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Major Article 01
An earlier version of this paper is being published in Germany by Peter Lang (in a book on Finnish teacher education edited by Ritva Jakku-Sihvonen and Hannele Niemi, University of Helsinki, Finland).
Developing foreign language education through transformative teacher growth
Viljo Kohonen has worked as professor of foreign language education at the University of Tampere, Finland, since 1980, working on pre-service and inservice teacher education. He has collaborated continuously with language teachers on action-research projects in an experiential learning framework, developing FL education through the teacher's professional growth connected with long-term collegial collaboration. He is a coauthor of Kohonen, V. et al. 2001, Experientail learning in foreign language education (by Pearson Education), which is an outgrowth of his project work. More recently he has worked on authentic assessment in the projects related to the European Language Portfolio (ELP) under the auspices of the Council of Europe, acting as a consultant to several national ELP projects within the European community. E-mail: Viljo.Kohonen@uta.fi
1. A note on contextualizing teaching, learning and teacher education
2. Foreign language teaching as language education
2.1 Intercultural communicative competence in FL education
2.3 A pedagogical model for FL education
2.4 The European Language Portfolio as a tool in FL education
3. The language teacher’s professional growth: voices from the classrooms
3.1 Two site-based action research projects: project design
3.2. Enhanced language teacher’s professional identity
3.3. Teacher growth as emotional involvement
4.1 Sociocultural aspects in FL education
4.2. Towards a transformative paradigm in teacher education
4.3. Encountering an educational change
4.4 The contradictory context of professional growth
I will explore current developments in foreign language education in the context of fostering socially responsible language learning through the teacher’ professional growth towards transformative teacher learning. I will first discuss the salient recent developments in foreign language (FL) teaching in the light of the influential Common European Framework of Reference by Council of Europe (CEFR 2001). Closely connected with the CEFR, the European Language Portfolio (ELP) has been developed as an instrument for fostering student autonomy and intercultural learning through self-assessment. I will examine the teacher’s growth in the educational change process involving a new paradigm in FL education, based on the basis of the findings of two recent Finnish research and development projects carried out as action research. In the light the new goals of FL education, I will consider the implications of the paradigm shift for teacher education as transformative professionalism.
1. A note on contextualizing teaching, learning and teacher education
As a school is part of its surrounding society, it is natural that developments in society and work life impinge on educational policies, administration and learning cultures in school. The ongoing global restructuring of work life requires important new skills such as flexibility in thinking, continuous learning, participation in multicultural work settings, responsible team work, taking the initiative, and the use of information and communication technologies.
In many post-industrial societies, schools have got more freedom in designing their curricula and using their resources as part of a more general trend of decentralizing administrative power. The purpose is to underscore the need for democratic citizenship education at all levels of schooling. In Finland schools have been expected to design their own site-based curricula since the mid 1990’s, based on the national framework curricula that are specified further in the municipal curriculum guidelines. A pedagogical aim of the innovation is to involve the teachers in decision-making concerning their own work and thereby to increase their engagement in the work place community.
Changes in society and work life pose new challenges for education at all levels of schooling. In an important European report a decade ago, schooling, democracy and teacher education were linked together, emphasizing the role of teachers for raising the general level of education, building a European identity and developing the key competences in school (White Paper 1995). In another report (Cochinaux and de Woot 1995), the future of education in Europe was discussed in terms of the following properties:
• Learning is accepted as a continuing activity throughout life.
• Learners take responsibility for their own progress.
• Assessment confirms progress rather than brands failure.
• Capability, personal and shared values and team work are recognised equally with the pursuit of knowledge.
• Learning is a partnership between students, parents, teachers, employers and the community, all of whom work together to improve performance.
These goals emphasise the need to promote responsible student autonomy, social skills and intercultural communication abilities through an active participation in the classroom community. To become more independent and autonomous language users, students need to develop an awareness of language and communication. They also need to develop their study and heuristic skills to make effective use of the learning opportunities and the available materials on their own as a process of life-long language learning. Facilitating such changes in student learning is a question of developing teacher education towards a new kind of professionalism involving collegial collaboration and partnerships.
