These pupils are often struggling to learn Swedish, and this raises questions about how and when to teach English. In addition, many of these pupils have very varied backgrounds which need to be taken into consideration when planning how to integrate them into school life and how to deliver the curriculum.
Asking staff at LTU for advice
Prof. Lydia Kokkola (Head of English and Education) explained that the workshop was arranged in response to direct requests from teachers in schools who had been emailing members of staff at LTU asking for advice on a range of matters.
– Most of the questions came in the form ‘What does the research suggest is the best way to ____? She recalled, and the concerns ranged from the best time to introduce English into the curriculum, to the best kinds of material or specific questions about vocabulary teaching and group work.
– The problem is that the research that is available cannot answer this kind of question, partly because there are too many factors involved to make generalizations about this heterogeneous group, and partly because this formulation would require comparisons of groups that are unethical.
Where research can help, she went on to explain, is with understanding the factors involved and the implications of these for classroom practice.
100 years of teaching experience
Susanne Karmefjord and Ingrid Lövgren from Flerspråkscentrum in Luleå gave a joint presentation on the legal requirements outlined in the new school act that came into force in January 2016 and also aspects of these students’ special needs that need to be taken into consideration. They pointed out that when people speak about “nyanlända” (newly arrived) students, they tend to assume that the majority are asylum seekers, some of whom come from regions where they will not have had access to education during their escape from a war zone. Such pupils may well be traumatised and in need of psychological support. Before the war, some will have had excellent education and others will have had none. This group is fairly large, but there are many other kinds of “newly arrived” pupils in Swedish schools. Some are the children of highly educated parents such as visiting scholars at LTU and, for these international children, learning English may be more important than learning Swedish. Others may have Swedish parents, but they have been living abroad for so long that they will need additional kinds of support. For this reason, they wanted everyone to understand that a single administrative solution will not work for everyone.
At the moment, there is no funding for research in this area, but the LTU staff are so committed to working with teachers in the region on this topic that they wanted to arrange a series of workshops. “In this room”, Prof. Kokkola pointed out.
– We have over 100 years of teaching experience.
The next workshop will be on Wednesday 7th June at 14:00 and will address the documentation and the tests of ability that are used to help teachers determine which group a newly arrived student should be placed in.