Primary Modern Languages: the impact of teaching approaches

This longitudinal study will investigate which teaching approaches in the primary modern languages classroom lead to better outcomes for learners. The researchers will look at the effects on pupils’ underlying grammatical knowledge, and also on their readiness for further study at secondary school level. Although several recent projects have focused on foreign language provision in primary schools in England, we do not yet know much about the impact of different teaching approaches in this field.

The study will involve 240 pupils across eight primary schools that teach French as a foreign language. Half of the schools will use an approach focusing mainly on developing oracy skills; the other half will take a more literacy-based approach, where reading and writing activities are integrated alongside oracy skills.

The learners will complete tests designed to assess their underlying grammatical knowledge and its development across Years 5 and 6. They will also complete a questionnaire at the end of Year 6, asking them to express how confident they feel about continuing with language learning, and their current levels of motivation.

The learners will then be tracked into Year 7 and their motivation levels and grammatical understanding assessed using another questionnaire and an adapted form of the previous tests. The children will undertake a final round of tests and a questionnaire in the Spring Term of Year 7, to assess longer-term effects of primary school provision on preparedness for Key Stage 3.

It is anticipated that the findings of the study will have important implications for curriculum design and policy in the primary languages field.

Project details



Professor Suzanne Graham, Dr Theodoros Marinis and Dr Alan Tonkyn, University of Reading

Funding programme:


Grant amount and duration:


1 April 2012 – 31 July 2014