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Helmut J. Vollmer/Jean-Claude Beacco Intergovernmental Policy Forum

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1 Procedures for describing linguistic competences in „non-language“ school subjects
Helmut J. Vollmer/Jean-Claude Beacco Intergovernmental Policy Forum Geneva, 2-4 November 2010

2 Language in Subjects Becoming aware and bringing out the language dimension in all subject learning Language competence in subject-specific contexts is often taken for granted, but in fact it is a massive stumbling block for success Making the necessary language requirements explicit +teach them improves pupils‘ chances It is only through language+discourse that the transmission of knowledge by t. is facilitated

3 Instances of language use
1) Formulate one’s own observations, perceptions, representations, existing knowledge, point of view 2) Retrieve, read, process and interpret (new) information and express it in different modes 3) Present, discuss + negotiate information, answer questions, check findings and arguments critically 4) Expressing (non-)understanding, doubt, degrees of certainty 5) Reflect about own procedures and evaluate them

4 Possible procedure (1) Start with analysing existing curricula
Make use of what is already there/traditions listing the central discourse genres which are important for a specific subject in question Look at the necessary tasks and language activities involved in the management of these Decide on linguistic means/patterns/conventions to be learned and mastered in connection with g.

5 Exemples of discourse genres
Report of an experiment, an observation Description of the structure of a cell/a historical event / a picture / a movement Evaluation of a suggestion/solution/exper. Argument for and against a decision Definiton of a word, a concept, a Classification of an animal, a phenomenon Monologic/dialogic types of interaction…

Typical operators in recent LS curricula read for…(a range of purposes) - select (key points) - identify (key themes/ different passages or genres), comment on (key passages) - use (previous knowledge) - write (different types of text) - plan and structure - communicate (clearly and suitably for the context) - choose (the appropriate vocabulary, grammar, spelling, punctuation) - express (ideas and opinions) (in response to …) – take part in – reflect on – recognise that – show understanding – use (different strategies) – assess (critically)… Typical operators in subject descriptors (across curric.) describe (125) - explain (67) – compare (44) – present (43) - assess(33) - distinguish (32) – explicate/illustrate (31) – give reasons for (29) – derive (29) – determine (19) – name/label (18) - appraise (17) – record/document (16) – construe(15) – interpret (15) – discuss (12) – evaluate (10)

7 Possible procedure (2) Identifying diff. areas of classroom activities
(If possible: classroom observation, interview with subject teachers (and students)) Describing specifics of subject teaching, including constant transition from everyday language to academic language use/terminol. Verbalising much non-verbal/semiotic inform. Translating different forms of representation

8 Areas of classroom activities
Organising procedures and activities in class negotiating participation and relevance Area 2: Retrieving information and acquiring knowledge Area 3: (Re-)Structuring concepts, adapting and extending knowledge Area 4: Communicating and presenting learning outcome negotiating meaning Area 5: Reflecting on and evaluating the learning process Focus on oral teacher-learner as well as learner-learner interaction, mélange of informal and more formal language patterns – also written components (e.g. black-/whiteboard notes) Focus on reading-, watching-, listening comprehension activities – associated mainly with documents/materials from the public sector Focus on thinking skills structuring and fine-tuning mental concepts – truncated use of classroom discourse, terminology Focus on production of oral/written statements/texts/ presentations with supportive non-language material – compliance with convential patterns of classroom language use Focus on meta-cognitive verbal mostly oral, occasionally written activities – classroom interaction, also self-reflective (e.g. portfolio)

9 Possible procedure (3) Identify the cognitive-linguistic discourse functions underlying subject learning and teaching (frequency, relevance, centrality) There a several approaches to do this Three of them are listed in the paper „Language and schools subjects“ (pp.20-22) Identify and link the necc.language resources/means rules/conventions needed for “appropriate” performance of the discourse functions mentioned.

10 Agree on loosely structured inventories such as
- presenting (showing, identifying, defining etc) - describing or representing (enumerating, identifying the constituent elements etc) - characterising (comparing, assessing, assigning a quality/quantity/property) - situating an action or process in time and space - representing an action or event in time - doing, acting - explaining, arguing - summarising - […] OR (more systematically):

11 Types of basic school-related Discourse Functions (macro level)

12 Discourse Functions (Macro/Micro)
6. EVALUATING (evaluative function), with possible micro functions, e.g. Checking Weighing Comparing Concluding Assessing Judging Giving reasons Criticising Making decisions Positioning …

13 Possible Procedure (4) Relate procedures 1) to 3) to one another
Integrate them into some sort of a model Produce a model for more systematic planning and evalutation and for reference across more than one subject/all subjects Conceive of a discourse-based language learning process across the curriculum, including foreign languages and subject and their functional contributions

