A curriculum of capabilities for language and intercultural studies in higher education

Crosbie, Veronica (2011). "A curriculum of capabilities for language and intercultural studies in higher education" Paper presented at the 8th annual conference of the HDCA, 6-8 September 2011, the Hague, the Netherlands.

This paper examines a framework of capabilities for curriculum renewal in higher education. It outlines a matrix of twelve capabilities and functionings for language and intercultural studies, building on case study findings of a doctoral thesis on the development of capabilities for cosmopolitan citizenship in a higher education ESOL classroom. The aim here is to move from the specific case of a single module to a full curriculum of learning, asking the question, “How can university learning address wellbeing and human development in addition to subject-specific knowledge?” and in so doing, making innovative first steps in mainstreaming the capability approach as a normative framework for language and intercultural learning in higher education. It is argued that the human development and capabilities approach offers a “robust counter language and way of thinking about education to that of human capital approaches” (Walker 2005, p. 4), with the grammar and lexis of the approach contending with terminology currently associated with higher education, including “customers”, “services”, “stakeholders” (Coulter 2011) by bringing terms such as capabilities, functionings, freedom, opportunities, values, social justice, voice and agency to the discussion; in so doing, making higher education curricula more powerful and empowering for teachers and students and, by extension, for society as a whole. The paper is divided into four sections: the first gives a brief overview of curriculum renewal for globalised times; the second presents a framework of capabilities and functionings for language and intercultural studies; the third reports on the findings of a survey of language teaching professionals to gauge their reaction to such a framework; and the final one gives recommendations, based on the survey findings, for the development and implementation of a capabilities-based curriculum for language and intercultural studies.
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