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National Curriculum

Developing personal, learning and thinking skills in modern foreign languages


What are we trying to achieve?

The new secondary curriculum focuses on developing the skills and qualities that learners need to succeed in school and the broader community. The development of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) is essential to meeting the three national curriculum aims of becoming successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

The individual subjects, which make up the curriculum, provide the essential range of activities, learning opportunities and contexts essential for the effective development of these skills (PLTS).

The framework comprises of six PLTS:

  • independent enquirers

  • creative thinkers

  • team workers

  • self-managers

  • effective participators

  • reflective learners.

PLTS underpin the whole curriculum and can transform young people’s engagement with learning. They support learners’ understanding of themselves as well as their relationship with others and the world around them. Effective development of PLTS can raise achievement and make a considerable impact on learners’ ability to succeed, both now and in adult life.


How do we develop PLTS?

The modern foreign languages programme of study provides a rich and exciting range of opportunities to develop PLTS as an integral part of subject teaching and learning. Explicit and implicit opportunities are present in the key concepts, key processes, range and content, and curriculum opportunities.

Independent enquirers

Learners can develop as independent enquirers when they are provided with opportunities in modern foreign languages to:

  • structure their own investigations, researching answers to questions they have identified for themselves about different countries and cultures

  • explore and compare their own experiences and perspectives with those of people in other countries and communities where the target language is spoken

  • consider and investigate how people in other countries may have different beliefs and attitudes and see the world in a different way

  • research issues and topics in which they have a personal interest, using authentic materials

  • work with increasing independence.

Creative thinkers

Learners can develop as creative thinkers when they are provided with opportunities in modern foreign languages to:

  • use their existing knowledge of language in imaginative ways to communicate their own ideas and opinions to different audiences within the classroom and beyond

  • work out for themselves the meaning of what they have heard or read, drawing on knowledge, context and other clues

  • use and explore the potential of new technologies to access and communicate information in the target language

  • develop their own language learning strategies to deal confidently with unfamiliar language, dealing with unexpected responses and unpredictable situations.

Team workers

Learners can develop as team workers when they are provided with opportunities in modern foreign languages to:

  • work collaboratively in order to succeed in a task, both in and out of the classroom, for example plan and write a scenario for themselves, working in pairs or groups, to develop writing and speaking skills

  • recognise their own strengths and those of others to allocate roles and tasks, and take responsibility for their own contribution to achieve effective outcomes, for example in delivering a presentation or participating in a debate

  • select for themselves and use modern communications systems to extend their language experience and improve their understanding of different cultures, for example use a video/skype connection with a school in another country

  • provide and respond to constructive feedback, taking account of different views and developing the confidence to resolve issues and achieve their identified goals.


Learners can develop as self-managers when they are provided with opportunities in modern foreign languages to:

  • take personal responsibility for organising their own time and resources to carry out and successfully complete work, for example preparing an individual presentation or group performance

  • initiate projects, demonstrating commitment, perseverance and the ability to prioritise their actions and work towards their identified goals

  • develop their confidence to formulate their own ideas, taking and managing risk to achieve agreed outcomes

  • respond to new or changing priorities, learning to actively embrace change and cope with new challenges.

Effective participators

Learners can develop as effective participators when they are provided with opportunities in modern foreign languages to:
  • participate in oral work on topics and issues of relevance, which they select for themselves and which encourage them to initiate and sustain conversations in the target language

  • take an active part in discussions and conversations, engaging with issues that develop their perspective of the cultures of different communities and countries

  • explore their own and others’ views on topics of international interest

  • extend their linguistic competence, recognising for themselves the usefulness of communicating effectively.

Reflective learners

Learners can develop as reflective learners when they are provided with opportunities in modern foreign languages to:

  • participate in self-assessment to evaluate their success in understanding and communicating

  • identify for themselves how to improve communication with different audiences and for different purposes

  • develop techniques for reviewing and redrafting written work to improve their accuracy and quality

  • invite feedback from others to review their progress in language learning

  • continuously self-monitor and seek more challenging ways to meet the goals they have set for themselves.


How do we plan for PLTS?

Effective planning for PLTS in modern foreign languages needs to ensure that they are embedded into sequences of work, teaching approaches and learning outcomes. When this is done well, it will enrich the experiences of learners and support their progress in modern foreign languages while increasing coherence across the curriculum.

The following are some questions we might ask to support the development of PLTS through modern foreign languages.

  • Are there planned opportunities for learning and teaching, where the six PLTS can be taught, practised and reinforced in a range of contexts?

  • Are planned experiences sufficiently ‘open’ for learners to draw on personal experiences and set themselves personal challenges?

  • Do activities encourage learners to explore a range of settings, for example collaborative work, individual work, in the classroom, the school and events in the community?

  • Are learners encouraged to communicate in a variety of ways?

  • Are there opportunities to make coherent links to learning in other curriculum areas to effectively connect and enhance learners’ experiences?

  • Are e-technologies used effectively to enable and support such learning?


The teacher plans for the class to investigate aspects of life in another country focusing on issues like the environment, how this is presented through the media and advertising to address the key concept of cultural understanding, and to develop team-working and creative skills through this context.

In carrying out this activity, it is important for the learners to develop the skills to become increasingly independent, and to take responsibility for solving problems and controlling the direction and format of their work.

Learners will work in groups over several lessons, taking on various roles and responsibilities, ensuring that each group member contributes effectively. They will decide for themselves the focus of their enquiry and conclude by making a presentation of their findings in the target language to the whole class.

They are taught ways of researching, including using e-technologies, which they develop, and are encouraged to use creative ways of demonstrating their understanding and ensure that all group members can contribute to the outcomes. The presentations will be evaluated by the class for impact, information and team effectiveness, using criteria that they have designed and agreed themselves.

This activity involves learners in:

  • selecting and agreeing on the focus, priorities and timetable of their investigation and the allocation of roles (team workers, self-managers)

  • identifying questions about the selected aspect and planning and researching answers to those questions (independent enquirers)

  • discussing ways of presenting the information for maximum effect (team workers, self-managers, creative thinkers)

  • taking responsibility for preparing different aspects of the presentation and delivering the presentation (team workers, self-managers, creative thinkers)

  • evaluating their own performance(s) against criteria, providing and receiving feedback, and identifying targets for improvement (effective participators, reflective learners)

  • showing perseverance in completing the project on time (team workers, self-managers).


Are we achieving our aims?

In planning for progression, it is important to develop a clear picture of how learners demonstrate PLTS in the context of teaching and learning in modern foreign languages and how those skills can raise achievement in this subject. For example, learners may demonstrate that they are:

  • making personal choices about their learning and identifying ways to improve their work, for example by planning their own individual investigations and research

  • drawing on their own experiences and making connections to recognise the inter-relationships between sounds and writing

  • extending and transferring their understanding and ability to express themselves, for example by using language in increasingly unfamiliar contexts with more confidence and creativity

  • engaging with and applying language beyond school contexts for a specific purpose, for example to gather information, develop friendships via a link with a school abroad or to participate in an international competition.

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