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A systematic review of the characteristics of effective foreign language teaching to pupils between the ages 7 and 11

What do we want to know?

The Department for Education and Skills has announced that by the end of the decade, in England, every child in Key Stage 2 will be entitled to learn a foreign language.  This review aims to provide research evidence which will inform initial teacher training practices that might be introduced in the context of the expansion of foreign language learning in primary schools.

Who wants to know?

Those involved in teacher education; primary school teachers.

What did we find?  

Since the four studies reviewed were concerned with different aspects of teaching, these results cannot be considered definitive:

  • Teachers' knowledge is important.  It encompasses knowledge about the language; subject- and age-specific teaching methods; resources; the curriculum; the children as individuals and their learning needs.  These aspects need to be included in initial teacher training.
  • Specialist teachers may be more fluent, but primary teachers have the advantage of knowing the school and pupils better, and being able to introduce the language throughout the day.
  • Games, songs and audiovisual resources are useful aids.
  • Transition arrangements need to be in place for continuity across year groups and across Key Stages.
  • Active school leadership support is essential.

What are the implications?

  • Provision of teacher training and professional development opportunities is necessary.

  • Provision of a range of resources and training of teachers to use them is necessary.

  • Motivation of headteachers to provide support and resources is necessary.

  • Mechanisms to ensure continuity between primary and secondary schools are necessary.

  • A number of detailed strategies for primary school teachers are listed in the full report.

How did we get these results?

Four studies were synthesised, published between 1988 and 2003.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Driscoll P, Jones J, Martin C, Graham-Matheson L, Dismore H, Sykes R (2004) A systematic review of the characteristics of effective foreign language teaching to pupils between the ages 7 and 11. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. 

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