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Difficulties assessing knowledge of grammatical terminology: implications for teacher education and teaching

Bell, Huw and Ainsworth, Steph (2019) Difficulties assessing knowledge of grammatical terminology: implications for teacher education and teaching. Language Awareness. ISSN 0965-8416 (In Press)

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Abstract

This paper starts by reporting on the design and trialling of an informal, low-stakes test designed to assess the knowledge of grammar terms of pre-service primary school teachers following the UK’s National Curriculum, the results of which were used to inform the design of a series of optional grammar classes. The test proved surprisingly difficult to design, and the final version contains many flaws, some predictable and some less so. In this paper we describe the design process and illustrate the difficulties we encountered, using evidence from our contemporaneous discussions and notes, as well as qualitative feedback and selected results from student teachers’ test scores. We speculate on the extent to which the problems of our test reflect underlying issues with our understanding of the nature of declarative grammatical knowledge; these issues are likely to be relevant in all contexts where formal grammar is taught. We also draw out specific implications for the grammatical framework used in the English National Curriculum, and the associated tests of grammar, punctuation and spelling currently in use.

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