Some Educational and Methodological Principles of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
While some basic features of a teaching methodology for CLIL may be distinguished, bilingual teaching is determined by the features of the teaching of each specific subject. Thus, one should distinguish between general teaching methods for CLIL and a subject-specific component within them, i.e. a component that is tailored to the specific subject being taught in the foreign language. This statement applies less to the linguistic side of CLIL (i.e. the language through which the subject is taught), although approaches to foreign language teaching often differ on account of different teaching traditions in teaching different languages. Thus, we can only discuss typical features of general teaching methods in CLIL that are an inherent part of all combinations of subject and language (cf. in this connection also Jansen O’Dwyer 2007).
Simultaneous promotion of subject and language knowledgeIn terms of teaching methodology, the way in which one can integrate subject and language work is of central importance for every form of CLIL. As in any form of institutionalised learning, however, the question also arises for CLIL as to how the learning processes in school can be appropriately promoted methodologically and didactically. This crucial didactic question raises itself doubly in the context of CLIL since the aim is to promote knowledge of a subject and knowledge of a foreign language at the same time.
It has emerged ever more clearly in foreign language teaching in the last decade that learning processes at school can only be influenced by the teacher to a limited extent; there are meanwhile similar findings in the teaching of a number of other humanities and social sciences subjects, e.g. history. Increasingly, calls are rather being made to promote learning processes through appropriately designing the learning environment. If learners work actively with one another in an appropriate learning environment in which they engage with the subjects consciously and emotionally, so the argument goes, learning processes are promoted to a greater extent than in traditional forms of teaching in which the teacher may be actively involved but learners are involved only reactively. While such learning environments have been discussed for some time in the teaching of foreign languages and also occasionally in the teaching of other subjects, they are introduced by teachers into lessons with little enthusiasm – and unfortunately that also applies to CLIL lessons. I am referring here in particular to forms of work involving a partner, work in groups and project work. These cooperative forms of work are linked with the educational principle of learners’ autonomy, the conceptual basis of all recent educational approaches.
It is the learning environment that countsIt is precisely this concept of a modern learning environment based on constructivist principles (cf. Wolff 2002) which, in the view of CLIL methods, also best does justice to the demands of integrated subject and foreign language teaching. The best way to combine subject and language work is to integrate them in a learning environment of this kind. Bilingual subject teaching is first of all subject teaching, i.e. the subject presents the contents with which the learner has to deal. The contents of the subject are real in the sense of the discussion in the early 20th century on Realien - material objects used as teaching aids to stimulate the imagination, i.e. contents relating to the real world. Unlike the often fictional contents of foreign language teaching, these contents encourage learners genuinely to deal cognitively, consciously and emotionally with the subject, thus promoting optimal learning processes. Because the contents of the subject are real, they are also more appropriate for modern forms of joint learning such as group and project work than the contents of foreign language teaching. When learners work in small groups on geography or history topics, their individual learning processes are enhanced, their motivation for dealing with these contents is increased and they are more involved in the learning process. Of course, such an approach requires the development of learners’ autonomy, i.e. the ability to work independently, which is developed in turn in the context of group and project work (cf. here also Dam 1994).
The question of integrating content and languageThese comments do not yet answer the central question, of course. So far, CLIL lessons have only been described as modern subject lessons like those that could also take place in the learners’ mother tongue. The question of the linguistic side of CLIL and above all of the integration of content and language requires further considerations. Language plays a central role in the teaching of any subject. History or biology lessons in the learners’ native language also work with language to a great extent. The concepts of specialist subjects are conveyed to learners through language. Language is needed to be able to observe and describe situations, and language enables learners to exchange ideas and discuss controversial insights. It is no coincidence that the observation was made in the field of specialist English teaching methodology back in the eighties that all teaching is language teaching. The concept of language across the curriculum that called on all teachers to make language transparent in their lessons is also indirectly a didactic basis for CLIL. This is because if one teaches a subject in a language other than the learners’ mother tongue, raising an awareness of linguistic products and processes plays an even more important role.
