As part of Listiac, the JYU partner has developed a cross-curricular language aware pathway as part of the class teacher curriculum in the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Jyväskylä. The aim of this pathway is to provide a recognisable reference point for students as they progress through their educational studies and explore what is meant by the ‘every teacher is a language teacher’ mandate written into the national curriculum for basic education in Finland (EDUFI, 2014).
This 8-step pathway stretches across the five years of teacher education. Steps 1, 3, 6, 7 and 8 are smaller parts of larger courses. Steps 2, 4 and 5 are complete courses. Students step on to the pathway with the help of a lecture and tutorial during one of their first university courses, the Introduction to Multidisciplinary Pedagogy. This first step introduces the overall pathway and draws students’ attention to the crucial presence of language in education and the notion of ‘language awareness’. The subsequent steps provide opportunities for exploring language awareness from different perspectives including teacher students’ own language repertoires, language aware practices that teachers can implement, different ways of supporting and integrating language use and development as well as how to develop a language aware school community.
The development of the pathway was guided by a number of key questions: what do we already have? What do we need? What are the potential spaces for development? What resources are available? Who should be involved? What would be sustainable? Scrutinizing earlier curricula, we noticed that over the years different members of staff had sought to develop language aware approaches. This was a positive beginning, but some of these initiatives had been overwhelmed by other curricular demands and opportunities to explore language aware approaches were not equally available to all student teachers. This initial mapping led to two important decisions: Firstly, language aware aspects of the curriculum need to be visible so that staff and students can see how one step connects with another. Secondly, language awareness needs to be integrated with other key features of the curriculum in order to be sustainable. For example, Step 3 is integrated into Teaching Practice 1, an observation-based practice divided into thematic ‘video clubs’. Through negotiations with colleagues, it was agreed that one video club could focus on language aware practices and the Listiac team found video extracts and wrote guiding questions for course teachers and students to discuss together.
As the Language Aware pathway is now visible, it is easier to introduce it to students and staff. It is a reference point and a resource for language aware activities. Published on Pedanet it is available to student teachers during their studies and to teachers working in the field. Challenges remain and no doubt the pathway will continue to be modified over time, but at least language awareness is now present across the curriculum in a concrete and recognisable way.
EDUFI (2014). National Core Curriculum for Basic Education 2014, Finnish National Agency for Education.