Published: 18-09-2015 12:26 | Updated: 17-08-2016 12:25

Teaching in another language – Jennifer Valcke is one of the speakers at the ”Lärardagen” event


Being able to teach in English is not the only thing a teacher has to think about, because the international classroom is also about culture and values. Newly employed Jennifer Valcke will now be opening doors at KI to a bigger world. On 30 September she is one of the speakers at the “Lärardagen” event.

On 7 September, Jennifer Valcke stepped into a brand new role at KI, created at the initiative of the Board of Higher Education, in which for the next three years she will be helping Karolinska Institutet’s teachers and supervisors adapt their teaching methods to the multicultural classroom. Dr Valcke has over ten years’ experience as a pedagogical developer at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, where neither the teachers nor the students had English as their first language.

“It was in many ways like the situation here at KI,” she says. “The main difference is that here I’ll only be working with medical education. The teachers I worked with before taught finance, multilingual communication, law and medicine. I think the teachers here have a much more clearly defined identity.”

Jennifer_Valcke_kinewsJennifer Valcke is looking forward to working with teachers on KI’s different study programmes, where human health is the focus and effective communication a precondition. “When you teach in a foreign language, you’re not just dealing with words but with cultural awareness too. The students will need a greater understanding of culture in their future careers, as they’ll need to be able to talk to their patients about highly sensitive medical matters.”

A plan for internationalisation

This new post is part of KI’s efforts to make teaching more international and strengthen its competitiveness. One of the objectives in the university’s strategy plan for internationalisation is for all study programmes to have at least one course held in English by next year. Another important aim is to bring more intercultural awareness and global health issues into the programmes than is currently the case. But this is not just about English being necessary for academic communication; the teachers have also expressed an interest in learning more about teaching in multicultural contexts.

As pedagogical developer Jennifer Valcke will be in close, regular contact with teachers and supervisors, and working with strategies for internationalisation at management level. Not only will she be on hand to help the various programme directors weave international and intercultural perspectives into the courses and their intended learning outcomes, but she will be arranging workshops and offering personal advice for pedagogical leaders, teachers and supervisors too. An online tool for teachers will be developed.

Teaching in another language

“I think we’ll reach many teachers through an interactive website where they can watch interviews with colleagues that have done something interesting, find information, network and link with other people,” she says. “There might also be a discussion forum where they can exchange ideas and experiences. The challenge will be to help teachers expand their notions of what it means to teach in English. It’s not the same as teaching in your mother tongue. You also have to make sure that your students are aware of each other’s culture and how it influences their communication and values.”

Jennifer Valcke believes that teaching in another language is very much about making it possible for the students to absorb what the teacher is trying to convey. This can involve apparently trivial matters, such as the fact that it can be so tiring to listen to someone speaking in another language, that no matter how interested students might be in what their teacher is saying, their concentration can start to wane. Jennifer Valcke can help teachers to tackle this aspect of teaching in English too, and give them tips on how to hold their students’ attention. She, for one, likes to use group activities:

“I’m inspired by the playful side of teaching. I like engaging the participants in a way that helps then learn things without being aware that they’re doing so.”

Text: Karin Söderlund Leifler

Photo: Daniel Roos

Read more about the speakers and the programme onthe “Lärardagen” event on 30 September 2015: ”KI Goes Global – Intercultural & International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning”.