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Building block 6:
What competences related to language-sensitive education are needed by teachers of all languages and other subjects?

This Building block contains concise Profiles (descriptions) of the competences related to language-sensitive education that are needed by teachers across the curriculum, and a set of accompanying tasks for use in teacher education. The main aim of the Building block is to enable users to reflect on how the competences for language-sensitive education needed by teachers of different subjects and working in different sectors overlap. To illustrate this, the Profiles describe competences that are common to all teachers as well as specifying competences for teachers working in different areas: subject teaching, teaching the language of schooling, foreign languages and home language teaching.

Who is the Building block for?

  • Designers of curricula for teacher education and teacher educators can use the Profiles to plan or review common and subject-specific curricula, curricular strands, modules, teaching practice arrangements and other professional learning opportunities, in order to ensure that there is good coverage of language-sensitive education.
  • Teacher educators for initial or in-service education can use the Profiles with (student) teachers to explore the language dimensions of different subjects, in order to plan collaboration and strengthen the language-sensitive aspects of plurilingual and intercultural education in all subjects, while avoiding redundancy.

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The Profiles were not primarily conceived to serve as self-reflection or self-assessment checklists or portfolios for teachers and student teachers, or as assessment grids for lesson observation, or for any other top-down use in a teacher education context. However, they could serve as an inspiration for their development. Indeed, as they are not intended to be definitive and can be seen as ‘open-ended’, other important areas of language-related competences may come up when using the Profiles, and the relevant Profile can be adapted and amended to meet specific needs. Alternatively, the Profiles can be drawn on to develop a new, target-group oriented profile in consultation with a specific group of (student) teachers.

Main objectives

To enable users to:

  • explore an innovative model of teacher competences for language-sensitive education;
  • reflect on the extent to which the language-related competences of teachers of different subjects are similar and interrelated, and how this can inform the content and organisation of teacher education.

Introduction to the Teacher Competence Profiles

The Teacher Competence Profiles describe teachers’ professional competences for language-sensitive education. The term ‘language-sensitive education’ describes an inclusive approach to teaching any subject: teachers help their learners to deal with the language demands of learning so that, whatever their language and/or social background, all learners can make the most of their education. For a further discussion of this notion, please refer to Building block 1.

Figure 1: The seven dimensions of the teacher competence Profiles

Dimension 1 describes professional values and principles, highlighting that language-sensitive education is informed by, and contributes to, the aims of the Council of Europe.

Dimension 2 is transversal as it contains language and communicative competences needed for various aspects of the teaching profession.

Dimension 3 features teachers’ digital competences. Like dimension 2, this dimension is conceived as transversal, and typically overlaps with the following dimensions.

Dimension 4 contains descriptions of metalinguistic, meta-discourse and metacultural competences. Put simply, it covers those domains of language and cultural awareness that all teachers need to engage with in different ways when teaching their subjects (including, but not limited to, language subjects) in a language-sensitive way.

Dimension 5 contains descriptions of language-related competences needed during the planning and delivery of language-sensitive teaching and is the longest and most substantial dimension.

Dimension 6 contains competences for language-sensitive collaboration among professionals and with other stakeholders.

Dimension 7 defines competences needed in teachers’ own education and career-long development, including the monitoring of their wellbeing.

Within each sub-dimension, there is a row that contains competences common to all teachers followed by four columns with a differentiation between language-related competences for four kinds of teaching: for teaching subjects other than languages, for teaching the languages of schooling, for teaching foreign languages and for teaching home languages.

The seven competence dimensions are based on a taxonomy of teacher competences which was developed for the ECML Guide to teacher competences for languages in education (see the section on background below). These dimensions are shown in figure 1.

