Beliefs and experiences in the English classroom: Perspectives of Swedish primary school learners

Main Article Content

Maria Nilsson

Abstract

This study investigates how Swedish learners make sense of and perceive English instruction and the process of foreign language learning in a target language-only primary school classroom. In small group discussions, 26 learners aged 9-10 were audio recorded while discussing questions related to their language learner beliefs and their classroom experiences. Learners expressed a strong consensus about the importance of both the teacher’s extensive target language input and the learners’ oral engagement, in alignment with the beliefs of the teacher. However, the analysis identified three mismatches among high anxiety learners in this context, related to incomprehensible teacher talk, social fear of making mistakes and classroom organization. As their voiced beliefs were at odds with their emotionally guided behavior of refraining from asking questions or volunteering to speak, their sense of agency was reduced. In this context, the target language-only approach appeared to have a negative impact on the emotional, organizational and instructional dimensions of foreign language instruction for many of the young learners. The findings illustrate the interrelated dynamics of beliefs, emotions and classroom context, and contribute to our understanding of learners’ foreign language anxiety and sense of agency in the primary foreign language classroom.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

Section
Articles
Author Biography

Maria Nilsson, Stockholm University, Sweden

Maria Nilsson is a PhD student in language education at the Department of Language Education at Stockholm University, Sweden. She has taught various courses within teacher education for primary school teachers. Her research focuses on the perspectives of young language learners in relation to foreign language anxiety, learner beliefs and agency.

Contact details: Department of Language Education, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden (maria.nilsson@isd.su.se)

