Assessing English-medium instruction in German grammar schools

A survey of teachers' and students' responses

Bachelor Thesis, 2010

67 Pages, Grade: 1.0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Language Competence
2.1. Definition
2.2. Common European Framework ofReference for Languages (CEFR)
2.2.1 Competence Levels in Education

3. English-medium instruction in Germany and its special case: Bilingual education
3.1. Definitions and Confusions
3.2. History and Structure
3.3. Bilingual Subjects
3.3.1. Geography, History and Politics
3.4. Strengths and Weaknesses

4. Methodology
4.1. Participants and Procedure
4.1.1. The Questionnaire and its composition

5. Survey Evaluation
5.1. Students
5.1.1. Advantages and disadvantages
5.2. Teachers
5.2.1. Advantages and disadvantages

6. Conclusion

7. List of References

8. Appendix

1. Introduction

English is everywhere. Not only is it the language of science, the internet and advertisement, for instance, but it is the lingua franca that allows communication all over the world. Thanks to globalization, the increasing importance of the media, the changing lifestyles of the younger generations as well as the coalescing Europe, we cannot evade its impact. Not unnaturally, the English language has always been and still is a vital part of the German educational system with a tendency to expand its influence throughout the next years. Ever since it has been introduced as a foreign language to German schools, new concepts and methods to improve foreign language teaching have evolved. Bilingual education is one of those concepts. Being used in many countries and educational contexts to enhance second language learning, it has also found its way into German school types.

As a method of instruction that involves a higher number of classes held in English per week and, additionally, other subjects being taught to a greater extent in that foreign language than in traditional educational programs, it was introduced, developed and often criticized. Due to its success, the demand for this more intense form of second language learning has increased and more researchers have investigated the outcomes of bilingual education. Is such a program beneficial to children or does it have negative consequences on their overall performance at school? Would a higher number of English classes per week be sufficient or do other subjects have to be taught in English and, above all, what subjects should that be without risking the students to have problems understanding their content? And finally, do students in bilingual programs have a higher language competence than students in comparable traditional English programs? These are all questions that are connected to the research on bilingual programs and what factors contribute to their success or what points to their weaknesses.

The last of the three questions emphasizes the aspect of bilingual education that will be the focus of this bachelor’s thesis, namely language competence. Due to the fact that an assessment of the actual language competence could not be conducted in the given time period, the center of this investigation will be the subjective point of view of teachers and students, thus a self-assessment based on the categories of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. With the help of a questionnaire that was designed to find out about the self-assessment of language competence by students themselves as well as their teachers at a local grammar school in North-Rhine Westphalia, comparisons were made between bilingual and traditional English classes. The general hypothesis that has been proposed in this context is that bilingual education leads to a higher proficiency in English than traditional education. In order to find evidence to either prove or refute this assumption, I investigated the differences between the two programs not only with respect to general organization, but especially regarding language competence and outer circumstances, meaning outside of the classroom setting, that positively affect the language learning progress, such as the student’s experiences with the language in everyday life. Furthermore, advantages and disadvantages are closely related to the assessment of the bilingual program and, of course, to what extent the two forms of education meet the norms developed and set by ’The standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz) with regard to language competence.

The theoretical part, on the other hand, consists of an insight into the current educational development in Germany with a focus on North-Rhine Westphalia, where the data has been collected, and of a focus on the bilingual program that incorporates a special position within the German educational construct. Concerning linguistics, the emphasis will be on language competence, its components as well as its connection to foreign language education. Following the theoretical part of this thesis is an explanation of the survey’s methodology.