14 4. Linking Discourse Functions to Discourse Genres and Linguistic Means
DISCOURSE FUNCTIONS (Macro level), e.g. Naming/Pointing – Narrating- Describing – Explaining – Arguing – Evaluating – Negotiating … Meso/Micro level of discourse functions, e.g. name – label – define – point out - specify (details) – summarise – compare – contrast – relate – judge – appreciate – position … When we analysed more than 2000 so-called competence strings found in curricular programmes across the curriculum we paid special attention to the verbal elements which are called operators. Verbs like „compare“, „predict“, „analyse“, „estimate“ characterize the nature of the procedural knowledge pupils are supposed to acquire. They can be clustered and associated to discourse functions on a macro level. These macrofunctions (Haliday) are a combination of basic thinking skills and their linguistic constituents. They are a very powerful concept when describing the learning and teaching routines pupils are confronted with in the classroom. So far we have worked with six macrofunctions which seem to be relevant for most curricular subjects: # the negotiating function = i.e. communicate how proceed in order to solve a task # the pointing function = i.e. naming, labelling, defining objects, processes, concepts # the descriptive function = i.e. describing objects, processes, concepts, giving details and distinctive features, reporting events, summing up etc. # the explanatory function = i.e. pointing out and explaining how and why „works“ , how and why developments lead up to a certain event, etc. # the argumentative function = i.e. communicating a complex train of thought with the intention to reflect the possible influence of various factors or to justify a certain action (to be) taken # the evaluative function = i.e. to make a (personal) judgement on, to take up a position etc. Texts/genres are made up of one or several of these macrofunctions. And at the same time macrofunctions can be asociated to certain distinctive linguistic features (e.g. descriptive function: affirmative mode, present tense, high functional load on the attribute , precise and diffentiated use of adverbs). Text types and genres – factual prose and genres – discontinuous texts – multi-modal texts / multicoded texts … Linguistic features / realisations: lexis, morpho-syntax, style, register, establish coherence and cohesion (BICS/CALP ) 14

15 Model (in this case based on Mohan’s knowledge framework) for Language and content (with sample lang.) Theoretical/General Classification Principles Evaluation Sample thinking skills: Classifying Identifying Understanding Applying or developing concepts Establishing hypotheses Interpreting data Drawing conclusions Evaluating Ranking Judging Appreciating Sample language: Verb categories Verbs of possession: have comparison: more than – taller than Classification: include, place under Cause/reason: is due to Condition & contrast: if there is Prediction: probably Generalization & explanation: completely Describing emotions: like, dislike, satisfactory Evaluation adjectives: good, right/wrong Verbs of volition: prefer, had rather

16 5. Suggested Procedure(s) in our own CoE case studies
Examples for History + Science education Literary education will and math might follow Combine the procedures mentioned above Looks at a subject in a wider and much more fundamental way ( meaning) Illustrates how specific areas of knowledge could be constructed and mapped out Showshow deeply lang. is embedded in this

17 Steps for Identifying Language Competences in the Learning/Teaching of History or Science
inventory and description of the educational values targeted by history/science teaching practices; (2) inventory and description of the social situations of communication and decision-making involving history or science in the learners’ social environment; (3) inventory and description of basic subject knowledge structures; (4) inventory and description of the existing in-school communication situations for the acquisition and construction of basic knowledge and procedures in history or in science respectively. The choices to be made among these possibilities lead to the definition of the purposes + objectives of education in history/science within compulsory schooling.

18 (5) inventories and descriptions of the
Based on steps (1) to (4) it is then possible to create: (5) inventories and descriptions of the specific linguistic, discursive and semiotic characteristics of relevance for the types of discourse involved in history or science teaching and learning practices in the classroom; These characteristics should be taught in their own right in each subject area. The following examples and illustrations are all taken from the two case studies

19 Step 1: Educational values in subject learning and teaching
to be a decisive factor in reconciliation, recognition, understanding and mutual trust between peoples, especially by introducing multiperspectivity into historical research and accounts; to play a vital role in the promotion of fundamental values such as tolerance, mutual understanding, human rights and democracy; to encourage recognition and understanding of different interpretations of the same issue and their relative legitimacy, building trust between peoples, by accepting multiperspectivity in scientific research and explanations to be a fundamental component in the construction of a Europe based on a common cultural heritage, with a humanistic and a scientific orientation, working towards the development of a knowledge society in which conflictual factors are accepted; to be an instrument for the prevention of crimes against humanity and securing the quality of human existence.

