Notes for personal use
Parte Prima Verso la scuola di domani
Chapter 2 – The Italian way towards European dimension
2.1 Teaching languages: a vertical approach
Inspired by plurilingualism and pluriculturalism the European dimension was introduced to the Italian School system after the ratification of the T.U.E. (which took place on 1st November 1993). In fact, according to article 4 of the Testo Unico on the legislative provisions in force concerning Education, relating to schools of all kind and levels (Legislative Decree No. 297/1994): “the Italian School system, respecting the responsibility of the European Community member states, regarding the content of teaching and the organisation of the education system, favours the cooperation between Member States in order to develop high-quality education with a European dimension, in accordance with the provisions of article 126 of the European Community Treaty (…)”. In the D.P.R. n. 275/1999 (implementing the autonomy of educational institutions), in art. 4, co. 3, on the other hand, provision was made for “teaching in a foreign language in order to implement international agreements and deals”.
The subsequent law n. 53/2003 (known as the Moratti reform) took into due consideration the objectives drawn up in March 2000 in Lisbon, with particular regard to the concept of “Lifelong Learning” and the development of skills linked to “Local, National and European dimensions”. This opening led to introducing the study of the English language from the first year of Primary School onwards, as well as introducing a second language of the European Union during the first year of Secondary School. Through the Legislative Decree n. 59/2004 (which implemented the reform in Nursery Schools and the first two segments of Primary School) the aims of the various school levels were clarified and, with reference to English language and to a second EU Community language, the following was highlighted:
1. In the past, the teaching of foreign languages in Primary Schools was regulated by the art. 10 of Law no. 148/1990 and by art. 125 of Legislative Decree no. 297/1994. The D.M. June 28, 1991, defined the organisational aspects for the generalised and compulsory teaching of a foreign language, starting from the third class. Currently, non-specialised teachers are obliged to follow special training courses in order to teach English in Primary Schools , as stated in art. 10, co. 5 of the D.P.R. n. 81/2009 “Rules for the school network’s reorganisation and the rational and effective use of school human resources”.
> Primary School education promotes basic knowledge and skills, including literacy in English language;
> Middle School education introduces the study of a second European Union language. The essential Levels of Performance (LEP) are therefore clarified in the National Guidelines and in the relevant annexes (Annex B for Primary School; Annex C for Middle School) in order to guarantee the personal, social and civil right to have high quality education and training, aimed at specific learning objectives.
With regard to the teaching of English in Primary Schools we recommend looking at the specific documentation’, whilst mentioning here – from a vertical view of the curricula – that the exit level foreseen by the end of Primary School corresponds to A1 +3 after a total of 396 teaching hours. On the other hand, with regard to the teaching of English in Middle Schools the National Guidelines for personalised study plans are given below. Previously it had not been highlighted that it was for schools and teachers to design the Learning Units, consisting of suitable and significant educational goals for individual students, including those with a disability, who rely on special educational support; these Learning Units are aimed at guaranteeing the transformation of each one’s capabilities into real and documented skills”.
2. See Legislative Decree no. 59/2004, Annex B, National Guidelines for Personalised Study Plans in Primary School
3. The CEFR (Common European Framework For Languages)
– describes the language skills at each level, in various areas:
The CEFR also shows
(“Basic”, “Autonomy” and “Mastery”).
The Basic level is divided into Al (elementary) and A2 (pre-intermediate or “survival”). The Autonomy level is divided into Bl (intermediate or “threshold”) and B2 (post-intermediate).
The Mastery level is developed in Cl (advanced or “autonomous efficiency”) and C2 (mastery of the language in situations).
Currently, the weekly teaching time of English in Primary School is differentiated according to the year: in the first class one hour per week (33 hours per year); in the second class, two hours per week (66 hours per year); in the third, fourth and fifth classes, three hours per week (99 hours per year).