Thus, the intention of the topic "Assessing English-medium instruction in German grammar schools: a survey of teachers’ and students’ responses" is to analyze whether the teachers’ assessment and the students’ self-assessment correspond to the fixed educational standards, to examine whether they differentiate from each other and, finally, to define the reasons leading to the specific results. In the course of this bachelor’s thesis, the different aspects of traditional and bilingual education will be studied and connected to the practical research in the respective field.1

2.1. Definition

Linguistic competence, language proficiency or language competence are only three examples of how many similar or identical concepts prevail among researchers and how difficult it is to choose a term that reflects a suitable definition. I regard language competence as appropriate umbrella term that entails a variety of competences among which are communicative, grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic competence (cf. Cummins and Swain 1986:113). The former will be subject to more investigation as it unites parts of the other mentioned competences and is of significance for the later study.

The Kultusministerkonferenz names the skills listening, reading, spoken production, spoken interaction and writing to be the defining components and connects them to vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and intonation as well as orthography, which serve as the basis for language competence to be developed, (cf. KMK2 3 2005:9) Apart from this core of language competence, there are also other vital parts named. Intercultural competences, for instance, which builds up "Interesse und Verständnis für andere kulturspezifische Denk- und Lebensweisen, Werte, Normen und Lebensbedingungen [...]." (KMK 2005:10) Finally, also methodological competences are included, which serve as a framework for the development of communicative competence by providing the learner with techniques to facilitate learning. These four constituent elements create the basis for a student’s language learning process throughout his or her life. (cf. KMK 2005:10)

The applicability of this definition to language education is obvious, which is why I will employ the term language competence in this thesis. It will always refer to the definition outlined above and contain the four mentioned parts that combine linguistic, cultural and methodological dimensions, although the focus will be on the five skills.

2.2. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

One method to assess language competence, also employed in the practical study of this bachelor’s thesis, is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, developed by the Council of Europe. "[...] this document provides a practical tool for setting clear standards to be attained at successive stages of learning and for evaluating outcomes in an internationally comparable manner."2 Thus, it determines a new framework for the assessment of almost every European language. Often used for language tests, the CEFR is now also used in education when writing the curricula for foreign language subjects.

The CEFR consists of a table that "[...] defines levels of attainment in different aspects of its descriptive scheme with illustrative descriptors scale."4 Horizontally, the six different levels are classified (Al, A2, Bl, B2, Cl, C2). Al marks the category with the least proficiency, while C2, indicates the category that is almost native-like. Vertically, the different skills can be found, which include listening and reading in the category understanding, spoken production and spoken interaction in the category speaking and, lastly, writing. For every skill at every competence level, there is a written description in first-person perspective about what constitutes language competence in the respective level and skill. Consequently, the description for Al competence in listening is: "I can understand familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak clearly and slowly."5

It becomes apparent that not only the range with the several stages of language competence are presented in the CEFR, but also descriptions of specific genres, for instance in writing, domains of language use as well as effects on the recipient.

2.2.1. Competence levels in education

In foreign language education the CEFR plays an important role as it helps to measure language competence and to set standards for the different grade levels that have to be achieved. Whether traditionally or bilingually educated, there are the same guidelines for English as a foreign language. For grade levels six, eight and ten there are different competence levels developed by the Kultusministerkonferenz.

In grade six the competence level in the skills listening, reading, spoken production and spoken interaction and writing should reach A2 according to the English curriculum of North Rhine-Westphalia. This level belongs to the basic language use and is characterized by a low level of complexity and difficulty. In eighth grade the basics are extended to a certain degree, which increases the standardized competence level to A2 with parts of the competence level Bl in some of the skills. In grade ten the competence level suggested to reach Bl with parts of B2, which belongs to the category of independent language use. For higher grade levels no corresponding competence levels could be found.

3. English-medium instruction in Germany and its special case: Bilingual education

As already shown in the introduction, the growing importance of the English language has led to the current development of foreign language education, which English forms a big part of. Since 1965, where English was introduced as obligatory subject into all German school types thanks to an educational reform, the curricula have constantly been modified and developed to improve English-medium instruction (cf. Hüllen 1987:13). One of the outcomes of these constant modifications and developments is bilingual education, whose definition, content and characteristics will be explained now.

