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The influence of beliefs on the teaching practices of high school foreign language teachers

Erin Wagner Mitchell, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The modern foreign language (FL) classroom holds many challenges for FL teachers. Educators have recognized the value of proficiency-oriented instruction and acknowledged that the traditional emphasis on structure of the target language is no longer sufficient. Teachers who are knowledgeable about current research and teaching methodologies and are able to apply these are needed to implement changes in FL education. However, personal experiences in FL learning, teaching, and training can leave teachers with firmly entrenched ideas on how to teach a foreign language. These beliefs affect teachers' classroom practices and how they interpret proficiency-oriented approaches to FL teaching. This dissertation examines the beliefs of six high school FL teachers with different levels of experience. It explores the origins of these beliefs and relationship between these beliefs and teaching practices. This study utilized videotaped classroom sessions, semi-structured interviews, reflective essays, and surveys. This triangulation created an in-depth portrait of each participant and provided extensive information. Participants expressed beliefs reflected their personal FL learning and teaching experiences. Other factors such as interactions with students and colleagues, interactions with a role model, professional development, and choice of teaching approach influenced participants' beliefs. These expressed beliefs were evident in some of the participants' teaching practices and not in others. This mismatch may be due in part to problems at the theory-practice interface (Munby, 1984) and cognitive anchoring. Each of these concepts involves the influence of pre-existing beliefs about FL teaching and learning.

Subject Area

Language arts|Linguistics|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Mitchell, Erin Wagner, "The influence of beliefs on the teaching practices of high school foreign language teachers" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3163689.