Given that the national guidelines attached to Legislative Decree no. 59/2004 were of a transitional nature, new Guidelines for Nursery and Primary School Curricula were issued in 2007, following the comments made by academic institutions (Ministerial Decree 31/07/2007). The latter indicated the school as a place of meeting and growth for teachers and students and emphasised how “educating by teaching means mainly three things: delivering the cultural heritage that comes from the past and can be put to good use, preparing for the future by introducing young people to adult life, providing them with indispensable skills that enable them to be the main protagonists within the economic and social context by supporting him or her in the search for meaning and in the demanding process of building his/her own personality.” This form of education-instruction has come to symbolise the “Italian path to Europe and the acquisition of the skills indicated at Lisbon”.
In the Guidelines for the Curricula, emphasis was placed on the continuity of the teaching process in the various types of school. In particular in the learning of languages, the following must be ensured, “both continuity <vertically> from Primary School to Secondary School, and transversality <horizontally> by integrating mother tongue and foreign languages”. To encourage language learning, the teacher must also rely on “an initial inner motivation, the student’s spontaneous propensity for spoken communication based on his desire to socialize and interact with the surrounding environment”. In the Guidelines for the Curricula, instead of referring solely to specific learning environment.objectives” (OSA), attention was also focused on skills development goals” placed at the end of the most significant junctions of the curricular path in order to show the “paths to take to finalise the educational plan for the total development of the student”
2.1.3 The teaching of foreign languages in Secondary Schools
As far as Secondary Schools are concerned, the study of foreign language and communicative skills and the development of knowledge related to the cultural culture must proceed along two fundamental axes: the development of linguistic-universe linked to the reference language. During the course of Secondary School, the learner develops the following skills: comprehension of oral and written texts concerning subjects of both personal and scholastic interest; production of oral and written texts; interaction in the foreign language in an appropriate way referring to the speakers and relevant to the context.
In the fifth year of all Secondary Schools, the teaching of a discipline will take place in a foreign language. This takes place earlier in Linguistic Secondary Sehools: in the third year of a foreign language and in the fourth year of another foreign language. The ultimate aim is to use the foreign language for oral and written comprehension and reworking of non-linguistic subjects”. The entire Secondary School training course is therefore constructed in such a way as to constantly use the foreign language, and particular emphasis is given to virtual and face-to-face exchanges as well as to visits, study travel (even if organised individually) and training internships in Italy or abroad. The following objectives are the specific learning objectives for languages taken from the National Guidelines and they fully constitute the starting point for a correct didactic-methodological design.
2.3 Language teaching and language learning in Italy
Language teaching as any graduate or language teacher well knows, is an interdisciplinary theoretical-practical science that is substantiated in the relationship with other disciplines such as the science of language and communication, the science of education and training, the psychological sciences, the science of culture and society, and intersects with areas of pedagogy, psychology and linguistics. Its primary purpose is the study of teaching and learning methods for foreign languages or second languages and it supports teachers in the planning, design and implementation of language education programs.
Before explaining some fundamental concepts for effective teaching, it is worthwhile briefly dwelling on the differences between a “foreign language” (FL) and a “second language” (L2) since sometimes in MIUR documents the terms are used as interchangeably. A foreign language is used above all to communicate, starting from homogeneous competence levels: linguistic input is generally controlled the linguistic situations are not authentic but “reproduced” and used for fictitious purposes; cultural references are mediated by the teacher or teaching materials; and the motivation to learn must be continuously stimulated and reinforced 34.35. In practice, a foreign language is the language that is not learned in the country where it is spoken but is studied in a school context. This is the case for example, of English taught in Italian classrooms. A second language is, on the other hand, learned in the context where it is spoken or studied (sometimes it is used as a term to indicate a language that is learned after the mother tongue MT). It is used both to communicate and study, and motivation for learning is real, intrinsic and non-utilitarian because it arises from the need to integrate into the community that speaks the language that is learned. The linguistic input is mixed and difficult to control by the teacher as it also comes from outside the school. The linguistic situations are authentic and characterised by real aims and, finally, the cultural aspects are experienced directly by the students and experienced in everyday life. It is, therefore, the language learned in the country where it is a language of use, so it is the situation in which foreign students enrolled in our schools find themselves and who want or have to learn Italian. Language teaching research, as pointed out above, highlights a theoretical component (which aims to understand the mechanism of linguistic acquisition for identifying approaches) and an operational component, also known as “glottodidassi”, which leads to the definition of methods, techniques and technologies.