A repertoire of speech acts is neededWhile the foreign language is not the focus of lessons in modern CLIL, more emphasis is placed on the language and on making it transparent to learners than in lessons in the learners’ native language. Terminological aspects should not be the focus here, as was originally called for in CLIL. What appears to be much more important in language work is to develop a repertoire of speech acts that play a central role in subject lessons. This may be determined for all subjects, regardless of whether they are science, social science or humanities-orientated. The pupil has to be equipped linguistically for these speech acts in order to be able to act independently. If lessons are held in a foreign language, the relevant linguistic repertoire in the foreign language must also be provided. These speech acts include the following:
- Describing: identifying, defining and classifying the partial actions.
- Explaining: using the partial actions to provide examples, to elaborate and to reduce.
- Evaluating: using the partial actions to argue and to provide evidence.
- Drawing conclusions: concluding and explaining with the partial actions.
These acts, which may be assigned to linguistic functions, are implemented linguistically in the learners’ native language or, in the case of bilingual subject lessons, in the foreign language, but they serve the work with the subject’s contents and are therefore very realistic. Because learners are made aware of them in their work with subject contents and regard them as necessary, they are also learned.
Academic interaction skillsThus, the decisive factor in promoting language skills is the development of language skills related to subject-based work. Allow me to illustrate this with an example. Subject work is to a great extent based on work with texts and documents but also refers to other materials, e.g. pictures, graphs and films. Learners need to be linguistically prepared to deal with such materials. That means that their reading skills need to be developed more than in traditional foreign language lessons, for example, where oral interaction plays a greater role. Reading texts and documents is dependent on reading strategies that have to be taught to learners. Work with pictures, graphs and films requires other strategies that also have to be developed and promoted in respect of the linguistic application of the knowledge that has been gained. For example, describing the picture of a geological formation requires strategies by means of which the important features of this formation can be recognised, but at the same time it requires the ability to translate this knowledge from its conceptual form into a linguistic form. Thus, the promotion of language skills always takes place in combination with subject-related tasks; these tasks determine which linguistic processes and strategies, but also which linguistic means, are included in the lesson. In the broadest sense, this involves promoting academic interaction skills in the sense of Cummins' cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) concept. While foreign language teaching, especially in the first years, promotes what Cummins referred to as basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS), bilingual subject teaching focuses from the outset on developing academic interaction skills.
Code switching requiredTo conclude these considerations, allow me to make a methodological remark on the use of the mother tongue and the foreign language in bilingual teaching. In the early days of CLIL, the methodological demand was for bilingual subject teaching to be strictly monolingual, in line with the principle of foreign language teaching at that time i.e. the mother tongue was not to be used in the classroom. Views have now changed - the importance of the mother tongue in integrated foreign language and subject learning processes is no longer called into question, particularly since it has been recognised that the code-switching processes often to be observed in the bilingual classroom are very important in language-learning and language awareness-raising processes, but as yet have rarely attracted methodological interest (cf. here in particular Wannagat).
Literature on the subject
Cummins, J. (1987): “Bilingualism, language proficiency and metalinguistic development”. In: Homel, P., Palij, M. & Aaronson, D. (eds.): Childhood Bilingualism: Aspects of Linguistic, Cognitive and Social Development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cummins, J. (1992):"Heritage language teaching in Canadian schools". Journal of Curriculum Studies 24, 281-86.
Dam, L. (1994): "How do we recognise an autonomous classroom." Die Neueren Sprachen, 93, 503-527
Jansen O’Dwyer, E. (2007): Two for One: Die Sache mit der Sprache. Berne: h.e.p. Verlag
Wannagat, U. (working title, to be published in 2008/2009): Bilingualer Sachfachunterricht und EMI (English as Medium of Instruction): Ein Vergleich zwischen Deutschland und Hong Kong.
is a retired professor of applied language processing at the University of Wuppertal. His most recent major publications on bilingual subject teaching include the collection of papers "Diverse Contexts - Converging Goals: CLIL in Europe" Frankfurt: Peter Lang 2007, which he co-edited with David Marsh.
Translation: Eileen Flügel
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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