A recent Draft on teacher and trainer education by the European Commission (Draft 2005) suggests a number of new policies for teacher education in Europe. The paper notes that teachers and trainers play a crucial role in providing high quality education for personal fulfilment, better social skills and more diverse employment opportunities. The paper emphasizes certain values for the teaching profession such as inclusiveness, nurturing the potential of all pupils and advancing human potential. To implement such values, the development of teacher and trainer competences and qualifications is seen as a key priority in Europe. Teachers need to know how to respond to the challenges of the knowledge society and how to prepare their pupils to be autonomous lifelong learners.
The Draft also emphasizes the social and cultural dimensions of education with reference to EU citizenship education, based on the common cultural base and the rich national/ regional diversity in Europe. To develop schools, the participants should aim at establishing partnerships between higher education and schools and other educational institutions. Similarly, policies for continuity in professional learning need to be integrated in teacher education: initial training should to be followed by continuous professional development, involving interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches, that is, collegial work across the curriculum.
For the teachers, the changes suggest the need to develop teacher education towards an activist teacher professionalism, as Judythe Sachs puts it. She notes that teacher professionalism is in transition towards a transformative notion of professionalism emphasizing the elements of professional expertise, ethics and autonomy as the platform for activist teacher professionalism. The emerging concept needs rethinking and revitalizing teacher professionalism in the light of the new ideas of professional learning and the changes in the educational context. (Sachs 2003, 12–17).
However, developments are frequently contradictory. To my understanding, the principles and practices of the market economy are currently being brought far too crudely from business life to education in many national settings. The now fashionable policy is to have schools and institutions compete against each other for “customers” and resources. Competition is intensified by introducing controlling mechanisms in the interest of what is called “quality assurance”. Such devices include centralised norms and performance standards, various competency lists, inspection and standardised tests. While educational quality obviously is vital for all teachers, these tendencies seem to undermine the teacher’s position as an autonomous professional. They also create a turbulent context for school development aimed at a collegial process of collaboration between the participants and the stakeholders.
2. Foreign language teaching as language education
2.1 Intercultural communicative competence in FL education
As part of the need to increase multicultural collaboration, intercultural communicative competence is now generally seen as an overarching goal in foreign language education. It involves essentially a capacity for encountering cultural diversity in intercultural communication between people coming from different socio-cultural settings. It also emphasises the importance of being able to critically reflect on one’s cultural identity and values and to develop an awareness of the complex relationships between language, society and cultural meanings (Byram 2003; Kaikkonen 2001; 2002; 2004).
The seminal Common European Framework discusses the new goal orientation in terms of fostering the language user’s plurilingualism and pluriculturalism in linguistically and culturally diverse Europe The notion involves a complex, multiple language competence on which the language user may draw in intercultural communication. It suggests the need to consider both affective, cognitive and behavioural elements in the pedagogical development of pluriculturalism (CEFR 2001). These goals clearly entail a new paradigm, involving the development of student autonomy as a language learner and as a language user. Intercultural communicative competence is an action-oriented concept, suggesting the importance of relating constructively to otherness and foreignness in human encounters. To do so, language users need to accept the ambiguity inherent in intercultural communication and develop a respect for cultural diversity. As cross-cultural encounters are also a question of attitudes and emotions, becoming an intercultural language user clearly emphasises the role of the affective elements in foreign and second language education. Intercultural communicative competence is thus an educationally valuable goal in its own right, entailing an element of personal growth as a human being. (Jaatinen 2001; 2007; Kaikkonen 2001; 2002; Breen 2001; Kohonen 2001; 2005; Kalaja & Barcelos 2003.)