By methodology, we intend the theory of methods which shows how each method falls into a given cultural context and in turn reflects a linguistic theory. The methodology can be focused on the teacher, on the programme, on curricular programming or on the student.
The Lemma approach provides further clarification of the term “methodology”: it is a theoretical dimension of language teaching and leads to focusing on the objectives of linguistic education. It is an approach that gives rise to one or more methods that guarantee its application in various situations.It is the method that transforms the approach into operational practice and may or may not be adequate for its implementation. The method usually starts from the analysis of the needs of the learner in order to reach the enucleation of the communicative situations, the topics to be discussed and the strategies or techniques to be adopted in the didactic action.
Finally, the techniques represent the activities and tools that put into practice the prescriptions of the method and the aims of the approach.
The glottodidactic process is characterised by the presence of a subject (the learner and sometimes even the teacher), an object (the language), a situation (sociocultural context) and the means (the strategies implemented for language development and learning). The ultimate goal of the whole process is to pursue the “language teaching goals“ (that is, the development of language skills) by the strengthening (in the MT) and the development (in the FL or L2) of social-pragmatic competence and the strengthening or development of grammar.
For several decades, language teaching methods generally used in language teaching in Italy have followed the humanistic-affective approach. This boasts as reference theories the humanistic psychology of A. Maslow and C. Rogers , the studies of psychodidactics, H. Gardner’s research on emotional intelligence, NPL (Neuro-Linguistic Programming – neurolinguistics pro-grammar) and acquisitional linguistics. The following methods have also had a significant influence on the development of humanistic-affective glottodidactics: those developed by J. Asher (Total Physical Response TPR), C. Gattegno (Silent Way – silent method), by G. Lozanov (Suggestopaedia – suggestopedic method) and by T. Terrell and S. Krashen (Natural Approach).
Today’s humanistic-affective language teaching approach is also the result of the influence of the communicative approach, being both transposition and integration and having both the common goal of developing communicative competence.56. According to the principles of this latter approach, the learner must be immersed in an authentic and concrete situation, which reproduces the situations that a communicative competence can be developed. It is worth remembering how in the seventies, under pressure of growing internationalisation and increasing mobility of people, foreign languages grew in prestige. The influences of distinguished scholars, such as DA Wilkins and MAK Halliday brought the teaching and the study of languages to the point of taking a real “communicative turn”.
The profound revolution introduced by the Communicative Approach consisted of selecting the necessary communication functions according to the needs of learners and not, as in the past, based on a progression of increasing difficulty. Never before had the communication needs of the students been taken into consideration by other language teaching approaches, in fact, it was common practice to present the planned topics with a standard succession of rules and a mass of definitions.
On the other hand, at the end of the eighties the humanistic-affective philosophy (a label given to a series of sometimes extremely diverse methods) came to Italy in the form of a unique language teaching approach. As for communication it was realised that the passage from the notion of “teaching-learning” to the diffusion of the concept of “linguistic education” took place in a context of social change in which the language to be used had a real function. Learning needs were no longer limited to a theoretical knowledge of the language, but knowledge of linguistic use seemed vital in order to be able to act with the language in different situations, also through the use of authentic material 37. Moreover, linguistic competence acquired new connotations and was enriched: not only therefore its communicative and formal aspects but also sociolinguistic, pragmatic, socio-cultural and extra-linguistic aspects. Finally, communication was also transformed into “interaction”. The humanistic-affective approach placed the attention during the language learning completely on the student and placed teacher-learner relations at the centre of everything, opposing N. Chomsky’s innatism and cognitivism. Language became a pragmatic instrument of communication and relegated formal correctness to a secondary role, at the same time increasing the value of culture. Its ultimate goal was the development of verbal and non-verbal communication, with a focus on increasing the autonomy of the learner during the learning phase.