3.1. Definitions and Confusions

Truly, the term chosen to describe the specific educational form used in Germany called bilingualer Unterricht is misleading. I will try to clarify the concept and its various meanings throughout the next paragraphs and make clear which term connected to which definition will be used in this thesis when referring to the different school programs.

First of all, when thinking of bilingualism, a relation to education is not the first that comes to mind, which is the most important reason why discussions about the suitability of the term bilingual education arose. It is moreover associated with the "native-like control of two or more languages" (Cummins and Swain 1986:7). Of course, this is only a very broad definition as a lot more aspects have to be taken into consideration in order to clarify the concept of bilingualism, such as, domains of language use or the age of the learner, for instance (cf. Cummins and Swain 1986:7). Here also, the nature of the discussion about the ’correct’ definition is ongoing because new research effectively leads to new theories and new definitions. However, the simultaneous use of the adjective bilingual in relation to education caused two more contrary definitions to evolve.

The first one adds an educational perspective to bilingualism and defines it as bilingual education, meaning contexts like Canada or the United States, where these types of education are used to develop a certain level of language competence in English for those, whose mother tongue is not English. Reasons for this are immigration, multicultural societies as well as integration (cf. Bach 2005:14).

The second definition, on the other hand, also applies bilingualism to education and names this union bilingual education, but the meaning of this new term diverges from the definition mentioned above. The term loosens from the initial definition of bilingual related to speaking two languages and refers more to "the use of two (or more) languages of instruction at some point in a student’s school career. The languages are used to teach subject matter content rather than just the language itself." (Cummins 2008:xiii). There have been attempts to rename the concept, but bilingual education has turned out to be the term used more often, predominantly due to the broad perspective offered by the expression and the lack of a comparable new one. Lately however, another term asserted itself, which is Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL).

Although having caused different forms of realization within Germany, the main elements of bilingual education are the English instruction itself in order to develop a certain degree of communicative competence that allows the students to participate in the bilingual subjects. Then the bilingual subjects as they equip the students with the appropriate technical vocabulary and knowledge depending on the respective subject and, finally, German language instruction as well as other subjects taught in German with a comparable content because they provide possibilities to apply what has been learned and the proper use of linguistic devices. (MSJK NRW6 1995:10f) To put it in a nutshell, the general constituents of bilingual education are the use of another language especially in the two introductory years of grades five and six, mostly English, and the so-called bilingual subjects, such as Geography or History, where another language is used as primary means of communication (Arbeitssprache).(cf. Wildhage and Otten 2003:14)

In order to avoid confusions, I will constantly employ the last definition of bilingual education in the further development of this thesis as it is the basis for the concept of bilingual education that is implemented in German schools. Due to the fact that there is no matching adjective that could substitute ’bilingual’ in terms like bilingual subjects or bilingual class, I will continue to make use of it always with reference to the above-mentioned definition, unless a different use is stated explicitly. The expression defining the ’normal’ English program in grammar schools will be ’traditional program’ as it does not include any rating of one of the programs being more advantageous than the other.

3.2. History and Structure

Caused by the formation of German-French bilingual programs in Germany in the year 1963 and the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, more and more bilingual programs with English rather than French were introduced into the educational system (cf. Werner 2007:21). Figures of the Kultusministerkonferenz show that the number of schools with bilingual programs only with German and English as languages has risen from 250 in the year 1999 (cf. Otten and Wildhage 2003:15) to approximately 499 in 2007 with a tendency to increase even more throughout the next years due to growing demand (cf. Werner 2007:22). North-Rhine Westphalia is home to the highest number of grammar schools with 85 schools offering German-English bilingual programs. However, bilingual programs are not limited to a specific school form, they furthermore can now be found to the same extent in Gesamtschulen, Realschulen as well as Grundschulen in every part of Germany (cf. Werner 2007:22).

