Taking an Investigative Stance in Using the Professional Standards in the Languages Classroom

Article excerpt

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The Professional Standards Project (PSP) is a nationally coordinated professional learning program for languages teachers, to improve the quality of languages teaching and, thereby, improve student learning. It is based on the use of the Professional standards for accomplished teaching of languages and cultures (DEST, 2005--hereafter, the Standards) as a framework. The project was delivered in 2008 and consisted of 2 streams:

* Stream A: two x three hour modules to familiarise teachers with the Standards

* Stream B: eight x three hour modules focusing in depth on educational theory and practice, language and culture, and language pedagogy. Participants also undertook ongoing classroom investigations as part of this project.

A key element of the PSP project for those teachers involved in Stream B was the classroom investigation. This was an opportunity for teachers to apply the learning and knowledge gained through the project to their own contexts. It was also a process which supported teachers in developing their awareness of themselves as teachers, as reflected in the Standards. The professional learning materials (Scarino, Liddicoat, Crichton, Curnow, Kohler, Loechel, Mercurio, Morgan, Papademetre, & Scrimgeour, 2008, p. 3 ) define an 'investigative stance' as:

* an orientation to noticing, documenting and making sense of the actions of yourself and your learners; and

* an ongoing interest in using information about the classroom to develop your own professional learning.

All Stream B participants were encouraged to investigate one aspect of their practice to support their professional development in light of the Standards. The investigations were conducted over a relatively short time frame of approximately two months. The emphasis was on 'going deeper' rather than broader. Teachers were encouraged to base their investigations on one of the ten modules of the PeP materials which was relevant and meaningful to them at that point in time. The diversity and quality of the investigations undertaken and the sharing of these on the final project reporting day provided excellent professional learning for all involved. To provide an insight into the type of investigations teachers undertook, the following is a selection of investigations undertaken by Victorian participants and organised according to the relevant PSP professional learning module on which they were based.

CLASSROOM INVESTIGATIONS

Learning, learners & their life worlds

Angela, a secondary teacher of Italian, encouraged students to set goals for their language learning and to provide feedback to the teacher. She found this helped her to understand her students better and she was able to design her curriculum to match the students' needs and interests. In particular, students were very keen to be able to 'speak Italian'. As a result, students were given the task of building up their own conversational skills, beginning with a 30 second self-introduction and working towards a three minute conversation. The teacher scaffolded activities to support students so that in each lesson they were able to add to their conversation from that day's activities. With an increased emphasis on oral language in response to the students' own goals and a refocusing in her teaching practice, Angela recorded a noticeable increase in engagement and motivation amongst her students. She reflected that 'the investigation was a tool that enabled me to reassess my students' attitude to Italian and to reflect on my own teaching style'.

Identifying language-specific needs

Through the PSP, language-specific needs annotations had been developed in seven languages (Indonesian, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish) as a guide for teachers on how the Standards can be applied in particular languages. Recognising the value of language-specific annotations, a team of teachers developed a set of Auslan annotations to help guide and clarify their teaching. …