The Sixth Form Perspective


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The Sixth Form Perspective

  1. 1. As Simple as ABC?: Issues of Transition for English Language A Level Students going on to study English Language/ Linguistics in Higher Education THE SIXTH FORM PERSPECTIVE Angela Goddard & Adrian Beard York St John University
  2. 2. Data Sources: AS Level students <ul><li>April 2006: 271 questionnaires - students asked to </li></ul><ul><li>rate their courses for interest, relevance, variety </li></ul><ul><li>(12 Comps, 4 Ind, 3 FE, 1Gr, 1 6 th coll) </li></ul><ul><li>July 2006: 3 focus groups (32 students) intending </li></ul><ul><li>to go to university. Asked about language topics </li></ul><ul><li>they hoped to study, and about learning and </li></ul><ul><li>teaching in school/HE </li></ul><ul><li>(10 Comps, 1 Gr, 1 FE) </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>April 2006: 3 focus groups of teachers </li></ul><ul><li>accompanying AS students – asked about </li></ul><ul><li>approaches to teaching and learning, links </li></ul><ul><li>with HE (5 Comps, 3 Ind, 2 FE, 1 6 th coll) </li></ul><ul><li>June & October 2006: 61 teachers on INSET </li></ul><ul><li>programmes questioned about their subject </li></ul><ul><li>knowledge & previous training </li></ul>Data Sources: A Level Teachers
  4. 4. National assessment: Who’s Who <ul><li>QCA </li></ul><ul><li>AQA </li></ul><ul><li>EDEXCEL </li></ul><ul><li>OCR </li></ul><ul><li>WJEC </li></ul><ul><li>CCEA </li></ul>
  5. 5. National assessment: Time line <ul><li>6 module system finishes with A2 in 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>4 module system begins for AS in 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>This means new specifications with some material inevitably ‘lost’ </li></ul>
  6. 6. AS/A2 Numbers <ul><li>Figures for Summer 2006: </li></ul><ul><li>AS: 24,387 (c.67% female, 33% male) </li></ul><ul><li>A2: 18,370 ( c.64% female, 36% male) </li></ul>
  7. 7. English Language: QCA Assessment Objectives 2008 <ul><li>Linguistic methods & terminology </li></ul><ul><li>Concepts and issues in the construction and analysis of spoken and written language </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding of context </li></ul><ul><li>Expertise and creativity in the use of English </li></ul><ul><li>Show knowledge of key constituents of language </li></ul>
  8. 8. AS/A2 CONTENT <ul><li>Common to all courses in 2008: </li></ul><ul><li>familiarity with traditional notions of language ‘levels’ </li></ul><ul><li>analysis of varieties of spoken and written data, including texts over time </li></ul><ul><li>study of some sociolinguistic topics </li></ul><ul><li>an individual research investigation into an area of language study </li></ul><ul><li>students producing their own texts through various kinds of writing (and perhaps speaking) </li></ul>
  9. 9. English Language Units (AQA Spec B from 2008) <ul><li>Categorising Texts : (genre theory ) </li></ul><ul><li>Creating Texts: Analysis of a style model; creation of own text; analytical commentary </li></ul><ul><li>3. Developing Language: acquisition and change </li></ul><ul><li>4. Investigating Language: Data collection & analysis; creation of a media representation of this </li></ul>
  10. 10. From National to Local <ul><li>In effect the ‘national’ A level specification becomes customised at a more local level depending on the nature of the institution and its students </li></ul><ul><li>So a multicultural comprehensive is likely to take a different approach to content and principles from a monocultural grammar school ( if it does English Language at all) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Grade A <ul><li>At A level approximately 13% are awarded grade A </li></ul><ul><li>The comparative figure for English Literature is approximately 25% </li></ul>
  12. 12. STUDENTS INTENDING TO TAKE ANOTHER SUBJECT TO HE <ul><li>When asked which subject at HE, from 202 responses, 76 different subjects were named including: </li></ul><ul><li>Architecture, Art and Design, Business, Chemistry, Dance, Fashion, Film, Geography, History, Law, Maths, Media, Medicine, MFL, Nursing, PE, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Teaching, Theology, Vet Science </li></ul>
  13. 13. AS Students <ul><li>Had enjoyed: </li></ul><ul><li>Accent and dialect work </li></ul><ul><li>Representation </li></ul><ul><li>Original writing </li></ul><ul><li>Language & gender </li></ul><ul><li>Language in the media </li></ul><ul><li>Language & technology </li></ul><ul><li>Saw their learning as: </li></ul><ul><li>Group-oriented </li></ul><ul><li>Participatory </li></ul><ul><li>Interactive & discursive </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Independence’ meant </li></ul><ul><li>presenting own ideas; </li></ul><ul><li>reading, if set, was in order </li></ul><ul><li>to do a task afterwards </li></ul>
  14. 14. Independent Reading <ul><li>32 AS students had indicated they might go on to read English Language </li></ul><ul><li>3 said they had been given a reading list </li></ul><ul><li>19 had no recommended reading at all </li></ul><ul><li>10 had been given short readings and extracts to study </li></ul>
  15. 15. AS Students <ul><li>Hoped HE courses would offer: </li></ul><ul><li>Language acquisition </li></ul><ul><li>Language & gender </li></ul><ul><li>Language in the media </li></ul><ul><li>Accents & dialects </li></ul><ul><li>Language & power </li></ul><ul><li>Sociolinguistics </li></ul><ul><li>Expected HE courses to involve: </li></ul><ul><li>A wider range of teaching staff </li></ul><ul><li>Very small interactive sessions as well as lectures </li></ul><ul><li>Essay writing and independent study </li></ul>