English is the predominant language used in those bilingual programs as a reason of being the mother tongue in several countries around the globe, such as Great Britain, the United States and Australia, being an international lingua franca, incorporating the status of an official language in countries like India, for instance, and due to its great importance within Germany itself as it is used to deal with certain economic, scientific, political or cultural perspectives. (MSJKNRW 1995:8)

Since the concept of bilingual programs is relatively ’new’, there is only few material that was created particularly for this language learning context. Especially, the bilingual subjects do not have standardized material to work with, also caused by the differences within the German states as well as the schools, which offer the programs. Merely, those bilingual subjects that are widespread like the social sciences Geography and History, for example, have received their own classroom aids (cf. Otten and Wildhage 2003:16), while the content is bound to the curriculum of the subject itself. The situation might have changed to some extent in the recent years, but still there are more and more bilingual subjects integrated into the existing or new bilingual programs so that improved guidelines have to be developed in order to keep up with the changes in society and the respective educational systems.

The general structure of the bilingual program is identical in every school within Germany, while the bilingual subjects and the material can be chosen freely as long as it follows the given curriculum. That means that during the first two years of participation in the bilingual program, there will be a more intensive English-language instruction, signifying two hours more per week. Following this preparation phase, the first bilingual subject will be introduced und taught with one hour more per week than the traditional subject in German. Then, two additional bilingual subjects are introduced, but there are never more than two taught simultaneously. After the successful completion of the Abitur, the students that have participated in the bilingual program receive a certificate that displays their accomplishments in the different subjects and proves their involvement in the program (cf. Niemeier 2005:34).

Due to its great success and the constantly growing demand, schools offering bilingual programs are increasing not only within Germany, but within Europe. Their aim is the development of multilingualism as a reason of the European countries growing together and its resulting cultural, social and economic influence (cf. Bach 2005:9).

3.3. Bilingual Subjects

Before turning to the essence of the three selected bilingual subjects, it is necessary to mention the basis set for their successful introduction, which is the introductory English class in grades five and six. In contrast to the bilingual subjects that do, by now, have specific guidelines, bilingual English instruction, meaning the higher amount of language classes in order to reach a certain standard of communicative competence, lacks a curriculum that defines its content. Therefore, the realizations differ within states and schools. The objective of this change is to prepare students for the high demands of the bilingual subjects with the help of developing skills like listening, reading, speaking and writing and working techniques related to the subject, such as, information research on the internet. Besides, grammar and vocabulary as well as working techniques related to learning like presentations or text production, for example, (cf. Whittaker 2003:170fi)

Throughout the years, the amount of bilingual subjects has increased and currently there is no limitation to a specific category anymore. They reach from natural-scientific subjects, such as Biology, to social sciences like Geography, History and Politics to occupation-oriented subjects, such as Business or Economics, to art, music and sport as potential possibilities (cf. Otten and Wildhage 2003:17). The social sciences belong to the category that is integrated in the majority of bilingual programs. The investigated grammar school also offers subjects in this category, which is why they will be taken a closer look at. Since there is nothing like a universal curriculum for every state in Germany that sets the standards for the material employed in bilingual education, North-Rhine Westphalia was chosen as state to be the main provider of information on the content and objectives of the bilingual subjects. Naturally, there are differences in the curricula of other states, which are not displayed in the following description as the later-mentioned grammar school is located in North-Rhine Westphalia.

3.3.1. Geography, Politics and History

Geography is one of the three subjects that belong to the social sciences category and is oftentimes the first bilingual subject taught in the student’s bilingual school career. Reasons for this are the comparatively low complexity of the content that can be combined with the student’s relatively low level of English language competence, which is why it serves well as an ’introductory’ bilingual subject in grade seven, (cf. Haupt and Biederstädt 2003:46) The main objective of the bilingual subject Geography is described by the Ministerium für Schule, Jugend und Kinder des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen in the following way:

Der fremdsprachliche Erdkundeunterricht führt zu einer quantitativen und qualitativ en Erweiterung der sprachlichen Fertigkeiten, die nicht nur der fachsprachlichen Kommunikation dienen. Sie führen ebenso zu einer erhöhten allgemeinsprachlichen Kompetenz. (MSJKNRW 1995:14)

Thus, the focus is on guaranteeing that language competence can be improved by selecting topics that are based on the guidelines of the traditional Geography curriculum and simultaneously building on the existing knowledge in order to reach the aim named above. To achieve this goal the content of the first year, in which the bilingual subject is taught, is closely related to the content of the Geography instruction in German during the first two years of school, namely grades five and six. (cf. MSJK NRW 1995:15) From then on, more complex topics and material can be made use of, which will be increased gradually depending on the grade levels of the students.

