Language Development Approaches in Education for Newly Arrived Students into the Swedish School System

Background, focus and aims

The need to give current and future teachers the knowledge and skills for increased language development work in all school subjects is often expressed as a priority area within the school community. Teachers’ development of language didactic skills is even more necessary in the education field today, as a result of challenges brought on by the increasing arrival of refugees who need to be schooled in the mainstream Swedish system.

The Centre for Professional Development and Internationalisation in Schools at Uppsala University has in recent years focused on education for newly arrived students, due to the lack of knowledge and the increasing demand for teacher training activities in this field. We have organised, among other things, research-related seminars and training courses for bilingual education teachers and student counsellors. As a part of this educational profile, the Centre for Professional Development and Internationalisation in Schools has defined the language development approach as a priority area of ​​knowledge to be focused on within the framework of the on-going Erasmus+ project Education for Equity. In close connection to the project's fundamental objectives, we aim to contribute to:

  • mapping out and analysing good practices in social, linguistic and cultural inclusion, with special attention given to immigrant children and young people not in employment, education or training,
  • transferring existing knowledge in social, linguistic and cultural inclusion to new educational contexts.

From the school side, it is common to put resources in place to create conditions for enhancing language development oriented methods in all school subjects, not least in the so-called introductory classes for newly arrived students. This is often done through various forms of training activities targeted at specialist subject teachers, bilingual education teachers, student counsellors and other school staff involved with newly arrived students. The increasing activity around education for newly arrived students also creates an urgent need for specific studies that lead to new knowledge about the complexity and diversity of the educational processes of this student profile, not least a scientifically founded and critical approach to language development in the field.

The aim of this project is, through a systematic review, to deepen our understanding of the concept of Language Development Approach (språkutvecklande arbetssätt) in relation to education for newly arrived students in the current Swedish educational context. Another purpose is to describe and analyse teaching methods and strategies targeted at newly arrived students in light of pre-existing knowledge about language development approaches.

In this study, the following preliminary research topics are in focus:

  • Which theories are behind the concept of language development approach?
  • What pre-existing research supports the application of language development approaches in education for newly arrived students?
  • Is there empirical evidence for good results of language development approaches as a teaching method in education for newly arrived students?

The above study is still a work in progress. More information will be presented as we proceed.