Orality or Oracy on the Agenda – How do Policy Documents Frame Oral Competencies?

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This study examines how oral competencies are framed, and goals described in policy documents that determine activities in Danish integrated primary and lower secondary school, or determine how Danish teachers during teacher education are trained to support them.
Policy documents such as curricula or frameworks promote some important agendas in teaching but risk hampering others. Literacy is acknowledged as a key competence. However, although literacy “empowers people, enables them to participate fully in society and contributes to improve livelihoods” (UNESCO homepage), the importance of less acknowledged oral competencies is increasing as technologies help conquer problems related to literacy and changes the way we communicate. E.g. computers read texts aloud to users, smart phones and other devices react to voice commands, and collaboration takes place using online platforms like Zoom. Furthermore, oral competencies such as the ability to reason, to debate issues, to listen and to reconcile, are vital if we are to overcome crises – as individuals and societies. Most European countries take part in international literacy assessment programmes such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) or PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) to be able to monitor the quality of their educational system’s literacy effort. Oral competencies, however, are apparently not as high on the agenda of the international educational community.
In Scandinavian teaching and classroom research, the term “mundtlighed” (Danish spelling) is commonly used. It translates into orality, and covers a variety of meanings. It covers exploratory talk as well as any kind of oral text or genre, e.g. reading theatre and oral presentations, in classrooms. The latter appears frequently, but is difficult to deal with for teachers who lack tools to assess the quality of students' oral performance (Aksnes, 2016, Fjørtoft, 2016, Herzberg, 2003, Matre, 2009). Children learn to talk and to listen by doing from infancy, and therefore, it might seem less important to target talking and listening in educational systems beyond preschool. However, talk at home does not reflect talk in public, neither when it comes to content nor form. The term oracy, originally coined in 1965 (Wilkinson, 1968), is well known mainly through the works of British researchers from the Oracy Cambridge-group. Oracy refers to “the development of young people's skills in using their first language, or the official/educational language of their country, to communicate across a range of social settings” (Mercer, Warwick & Ahmed, 2016) or briefly, effective use of spoken language. Hence, oracy, defined as a set of skills, is describable, teachable and assessable, and thereby, would be integrable in curricula and frameworks. The Oracy Cambridge group (Mercer & Dawes, 2018) has suggested an oracy skills framework and recommendations for teachers. However, these are developed in a British context and it would be interesting to study how applicable they are in a Danish, or any other international, context.
Of particular interest to the study is the subject science in primary and lower secondary school, and science didactics in teacher education, as science is well known for its challenging vocabulary and specific genres that differ from everyday language. E.g., Lemke’s socio-semiotic research into talk in science classrooms shows that teachers and students weave complicated subject specific semantic patterns together in classroom dialogue, often without being explicit about their nature. Therefore, Lemke’s recommendations for teachers include that they “explicitly discuss with students the fact that scientific language tends to use certain forms of grammar and argumentation, emphasize abstract principles rather than human actions, and avoid humor, fantasy, and many kinds of metaphor” (Lemke, 1990 p. 173). However, have insights like these entered Danish frameworks and curricula? In addition, if they have, how?
Publikationsdatosep. 2021
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2021
BegivenhedECER 2021: Education and Civil Society: Expectations, Prescriptions, Reconsiliations - Geneva - Online, Geneva, Schweiz
Varighed: 2 sep. 20213 sep. 2021
Konferencens nummer: 2021


KonferenceECER 2021
LokationGeneva - Online