MFL teaching

16th June 2000 at 01:00

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON TEACHING AND LEARNING MODERN LANGUAGES. Edited by Simon Green. Multilingual Matters pound;19.95.

It is a confident editor who includes "new" in a book title. But "New perspectives" was worth the risk. Simon Green's book does have some new thinking on modern languages teaching and learning.

This is a collection of work by10 British and Irish authors, most of whom are teacher educators. It includes much new research, spanning all sectors from primary to higher education, with most chapters achieving a good balance between theoretical discussion and classroom application. It will be of interest to those engaged in continuing professional development, mentors and teacher educators.

Though some chapters chart the current educational context, there is some seminal work. Christopher Brumfit proposes a charter to define what the language entitlement of learners could encompass, offering a vision for future interdisciplinary work in schools.

Do Coyle and Kim Brown set an agenda for developing a new modern languages pedagogy. This attempts to turn on its head some of the accepted orthodoxy, for instance, the notion that nglish has no place in the modern foreign languages classroom. Coyle's chapter will be an inspiration to teachers inhibited by teaching topics. She sets out ways of enriching the present curriculum by changing the content of lessons. Motivation is one of her themes. This is picked up again in Gary Chambers's longitudinal study comparing adolescent attitudes with learning in Germany and England. The European perspectives offered by Chambers and Coyle are refreshing.

The Green Paper which appeared last year, Teachers meeting the challenge of change, signals a new national strategy for continuing professional development. The publication of this book is timely. It sets an agenda for professional development in the next decade. Let us hope that this does not simply create a new orthodoxy but that it stimulates debate, which has been sadly lacking in the past decade. It is, in many respects, a challenging read. One of its strengths is that it offers no quick fixes but many pointers to success. Above all it is an optimistic vision for future developments in pedagogy.

Ann Swarbrick is a lecturer in education at the Open University

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