethnic background and to a degree socio-economic status (this only had an impact when access to ICT outside of school was limited) (Passey, 2004). The study also researched if ICT had an impact on pupil’s attainment:

“A small number of teachers reported that motivation arising from the use of ICT is having an impact upon attainment. This is particularly the case where pupils have difficulty with motor control and writing skills. In many specific subjects this is difficult to quantify, but there are indicators in secondary design and technology which suggest that improvements in attainment can occur when using ICT under particular conditions” (Passey, 2004, p16).

Unfortunately, the study did no clarify in which subjects’ attainment rose due to increased pupil motivation Technology is seen as an element that should be included in the teaching process generally. It should not be seen as an isolated part of the lesson nor should it become the focus of the lesson, neglecting the subject specific topic. Classrooms with interactive whiteboards gave teachers the possibility to enhance delivery and increase the pace of lessons. One reason given why ICT increases motivation were the “visual aspects (including moving imagery and animation), ease of writing, professional outcomes and neatness, and enhanced pace in lessons” (Passey, 2004, p37).

A lot of research mentions motivational factors linked to the use and integration of ICT tasks in MFL lessons (Harrison, 2004; Deaney, 2006; Clerehugh, 2002). They also suggest that computers give pupils more individual space to learn at their own pace which relaxes them and the teacher. Pupils are also described as more productive in ICT lessons (Beastall, 2006). While software programmes are not as popular as games, students enjoy being able to work on their skills individually and at their own pace without having to frequently ask the teacher for help (Deaney, 2010).

Spending the lesson in an ICT suite creates a change in the learning environment which raised interest and increased motivation. Some pupils considered that if using computers more regularly the novelty and excitement might wear off. They also criticised that some peers are off task when asked to work in pairs on a shared computer, so that one ended up doing all the work (Deaney, 2010).

Studies have revealed that the average child is exposed to media for six hours daily and devotes one hour to computer games (Roberts, 2008). Based on this information a group of researchers started a project where geography lessons where based on a computer game. The pupils were very motivated and while LAPS did very well, HAPS’ progress was not hindered (Tüzün, 2008). Apart from an increased interest in the subject even outside of school and curriculum demands, pupils made significant learning gains (Tüzün, 2008).

Dugard gives a more detailed explanation why pupils enjoy MFL lesson with higher than usual ICT impact: there is more time for teacher feedback and mistakes can be corrected easily on the screen (Dugard, 2003). She also points out that handwriting as a barrier to writing tasks is removed. Other research has shown that even though pupils like the more professional look of their work, the use of keyboards could disadvantage some pupils due to their slower typing speed (Deaney, 2010).

Differentiated worksheets could be saved electronically so that pupils could choose for themselves without being classified openly as a low achieving pupils (LAPS), medium achieving (MAPS) or high achieving pupils (HAPS) (Dugard, 2003).

Dugard warns that lessons still need to focus on MFL tasks and not too heavily on ICT skills, even though working with technology is what attracted the pupils in the first place (Dugard, 2003). Using online references might be a faster way than consulting a book or dictionary, which can support (language) learning (Deaney, 2010). Pupils might be more reluctant to learn languages but see sense in learning ICT skills which might increase their motivation for the subject (Dugard, 2003; Deaney, 2010). Dugard argues that when pupils work on computers they are more motivated and therefore learn better (Dugard, 2003).

Another aspect of digital learning is the marking of students’ work. If students receive feedback electronically it might be easier for them to handle than being told in person (Hunt, 2007). The spell check function might help some pupils but could be misleading for the teacher as it is not clear if the pupil knew the correct spelling (Deaney, 2010).

On the now archived Becta website the document Raising standards was available to download. The brochure was described as follows: “This booklet explains how you can put technology at the heart of your institution, raise standards, improve learning and teaching, achieve best value and gain lasting success” (Becta 2, N/A, p6).

In the publication are examples of schools which improved their provision stating that a “key innovation was to allow teachers to adapt teaching methods to reflect and include emerging technologies” (Becta 2, p6). Convery agrees with that statement writing that “if technology could overcome the disadvantage, then surely teachers should adopt such technology (especially if established non-technological responses to underachievement are proving limited in their impact)” (Convery, 2009, p31).

He supports the involvement of technology in teaching but he also argues that its impact can be overrated. He claims that using technology does not automatically lead to better results across the curriculum (Convery, 2009). Convery points out that the government is expecting reports that are showing that the money they spent on equipping schools with modern technology was worth it (Convery, 2009). Convery shows that by applying positive rhetoric, publications can create an image that technology can deal with everything from behavioural management to differentiation. This pressurises teachers into thinking that they are not allowed to criticise any use of ICT (Convery, 2009).

