By Rubina Sharma-Mohan

During the pandemic, necessity pushed educators to use more tech tools and resources with their students. While technology and digital resources are important, they won’t impact student engagement and achievement if used simply as a replacement for “pen and paper” learning. The Modern Learning Framework (MLF), merged with Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy (CRRP), can inform planning, teaching, and assessment that engages students in deep learning. This approach reflects diverse experiences and viewpoints and leads students to think critically about issues of social justice, equity, and inclusion. Let’s examine this approach through three essential questions.

Question #1: What shifts are needed to integrate 21st century learning effectively in FSL?

To implement impactful changes in pedagogical practice, we must first shift our mindsets about what teaching for the 21st century looks and sounds like. How do we innovate our practice to help empower students to take risks and think deeply about their learning? Some steps include re-designing virtual and physical learning spaces, integrating blended learning models to increase learner autonomy, and utilizing sketchnoting, mind mapping, and vertical learning to make thinking visible.

But beyond just taking specific steps, educational theorist Will Richardson says that we must shift our role from “master teacher” to “master learner.” A master learner would be an educator who curates learning experiences and resources — for both digital and in-class learning environments — that centre and honour student voice, choice, and lived experience.

Supported by effective and informed tech integration, Modern Learning–focused classrooms should aim to engage a learner’s curiosity.

They should develop global competencies that prepare learners to meet the demands of a highly innovative, tech-integrated, rapidly changing career landscape. These global competencies are collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, citizenship, and character (the 6Cs).

In his work on New Pedagogies for Deep Learning, educational theorist Michael Fullan advocates for Modern Learning environments to be highly interactive, social, and innovative to support Deep Learning. Doing so, he says, provides “quality learning that sticks with you for the rest of your life.”

Question #2: How does the MLF connect to CRRP and the FSL curriculum?

The concept of “sticky learning” is directly linked to life-long language learning (one of the goals in the FSL framework). This is an ongoing, interactive, authentic process on a scale of gradual progression. The CEFR and the skills-based FSL curriculum in Ontario have led to a paradigm shift in FSL teaching. This shift towards an asset-based/positive approach focuses on what students can do in French, scaffolding language structures and vocabulary to support action-oriented, authentic, real-life tasks. CRRP and 21st century MLF are very much aligned with this action-oriented, real-world connected learning that underpins the FSL curriculum.

In particular, embedding intercultural awareness as a competency in all four domains of language acquisition underscores the importance of exploring different worldviews, perspectives, and experiences in FSL classrooms. Most importantly, the concept of “real-world” and “authentic tasks” invites critical questioning about whose beliefs, views, perspectives, privileges, and experiences are being centred and whose are being marginalized, discounted, oppressed, or devalued in resources, texts, and language learning tasks.

To ensure that our students are not only future-ready but also feel that they belong and are seen, valued, and welcomed in FSL learning spaces, educators need to incorporate inclusive instructional strategies.

These should leverage both digital and physical learning spaces and tools to centre student voice and diverse experiences and viewpoints.

Question #3: How might we build “thinking classrooms” in FSL?

By offering choice in the processes, pacing, and demonstration of language learning, educators can create social learning environments where student ideas can be exchanged, negotiated, and valued. By taking a “master learner” stance, educators can de-centre their own knowledge to create space and opportunity for student inquiry, questioning, and knowledge-exchange based on their readiness and interests. These instructional strategies can be the catalyst for educators to re-imagine French language learning and literature as dynamic, variable, and ever-evolving instead of static, standardized, and canonical.

I have held various roles over the years: Department Head at a Modern Learning–focused school, founding member of the FSL Disrupt website, FSL AQ (additional qualification) instructor, course developer, and curriculum consultant. In these roles, I have led educator learning and program planning for secondary Core and immersion students that focused on implementing strategies such as these:

  • Incorporating CRRP resources throughout course unit planning and in book clubs for novel study (e.g., audio/text resources written by/presented by or featuring BIPOC authors/characters)
  • Developing models of student-led inquiry and tech integration in FSL
  • Providing visible thinking routines to support collaboration, communication, and critical thinking (e.g., vertical learning, sketchnoting, ladder of inference, collaborative thinking)
  • Implementing student voice and choice-centred project-based learning

Resources, activities, lists of suggested texts, and professional development resources to support these instructional strategies are available for educators on the FSL Disrupt website. To find out more about the project, please subscribe to our mailing list and follow me @MadameRSharma and the team @FSLDisrupt on Twitter.


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