Screening Languages was a two-year curriculum and professional development project funded by the Mayor of London’s Schools Excellence Fund. Between September 2013 and July 2015, 27 teachers, from 19 schools, took part in a programme to test the impact of teaching and learning with short films on pupil engagement and attainment in modern foreign languages.
Across the two years, teachers taught more than 150 lessons using short films, in French, Spanish, German, Turkish, Arabic, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese. The teachers were supported in curriculum design by termly professional development days and mentoring and classroom observation from a team of researchers and lead practitioners.
Over 800 pupils participated across the two years, and impacts on learning and motivation were derived from surveys, teacher reports, classroom observations and formal assessment. The impacts on teachers’ subject knowledge and pedagogic skills were gauged through a set of qualitative data drawn from reflective writing, classroom observation, questionnaire and interview.
The main findings of the project are:
More than three quarters of pupils enjoyed working with short films in their modern foreign language lessons
Pupils found work with film engaging, challenging, helped them make progress in the main skill areas (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), and developed their cultural awareness
Teachers working with short film developed in confidence and subject knowledge, took more risks, had higher expectations of pupils, and overall took greater professional satisfaction from their teaching.
Collaborative models of professional development, lesson planning, and materials design underpins successful pupil attainment and increased teacher confidence
All participating departments to some degree have incorporated short film into their KS3 plans
The overwhelming finding of this project is that work with short film motivates children and young people to engage with foreign language and foreign language cultures in ways that few other classroom experiences do. Pupils themselves say this. While there is less evidence of a transformative range of assessed learning gains, the fact that no classes performed worse, and all the teachers found a wider range of capacities in their pupils, is evidence enough to warrant a consistent effort on behalf of school departments to take on the regular incorporation of short film into their units of work