Language learning constitutes an important part of the student’s preparation to responsible citizenship in societies that are becoming increasingly multilingual and multicultural. A natural task for language learning is to connect people from various cultural backgrounds and thus increase openness for human diversity. There is thus a new challenge for second and foreign language teachers to facilitate their students to grow beyond the boundaries of their own cultures (Kaikkonen 2001). Such a goal also entails a clear socio-political dimension in foreign language education: promoting student autonomy and democratic citizenship education as an inherent part of language education. To do so teachers need to encourage the pupils’ active participation and responsible action in the classroom community. They also need to enhance their students’ personal identities as part of a wider European (and global) identity. (CEFR 2001; Beacco and Byram 2002; Kaikkonen 2002; 2004; Byram 2003; Kohonen 2001.)
2.2 Foreign language education
Foreign language education involves purposefully designed and facilitated human growth that touches the student as a whole person. It aims at meaningful learning that is based on personal experience. I use the term foreign language education to refer to this kind of student learning. It involves the following properties:
1. The student’s own goals and autonomy
2. Personal engagement in learning
3. Student initiative and responsibility
4. Meaningful learning in a holistic orientation
5. Emphasis on reflection and self-assessment
6. Integration of social, affective and cognitive learning goals
Foreign language education promotes self-directed learning and socially responsible student autonomy. By this I mean the student’s willingness and ability to take increasing charge of the decisions concerning his or her learning. I understand student autonomy as denoting a significant measure of independence from external control. This is, however, balanced by our mutual dependence on each other in society; thus it is a question of social interdependence (Kohonen 2001; 2004). According to the classic definition by David Little (1991, 4), autonomy is essentially a "capacity – for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making and independent action". For autonomy to increase, the student needs to develop a responsible, self-directed psychological stance to the process and content of learning.
In terms of the conception of man, the student is seen as a self-directed, intentional person who can be guided to develop his or her competences in three inter-related areas of knowledge, skills and awareness: (a) personal awareness and self-direction, (b) awareness of learning processes, and (c) awareness of language and communication. I discuss these perspectives briefly in the following (Kohonen 2001; 2003; 2004; 2005).
(1) Personal awareness and self-direction develop in learning processes throughout the individual’s life cycle. Self-directed language learning poses demands on the student’s ability to cope with unknown situations. Acceptance of ambiguity is particularly necessary in foreign language learning which is bound to involve unpredictability and novelty because of the new linguistic and cultural systems of language behaviour. Students with high self-esteem are generally more willing to take risks in communication. Fostering self-esteem is a question of working towards a community of learners in which the students feel safe to explore their language learning, communication and cultural meanings. Cognitive factors are thus integrated with the affective elements in language teaching and language use. (Kohonen 2001; 2005; Arnold 1999; Breen 2001; Kalaja & Barcelos 2003.)
(2) Awareness of the learning processes helps language students to monitor their learning towards increasingly self-organized, negotiated language learning and self-assessment. This involves knowledge about the strategies of language learning and communication. At a higher level of abstraction, the metacognitive knowledge of learning helps students to improve their ways of planning, monitoring and assessing their learning processes. It also means acquiring the social skills needed in responsible learning. To enhance their learning students need to be actively involved in the whole process, interacting with their peers (Kohonen 2001; 2006a; van Lier 1996; 2004).
(3) Awareness of language and communication. Language classrooms provide a powerful environment for fostering and guiding student learning. They allow language, communication and learning to be made explicit and discussed and explored together, with the teacher as a professional guide and organiser of the learning tasks and opportunities. The quality of this environment is a question of what kind of tasks the students do and how they are guided to work on what they do. Awareness of the language as a linguistic system also includes learning the meta-knowledge of language at the various levels of linguistic description. Through such knowledge students can become more skilled language learners and users who are also capable of assessing their language proficiency. They need to understand their foreign language learning enterprise and conceptualise their role as active participants in the process (Kohonen 2001; 2006a; Huttunen 2003; Little 2004).
These components of learner development need to be accompanied by and consciously linked to the teacher’s professional growth towards an ethically based view of what it means to be a professional language teacher and a language educator. Further, teacher development needs to be embedded in the context of a purposeful staff development towards a collegial institutional culture, connected with the society developments at large. This entails redesigning the language teaching profession and reculturing the schools as collaborative work places.
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