A new grammar pedagogy for the development of cognitive and reflective thinking in secondary education

Submitted by: Astrid Wijnands
Abstract: Traditional L1 grammar teaching suggests that language consists of well-formed sentences only, which can be analyzed indisputably. However, the analysis of spoken or written language rather shows that most sentences are not so well-formed or easy to analyze (Coppen, 2010). Teaching students this language reality may stimulate them to adopt a more critical and reflective attitude towards (prescriptive) grammar, enhancing their engagement with and proficiency in grammatical analysis. To achieve this, a more reflective pedagogical approach of language is necessary (Camps, 2014). Such an approach can trigger students by confronting them with grammatical problems without a clear solution (so-called ill-structured problems, cf. King & Kitchener, 1994). By analyzing those problems from the perspectives of language reality, the standard language rules and their own language intuitions, students will discover the complexity of language and the tensions between the three perspectives. Language advices or reference grammars are particularly useful to create this awareness of linguistic complexity, because they do not only describe the standard language rules, but they also contain a wide variety of language use examples.
In traditional education students are not taught how to develop this more critical and reflective attitude to tackle ill-structured problems, nor to examine language from the aforementioned perspectives, or even how to consult a language advice or reference grammar. On the basis of a literature study we designed a new model for grammar pedagogy, in which we intend to stimulate and facilitate students’ linguistic awareness by using language advices and reference grammars to confront them with ill-structured grammatical problems. The model is based on Moseley et al. (2005) concerning learning cognitive thinking and on the Reflective Judgment Model of King and Kitchener (1994). It enables students not only to develop their thinking skills in investigating language by examining language step by step from the three aforementioned perspectives, but also to develop their epistemological attitude toward linguistic resources.
To study the implementation of this pedagogy, lesson studies were carried out in secondary education in the Netherlands and in Belgium (Flanders). In this presentation we will present this model and the first results of its implementation.
Key words: linguistic awareness, grammar education, reflective thinking, syntax, grammar research

Camps, A. (2014). Metalinguistic activity in language learning. In: T. Ribas, X. Fontich & O. Guasch (Eds.), Grammar at School. Research on Metalinguistic Activity in Language Education. Brussels: Peter Lang. 25-41.
Coppen, P.A. (2010). “De taal is een rommeltje”. In: H. Hulshof & T. Hendrix (red..), Taalkunde en het schoolvak Nederlands. Amsterdam: VLLT, p. 26-28.
King, P.M. & Kitchener, K.S. (1994). Developing Reflective Judgement: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bas Publishers.
Moseley, D., Baumfield, V., Elliott, J., Gregson, M., Higgins, S., Miller, J., & Newton, D.P. (2005). Frameworks for thinking: A handbook for teaching and learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.