The next subject introduced in the sequence of grade levels is Politics. It is mostly taught in grade eight together with Geography and in grade ten in combination with History. The intention connected to the selection of this subject is to deepen the knowledge gained in English as well as the first bilingual subjects and to increase the level of complexity in a gradual manner. One of the defined objectives of the bilingual subject Politics is again explicitly stated by the Ministerium für Schule, Jugend und Kinder des Landes Nordrhein­Westfalen : "Der Politikunterricht trägt dazu bei, die Fähigkeit und die Bereitschaft des Individuums zu verantwortlichem Handeln im sozialen, politischen und wirtschaftlichen Bereich zu entwickeln." (MSJK NRW b 1994:15)

This emphasizes the technical knowledge that has to be imparted to the students, but the parallel transmission of linguistic knowledge contributes to the same extent to the concept of not only this bilingual subject. Just like the content of Geography, the topics that are dealt with in Politics throughout the years are based on the specific guidelines summarized in the curriculum of the German subject.

The last bilingual subject belonging to the social sciences category is History. It is often mentioned to be a Leitfach and one of the most important subjects in bilingual education with a distribution among schools within Germany of more than 30 percent, (cf. Wildhage 2003:77) It is introduced as a bilingual subject in grade level nine and ten as a certain competence level in English and experience gained in other bilingual subjects is a prerequisite in order to master its content and the linguistic challenges connected to it.

Here also the curricula for the German subjects create the basis for the content of the bilingual History class and thus also the Ministerium für Schule, Jugend und Kinder des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen employs the objective definition of German history:

Die Schülerinnen und Schüler sollen mit Hilfe des Geschichtsunterrichts die Fähigkeit und Bereitschaft entwickeln, sich mit den in der Gesellschaft vorzufindenden geschichtlichen Elementen und Strukturen auseinanderzusetzen und im Prozeß des ständigen Tradierens und Verändems geschichtlicher Vorstellungen selbständiges geschichtliches Urteilsvermögen auszubilden. Ein solchermaßen überprüfbares, korrigierbares und entwicklungsfähiges Geschichtsbewußtsein ist eine wichtige Voraussetzung für eine mündige Teilnahme am demokratischen Gemeinwesen. (MSJK NRW c 1994:16)

The language dimension of course should not be neglected because English is the foreign language primarily used to achieve this objective.

3.4. Strengths and Weaknesses

Not without reason I selected the concept of bilingual education, that has been part of the German educational system for such a long time, in connection to being a special case in the heading to this section. Special in the way that it is different from traditional ways of education and that it adds a new dimension to foreign language teaching that has been praised as well as criticized. Some of the main arguments and opinions of researchers in favor and against bilingual education will be presented in the following paragraphs starting with the discovered weaknesses.

The main problem encountered and often discussed in bilingual education is the so-called Dilemma des bilingualen Fachunterrichts, which is defined as "Diskrepanz zwischen den fremdsprachlichen und den kognitiven Möglichkeiten der Lernenden in den Sachfächem." (Thürmann 2005:71) In other words, students might have the problem to know the correct answer to a question but cannot express themselves because the competence level in the foreign language is not yet developed enough. The foreign language is more regarded as an obstacle rather than a tool to promote the language competence, at least, in the bilingual subjects, (cf. Viebrock 2007:290) This has also contributed to the discussion on whether the language or the content should be central in bilingual subjects. According to the existing curricula, there is no doubt that the content should be identical to the subjects taught in the mother tongue German, which leads to another weakness connected to bilingual education.

