Talkin' Proper: The Challenges Facing Students From Non-Traditional Pathways On Initial Teacher Training Courses

Horner, Chris (2002). Talkin' Proper: The Challenges Facing Students From Non-Traditional Pathways On Initial Teacher Training Courses. EdD thesis The Open University.



Against a background of government policy on raising standards and of broadening access to Higher Education and recruitment of teachers in the new millennium, this thesis explores the implications of government policy on promoting standard English for a group of student teachers from non-traditional backgrounds. Focusing on a sample of fourteen student teachers in Essex and London universities, I used semi-structured interviews and a sample of students’ written work to investigate their knowledge about standard English and their competence and confidence in using it. I discovered that there is no clearly agreed definition of standard English in the academic literature, the policy documents or in students’ own discourse, with definitions focussing more on concrete linguistic features or on social or political aspects, depending on the function and purpose of the definition. Discussion of standard English is further complicated by issues of register and the differences between spoken and written English. I found that nonstandard usage in the students’ spoken and written English was confined to a few non-standard constructions. They perceived standard English as the prestige variety from which they had been excluded and were disadvantaged more by lack of confidence than lack of competence. I conclude that every effort should be made by those interested in raising standards to move away from a prescriptive account of language and a simplistic evaluation of subject knowledge. To encourage students from a range of language backgrounds to enter the teaching profession, the revised Initial Teacher Training curriculum should reflect a descriptive model of grammar that recognises the power and potential of language in all its forms.

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