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Kristiina Metsälä works as a Kietu teacher, offering linguistic support to pupils, in Variska Comprehensive School.

Article categories: News

Kietu-teachers solve linguistic challenges in secondary schools: "Best teacher ever!"

Published: 13.5.2024

Linguistically supported teaching (known as Kietu teaching) has been implemented in four secondary schools in Vaasa during this academic year, addressing linguistic challenges among pupils, including those with multilingual backgrounds. The results have been remarkable, with significant improvements in learning outcomes.

The schools of Merenkurkku, Onkilahti, Variska, and Borgaregatans Skola have each had one full-time Kietu teacher working throughout the 2023–2024 academic year.

– The goal of these four teachers has been to improve the language skills, particularly in Finnish or Swedish, as well as learning outcomes and grades for secondary school pupils. We are extremely pleased with the results: learning outcomes have clearly improved, both in tests and in grades, says Outi Närvä, teacher at Variska Comprehensive School and coordinator of the project.

The target group primarily includes pupils with immigrant backgrounds, but assistance is available to all secondary school pupils facing linguistic difficulties, regardless of their background.

Images and colour coding to aid clarity

Kristiina Metsälä works as a Kietu teacher in grades 7–9 at Variska Comprehensive School.

– I sometimes work in the same classroom with the group and subject teacher, and sometimes with a few pupils in a different space. I illustrate and clarify concepts and difficult terms using images or colour coding the text, and I also provide support during exams, Metsälä explains.

Pupils felt they received the most help in biology, geography, history, social studies, physics, and chemistry.

– Pupils have shown a willingness to accept help, dare to ask for assistance, and are happy to come away from the classroom to learn.

”I’ve Understood Things Much Better”

Feedback from both pupils and staff has been extremely positive.

Comments from pupils about Kietu teachers:

  • With the help of the Kietu teacher, I get better grades on tests because they help me understand school subjects better.
  • Best teacher ever!​
  • I’ve understood things much better.
  • To find explanations for words or to remember words better.
  • It’s good to have a Kietu teacher, even though I don’t need much help myself, there are people who do. ​

Comments from principals and teachers about Kietu teaching:

  • Pupils have been able to discuss important concepts calmly and think about what these concepts mean. They’ve also received help in exams when Kietu teachers have, for example, asked questions that guide into understanding the problem or the words used in the question in the exam.
  • KIETU has also given our subject teachers invaluable advice on how to clarify lesson structures and how visualisation benefits even those pupils who do not have, for example, an immigrant background.
  • Pupils have received a lot of support in various subjects, which seems to have increased the study motivation of many pupils.

All languages are allowed

A significant task of Kietu teachers has also been to develop the entire school so that teachers are more language-aware and recognise the difficulty of their subject’s language and terms. Therefore, Kietu teachers also instruct the teachers.

– We’ve raised awareness, for example, that all languages are allowed in schools. In exams, pupils can use their own language dictionaries if they find it difficult to remember certain terms in Finnish or Swedish. They can also answer exams in their own language, if necessary, as we do not evaluate language skills but rather the proficiency in the specific subject, such as chemistry, Metsälä explains.

Kietu teachers have been hired with funding from the Finnish National Agency for Education’s Kieppi project, which lasts until the 2023–2024 semester. However, there is much-desired continuation in sight.

– I will continue as a Kietu teacher at Variska and as a teacher in the bridging class for pupils with immigrant backgrounds. We’ve seen tremendous development in just this one academic year, but it will take time for language awareness practices to become established, Metsälä concludes.