It is the lack of standardization when it comes to bilingual education as a whole. Of course, thanks to recent developments there is an increasing amount of material available, but still the realizations of bilingual programs differentiate across the country and even among schools of the same state. Teachers oftentimes need to create their own material and do not receive a specific training pointing to the challenges of bilingual education. Even in the Abitur there is no difference made between students of bilingual and students of traditional English programs, although it was proven more than once that there is an obvious discrepancy between the two when it comes to language competence, (cf. Caspari et al. 2007:224) Additionally, there are many researchers that put forward that bilingual education is only for a specific group of people and exclusive for the rest due to the selection criteria and the limited offerings, which causes a negative image of the program to arise. This does not mean that the concept as a whole is not advantageous, but that it needs guidelines in order to solve the little problems that lead to this arising criticism.

The most important strength of bilingual education, on the other hand, is without doubt its reaction to the societal changes and the ongoing globalization that leads to a focus on the mastery of more than one language. "In einem zusammenwachsendem Europa und in einer Welt, die von zunehmender Globalisierung bestimmt wird, führt am bilingualen Unterricht kein Weg vorbei." (Bell et al. 2008:36) Especially, in monolingual countries like Germany, the inclusion of languages like English or French in bilingual programs is necessary to compete in these new preconditions. With regard to professional life this strength becomes extremely clear. A high degree of competence in this language is prerequisite for success in the job and advance communicative skills, (cf. Niemeier 2005:25)

Also to be mentioned is the higher level of competence in the foreign language, which has been investigated in multiple studies with foci on written or oral communication and also listening skills, for example, (cf. Viebrock 2007:287f; Bell et al. 2008:37) In comparison to traditional English programs there is always a higher observable degree of language competence, (cf. Vollmer 2005:52) ’Getting two for the price of one’ is the suitable denomination for a concept that highlights the intention of bilingual education, namely to parallely teach technical and foreign language knowledge, (cf. Vollmer 2005:54) Wolfgang Zydatiß puts it in the following way:

Indem sich die Schule dieses Profil gibt und die Schülerinnen) sich in der Weise damit identifizieren, dass sie über mehrere Jahrgangsstufen die erhöhten intellektuellen und affektiven Anstrengungen eines verstärkten Fremdsprachenunterrichts und eines fremdsprachig geführten Sachfachunterrichts auf sich nehmen und bewältigen, werden Kompetenzen in der „fremden“ Arbeitssprache ausgebildet, die deutlich differenzierter und im Gesamtniveau höherwertig sind als das in Regelklassen erreichte Sprachkönnen. (Zydatiß 2007:161)

Furthermore, it is also regarded as a strength that bilingual programs have a strong motivational dimension. Students describe the bilingual program to be a challenge, which shows that the educational concept contributes to positive evaluations. Bilingual education also contributes to a higher cultural openness and international contacts that cannot be observed in other programs, (cf. Viebrock 2007:293)

All in all, it seems as if the weaknesses of bilingual education have evolved because of the concept being relatively new and lacking standardization as well as guidelines, which causes various problems and their individual solutions to arise. New research conducted, helps to improve the situation, to solve encountered problems and to create a successful educational program with focus on English as a foreign language. The criticism should be taken seriously in order to contribute to a higher degree of satisfaction of the researchers and, above all, the students participating in the bilingual program.

4. Methodology

In order to connect the two concepts of bilingual education as well as language competence and simultaneously to support the theoretical information by a practical analysis of the actual situation in English classrooms within Germany, a questionnaire was composed. The intention was to find out how accurate the students’ self-assessment of their language competence in English will be. Furthermore, the teachers’ opinions were investigated with respect to how they would assess their student’s language competence and the overall gain or loss of the bilingual program at their school. Apart from these very central points, the student’s experience with the English language, demographic data and attitudes towards English were taken into consideration in order to create a full picture of background information combined with personal assessments. The detailed information about the composition of the questionnaire and the extent of the survey can be found in the following paragraphs.

