[lg policy] bibitem: 'Knowledge about Language': policy, rationales and practices

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 22 13:03:39 UTC 2010

'Knowledge about Language': policy, rationales and practices
Authors: Rosamond Mitchell - Rosamond Mitchell is a Reader in
Education, Christopher Brumfit is Professor of Language and
Linguistics in Education, and Janet Hooper is a Senior Research Fellow
at the University of Southampton.; Christopher Brumfit ;Janet Hooper
DOI: 10.1080/0267152940090204
Publication Frequency: 4 issues per year
Published in:  Research Papers in Education, Volume 9, Issue 2 June
1994 , pages 183 - 205
Subject: Educational Research;
Formats available: PDF (English)
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This paper provides an overview of a project funded by ESRC from
1991-1993 within the framework of the 'Quality of Teaching and
Learning' initiative, titled ' “Knowledge about Language”, Language
Learning and the National Curriculum'.

The term 'Knowledge about Language' (KAL) has become current in
curriculum debates since the late 1980s as a new title for an old
concern: that pupils learning languages in formal settings should
acquire some explicit understandings and knowledge of the nature of
language, alongside the development of practical language skills. In
this paper, we first review the range of rationales which have been
advanced in support of this position, and a number of competing
definitions of KAL, and comment on the absence of consensus achieved
so far. We then report on two empirical studies undertaken within the

The main study was an empirical investigation of the teaching of
English and of modern foreign languages at year 9 in three case-study
schools, which documented teachers' current beliefs and practices with
regard to KAL through both observation and interview. We provide
accounts of the current state of year-9 pupils' knowledge in five
distinct KAL areas, elicited through a range of group discussion
tasks. Finally, we discuss year-9 pupils' use of KAL in language
performance, and the relationship between their developing
understanding of language and language learning.

In an extension study, interview data gathered by another project
within the initiative, and concerned with the effective teaching of
English and history, were re-analysed for supplementary information on
teachers' and pupils' knowledge, beliefs and practices with respect to
KAL at year 7. In addition, the place of metacomment and reflection in
the teaching of history was briefly examined.

Overall, the project revealed substantial levels of KAL-related
activity in English and modern languages, and some suggestions of its
positive contribution to learning, especially for control and planning
in writing. However, given the fragmented and episodic nature of much
KAL work, its full potential contribution to pupils' development as
language users is not currently being realized. A more consistent
developmental perspective on KAL, and further clarification of both
goals and content, are needed to guide teachers in this aspect of
their work.

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