With advances in technology, there has been an increasing emphasis on how ICT tools can enhance classroom methods used by teachers. In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend in teacher education to see the teaching process not only in terms of a set of methods and techniques, but from the perspective of the teachers who employ these methods and thus to explore in wider terms the competences that teachers need to develop in order to support language learning. These competences may relate to a variety of professional areas: knowledge, skills, values etc. They are in essence of a didactic nature, but will also include intercultural, social and language competences. The ECML publication European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages (EPOSTL) contains a list of key competences that language teachers need to acquire.
The action-oriented, competence-based view of teaching exemplified in the EPOSTL strongly reflects the view of language and language learning, which underlies both the Common European Framework of Reference and the European Language Portfolio . The central questions posed by taking a competence orientation is: what do language users/learners/teachers need to be able to do in order to optimise language use/learning/teaching? A competence orientation to teacher education has brought with it a variety of frameworks which may, on the one hand, provide taxonomies of teacher competences and, on the other, a means of evaluating the quality of language teaching in a systematic fashion.
Whilst the competences required by teachers to develop their learners’ foreign language skills remain a central issue, this perspective has been accompanied by a re-examination of the aims of language learning and, in consequence, the role of teachers, occasioned by questions such as: what does it mean to be a language teacher in today’s Europe? What contribution can language teachers make to the development of intercultural dialogue? This has led to a broadening of the specification of language competences to include areas such as intercultural competences. At the same time, an increasing focus on how societal changes have impacted on contexts in which languages are taught and the linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms that are a feature of many schools has led researchers to locate foreign language teaching within the spectrum of other aspects of language learning and to embed it within the broader spectrum of language learning as a whole. Seeing language as transversal skills, key to the learning of all subjects, there is a growing awareness of the need to develop competences in subject teachers so that they too are equipped to provide maximum support for the linguistic development of their learners. This will include Content and Language Integrated (CLIL) classes, teaching the majority language as a second language etc.
The past decades have seen an increase in both the number and types of learner who learn foreign languages, which has been accompanied by an increased focus on the needs of specific groups of learners and, in consequence, the specific competences required by their teachers. A general trend to introduce additional languages in early primary or even in pre-school brings with it a range of related competences for teachers. Need-specific groups include learners who learn a foreign language by means of sign language.
Teacher competences relate not only to supporting language learning through teaching but also to evaluating the progress and proficiency of learners. In the wake of the publication of the CEFR in 2001 teacher education gave an increasing focus on the competences required by teachers to assess the progress and proficiency of their learners.