4.1. Participants and Procedure

Due to personal experience and connection to this school, the Gymnasium am Wirteltor in Düren (North Rhine Westphalia) was selected as participating educational institution, which is home to both a traditional and a bilingual branch of English education. Within that school, different grade levels were selected, including sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth grade, in order to distribute the questionnaire among a traditional as well as a bilingual English class each level. The two-year timeframe between the classes was selected to be able to detect possible gradual changes or linear developments and to make the results as comparable as possible. With the help and coordination of an English teacher, the questionnaires could be distributed within two days, while the average time to answer the full document amounted to 15 minutes depending on grade level.

The second part of the survey was dedicated to the evaluations of English teachers working at the respective grammar school. Their questionnaire was passed around during the first day as the responses required a more extensive consideration of the selected questions. Caused by the larger scale of the teacher’s questionnaire, the turnaround time took two days since the possibility to take the survey home was given.

4.1.1. The Questionnaire and its composition

The questionnaire that has been used to support the findings of the theoretical part, is composed of a main set of questions that is the same for every student regardless of his or her grade level. Additionally, it contains questions that are specific either to the two forms of English education, meaning traditional or bilingual, or the current grade level of the student.

The introduction of the questionnaire, explaining the reasons for the survey and giving hints on how to work with the questions, is written in German to make sure that the instruction is understood without problems. Questions that are identical for every participating grade concern personal data of the student, which is not directly related to his or her self­assessment and evaluation of the English class. These include the student’s grade level (6, 8, 10, 12), English program (traditional or bilingual), age and finally language background, meaning other mother tongues or fluently spoken languages.

Following the personal data is a basic construct of questions that can be encountered in all questionnaires with small modifications due to differences in the selected English program or grade level, as already mentioned above. Three different question types reoccur throughout the questionnaire as well as three categories can be identified as main source for their content. The question types can be summarized to personal assessment questions that involve a scale from one, indicating easy or little to six, indicating hard or much, selection questions, where either one or more answers are possible and open questions that allow free thoughts and opinions to be expressed. The last question of every questionnaire is an exception and will be explained later. With respect to content, questions related to English instruction in general and the student’s assessments of their English class make up the main category. These relate to participation in class, comprehension of the classes’ content, consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of the two educational programs and an evaluation of how easy or difficult they consider reading, listening, speaking and writing. Another category of questions relates to the reasons for participating in the respective educational program, hinting at the motivational perspective and their attitude towards the English language. The final category is more concerned with English outside of the classroom setting that also takes the student’s surroundings and experiences made with English as an important factor of language learning into consideration.

The students in grade level six and eight of the traditional as well as the bilingual English program were provided with a questionnaire comprised of fourteen questions in German in order to avoid language problems. The difference between the two is, however, that question number seven, seeking to find out about the reasons for choosing their English program, contains other statements for the traditional compared to the bilingual classes. In this case, the bilingual class of grade eight can be regarded as special because their questionnaire contains an extra question on their additional bilingual subjects.

When it comes to the questionnaires of the tenth and twelfth grade, bilingual and traditional, the major modification is that English is the language, in which the questions are written. The higher level of English language competence is the reason for this change. In addition to the basic set of questions, those two grade levels received two more open questions that aimed at their opinion about advantages and disadvantages of the bilingual as well as the traditional English program. These questions were selected due to the students’ greater experience when it comes to English classes. Just like the questionnaire of the bilingual English class in grade eight, the bilingual classes in grades ten and twelve were asked about their bilingual subjects.

Apart from the personal details, basic questions and small variations among the questionnaires, the major component is again identical for every grade level or program type, namely the very last question. It is based on the European Framework of Reference for Languages. The table developed by the Council of Europe and containing the several competence levels in the skill categories listening, reading, speaking (spoken interaction, spoken production) and writing makes a self-assessment possible. Thus, every student had the chance to choose from six different statements per skill that describe his or her language competence in English.