Consequently with a humanistic-affective approach, the real focus of the didactic action is every aspect of the learner: his/her interests and psychological, emotional and cognitive characteristics that allow him/her to act and interact in a training setting similar to the real environment. He is the protagonist of the learning path and must be adequately motivated and stimulated. The communicative needs of the learner is the starting point for the didactic action and consequently a primary role is played by sentiments , the need for relationships, the factors that influence the ability to learn and the desire for self-fulfilment. The student is thus freed from being a mere blank sheet on which to write a continuous series of pattern drills, or set of grammatical rules. The mechanism of structural methods is largely overcome by a global authentic vision, above all aimed at exploring the relationship between teacher and learner and which in many ways recalls the relationship between patient and psychotherapist.
The teacher, therefore, has the task of linking the development of the interlanguage to contexts close to the direct experience of the learner, despite already having awareness of the existence of relationships and connections with even more distant contexts. He/she must select activities and materials based on linguistic and training needs; must contribute to the co-construction of knowledge by creating a microcosm of facilitating and meaningful learning; must activate circular communication events that lead to reflection on the ways of learning; must promote accountability functions; and must consider error as an opportunity for reflection, learning and promotion of knowledge. He/she must reconstruct the student’s linguistic biography, he must provide for the reduction or elimination of the effective filter and he must involve the learner in every phase of the learning process through continuous negotiation. Finally it should noted that teaching one or more languages in the school environment also implies knowing how to create relationships with different and heterogeneous learners. The teacher must make the learner the true emotional fulcrum, the undisputed protagonist of the teaching-learning process through the stimulation of the LAD (Language Acquisition Device). He/she must do this by transforming the language into a pragmatic communication tool, providing appropriate solicitations and pointing out structures. He/she must knowingly enrich and modify the input or render it redundant 39 and be able to develop a teaching of error where deviation from the norm becomes a resource and an investigative tool both for the teacher (who acts as a dynamo) and for the learner (who it allows to compare their own evolution of interlingua with the target language). In a nutshell, the teacher must be able to transform his/her teaching action into a meaningful learning experience: where content experienced by the learner is relevant because it satisfies his/her personal needs and contributes to the realisation of his/her goals.
34 COM (2008) 566 of 18 September 2008.
35 Usually two types of motivation are classified: a) instrumental (typical of the FL study, it is the means of contact during encounters with foreigners or travelling abroad); b) integrative typical of the L2 study, refers to the desire of non-Italian speakers to integrate themselves,for example, in the class group).
36. Communicative competence is an extremely dynamic concept that involves the process of negotiating meanings between two or more people. It includes productive and receptive competence; and systems of symbols and codes of languages (orality, writing, mimicry, tonality, proxemics); it depends on context and presentation-style differences, register, communicative intention; it depends on individual factors and affective components (motivation, self-esteem, identification, etc.). It consists essentially of four elements: grammatical (domain of the linguistic code and formal aspects of MT or L2), sociolinguistic (understanding of the social context), discursive (ability to interact by capturing and producing meaningful texts, coherent and appropriate to the situation and context) and strategic (knowledge of strategies to use when other skills are lacking or in reaction to unexpected situations, e.g. paraphrase, reformulation, request for help, change of register).
37 The expression refers to the didactic use of non-didactic materials: newspaper articles, restaurant menus, airline tickets. These materials were already used by teachers who used the Direct Method and the Reading Method, but they have certainly become more important with the advent of the Communicative Approach.
