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Teacher Education and Reform in Denmark

Posted by Rebecca Addleman on September 24, 2014 at 10:47 am

After two months watching the faculty at University College—Capital (UCC) Blaagaard/KDAS work to implement recent education reforms, I was curious about the levels of stress that accompanied the transition. Their good-natured response, “Oh, you noticed that, did you? We’re definitely paving while we’re driving.”

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National Teacher Education Reform

The Danish government restructured Denmark’s Bachelor of Education in 2012 (implemented in August 2013), with the goal of strengthening the program by adopting stricter admissions requirements and outcomes-based curriculum. According to UCC faculty Sabine Lam and Lilian Rohde, the reform resulted in two key changes: curriculum organization and the implementation of professional competences. The curriculum is now organized by modules rather than by classes. In the past a class such as English as a Foreign Language would count for 72 credits or ECTS (European Credit Transfer System), approximately 30% of the total program, and be taught by one instructor. Now the content is split into three modules of 10 to 20 credits each, which has reduced the class time and the anchoring support of a single instructor. Danish educators disagree about the strengths and weaknesses of this change; some are concerned about students’ abilities to navigate the program without the faculty support that was foundational in the previous format. Others see value in the new module system because it provides more clearly defined learning areas. It also provides more flexibility to host students from other countries and send Danish students abroad.

Another key difference in the Bachelor of Education program is the shift from general course goals to specific professional competences. In the past, teachers (often in collaboration with students) determined the curriculum, themes, and methods for a course. While the reform did not mandate a specific curriculum, it did institute competences: precise goals broken down into knowledge and skills. Rohde described it as a change from “an input-based to an output-based program approach—making sure you train the type of teacher that you want by assessing their performance, rather than relying on the program’s content and instruction.”

Rohde identified two driving forces behind the teacher education reform: “a) the general societal trend of new public management: accountability, goal orientation, and documentation, and b) the Bologna Declaration. I wonder that we [Denmark] have been able to avoid for so long not being in accordance with the declaration’s direction for higher education in Europe.”  The Bologna Declaration was signed in 1999 by 29 European countries to promote a common higher education structure with objectives such as the adoption of comparable degrees, a two-cycle system (undergraduate and graduate), a common system of credits, and the promotion of mobility, comparable criteria, and curriculum. 

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Preparing Globally Competent Teachers

By adhering to the Bologna process, UCC is able to receive funding from the European Union through an Erasmus charter, enabling study exchange between Denmark and other European countries. This spring, I had the opportunity to see their internationalization work firsthand as part of the Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.  UCC is one of seven university colleges that grant four-year teacher education degrees in Denmark. University colleges prepare teachers to work with children until age 16, representing two-thirds of qualified teachers in Denmark. UCC currently serves 2,600 teacher education students in their four-year program and offers semester-long international modules for Danish and approximately 80 exchange students a year. The education courses are taught in English and focus on three modules: Nordic Model, Innovation Lab, and Didactics of Dialogue and Reconciliation. According to the UCC Department of Education, “The aim of the programme is to establish an international learning environment through which exchange students and Danish students have the opportunity to develop their intercultural competences in order to act professionally in a globalized world.” 

In spring 2014, I had the privilege of working with 33 exchange students from Turkey, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Slovenia, Latvia, and the Netherlands as part of the international pre-service teacher modules. Collaborating with instructors and students at UCC was the most compelling aspect of my Fulbright experience. The Blaagaard/KDAS teacher education faculty welcomed me and immediately put me to work. I joined in the fray of orientation as we welcomed Erasmus students to campus for a semester of teacher education studies. During the orientation, I watched instructors employ best practices as they facilitated community building and provided scaffolding for English language learners. Once the coursework began, I observed master teachers, participated in their classes, and learned about their philosophies of education through collaborative planning and teaching.


As an instructor I presented classes on differentiated teaching methods, academic language and instructional methods, Twitter as a professional development tool for teachers, cooperative learning, rubrics as formative assessment, and strategies to support student-participation and engagement. In addition to acting as one of the cohort’s core instructors, I collaborated with UCC faculty on two different projects: a) a globalization project where Erasmus students were grouped with Danish students for the purpose of exploring intercultural understanding and competence, and b) a series of classes with the director of UCC’s Center for Innovation where we paired technology with Stanford’s Institute of Design d.school framework to facilitate project-based learning around innovation and globalization. I was refreshed to learn with appreciative students who whole-heartedly engaged in student-centered lessons with curiosity, critical thinking, and self-reflection. It was a joy to be a part of this community of learners.

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