Supporting teachers to implement a pre-primary programme: changes in teacher beliefs and attitudes
Keywords:Pre-primary, Foreign Language Pedagogy, Change-management, Innovation
The integration of a foreign language into early childhood education is becoming more and more widespread. Yet there is a lack of specific teacher training and no clearly-defined pre-primary foreign language pedagogy to guide and support teachers. This article presents data from a recent initiative by a provider of out-of-school English classes in Europe to support teachers in implementing a pre-primary programme and in developing pre-primary foreign language pedagogy. This formed part of a wider change-management and innovation process looking at higher efficiencies and effectiveness, and bringing together in one coherent approach best practice throughout the region in the teaching of English to pre-primary children. The pre-primary programme is underpinned by the pedagogical principles of the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework and the HighScope approach to early childhood education with its overarching ‘plan-do-review’ structure for learning sequences which values children’s voices and agency. Initially, there was some apprehension amongst teachers due to a lack of experience of teaching pre-primary children and some resistance from others who believed that young children are not capable of reflecting on their learning or of making choices about their learning. An important feature of the change-management process was the implementation of a normative-re-educative approach and the provision of ongoing training and professional development. This involved teachers in the adaptation of the organisation’s global statement of approach to English language teaching to an age-appropriate version for a pre-primary context in order to develop pre-primary foreign language pedagogy. It also encouraged teachers to re-examine their existing beliefs and attitudes in order to recognise children’s reflective capacities given appropriate support and scaffolding, and to rethink the power dynamics in the adult-child relationship moving to one of more shared control. Data from surveys conducted with teachers at the initial stage of the programme and 18 months later provides evidence which shows that, over time, teacher’s beliefs and attitudes have changed. Conclusions are drawn from the experience of the project and the factors influencing changes in teacher’s views are discussed.