References

  1. Aragão, R. (2011). Beliefs and emotions in foreign language learning. System, 39(3), 302-313.
  2. Arnold, J. (2011). Attention to affect in language learning. Anglistik. International Journal of English Studies, 22(1), 11-22.
  3. Aro, M. (2009). Speakers and doers: Polyphony and agency in children’s beliefs about language learning (Doctoral dissertation). Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä. https://jyx.jyu.fi/bitstream/handle/123456789/19882/9789513935320.pdf
  4. Barcelos, A. M. F., & Kalaja, P. (2013). Beliefs in second language acquisition: Teacher. In A. C. Chapelle (Ed.), The encyclopedia of applied linguistics. http://doi.org/10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal10083
  5. Brown, A. V. (2009). Students’ and teachers’ perceptions of effective foreign language teaching: A comparison of ideals. Modern Language Journal, 93(1), 46-60.
  6. Copland, F., Garton, S., & Burns, A. (2014). Challenges in teaching English to young learners: Global perspectives and local realities. TESOL Quarterly, 48(4), 738-762.
  7. Copland, F., & Ni, M. (2019). Languages in the young learner classroom. In S. Garton & F. Copland (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of teaching English to young learners (pp. 138-153). New York: Routledge.
  8. Csizér, K. & Kálmán, C. (2019). A study of retrospective and concurrent foreign language learning experiences: A comparative interview study in Hungary. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 9(1), 225-246.
  9. Dufva, H. (2003). Beliefs in dialogue: A Bakhtinian view. In P. Kalaja & A. M. F. Barcelos (Eds.), Beliefs about SLA: New research approaches (pp. 131-151). New York: Springer.
  10. Dufva, H. (2013). Language learning as dialogue and participation. In E. Christensen, L. Kuure, A. Mörch, & B. Lindström (Eds.), Problem-based learning for the 21st century: New practices and learning environments (pp. 51-72). Aalborg: Aalborg University Press.
  11. European Commission. (2012). First European survey on language competences: Final report. https://crell.jrc.ec.europa.eu/sites/default/files/files/eslc/ESLC_Final%20Report_210612.pdf
  12. García-Ponce, E. E., Crawford, T., Lengeling, M. M., & Mora-Pablo, I. (2018). Complexity and likely influence of teachers’ and learners’ beliefs about speaking practice: Effects on and implications for communicative approaches. International Journal of Language Studies, 12(1), 125-146.
  13. Garton, S., & Copland, F. (2019). Introduction. In S. Garton & F. Copland (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of teaching English to young learners (pp. 1-10). New York: Routledge.
  14. Gkonou, C. (2015). Agency, anxiety and activity: Understanding the classroom behavior of EFL learners. In P. Deters, X. Gao, E. R. Miller, & G. Vitonova (Eds.), Theorizing and analyzing agency in second language learning (pp. 195-212). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
  15. Gkonou, C. (2017). Towards an ecological understanding of language anxiety. In C. Gkonou, M. Daubney, & J.-M. Dewaele (Eds.), New insights into language anxiety: Theory, research and educational implications (pp. 136-156). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
  16. Graneheim, U. H., & Lundman, B. (2004). Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: Concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness. Nurse Education Today, 24(2), 105-112.
  17. Horwitz, E. K. (1988). The beliefs about language learning of beginning university foreign language students. Modern Language Journal, 72(3), 283-294.
  18. Horwitz, E. K., Horwitz, M. B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. Modern Language Journal, 70(2), 125-132.
  19. Kalaja, P., & Barcelos, A. M. F. (2013). Beliefs in second language acquisition: Learner. In A. C. Chapelle (Ed.), The encyclopedia of applied linguistics. http://doi.org/10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal10083
  20. Kalaja, P., Barcelos, A. M. F., & Aro, M. (2018). Revisiting research on learner beliefs: Looking back and looking forward. In P. Garrett & J. M. Cots (Eds.), Routledge handbook of language awareness (pp. 222-237). New York: Routledge.
  21. Kalaja, P., Barcelos, A. M. F., Aro, M., & Ruohotie-Lyhty, M. (2016). Beliefs, agency and identity in foreign language learning and teaching. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
  22. Kolb, A. (2007). How languages are learnt: Primary children’s language learning beliefs. International Journal of Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1(2), 227-241.
  23. Kuchah, K., & Pinter, A. (2012). “Was this an interview?” Breaking the power barrier in adult-child interviews in an African context. Issues in Educational Research, 22(3), 283-297.
  24. Macaro, E., & Lee, J. H. (2013). Teacher language background, codeswitching, and English‐only instruction: Does age make a difference to learners’ attitudes? TESOL Quarterly, 47(4), 717-742.
  25. Mahn, H., & John-Steiner, V. (2002). The gift of confidence: A Vygotskian view of emotions. In G. Wells & G. Claxton (Eds.), Learning for life in the 21st century: Sociocultural perspectives on the future of education (pp. 46-58). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
  26. Mercer, S. (2011). Understanding learner agency as a complex dynamic system. System, 39(4), 427-436.
  27. Mihaljević Djigunović, J. (2009). Individual differences in early language programmes. In M. Nikolov (Ed.), The age factor and early language learning (pp. 199-226). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  28. Mihaljević Djigunović, J. (2012). Attitudes and motivation in early foreign language learning. Ceps Journal, 2(3), 55-74.
  29. Mihaljević Djigunović, J. (2015). Individual differences among young EFL learners: Age- or proficiency-related? A look from the affective learner factors perspective. In J. Mihaljević Djigunović & M. Medved Krajnović (Eds.), Early learning and teaching of English: New dynamics of primary English (pp. 10-36). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
  30. Muñoz, C. (2014). Exploring young learners’ foreign language learning awareness. Language Awareness, 23(1-2), 24-40.
  31. Muñoz, C. (2017). Tracing trajectories of young learners: Ten years of school English learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 164-184.
  32. Nilsson, M. (2019). Foreign language anxiety: The case of young learners of English in Swedish primary classrooms. Apples: Journal of Applied Language Studies, 13(2), 1-21.
  33. Ravet, J. (2007). Enabling pupil participation in a study of perceptions of disengagement: Methodological matters. British Journal of Special Education, 34(4), 234-242.
  34. Spyrou, S. (2011). The limits of children’s voices: From authenticity to critical, reflexive representation. Childhood, 18(2), 151-165.
  35. Sylvén, L. K. (Ed.). (2019). Investigating content and language integrated learning: Insights from Swedish high schools. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
  36. Swedish National Agency for Education. (2011). Syllabi for upper secondary school in English. https://www.skolverket.se/download/18.4fc05a3f164131a74181056/1535372297288/English-swedish-school.pdf
  37. Yim, S. Y., & Yu, Y. (2011). Validating the English learning anxiety scale for primary school students in Korea. English Teaching, 66(2), 101-121.
  38. Yoshida, R. (2013). Conflict between learners’ beliefs and actions: Speaking in the classroom. Language Awareness, 22(4), 371-388.