Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Effects of German Language Teacher Professional Development on Pupils' Learning Outcomes in Intercultural Competence

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Effects of German Language Teacher Professional Development on Pupils' Learning Outcomes in Intercultural Competence

Article excerpt

Introduction

The global economy, the establishment of worldwide connections between people and or institutions, as well as economically and socially motivated migration, are characteristic occurrences of contemporary societies and contribute to the increasing heterogeneity of various aspects of human life. In order to sustain oneself, thrive and actively participate in such a society, individuals need a set of different competences. Intercultural competence is often singled out as an important component of that set, its purpose being to establish and improve relationships and bring about mutual understanding and respect among members of different cultural and social groups. The development of this competence is increasingly being perceived as a key goal in today's education. Official recognition of its importance in education at the European level was confirmed by its inclusion in the Recommendation 2006/962/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council ofiS December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning (Official Journal L 394 of 30.12.2006).

The development of key competences is regarded as a relevant goal both in the European Union's education policy and in the national education policies of European countries. Therefore, key competences are increasingly being included in the national curricula throughout Europe. Similarly, intercultural competence is incorporated in the curricula of most European countries today, with foreign language teaching representing a significant area of its development (see Languages and Cultures in Europe, 2006).

The Republic of Croatia is not an exception in following this trend, as the document on Key competences for lifelong learning - a European reference framework has exerted significant influence on the design of the Croatian National Curriculum Framework for Preschool Education, General Compulsory and Secondary School Education (2010) (hereafter: National Curriculum Framework). Intercultural competence is integrated into the National Curriculum Framework and is thus recognized by the Croatian education policy and language teaching methodology as an essential key competence. While this competence was defined as a foreign language teaching goal in the Primary School Curriculum of the Republic of Croatia as early as 2006, its achievement is more elaborately defined in the subsequently adopted National Curriculum Framework. Therefore, the competence has been given a significant position in the Croatian curricular documents. The development of intercultural competence is precisely defined and outlined in the foreign language teaching framework, and the competence is also - implicitly or explicitly - cited as a goal in other education areas and subject-integrated fields of study.

As a result of the placement of a strong emphasis on intercultural competence in curricular documents, teachers are faced with demanding tasks. In the Croatian education system, foreign language teachers are affected by the changes the most significantly, because intercultural competence is regarded as an essential component of foreign language competences. The accomplishment of the learning outcomes, such as the ability to reflect on the phenomena of 'the culture of the interlocutor without making value judgments' (National Curriculum Framework, 2010, p. 89) or the ability to reflect on the influence of ' one's own culture on the perception of both the culture of the interlocutor and one's own, on the ways in which culture affects communication and cultural patterns, and on heterogeneity, change and development as important aspects of culture' (National Curriculum Framework, 2010, p. 89) can present teachers with challenges. Recent research in that field confirms these assumptions.

Research results in the field of intercultural competence in Croatian schools point to the numerous difficulties teachers face in accomplishing learner outcomes in this area, i.e. they indicate that the approach to the development of this competence has not been sufficiently systematic (see Breka, 2012; Filipan-Zigni? …

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