38 Pattern drills are typical of the structuralist approach and consist of a series of symbols followed by an empty space in which the learner must provide the answer, which is then confirmed or corrected; if you use a linguistic-multimedia laboratory, you can listen to the exercise and then get feedback.
2.3.1. The most common approaches and methods
The ideal environment for language learning can be precisely defined and should be characterised by: consideration and respect for all students, didactic action motivated by duty but also pleasure and need, a smooth gradual range of language activities that “generate” lasting acquisition, and a peaceful training setting. Therefore, at the heart of all teaching is the idea that the learner does not limit himself to storing notions in the short-term memory (MBT) but gains internalising linguistic abilities that will be placed in the long-term memory (MLT) and become an established part of his/her skill set It is true that deciding on the method to be used in a language class depends on the teaching approach of the individual teacher. That is to say on his/ her convictions about how a person learns and how teaching helps to acquire a language. Furthermore, the teacher must make precise methodological choices concerning the objectives and purposes of a given teaching activity, module or course. He/she must select teaching techniques and strategies, elaborate the way in which to relate with learners (children, adolescents or adults) and must prepare evaluation criteria and methods. There is, therefore, no method that can be uniquely adapted to each situation, to each teacher and to each student, and currently the tendency is to integrate and merge different methods to create a specific language teaching model for each individual language teaching-learning process. The following are the most widespread approaches to help teachers to find their way in the development of their own training model:
> The Communicative Approach (CA) or Communicative Language Teaching (CLT).
This was established in Italy in the 1980s and is perhaps the method that most teachers today tend to choose. The basic assumption is the following. The learner learns best if involved in a meaningful communication process that makes him the protagonist and emphasises his communication needs. The student is at the centre of the teaching action and interacts through pair work or role-playing simulations and drama with classmates and with the teacher, and uses the language for precise, real purposes. The focus is therefore on the meaning and the communicative function of language rather than on structure or form, with a strong emphasis on the pragmatic component. Moreover, in the language lesson there is wide use of authentic material which allows greater interaction in situations not linked to school, and favours a comparison with real-life situations. The direct consequence of the use of the communicative approach in school is a curriculum that is ever more attentive to the individual and to his self empowerment.
> Total Physical Response (TPR). A method developed by J. Asher in the 1970s,
usually used with beginner learners and based on performative tasks, understanding and movement. Students listen to the teacher’s instructions (e.g., “Open the door!””, “Pick up your pen!), decode them and carry out the required actions, without needing to talk until they are able to (Delayed Oral Practice DOP). Language is therefore connected to movement (which would lead to the assimilation of chunks which are linguistic macrostructures) and comprehension skills have a privileged role. There is no theoretical reference elaboration, and it is based primarily on oral reception and only at a later stage on oral production. The choice of vocabulary and linguistic structures are based on meaning.
> Presentation, Practice and Production (PPP). Through this approach the teacher literally “presents” the language and exemplifies particular structures whilst carefully monitoring comprehension. The learner practises with each new topic (both semantic and grammatical) until he is able to produce language in a controlled context. The focus is on the idea of helping to grow in confidence and autonomy by using a language that “emerges”. In the “productive” phase, students are given the opportunity to experiment and verify what has actually been learned. The specific activities to be used in this phase are, without doubt, discussions, games and role-plays.
> Task-Based Learning (TBL). This is considered a variant of the communicative
approach and is based on the performance of structured tasks that imply the functional use of language that reflects real needs. Learning becomes an all-encompassing experience for the student who through a specific task takes Possession of the necessary communication skills to interact with the outside world. The teacher respects autonomy, freedom and individual responsibility. It is the learners who decide how the project will develop according to their own inclinations and interests, developing a personal path at a speed in keeping with the actual level of linguistic competence. Collaboration allows interaction with other individuals by learning and transmitting social competences within the school microcosm, thus encouraging the exchange of perspectives. It develops in three phases: pre-task, on-task and post-task
The pre-task activities serve mainly to motivate the task and homogenise the knowledge present in the classroom as much as possible. They focus on the activation of the vocabulary that will be used during the execution of the task and on an awareness of the topic and the contents that lead to the actual task. The on-task activities are those which concretely carry out the task established by the teacher (e.g. a problem-solving exercise) and which must lead to an outcome to be presented to the whole class group in written or oral form. The post-task activities have the purpose of focusing attention on the specific objectives that the teacher has set in order to help learning and they provide a reflection phase on the linguistic aspects highlighted during the execution of the task (language focus stage). It is an approach that uses an “all-around” teaching methodology because it involves skills that are not exclusively verbal, whilst not ignoring the linguistic element.