20 Step 2: Social situations of knowledge use
Political agendas where scientific knowledge or assumptions are used for persuasive purposes to define e.g. ‘progress’ or ‘security’ and justify actions to be taken e.g. dealing with atomic power or pandemic threats, reduction of CO2 emissions etc.; Exchanges between citizens which pre-suppose “general knowledge” of a scientific nature; Family and neighbourhood contexts where personal knowledge and evaluations are passed on or mixed with “expert” knowledge and opinions; Accounts in the media of technological breakthroughs, celebrations of “great scientists”, expansion of knowledge about the universe, etc. or of actual or potential misuses of scientific discoveries Reading both general and specialist science press and didactic publications etc.); Watching different kinds of entertainment both fictional and documentary – films, television programmes, theatre - with a scientific content e.g. re-enactment of scientific discoveries Using sources of reference such as websites ; Visiting museums, exhibitions, similar sites of natural science and technology;

21 Step 3: inventory and description of basic subject knowledge structures and methodologies, e.g. history general categories and general knowledge: Chronology, event, structures, concepts, elements, principles specific or local categories and knowledge, proximate in space and time: relationships, structures, systems and functions ?? specific or local categories and knowledge, remote in space and time: developments??

22 Components of methodological/procedural competences
formulate relevant questions about the available documents/data source; examine potential sources of information and distinguish between primary and secondary sources; assess such sources in terms of validity, possible bias, accuracy and reliability; use the sources available to identify relevant information to answer certain questions; analyse and structure this information on a particular topic/issue and relate it to existing/prior knowledge; contextualise the information by relating it to information already available about the period, the actor, the transmitter of knowledge; scrutinise the available source materials for rational justification and rank them in terms of their significance; Acknowledge that scientific inquiry and findings are not value-free; recognise one’s own perspective, bias and prejudice and take account of them when interpreting the available evidence; acquaint oneself with the history of science as a particular form of the construction of knowledge;

23 Step 4: Existing in-school communication situations for the acquisition and construction of basic knowledge and procedures

24 Science-related cognitive skills include the ability to
identify types of sources used/academic sources identify reasoning, based on data/clues notice the strategies/devices applied to give popular appeal: e.g. dramatisation, “experts” versus laymen, activating elements/substances etc. identify and distinguish already known and new knowledge place the presentation into a broader context (larger issues, concepts, structures) Evaluate representational forms chosen specific to the media in question identify simplifications, generalisations, lack of data, allusion to academic controversies, unbalanced solutions etc. understand whether a particular bias is being conveyed

25 Step 5: Discourse genres in the subject(s)
Types of discourse involved in history or science teaching and learning practices in the classroom

26 From classroom situations to discursive forms
History-related cognitive skills Read and summarise relevant documentation; Locate the different sources of information; Adapt an existing historical discourse; Interpret primary data; Interpret quantitative data; Report the opinion of professional historians; Give and support one’s own point of view, explaining its source and nature; Highlight the gains and the problems; Linguistic and semiotic skills State a plan, a scheme of narration; “Give clear, systematically developed descriptions and presentations, with appropriate highlighting of significant points” (Descriptor B2 in the CEFR p. 58); Emphasise the stages of the presentation as it unfolds; Present and organise the linguistic commentary of tabulated data, a diagram, etc.; Make the presentation attractive: manage voice and intonation; React with restraint to objections or criticism from class or teacher; Answer questions afterwards; Assess one’s own performance;

27 Overview of necessary competences in science education
Strategic, discursive, formal competences Involving pragmatic + cognitive categories discourse functions in science education manipulating examples of discourse genres (reception, speaking and writing) linguistic means/conventions/categories for the realisation of discourse types Issue: thresholds + stages of development

28 No Framework, but Procedures
The right to quality education drives/pushes us The largely hidden curriculum has to become unveiled, rights and requirements made CLEAR The needs of ‘vulnerable learners’ are just a catalyst for becoming clearer and more explicit Implications for curricula, for language support systems and teacher education are enormous Each member state should procede under their own conditions + operate language-specifically

29 6. Who should act? Curriculum planners in each member state
Subject teachers in cooperation with linguists, with language or discourse specialists: Sensitizing The goal is to take every learner along in each subject+help them to make full use of the curriculum Quality education in a subject requires mastering the relevant discourse functions and genres, to become discourse competent and an active citizen Our youth needs best of knowledge-building possible

30 Summary/Conclusion The importance of language in subject learning and teaching has to be (fully) acknowledged Language competences have to be explicitly stated/ formulated in each curriculum and also explicitly taught as part of the knowledge-building/the subject Focussing on subj.-specific terminology is not enough! Different procedures for describing classroom acitivi-ties, discourse genres, cognitive/linguistic functions and linguistic repertoires in subject learning exist Transversality between subjects should be strived for.

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