Thursday, October 6, 2016

What’s changing? – (Foreign) Language Learning in Finnish CoreCurriculum for Basic Education

One of the basic principles of the Finnish core curriculum for basic education (FCC) is the idea that every teacher is a language teacher. This refers not only to the multiple languages and mother tongues that co-exist in a multicultural school, but also to the fact that each subject has its own language (discourse), terms and even signs (like math or coding).

We acknowledge that “the limits of our language are the limits of our world” (Wittgenstein) and thus the limits of our language are the limits of our learning as well. So, one critical way to improve learning, is to raise language awareness and start considering language as the means of and prerequisite for thinking and learning.

Languages are inherently linked to the learning of most of the transversal (21st century) skills defined in the FCC. One can’t think a way to enhance
FCC tree
 intercultural competence or communication and interaction skills without developing and applying language skills. Same goes with developing multi-literacy (reading, writing, understanding and creating multimedia) and ICT skills.

Building on strengths is one of the key principles of FCC. Thus, learning languages should also be built on individual strengths and be a process of empowerment, full of joy and creativity. According to FCC language teachers are obliged to apply diverse student-centered learning methods that build capacities to join (global) networks and work together with people around the world for sustainable future.

In future language learning will more and more take place in authentic environments and make use of authentic learning materials closely linked with students’ own interests, partly created by students themselves. Learning will focus on real life problems and real world phenomena and it’ll be inquiry-, project- or problem-based. Language learning will be one part of cross-curricular multi-disciplinary learning projects designed together with students and teachers.

In using diverse learning methods the focus is on pair and team work which naturally enhance communication and collaboration skills. Learning methods that make you move around and use your body (like drama, playing, singing, exploring…) are applied as well as the use of diverse communication methods and channels and, of course, information and communication technology, even students’ own device (BYOD).

Students are encouraged and guided to set their own learning goals and take responsibility of their own learning, become the owners of their own learning. At the end of basic education they’ll be self-confident and self-regulated learners who can cope and thrive in the unpredictable future.

The focus of assessment is changed from what has been learned to learning (process) itself. Assessment reflects the changes in learning methods. It develops from teacher-centered to student-centered practices (self- and peer assessment), from pointing out failures and weaknesses to focus on strengths, from standard to individual, from one-way to dialogue.

Ultimately, it’s our objective to help the students find their own voice to speak in many languages, be heard and be respected, stand-up with their feet firmly on the ground and with their heads in the clouds.

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