> The Natural Approach. This was developed by S. Krashen in the 1970s, it represents a summary of methods and techniques derived from multiple sources and is based on five hypotheses that characterise the Second Language Acquisition Theory – SLAT: 1. acquisition/learning, 2. monitor, 3. natural order, 4. understandable input and 5. affective filter.
1. Two different cognitive systems of acquisition and learning coexist in the learner: the one unconscious, spontaneous and fast, the other conscious, rational and slow The first leads to the mother tongue, the second to the target language. The learner has a sort of “innate” access to the mechanisms that guide the acquisition of the mother tongue, and the study of languages in the school environment must reproduce the conditions of acquisition, copying the natural process that occurred during the mother tongue language acquisition phase.
2. learning covers the function of monitoring, or the internal control of the language to be produced and takes place gradually;
3. the rules of language, in particular morphology, are acquired according to a very specific or natural order whether it is a mother tongue language or a foreign language (Natural Order Hypothesis);
4. the learner must be exposed to a comprehensible input, which respects the hypothesis of the natural order and which contains “i + 1”, that is that it is based on structures of slightly more complexity than the language already acquired. Input can be oral, written or audio-visual;
5. Psychological factors influence the acquisition of language: under certain conditions (anxiety, lack of self-esteem) the effective filter can be activated (a sort of defensive barrier) and the learner freezes. In the presence of an effective active filter, only learning not acquisition is possible. To the aforementioned hypotheses, Krashen adds the “rule of forgetting”: the learner acquires easily only if he forgets that he is learning the language, concentrating on the pragmatic content.
> The Lexical Approach: Developed in last few decades by M. Lewis, who undermines the erroneous idea that grammar is the basis of language learning (40). Grammar must instead be learned together and contextually with the lexicon (lexicogrammatically); in other words, grammatical rules are presented in natural sentences. According to Lewis, language is not constituted by structures and words but by different types of lexical units (phraseological verbs, formulaic expressions, idioms, compound or polirematic words, proverbs) whose meaning cannot be traced back to the sum of the meanings of their individual components. These lexical elements must, therefore, be acquired together. Four main categories of lexical units constitute a reference point for the development of lexis awareness:
• words (e.g. table, water, market) and polywords (e.g. on the one hand);
• collocations or word partnerships (e.g. traffic jam, on-the-spot decisions);
• institutionalised utterances or fixed expressions (e.g. I hope you don’t mind,
it’s not the sort of thing you think will ever happen to you);
• sentence frames or heads (e.g., rumour has it, it goes without saying).
The lexical approach, therefore, invites us to concentrate on the lemmas immersed in contexts and situations that continually reshape the semantic contours by trying to abandon the concept that language is “lexicalised grammar” and embracing the idea that it is “grammaticalised lexicon”. In truth, the chunks (compound lexical elements) and collocations offer learners a lifeline to be able to communicate effectively even without knowing the underlying linguistic structures. Words taught in isolation tend instead to be easily forgotten.
