• Does Studying the History of the English Language Influence Student Attitudes About Modern Grammar?

      O'Neil, David
      For several decades, there has been division between researchers and at least some English teachers on issues related to Standard English and grammar instruction. For example, research has consistently shown that students do not produce better written work after undergoing isolated grammar lessons, yet this practice persists. Some teachers may also undervalue non-standard varieties of English, not seeing them as legitimate forms of communication in certain social contexts. Such attitudes run contrary to the standards of organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English. This presentation, which reports on a work in progress in SoTL, examines an intervention to help students mature in their attitudes on these issues. The study addresses how university English majors perceive the social value of Standard English and the role of grammar instruction at the secondary level. In the study, participants’ baseline attitudes are compared to attitudes after taking a course in the history of the English language (a course in which language is studied as a formal system). There are two research questions: Do students develop different attitudes toward grammar and Standard English after taking a taking course that involves the formal study of linguistics? Does this shift in attitude toward grammar (if any), affect how they perceive the role of grammar instruction at the secondary level? The first round of data will be collected by the time of the symposium. This will include three parts: a Likert-scale questionnaire about the participant’s attitudes toward Standard English and grammar instruction (pre- and post-test), a reflection essay in which the participants discuss how the course influenced their responses, and transcripts of small group discussions. This study should provide insight on how to help students think about grammar and language in a more sophisticated way.