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How can more attention be given to language sensitivity in a teacher education curriculum?

This section contains a task on identifying ways of including more focus on language sensitivity in an authentic example of a curriculum; this is followed by detailed questions on how this approach could be used in one's own teacher education context.

TASK A Look through the English translation of the Curriculum of the 4-year primary teacher education course at Umeå University, Sweden.

TASK B  Reflect on the title and likely contents of the different courses which are offered.

According to the brief descriptions, in which of the courses are student teachers already asked to address language and communication issues?

TASK C Which courses could include content and assignments that focus in more detail on the role of language(s) in education and on language-sensitive education?

Give examples of aspects of language and language-sensitive education which could be included in the courses you have identified, and suggest how the course descriptions could be amended to reflect these proposed changes.

TASK D Plan a similar more detailed review of the curriculum at your institution. Mention:
  • which staff members should be involved in the review process;
  • the courses/modules that could be redesigned to include more focus on language sensitivity;
  • the kinds of changes in content about language-sensitive education that you think could be made to these course and could be integrated with the topics covered;
  • how these changes would form a coherent strand across the curriculum.

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The purpose of these tasks is to suggest how a teacher education curriculum can be reviewed methodically to identify opportunities for adding to or increasing the focus on language-sensitive education. This example of a curriculum was chosen because some detail is provided.

The first step involves reviewing the elements of the curriculum to identify where a focus on language sensitivity is already explicitly or implicitly included. This is relatively easy in the Umeå University curriculum because some courses, such as those on Swedish and English, specifically imply such a focus. But opportunities to easily include discussion of issues related to language and communication and language-sensitive education also exist in other courses, such as certain courses in term 1, which is an important time to introduce the topic of language sensitivity, courses in term 2 and all elements of term 4, by which time student teachers will have gained more understanding of the important role that language plays in teaching and learning.

The next step would be to identify opportunities for ensuring that there is a focus on language sensitivity in other courses and how this focus could be integrated with the other topic areas mentioned.

Going through this process with a sample curriculum from a different context is good preparation for taking a fresh look at the curriculum in one's own teacher education context. Compared with task b) above, an advantage will be that more specific information about each element of the curriculum should be available because the teacher educators involved in the programme can be consulted about the details and can themselves be asked to propose changes to the elements which they are responsible for.