Ultimately, it can be said that contemporary language teaching witnesses the use of methods which, although part of the communicative approach, are also classified as “integrated”. This combination is known as Principled Eclecticism the flexible use of various approaches based on shared linguistic theories. The most appropriate methodology seems to be that which adapts and models itself according to the principle of individualisation and personalisation of learning paths, replacing the concept of “programme” with the broader idea of “programming”. The flexibility of approaches presupposes particular attention to the learner, class group, different personalities, different learning styles, type of activities (according to linguistic and communicative needs such as role-plays. performance tasks, project work, mechanical exercises to establish and reinforce structures, language games etc.) and capacity to work in teams to create materials, design, share and disseminate knowledge. Only in this way will the language class become a real “space of identity construction for all” (4l.) representing the starting point for every didactic interaction aimed at defining the needs, motivation and abilities of the training target (learners). The educational site is thus transformed into a physical and at the same time metaphorical space where the teacher elaborates inter and transcultural thematic paths appropriate to a plurilingual and multicultural environment. A space where there is a widening of perspectives and horizons, stimulation of previous abilities, enhancement of language and cultural differences, management of conflicts and otherness, elimination of linguistic hierarchies and an unhinging an ethnocentric practices which ultimately lead to a true education for active citizenship.
– Definition “Lemma” a subsidiary or intermediate theorem in an argument or proof.: “they give every last lemma of neoclassical theory the status of Holy Writ”.
39. In this case, it would be “flood input”.
40. Lewis writes verbatim in “The Lexical Approach” (1993): “The basis of language is lexis. It has been, and remains, the central misunderstanding of language to assume that grammar is the basis of language and that the mastery of the grammatical system is a prerequisite for effective communication.”
41. Cf “La via italiana per la scuola interculturale e l’integrazione degli alunni stranieri”
Note: It was Noam Chomsky‘s theories in the 1960s, focusing on competence and performance in language learning, that gave rise to communicative language teaching, but the conceptual basis for CLT was laid in the 1970s by linguists Michael Halliday, who studied how language functions are expressed through grammar, and Dell Hymes, who introduced the idea of a wider communicative competence instead of Chomsky’s narrower linguistic competence https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communicative_language_teaching
Examples of Learning Units
In this chapter we will suggest some examples of Learning Units aimed at acquiring knowledge of the main aspects of each culture, using the CLIL methodology or, at the very least, a method which involves a close cooperation between teachers, active research and active learning for students (see previously mentioned in Chapter 1, $1.6). They are examples of possible projects designed specifically for students from Licei Secondary Schools to students of Technical and / or Professional Institutes, after having made the appropriate distinctions and modifications of content according to the educational needs and level of the students involved, as well as the time and teachers available. In presenting different models, teachers are encouraged to adopt innovative teaching methods. Although at first it may seem like a titanic undertaking with uncertain results, it is always worth trying something new. Teachers will gradually understand which are the best materials with which to work; they will also be able to make suggestions to colleagues and reciprocate ideas, without fear of admitting weakness. They will realise the importance of ongoing assessment and grow in confidence to make changes to lesson plans during the planning stage, when difficulties that can be avoided are noticed, improvements can be added and anything ineffective discarded. With time it will become easier to safeguard time for preparation, to better exploit the human resources and potential of each participant, until experimentation turns into “best practice”.
Learning Unit 1
The Anglo-Saxon legal system and the Italian legal system, two models compared
Whichever faculty is chosen by students today and whatever profession they decide to undertake, a good knowledge of the laws that regulate productive activities is essential, as well as an understanding of the implications that the regulations foresee Law as a discipline is present in almost all fields of study of Secondary School. Aspects of Italian Public Law are introduced during the biennio, when, given the type of students and given the specific nature of the subject, a mnemonic knowledge of the fundamental concepts seeins enough.Many teachers on the other hand, try to convey them through reading newspapers or articles of a political-economic nature. The merit of this way of teaching is that it brings adolescents closer to understanding their current situation in the light of the laws that govern civil life. The risk is generalising or trivialising a discipline that requires rigour and the greatest precision. Often Law and History teachers work together, especially in the historical reconstruction and introduction of fundamental laws and codes (all limited to the ancient world) in order to respect the ministerial programmes for the biennio. More recently, reference has been made to the birth of the Constitution in Republican Italy.
