Integrating English as a Foreign Language in Austrian primary schools: contextual and participant perspectives

Millonig, Diana Jean (2015). Integrating English as a Foreign Language in Austrian primary schools: contextual and participant perspectives. EdD thesis The Open University.



Government guidelines in Austria specify that first and second year primary school pupils (age 6-8 years old) should receive their first teaching of a foreign language integrated into the syllabus subjects.
The present study, embedded in the theoretical framework of social constructivist learning and socio-cultural language learning theories, investigated the actual classroom practices of Austrian primary school teachers during the integration of English into the lessons. The main research question ‘How is English as a foreign language taught in the first two years of Austrian primary schools?' required consideration of both the context and the participants and aligned three perspectives: context, teachers and pupils. From the contextual perspective, government legislation and guidance, teacher training institutions, and school management are significant. They influence some aspects of the individual teachers’ competences and attitudes, which in turn affect her or his teaching goals, lesson planning, time allocated to English and other subjects, and choice of classroom activities. The other key participants are the children themselves and their perspective on English learning in the classroom.
Setting out to observe foreign language teaching/learning in Austrian primary schools, the study actually identified a number of disparities in processes and perceptions, and raised questions about how English integration is translated into effective classroom practice. Set in the framework of qualitative mixed methods study design, with data drawn from a combination of case study ethnographic classroom observations, a small scale survey, interviews with academics and teachers, pupil picture questionnaires, documentary evidence and innovative qualitative data elicitation methods adapted to young children, the findings of this study reveal that there is a mismatch between government expectations, teacher training, school policies, and actual teaching practice.

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