Convery highlights a gap between technologists and teachers explaining that technology is being designed which is not practical for classrooms. He encourages teachers to start dialogues and to overcome their anxiety to find the dialogue with so called technologists. According to Convery this dialogue is important as the society’s expectations of ICT are inflated due to insufficient opposition to inflated statements by those who want to promote technology (Convery, 2009). Deaney’s report from 2006 draws a different picture in so far that she and her team observed teachers who are gradually adopting new technology and adding them to their existing repertoire (Deaney, 2006). Teachers were portrayed as reflective and open to the new opportunities, e.g. using the internet for research, enhancing presentations and making lessons more dynamic. They brought attention to the fact that not all pupils had the same technical expertise which could create some frustration. On the other hand reducing handwriting and working with digital text increased pupils motivation. However, especially LAPS found exercises where they were asked to read longer passages disengaging and favoured exploratory tasks (Deaney, 2006).

Having read Convery’s criticism about ‘biased’ reports commissioned by the government, this ImpaCT2 shows somewhat surprisingly unspectacular results. The aim of the study was to evaluate the progress of technology included in curricular learning (Harrison, 2004). Simplified, the study was based on questionnaires filled in by pupils to find out how much time they spend using computers in a variety of subjects and a comparison of their grades (Harrison, 2004).

Harrison cites earlier studies by McFarlane which found that there was little evidence to support the claim that attainment had increased in correlation to use of ICT. Previous studies had focused on “secondary or indirect variables” such as motivation, concentration, cognitive progressing, reading comprehension and critical thinking. Where there were positive associations it was not always clear if the causes where due to an increased use of ICT (Harrison, 2004, p321). The findings of ImpaCT2 suggested that there were clear positive correlations for English and Maths while there were gender differences, favouring girls in English and boys in Maths (Harrison, 2004). For geography and MFL there was also a positive effect even though not as significant (Harrison, 2004).

Having seen evidence that attainment in MFL correlated positively with use of ICT, it would be interesting to find out why this was the case. Did motivation or feedback play a role as Dugard suggests? Maybe further evidence could be found to support Green’s thesis that the teacher’s expertise is of greater importance than the sole presence of technology. Deaney supports Green by writing that “the teacher’s role in orchestrating and mediating ICT-based activity emerged strongly” in her research (Deaney, 2006, p476). It was through the teacher’s target setting and support during the lessons that made pupils achieve the tasks (Deaney, 2006).

As the ImpaCT2 research was conducted in 1999-2001 the internet was just being implemented in schools so these findings may now be outdated. There are yet no studies available to show if making it optional for pupils to continue learning a language has had any impact on pupils’ effort and linked to that their attainment in MFL. Has pupils’ motivation to learn languages decreased following the former government’s underlying message that languages have ceased importance? Might this now change with the introduction of the EBacc?

Another governmental document that might have an impact on future ways of teaching and learning is the Every Child Matters policy introduced in December 2004. The policy defines five outcomes, which everyone involved with children should work towards: Be healthy, Stay safe, Enjoy and achieve, Make a positive contribution, Achieve economic well-being (DfES 2, 2004).

Jacky Lumby carried out a study in 2007-2008 to find out if any chances had been made, especially towards the Enjoy and achieve- outcome for 11-14 year olds in England (Lumby, 2011).

Lumby’s study included surveys and interviews in with she discovered numerous reasons that promoted enjoyment at schools and others that hindered it.

According to her “absence of enjoyment is one of the foundational reasons for young people failing their potential” which is probably one of the reasons it was included in the governmental policy (Lumby, 2011, p1). Even though the word enjoy is commonly used in everyday contexts, a link to schools and learning is rarely made.

Pachler and Bolster agree with one of the main points made by Lumby, which is the importance of making the learning experience relevant to the pupils (Pachler, 2001;Bolster, 2010). If the pupils can see that what they are learning is meaningful and might fulfil a future need or a preparation for a job, then they are much more motivated and willing to try harder.

Generally, pupils who participated in Lumby’s study asked for challenging but achievable tasks. They said that they want to use their brain and therefore do not want to do any boring work, which unfortunately is not defined further (Lumby, 2011; Bolster, 2010). Other causes of enjoyment were active learning/using their hands, experiments, working at their own pace and being in control of their learning. Trial and error was also listed as a preferred way of learning (Lumby, 2011).

Contrasting experiences can lead to lack of enjoyment and thereby cause reluctance to engage and persist with a task. Writing was named as one particular activity that pupils did not enjoy. Pupils also complained that even though they would like challenging work, the majority of the time they would feel overwhelmed with expectations (Lumby, 2011).

Pupils mentioned one prerequisite which increases their enjoyment, which was feeling safe in their environment (Lumby, 2011). This discovery ties in closely with Maslow hierarchy of needs where ‘safety and security’ are listed second to psychological needs (King, 2009).

Following Maslow’s pyramid model further to the top pupils listed social contacts and a feeling of belonging as another condition that increases their enjoyment. This includes good relationships to peers and teachers alike. Still in accordance with Maslow’s definition of needs pupils stated having their own space as another source of enjoyment (Lumby, 2011; King, 2009).

Nevertheless, there are inconsistent results which do not prove that enjoyment is a requirement for someone to learn. At the same time enjoyment is an internal process so only the students can report their emotions but do they always know if they learned something? Enjoyment and learning are two separate processes are they are not linked to achievement which makes it difficult to measure if and how enjoyment can have an impact on performance.

