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27 June 2018
Research Initiative on Teacher Well-Being, Diversity And Multilingualism

(Published - 27 June 2018)

“We all know that well-being in one part of the planet is affected by well-being in another part of the planet.”

Dr Karen Collet, senior lecturer at UWC’s Faculty of Education, perfectly summed up one of the aims of the Teacher Well-Being and Diversity workshop being held at the University.

She was addressing delegates from UWC’s Department of Languages and Educational Studies, five European higher education institutions and schools from Ireland, Denmark and Norway.

Europe has become increasingly diverse in language and culture.

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of economic migrants, as well as political asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East to countries in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Now the region’s educators and relevant stakeholders are working in partnership with teachers and educational experts in South Africa through the European Union programme, Erasmus+, to find ways to enhance teacher well-being in culturally and linguistically diverse schools and classrooms.

An Irish delegate said there would sometimes be 30 learners in one class - all with diverse language and cultural backgrounds, which make teaching challenging.

Diversity in classrooms has been common in South Africa for many years. UWC has been involved in addressing these issues through a teacher well-being initiative in historically disadvantaged schools since 2009. “UWC has a research base and experience in this area that other HEIs can learn from,” said Dr Collet.

The Dean of the Faculty of Education, Professor Vuyokazi Nomlomo, said language is often a barrier in classrooms and it affects learning and teaching. She acknowledged the diversity of the country, and noted that people from across the world migrate to South Africa.

She posed the question: “How does a teacher who only knows english deal with the existence of 15 languages in a class, for example?”

In theory, Professor Nomlomo said, there are recommendations such as the adoption of multilingual pedagogies, but she admitted that in South Africa, teachers are “still grappling with finding answers”.

The workshop - which ended on 23 June 2018 - constituted presentations, school visits, networking and other educational activities, with the aim of developing personal, classroom and school-wide strategies that focus on enhancing capacity for teacher well-being.

The HEI partners - Limerick University and Mary Immaculate College in Ireland, Professionshøjskolen UCC in Denmark and Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Norway - have already contributed to teaching, learning and research in the fields of multilingualism, inclusive education and health promoting schools.

The TWBD Erasmus Plus initiative addresses teachers and school-wide strategies for strengthening the capacity for occupational well-being. This in turn helps to influence the learning environment in classrooms and schools, and to influence learner support, motivation and achievements.