Wim Gombert

CHAPTER 1. Introduction 15 In 2014, I was asked to participate in Rousse-Malpat’s longitudinal research project in which she compared the e ectiveness of FFL traditional programs with AIM at the end of three years (Rousse-Malpat, 2019). At that time, I was still teaching the older cohorts (those who sat their nal exams in 2015 and 2016) on the basis of traditional coursebook methods. Inspired by Rousse-Malpat’s research, I decided it would be a good time to investigate learning outcomes a er six years of traditional methods and compare them with the learning outcomes of the younger AIM cohorts (who sat their exams in 2017-2019). Rousse-Malpat in her work (2019) had focused on productive skills only (speaking and writing), but I decided to test the students not only on speaking and writing but also on reading and listening, especially because FFL teachers seem to believe that only a structure-based (SB) approach can prepare students adequately for such skills that to a large degree determine the nal exam grade. Voogel (2016) indicated that teachers nd it hard to prepare students for the nal exams and develop communicative competence at the same time. is opinion is based on the assumption that it is necessary to spend a great deal of time on reading in general and on exam training in particular to prepare for the nal exam and that explicit grammar instruction is necessary to avoid errors and develop writing skills (Gunnarson, 2012). Such assumptions lead to an increase in time spent on written skills (reading and writing) at the expense of oral skills (listening and speaking). As a result, mainstream FFL teaching programs can be characterized as weak versions of CLT: they are structure-based with a heavy focus on written skills, and little attention to oral skills. is is clearly demonstrated by the fact that schools which used a DUB approach in the rst three years o en continue with an SB approach in the nal three years, as they fear that a DUB approach cannot prepare students adequately for the nal exams. Of the 80 schools in the Netherlands which currently employ the AIM method in the rst three years of their curriculum, only a limited number continue to apply AIM principles in the nal three years, and usually revert to French coursebooks instead. Indeed, whether a full DUB approach for six years can also prepare students adequately for the nal exams in terms of reading and writing skills, is an empirical question and one that many FFL teachers in the Netherlands need an answer to before they feel comfortable to implement changes. erefore, this dissertation aims to compare SB and DUB FFL learners a er 6 years of instruction on reading, writing, speaking, and listening. RESEARCH QUESTION To meet this aim, the following research question forms the foundation of this study: How does a weak CLT approach based on structure-based principles compare to a strong CLT approach based on DUB principles a er six years of instruction with regard to receptive (reading and listening) and productive (writing and speaking) FFL skills?