There is also the difficulty of defining enjoyment:

“Enjoyment is sometimes treated as a synonym for happiness, pleasure, flow, usefulness, or ease of use. Psychology has looked at enjoyment as a hedonistic emotion that ranges from the cognitive to the physical; enjoyment has been indicated as a contributor to educational outcomes and as motivation to engage in physical activities.” (Lin, 2008, p41)

Research into workplaces has shown that meaningful tasks increase users’ motivation to start a task. When a task is enjoyable this also influences the motivation of a user. Usefulness, enjoyment and use of computers stood in positive correlation to output quality (Davis, 1992). Even though this study is based on adults’ views, it can be generalised that working on something, which is perceived as interesting, worthwhile and enjoyable increases the workers’ motivation to start, persevere and finish it.

3. Research Methodology

Before I will describe my research methodology I would like to introduce the school at which I will carry out my research.

I am currently employed at this larger than most secondary schools (with attached Sixth Form as an ICT and MFL teacher. On the Ofsted website the school's catchment area is described as “relatively advantaged and the proportion of students known to be eligible for free school meals is low. The number of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below that expected nationally.

The proportion of students with minority ethnic heritage is low. The school has specialist technology college status and holds the Investors in People award, and Sportmark, Healthy Schools and Eco schools awards...At the last inspection the school was judged to have significant weaknesses and was given a notice to improve. This inspection removed the notice to improve.” (Ofsted, 29/05/2011) There are currently 1171 pupils enrolled at the High School and a further 220 at the Sixth Form (Ofsted, 29/05/2011).

The area that shares a postcode with the school has a population of 22,000 of which 11% are educated to a degree level which is below the national average of 20%. 2% in the area are unemployed in comparison to 3% nationwide. Around 10% of the inhabitations who live in this area are migrants (national 12%). This data is based on the 2001 census and might therefore have changed slightly (Mouseprice, 29/05/2011). Data collection from the local council suggests that international immigration has risen in the late 2000s which might have had an impact on the school’s catchment area. (Norwich City Council, 29/05/2011)

In order to conduct research one has to carefully select the methods and tools that will get the best data collection possible for that particular type of research. Research can generally be divided into two categories: qualitative and quantitative data. Research should ideally combine those two types of questioning to get more representative data (Barbour, 2008) but this is not always applicable. It is more important to triangulate data in order to get a valid set of results.

While I will gain qualitative data from the focus group interview, I will also get quantitative data using questionnaires, which makes my research a mixed- methods design. The application of both types of data “tends to provide a better understanding of a research problem than one type of data in isolation” (Mertler, 2011, p13). Qualitative data are typically narrative reports, which I will have to analyse in logico-inductive analysis as opposed to quantitative data which is numerical and naturally analysed statistically (Mertler, 2005).

I will also triangulate my research to increase the validity and reliability and decrease “deficiencies and biases that stem from any single method” (Mitchell, 1986, p19). To make research findings more reliable and valid, the mode in which data about a certain area is collected should vary (Jick, 1979). By using three methods of data collection I intend to counterbalance “the flaws or the weaknesses of one method with the strengths of another” (Mitchell, 1986, p19).

I based my dissertation on three different sets of data: student questionnaires, focus group interviews and official assessment marks.

In order to analyse my data and distinguish whether or not there is a correlation between use of ICT in conjunction with MFL teaching and learning, I designed the research to compare the results of the three classes. This means in more detail that I will compare the data of three year 7 classes of the same ability according to their Fisher Family Trust Data. I will call the classes class W1, class W2 and class S to facilitate referral. Classes W1 and W2 are taught by me for four lessons a fortnight in an ICT suite while the other class is taught for three lessons by a colleague and for one lesson by me in the ICT suite. The 78 pupils in the three classes involved in the research equate to 39% of all Year 7 pupils at my school.

In this context class S functions as a control group which receive traditional MFL lessons (Mertler, 2012). I chose this class as a control group for a variety of reasons: firstly, I have easy access to the class as I teach them fortnightly. Secondly, when I teach them they have a lesson in the ICT suite so they are able to compare the two different setups. Thirdly, they are at least partially taught by me and therefore they can base their answers to whether or not computers help them learn on the experience they have with me.

Ideally, I should have one class that I teach solely in a computer room and one in a traditional setting. Nevertheless, this ideal research setting would have had implications on the timetable and would not have been practicable for the school.

If I had been able to compare two classes which were solely taught by me I, the answers would have had to depend on only my relationship with the pupils while in this context the pupils’ relationship with the other teacher could influence the results.

Pupils can find one teacher more motivating or competent which can increase their level of motivation and therefore are willing to challenge themselves more than they would for a teacher whose personal traits they cannot relate to (Dörnyei, 2001).


Excerpt out of 65 pages


Does pupil use of ICT increase attainment in MFL?
Advanced Educational Practice
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
999 KB
ICT, computers, language, German, French, learning, online, attainment, Foreign Languages, Foreign Language Learning, motivation
Quote paper
Birte Wachtel (Author), 2011, Does pupil use of ICT increase attainment in MFL?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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