Within the SMS 2.0 project activities, the initiative Didactic Competences in the Multilingual Classroom (COMPASS) was launched in 2020. The initiative aims to scientifically support teams of teachers of German and Italian-speaking schools in South Tyrol in making the most of the increasing linguistic and cultural heterogeneity of their classes. COMPASS is aimed at teachers of all subjects: every subject, in fact, has a language dimension, and teachers of non-linguistic subjects are also faced with the challenges posed by the increasing linguistic diversity of their classes. The initiative is an example of transformative action research, in which research is conducted WITH teachers and not ON teachers thanks to opportunities for exchange, reflection, and mutual learning (García & Kleyn 2016).
Plurilingual and intercultural education requires specific skills from teaching staff. For this reason, the team of researchers involved in the COMPASS initiative dedicated their first months of activity to outlining the competences that teachers involved in (or shifting to) plurilingual and intercultural education should possess. These competences were identified through an in-depth examination of existing models and frameworks related to language-sensitive subject teaching, linguistically-responsive teaching, intercomprehension, CLIL, and plurilingual education in the majority language classroom. Resources such as plurilingual education curricula, national and local guidelines for schools, theoretical works on translanguaging as well as a rich process of consultation with local and international experts have also contributed to inspire the work of the researchers.
The fruit of this complex documentation work is contained in the “Framework for theory and research on plurilingual didactic competences” (Guarda & Hofer 2021), now freely downloadable in three languages (Italian, German and English) in open-access mode. The Framework identifies a variety of resources (grouped within three macro-areas, namely Knowledge, Skills, and Commitment) which can contribute to a teaching approach geared towards the features of plurilingual education. As such, the Framework originated as a tool to facilitate theory and research on plurilingual didactic competences, as well as to design professional development programmes for teaching staff involved in plurilingual education (such as teacher training planned as part of the COMPASS initiative activities).