There is an important point to bear in mind about the dimensions and competences related to language sensitivity described in the Profiles. For presentational purposes, the competences within the seven dimensions and their sub-dimensions are detailed separately. However, in the daily professional practice of teachers, depending on the context and specific aims of the ‘moment’, these competences are in reality drawn on in various combinations

For example, in classroom teaching it is inevitable that the values in dimension 1 will underlie the relevant competences described in dimension 5, which will simultaneously be underpinned by competences listed in dimensions 2, 3 and 4. In other words, in practice the various kinds of competences described in the Profiles are generally not deployed in isolation but instead are integrated with one another in line with the purposes and requirements of specific instances of professional practice.

Competences common to all teachers vs competence descriptors for specific kinds of teachers

A second organisational principle in the Profiles is the distinction between competences common to all teachers, and competence descriptors for specific kinds of teachers. This distinction derives from a model proposed by the Council of Europe for its Platform of resources and references for plurilingual and intercultural education. The Council of Europe states that the Platform

“is designed to help member states to develop their curricula in ways that take account of all the languages present in the school in their relation to the individual learner: language(s) of schooling (language as a subject and language(s) in other subjects); regional, minority and migrant languages; and foreign languages“, as illustrated in figure 2.

The Profiles build on this idea by selecting four categories of teachers from the various combinations suggested in figure 2. The four categories are as follows:

Figure 2: The Council of Europe Platform of resources for plurilingual and intercultural education

How dimensions are organised in the Teacher Competence Profiles

Figure 3 below illustrates how the teacher competences appear in the Profiles, with the example of dimension 1.

Figure 3: How each dimension (or sub-dimension) is organised in the Teacher Competence Profiles

Each sub-dimension starts with a horizontal row that describes ´generic´competences for language-sensitive teaching that are common to all teachers

These competence descriptors are fairly general but attempt to cover the given sub-dimension relatively exhaustively. Capital letters (A, B, C) are used with the descriptor numbers to highlight which descriptions in the rows below exemplify these common descriptors.

The second row of four cells contains examples of competence descriptors that are specific to each of four different categories of teachers; these examples are illustrative, and not necessarily exhaustive. Also, there is a frequent and intended overlap between the competences of the four different categories of teacher. In many cases, a specific descriptor for one kind of teacher (e.g. a primary school science teacher) can be seen as applicable, with small adaptations, to another kind of teacher (e.g. a secondary school foreign language teacher). Therefore, users are invited to consult more than one of the four columns, and to engage in their own reflection on what areas of competence are common for different kinds of teaching. Moreover, in many contexts the same person teaches subjects covered in several columns, with primary school teachers often being a case in point. For these teachers, comparing the descriptors and examples across the columns is of special interest.

The third row of four cells contains illustrative examples, again for each of the four different kinds of teachers. These examples are typically even more specific than the descriptors in the two rows above. Moreover, the examples are contextualised to illustrate the relevance of the competence in given realistic circumstances.

Teachers of which kinds of learners are envisaged in the Profiles?

The Profiles were not drawn up with teachers of learners at specific levels in the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), such as early childhood, primary, lower secondary etc., in mind. The competence descriptors are intended to be relevant across different ISCED levels, although the illustrative examples typically point to a specific level, most often primary or secondary education.

There is no separate Profile for primary level teachers, who, in many contexts, teach many or all subjects across the curriculum, including the language(s) of schooling, any number of other subjects, and one or more foreign languages. However, the ‘generic’ descriptors designed to be applicable to teachers in all four categories are also relevant to primary teachers.

What is the background of the Profiles? How were they created?

The Profiles are related to a range of other ECML instruments which are concerned with the professional language-related competences of different kinds of teachers. Their main source is an overview or taxonomy of the language-related teacher competences of all teachers, which resulted from the 2016-2019 ECML project Towards a Common European Framework of Reference for Language Teachers

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What are the main teacher competences described in the Profile? 

The short version of the Profiles can be used as a first entry point to the Profiles. It contains all general competence descriptors that are relevant for all teachers, without the specific descriptors and examples for the four different kinds of teachers.

Download short version of the Profiles