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Article: The role of TKT: CLIL in professional development courses?

Type: Article

Kay Bentley questions and explores the role of TKT: CLIL in the professional education sphere.

As a result of the expansion of CLIL programmes, increasing amounts of teachers, schools and governments at regional and national level want to invest in related professional development for their staff. Many CLIL courses are now taught in the home country, as well as in Britain. Courses vary in length, focus, components, staffing and expected outcomes. CLIL courses can be as short as a few days in length or as long as those needed to complete MA modules; they can focus on subject-specific learning (e.g. for music specialists), on subject-specific language learning or on a mixture of both; they can consist of a timetable of taught sessions or timetables, which include school observations and self study; and they can be staffed by CLIL specialists, subject specialists, language specialists or a combination of this expertise. Outcomes can depend on authorities, course providers and the teachers themselves. 

CLIL courses

Whether for the primary or secondary sector of schooling, what CLIL courses have in common is twofold: first, that teachers are involved in the core process of educating learners about a curricular subject taught in a non-native language and second, that teacher expectations of courses are very different.

Clear learning outcomes should be in place from the beginning to achieve meaningful courses.

  • What will teachers know and be able to do at the end of the course that they didn’t know and couldn’t do on arrival?
  • What knowledge and skills do they need to build on during the course?

In CLIL contexts, this is quite a challenge for both subject and language teachers. Subject teachers, whether teachers of art or zoology, usually need to deepen their knowledge of the target language and the vocabulary, structures, functions and possibly the text types which are typically required in their particular subjects. Language teachers and some primary teachers need to ensure that they are knowledgeable about the curricular subject and the skills required in that subject, e.g. finding evidence from source material in history, so that they feel confident to teach a new subject in English. All CLIL teachers need a plethora of support strategies in the classroom, and most need to be competent IT users too. Many need to expand on their range of classroom language because of the level of questioning and encouragement required to support learners.

It is not uncommon for teachers to arrive on courses not knowing what CLIL is and not being fully aware of its aims and principles. Perhaps teachers have been teaching in CLIL contexts without realizing it, such as English language primary teachers who teach parts of the curriculum in English. This happens in Catalonia, where fifteen-hour modules such as science, history and maths are taught in the target language. A further example is when subject teachers describe their programmes as ‘bilingual’, but they are perhaps unaware of CLIL methodology, e.g in Holland. CLIL courses, therefore, need to address what CLIL is in a range of different contexts and to make explicit the rationale for teaching it.

Teachers need to share their ideas from the start for any CLIL course to be a positive learning experience. They need to consider others’ perspectives of CLIL, to collaborate and to build on the knowledge of others in the group. By the end of the course, they should have demonstrated:

  • their knowledge of CLIL
  • their skills in preparing for, delivering and assessing learners involved in CLIL programmes
  • their knowledge of the cognitive and learning skills demanded by their subjects
  • their knowledge of effective support strategies
  • their awareness of how to consolidate and differentiate learning.

One of the most effective ways to evaluate the above is by asking teachers to produce a set of CLIL materials with teaching notes, support strategies and learner worksheets.

TKT: CLIL

This module was designed after examining areas of knowledge considered essential for teachers to gain an understanding of CLIL and to gain confidence when in the CLIL classroom. These areas of knowledge are:

  • Knowledge of content
    Candidates may have to answer questions about how to facilitate delivery of subject content, how to facilitate processing of content and language and how to facilitate opportunities for communication of subject output. Much curricular content is now accessible on the Internet and delivered using interactive technologies, so teachers may be questioned on how to use technology in CLIL contexts. TKT: CLIL cannot, however, test subject-specific knowledge, although a range of subject-specific language is used in the test items. In addition, some tasks, such as those about planning, scaffolding or materials adaptation, may centre around one CLIL subject. 
  • Knowledge of learners and learning
    TKT: CLIL candidates are questioned about learning skills across the curriculum, as well as on how to help learners to develop learning strategies. CLIL teachers are encouraged to value and develop learners’ communicative, cognitive and learning skills, so reasons and ways to do this are tested. There are also tasks on methods of helping learners move towards cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP).
  • Knowledge of general pedagogy
    CLIL involves many approaches, methods and techniques, such as a communicative approach, task-based learning, scaffolding techniques and differentiation. CLIL provides an authentic learning environment in which communication of content is meaningful. Teachers, however, need a range of strategies to encourage understanding and communication of curricular content. The use of L1 in CLIL can be in the form of code-switching. This is a bilingual strategy, which is considered to be a positive step towards learning a new language. The use of differentiation of outcome, task and support is also vital in CLIL classrooms. Knowledge of these learning strategies is tested in TKT: CLIL.
  • Knowledge of curriculum
    Awareness of the L1 curriculum, as well as an awareness of progression in subject learning and skills are important for CLIL planning, so planning is another area tested in TKT: CLIL. Test items may centre on, for example, learning outcomes, interaction or procedure. Types of summative and formative assessment are also linked to planning and these are tested in the final section of the test.
  • Knowledge of context
    Concepts of culture, citizenship and community are considered to be part of the components of CLIL. Teachers need to be aware of how to address cultural issues and how to enable learners to become aware of their responsibilities as citizens of a local and a global society. As part of the 4Cs framework (Coyle, 1999) which underpins a CLIL approach, knowledge of this is tested in the first part of the test.
  • Knowledge of self
    After taking a TKT: CLIL test, teachers are given the opportunity to reflect on their knowledge and skills and to think about how they can transfer this knowledge to their teaching contexts.

TKT: CLIL and CLIL courses

TKT: CLIL can be seen as a springboard to encourage professional dialogue in classrooms, in departments, in workshops and in professional development courses because it focuses on key areas of knowledge related to the CLIL approaches used in many schools and colleges in Europe and beyond. Extracts from CLIL course books, CLIL online materials, CLIL articles and magazines may be used as sources in the test.

Teachers who have sat the test have provided largely positive feedback. Comments include:

  • “It would have been useful for us if we had had the chance to sit a test like this during the last year of our degree.”
  • “The test was quite comprehensive … we were able to evaluate and assess our teaching strategies and methodologies.”
  • “I think I’m not used to thinking about my teaching practice and the test has helped me to be more aware of what I do or should do …”

Does TKT: CLIL, therefore, have a role to play in a CLIL professional development course? One option, towards the end of a CLIL course, is to offer teachers the opportunity to sit the test or to do a pretest. Animated conversation usually ensues post-test, as teachers often want to talk about what was straightforward in the test and what was more challenging. The experience is predominantly a positive one as most teachers are enthusiastic about having a concrete means to enable them to reflect on how their understanding of CLIL has developed. It makes them feel reassured. TKT: CLIL can help trainers reflect on what may still need addressing before courses end, and many teachers are keen to receive their test results so they can analyze which areas of CLIL they need to explore. Ultimately, TKT: CLIL is a way to reflect on what still needs to be researched beyond a course, beyond a test and when back in the CLIL classroom.

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