The developing story of a linguistically sensitive pathway in teacher education

The recent curriculum for Finnish basic education highlights linguistically sensitive teaching (LST) as a critical part of education, yet to-date LST has only been part of teacher education for selected groups. As part of Listiac at the University of Jyväskylä, we have worked to integrate and extend LST across the class teacher education curriculum to create a pathway from the 1st year of studies to the final teaching practice. 

The steps of the LST pathway include tasks and activities, readings and resources in all four teaching practices, in professional development reflections, and in multidisciplinary subject studies. As such, the LST pathway has been a community-wide development project that has benefitted from collaboration between different staff as well as ongoing efforts to bring research, teaching and project-based activities together. This blog post shares a key practice from Step Six.

An example from the field school practice

Step six is part of teaching practice 3 in field schools. The student teachers first learnt more about the language resources of pupils in their classes and then planned and implemented at least one lesson focused on LST. Although the students were uncertain as this was a new task introduced into the teaching practice, they designed and implemented innovative LST lessons praised by the pupils and teachers in the field schools. 

In many lessons, the newly discovered multilingualism of the pupils was actively drawn on and teachers found new ways of communicating more richly with pupils. The students also explored maps with pupils, discussing where the children had lived and visited, as well as the different languages spoken around the world and by the children. This task was developed further with multilingual messages hidden around the school. As pupils gathered the messages and decoded the meaning, geography skills, arts and LST were integrated. Through this task, we all had the opportunity to see how communities and activities can benefit from the use of multilingual resources as part of educational practice.

Looking forward

Based on feedback, we are encouraged by participants’ responses and recognize the value of LST as an integrated part of the curriculum. As we have developed the pathway, it has been important to work with colleagues to get different perspectives on LST, to hear questions and concerns, and find shared interests. In the Listiac spirit, we have integrated LST with existing courses in relation to other educational goals and formed stronger relationships not only with those already interested in LST but also with educators in field and practice schools, with colleagues working in different areas of teacher education and students in every year of teacher education. We hope this is a good basis for further development of LST as an enduring feature of teacher education at the University of Jyväskylä.

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