During the triennio law is usually taught as a subject within itself. When they enter the world of work, especially if this takes place in an international context or in companies with normal foreign relations, young people can find themselves facing problems whose resolution involves the application of laws of a foreign country, even though there may be legal experts in International Law on hand to help. It is good practice that school prepares young people for the legalities faced at work and, nowadays, in one’s private life. There are ever more frequent cases where spouses of different nationalities must resolve problems between them. This means that a knowledge of Private Law is useful. The following proposal aims to meet this need for knowing about different cultures’ legal systems and it requires the involvement of more than one teacher.
> Teachers involved: Law, English Language and Culture, History.
> Aim: to know two legal models, to know how to analyse them, to compare
them and to be able to grasp, through their differences, their pros and cons.
> Educational objectives:
• knowing the foundations on which Italian and Anglo-Saxon law are based;
• knowing how to identify the specific characteristics;
• knowing their origin and how to grasp the cultural aspects that have generated and transmitted them;
• reflecting on them and knowing how to identify their qualifying elements and their limits;
• being able to analyse the typical models and their function (possible further study);
• knowing how to compare their general characteristics;
• knowing how to compare them through analysis of two similar legal cases (possible further study);
• identifying the specific expressions and vocabulary of the microlanguage to know how to produce them correctly and in an appropriate way;
• being able to summarise the outcomes of the project, underlining the essential elements and demonstrating understanding of the cultural imprint of the two systems;
• being able to summarise using the two languages and the respective linguistic and lexical codes.
> Skills acquired at the end of the unit: the student is familiar with the basic aspects of two legal systems, he/she shows awareness of the cultures which have generated and consolidated these systems to the point that they have also been adopted by other countries; he/she recognises and knows how to use specific vocabulary to compare the two models. He/she can talk about it, by using either language or both, according to the speakers present. He/she also knows how to evaluate and value the strengths of each system.
> Methods and strategies to be adopted: the ideal method is to place students at the centre of the project research and development, through working together. They are free to choose whether to work in pairs or in larger groups, or both, according to the stage of work (for example, during the first phase of research, brainstorming in a large group will help create a more unified and well articulated product). Teachers act as guides with expert subject knowledge and they intervene upon requests for help and support. They advise and stimulate research on particular topics correcting any comprehension errors, if possible without influencing the contribution of personal ideas. They flag up distortions to be eliminated or deviations from the subject and only give brief classroom taught lessons to introduce and explain the project, motivate development or provide useful information.
: legal texts in the original language (Italian and English), medieval history books, internet for research
of cases to be examined, film clips or documentaries to compare the progress of a legal process and the people involved, other kinds of material (available to teachers or students),
> Completion times: 14h +/- 20%. Taking into account that the total number of hours per week of the three disciplines involved amounts to 6/7 hours, approximately two weeks should be sufficient to complete the activity.
> Assessment: When half or a third of the work is completed progress will be assessed: timescale, difficulties encountered, doubts to be clarified, overlapping roles, participants – teachers and students – will make suggestions of changes, and discussion and approval. At the end of all activities feedback is required, in the form of a questionnaire and oral discussion, resulting in a report of what to repeat and what to avoid (concerns and problems) next time. With regard to the acquisition of contents, students will be subjected to a final written test on the main aspects (open or closed questions, multiple choice, true / false, short summary).
Also to tests in which they will have to show that they have gained the necessary communication skills (written
and / or oral for presenting the topic to a hypothetical audience in a clear, logical and coherent way, supported by effective examples or oral interaction (debate or “question time”).
>Evaluation: to be carried out in two phases. The first, purely educational, based on the contents of the assessment, the second on the evaluation of the final product. Language teachers refer to the CEFR guidelines for evaluation criteria, according to the standard of the students. If teachers of other subjects do not have uniform evaluation criteria in their own departments they can use and adapt the guidelines of the European documentation.