PhD Research School in Linguistics and Philology

Xavier Llovet Vila

Kunnskapsløftet and the foreign language classroom: A study of the teaching of Spanish in Norwegian lower secondary schools

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The aim of my project is to explore empirically how teachers of Spanish put the concept of praktisk tilnærming (practical approach) stated in Kunnskapsløftet (LK06) into practice. In this sense, there is an intention to offer an alternative perspective and take a step further to the existing knowledge about teachers’ understanding of the concept praktisk tilnærming, as it will concretely study how teachers of Spanish as a foreign language apply the concept’s interpretation in their teaching practices.

Therefore, the project has an empirical approach. Data will be gathered through observations of real-time teaching situations in 8th grade classrooms. Thus, the subjects’ framework sample consists of eight teachers of Spanish as a foreign language in Norwegian lower secondary schools.

The perception of the theoretic vs. the practical approach toward foreign language learning, in relation to the status of foreign languages as compulsory or optional subjects in lower secondary schools, has opened a debate in the Norwegian foreign language community. The practical approach is seen as a way of making language learning more accessible to learners. However, the new subject curriculum for foreign languages has already been at the core of debates and has attracted criticism for its lack of detail in syllabus and methodology specification. Thus, in light of this framework of methodological freedom, teaching practices are open to various interpretations and much is left to the individual teacher’s interpretation, skill, and expertise since there is often no clear application of foreign language subject curriculum’s assumptions and principles in the classroom. 

Moreover, Kunnskapsløftet has turned Spanish into the foreign language that has grown the most in the Norwegian educational context (lower and upper secondary school). The reasons for such a growth are to be mainly found in the inclusion of Spanish, as an optional subject, in lower secondary schools (Ungdomstrinnet), and as a compulsory subject in upper secondary schools (Videregående opplæring) to be often chosen amongst French and German as a foreign language. Nevertheless, a recent study on students’ motivation for learning French, German and Spanish as a foreign language in four Norwegian lower secondary schools shows disappointing results for Spanish (Lindemann 2008), since students express dissatisfaction with the foreign language teaching received and the language learning outcomes achieved.

The project will be carried out within the research group “Språkutdanning: Diskurser og praksis” at Institutt for fremmedspråk and it is expected that it will shed valuable light on the expansion of Spanish language teaching in lower secondary schools in Norway. In addition, the findings of this project will also be valuable for the teaching of other foreign languages in the Norwegian educational context. With this project I want to contribute to promoting and ensuring that all pupils are offered high quality teaching (Fremmedspråksenteret’s mandate), which is in line with the national policy towards foreign language teaching and learning.