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Does the construction of identity subject positions by male pupils in secondary school hinder their performance in modern foreign languages (MFL) by comparison with girls?

Evans, David Arthur (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Nearing the end of my career as a secondary school Modern Languages (French/Spanish) teacher, I wanted to reflect on some of the problems I had encountered. The most obvious, I felt, was that male secondary school students persistently seemed to perform less well in this subject area than female students. This led me to investigate the social construction of gender, learner identity and the ideologies surrounding MFL. I did this by investigating the role of language and discourse in the construction of culture, identities and ideologies.

The research paradigm is interpretivist and the design is case study, investigating the cultural meanings students construct in the context of MFL. The methodology combines classroom observations and interviews across student population samples in Key Stages 3 & 4. Findings show that MFL learning is a cultural activity, ideologically constructed in discourse. Secondly, findings show that a positive learner identity towards MFL contributes to a greater cultural involvement within the language, rather than solely to its external economic goals, and to an emerging MFL cultural identity. This learner cultural identity is more typically, although not exclusively associated with girls as an absolute since gender is seen as a social construction rather than a priori. Further findings also show that some socially constructed male identities tending towards ‘laddishness’ can disadvantage boys in MFL and the implications for this are for a wider discourse exploring notions of cultural diversity not only in MFL but also in personal identities.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Creese, Angela
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:School of Education
Subjects:LB Theory and practice of education
PB Modern European Languages
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:2891
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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