  16. 16. STUDENTS INTENDING TO CONTINUE SUBJECT TO HE <ul><li>On 5 point scale they rated their A level English Language: </li></ul><ul><li>Interest: 87% Excellent – Good </li></ul><ul><li>Relevance: 77% Excellent – Good </li></ul><ul><li>Variety : 60% Excellent – Good </li></ul>
  17. 17. A Level Teachers <ul><li>In their own teaching, try: </li></ul><ul><li>Not to be too didactic </li></ul><ul><li>To work from data </li></ul><ul><li>To encourage </li></ul><ul><li>independence </li></ul><ul><li>To accommodate a wide </li></ul><ul><li>range of ability levels and </li></ul><ul><li>needs </li></ul><ul><li>In their subject knowledge, </li></ul><ul><li>many feel: </li></ul><ul><li>That teaching A Level Lang </li></ul><ul><li>is rewarding but… </li></ul><ul><li>That they are under – </li></ul><ul><li>prepared for some aspects </li></ul><ul><li>of the subject and… </li></ul><ul><li>Unfamiliar with the HE </li></ul><ul><li>sector in this subject </li></ul>
  18. 18. Teacher Subject Knowledge <ul><li>61 ‘1st time’ teachers were surveyed </li></ul><ul><li>1.Did you teacher training include A level language? Yes : 12 No : 49 </li></ul><ul><li>2. Do you need help with subject knowledge as much as methodology? Yes 53 No: 8 </li></ul>
  19. 19. UCAS: WHAT’S THE SUBJECT CALLED? <ul><li>English leads to </li></ul><ul><li>English Language as one option </li></ul><ul><li>English Linguistics Studies as another </li></ul><ul><li>…………………………………………… </li></ul><ul><li>English Language then offers courses in </li></ul><ul><li>both English Language and English </li></ul><ul><li>Language and Linguistics but… </li></ul><ul><li>..English Linguistics Studies offers neither </li></ul>
  20. 20. UCAS: WHAT’S THE SUBJECT CALLED? <ul><li>What do the following courses mean? </li></ul><ul><li>English and English Language </li></ul><ul><li>English Language and English </li></ul><ul><li>English with English Language & Communication </li></ul><ul><li>English and Language and Linguistics </li></ul><ul><li>English Studies and English Language/Linguistics </li></ul>
  21. 21. WHAT’S THE SUBJECT CALLED? <ul><li>Questions for internal consideration: </li></ul><ul><li>What is meant by English ? </li></ul><ul><li>Are subject/course names the result of institutional battles and compromises? </li></ul><ul><li>What do your course names mean outside of your own peer group? </li></ul><ul><li>What are you saying ‘about this degree’ in UCAS site? For example, what does this entry requirement mean?: “English Literature or English – Language & Literature required” </li></ul>
  22. 22. STUDENT EXPERIENCE AT LEVEL 1 <ul><li>Question: Was A Level English Language a </li></ul><ul><li>good preparation for your degree course? </li></ul><ul><li>Yes = 112 ( 78%) No = 32 ( 22%) </li></ul>
  23. 23. STUDENT EXPERIENCE AT LEVEL 1 <ul><li>Question: Did you repeat any material from A Level in level </li></ul><ul><li>1of your degree? </li></ul><ul><li>Yes = 96 ( 71%) No = 40 (29%) </li></ul><ul><li>Question : Did the repetition bother you? </li></ul><ul><li>Yes = 4% No = 96% </li></ul><ul><li>Question: Has your course so far matched your </li></ul><ul><li>expectations of what it would be when you applied? </li></ul><ul><li>Yes = 180 ( 82%) No = 39 ( 18%) </li></ul>
  24. 24. STUDENT VOICES AT LEVEL 1 <ul><li>At A Level I was guided through the course. I had contact </li></ul><ul><li>with my tutor at least three times a week on a one to one </li></ul><ul><li>basis and my class size was never above 10. University </li></ul><ul><li>teaching is quite daunting, particularly the size of lectures </li></ul><ul><li>and the lack of personal tutoring </li></ul><ul><li>Independent learning is studying from home or </li></ul><ul><li>library, but doing it on your own…I do it…but motivation </li></ul><ul><li>can be affected when there seems to be too little guidance </li></ul>
  25. 25. LECTURERS’ VOICES <ul><li>Students are especially able to say things about texts . </li></ul><ul><li>Some students worry about structural aspects and are scared of difficulty. </li></ul><ul><li>They lack the confidence to analyse because they are uncertain of the metalanguage. </li></ul>
  26. 26. OVERVIEW FROM HE PERSPECTIVE <ul><li>Where lecturers knew about the nature of A Level work, they tended to be more positive about their students’ abilities </li></ul><ul><li>There was a general perception that students arrived with a culture of dependency and insecurity </li></ul><ul><li>Most lecturers were concerned about their students’ lack of metalinguistic knowledge </li></ul>
  27. 27. Conclusions & recommendations for HE <ul><li>HE programmes – transparency & naming </li></ul><ul><li>HE tutors - knowledge of A Level helps </li></ul><ul><li>Metalanguage – how can it be best approached? </li></ul><ul><li>Teacher training/links with school sector </li></ul><ul><li>Independent learning – what is it? how can it be developed in HE contexts? </li></ul><ul><li>Planning for transition – eg front-loading of resources </li></ul>
  28. 28. LAST WORD <ul><li>I have found the transition from a level to degree to be quite a natural progression. I think I would have struggled with this degree course if I had not taken English Language at A level . </li></ul>