Thinking Approach in Danish Language Teaching
Author: Birutė Spraunienė, Danish language teacher at Vilnius University
The project "Problem solving tasks for learning Danish as a second and foreign language in transformative learning environments" was launched in September 2012 as a cooperation between three different types of education providers: Scandinavian departments of two universities (Vilnius and Tartu), a Danish language school (Ballerup Sprogcenter) and a teacher education provider with an expertise in creativity and thinking (TA Group, Riga). The aim of the project is to introduce the Thinking Approach to Danish language teaching in the tertiary and adult education contexts.
The main idea behind the Thinking Approach (TA) is to teach language in a way that aims at developing learners' thinking skills together with their language skills. This implies that, among other things, learners are supposed to build up their own language rules on the basis of some accurately chosen language input.
Stefan Anbro, lecturer at Vilnius University, finds the TA very relevant at the university context: “For those of us who teach foreign languages at the universities, language learning should not be the sole aim. The aim should be more general ‒ to teach thinking, which I think is very meaningful, especially because we know that thinking skills are what most students of the humanities will actually need after leaving university”.
Sharpening the learners’ attention to the language
The project participants have already met twice: at the initial workshop in Riga and at the second workshop hosted by the Department of Scandinavian Studies of Tartu University. The remaining two big events of the project are the third workshop in Vilnius and the final conference in Denmark. During the Riga workshop the main ideas and principles of the Thinking Approach to language teaching were introduced, and examples of teaching materials that have been developed for distant and blended learning were presented. The materials are available in several languages at this website.
As the online materials for Danish still need to be developed and adapted, it was decided that the project participants will develop their own thinking tasks for their current learners, test the tasks and share their experiences on the special website for teachers that have started making steps towards a thinking classroom (http://www.ta-teachers.eu). On this website, one can find the materials for Danish that have been developed within the project, as well as read the teachers' reflections on the work with the materials and the students' response. The thinking tasks have proved to work well not only with the university students, but also with language school students.
“I have used the TA tasks with a beginner group of foreigners with low educational background. I have experienced that especially the sorting tasks have sharpened the learners' attention to the language. For example, I have asked them to sort a bunch of their own sentences into well-formed and ill-formed ones and to present arguments for their sorting. This caused a lively discussion which gave a deeper understanding of grammar than in those situations where I just explained the rules”, says Sisse Johansen, Danish language teacher from Ballerup Sprogcenter.