Primary Foreign Languages: Beginning teachers’ narratives of beliefs and practices.

  • Marnie Seymour

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research was undertaken within the context of a significantly shifting educational landscape, and at a time when primary schools in England were dealing with the demands presented by curriculum reform in the shape of a new National Curriculum (DfE, 2013). This reform saw foreign languages securing statutory status in Key Stage 2 (KS2) for the first time since the national curriculum was originally introduced in 1988 (HMI, 1988).

The primary aim of this research was to critically explore the developing articulation and conceptualisation of the beliefs and practices of a group of undergraduate primary trainee teachers, specialising in PFLs. This study sought to examine the extent to which the trainees’ practices, as they entered the profession, reflected a sense of congruence or dissonance with their beliefs. Integral to this research was a desire to expose that which both supported and inhibited the development of their understanding and eventual practice in this area of the curriculum.
A narrative inquiry approach was adopted as a means of placing the trainee participants at the centre of the research process (Nespor, 1987; Wideen et al., 1996; Loughran, 2007). Patchwork reflections (Winter, 2003) and narrative interviews were employed as research tools, and a Greimasian (1971) semiotic approach was applied to the analysis of the trainees’ narratives.

Findings reveal the extent to which trainees’ pedagogic beliefs and practices in PFLs, which were strengthened over the course of their training, were subsequently eroded as they entered the profession. The low status of the subject, and the countless demands of the classroom, acted to constrain their practice and discouraged them from attempting to innovate or teach in ways that were congruent with their beliefs. This study, then, makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of how we might successfully support beginning teachers to: firstly, develop powerful, research-informed beliefs about teaching and learning which they are able to translate in concrete ways into their practice and, secondly, empower them to be able to make a positive contribution to PFL provision as they enter the profession.
Date of Award22 Sep 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorJanice De Sousa (Supervisor), Naomi Flynn (Supervisor) & Alastair Daniel (Supervisor)


  • primary trainee teachers
  • beginning teachers
  • primary foreign languages
  • narrative inquiry
  • beliefs
  • practice

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