Background/Context: Little research to date has examined the honors foreign language classroom or how it differs from its non-honors counterpart. This study examines possible differences between the two kinds of classrooms and what factors may affect these differences.
Purpose/objective/research question/focus on study:
The researcher observed a total of 54 honors and non-honors French and Spanish classes at all levels at a high school in a Midwestern state to ascertain the instructional practices used therein. He also administered questionnaires to and interviewed the seven teachers of these classes regarding the classroom practices he observed and the factors that may have influenced these practices, focusing particularly on any differences between the high- and low-tier classes.
Setting: A high school of 1,900 students in a small town in a Midwestern state.
Subjects: Seven high school teachers of French and Spanish.
Research Design: This study incorporates analysis of the lesson content of the two kinds of classes using the chi-square technique and qualitative techniques to analyze the data yielded by questionnaires and open-ended interviews with each teacher.
Findings: A highly significant statistical relationship exists between the tier of class (honors v. non-honors) and the type of language activity (form-focused v. communicative). Analysis of teachersí narratives also reveals several factors that enter into play in shaping their instructional practices. These include: (1) studentsí preferences for specific teaching styles and instructional emphases; (2) honors studentsí desire for the prestige that comes from enrollment in high-tier classes; (3) studentsí level of motivation for language learning; and (4) studentsí level of engagement in their language learning.
Conclusions: The researcher concludes that foreign language educators must address the issue of reserving communicative teaching for elite students for the professionís future viability.