The teacher’s questionnaire is planned differently. Its completion is restricted to English language teachers of bilingual or traditional classes and thus is also identical for every participant. It contains nineteen questions, which need to be answered depending on the grade level and class type that are momentarily taught by the teacher. Here also, the introduction, including an explanation of the questionnaire’s intention and hints of how to deal with the questions, are kept in German to avoid misunderstandings, while the actual questions are phrased in English.

The first five questions are again concerned with finding out about the teacher’s personal details, such as, his or her gender, age, experience as a teacher and the class types as well as the bilingual subjects that are taught. Following these are questions similar to the ones employed in the student’s questionnaire in order to make the results comparable. The teachers were asked to fill out one table based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages per class they actually teach. That means, a teacher of a bilingual and traditional eighth grade as well as a bilingual twelfth grade, for example, had to fill out three tables and give his or her personal assessment of the student’s competence level in English. This method ensures that only those classes are assessed, where a present and actual memory and experience of the teacher exists. In addition to the table, another set of questions following the same answering scheme, namely depending on grade level and class type that is being taught, deals with the same skill categories (reading, listening, speaking, writing), but concentrates on the problems that might occur in these fields of language learning, which consequently can be evaluated by the teachers. Therefore, a scale reaching from one, least problematic, to six, most problematic, was utilized. After this evaluation of their English classes, the teachers were asked to answer a set of open questions that focus on advantages and disadvantages of the bilingual program and on the teacher’s personal opinions of what should be changed or improved. Two of the final questions consist of statements that relate to differences between traditional and bilingual English classes and the importance of bilingual subjects. The questionnaire ends with another open question that is left for remarks or feedback concerning the whole survey or a single question that has aroused interest while working on the answers.

5. Survey Evaluation

As already mentioned in the introduction the main hypothesis of this bachelor’s thesis is that bilingual education leads to a higher language competence in English than traditional education. Other hypotheses, belonging to subcategories of the main research objective or stressing a totally new aspect of language competence and English language education are the following:

- Bilingually raised children, meaning children with two mother tongues, are more likely to choose the bilingual program.
- The motivation, and the fun connected to the English class, of bilingual students is higher than the motivation of students of the traditional program. As a result, the frequency of participation will be higher.
- Speaking is assessed more problematic than writing.

Hypotheses related to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages:

- Higher grade levels are able to assess their language competence in general more accurately than lower grade levels.
- Bilingual students assess their language competence in every category higher than traditional students.

The reasons for making these assumptions, their applicability to the survey and the extent to which they are true or false can be seen in the upcoming evaluation of the survey’s results. Furthermore, there are different diagrams in the appendix of this thesis, which support the results that will be presented.

5.1. Students

The overall number of students that participated in all selected grade levels and both English programs adds up to 186. While there is a tendency towards a higher number of females in the bilingual program and a higher number of males in the traditional English program, both genders in general are almost equally present with 94 girls and 91 boys.


1 Language Competence In connection to bilingual education and second language learning, there is also a linguistic concept that is of high importance, namely language competence. The reason for this is that the full or native-like acquisition is only possible when a certain degree of language competence exists. What it involves, what it means for the learner and where it is used will be explained in this section.

2 Kultusministerkonferenz

3 <> (3rd June 2010)

4 <> (3rd June 2010)

5 <> (3rd June 2010)

6 Ministerium für Schule, Jugend und Kinder des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen

Excerpt out of 67 pages


Assessing English-medium instruction in German grammar schools
A survey of teachers' and students' responses
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen  (Language, Literature and Culture)
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english-medium, bilingual, schools, education, bilingual education, CEFR, Europaeischer Referenzrahmen fuer Sprachen, Schulformen, bilingualer Unterricht, English-Medium instruction, Gymnasium, language, English, Sprachkompetenz, language competence, Sprachen, Sprache, competence, grammar schools, linguistics, Sprachwissenschaft
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Karina Gentgen (Author), 2010, Assessing English-medium instruction in German grammar schools, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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