Fielded discussion on CLIL
The Young Learners and Teenagers email discussion group is housed in yahoogroups and is famous for its activity and energy in many educational contexts and so it was a pleasure to lead a fielded discussion on the area of CLIL from Monday April 20th to Friday April 24th, 2009.
What follows is a summary of a broad and deep discussion which reflects the rich makeup of the YLT group itself. The discussion is in the wake of the IATEFL Cardiff Panel Discussion on CLIL and continued debate in the media and through educational blogs and websites.
It is also a return to this area since the fielded discussion on CLIL in this group in 2005.
Hence the title CLIL Revisited. There are four main sections to the summary: Defining CLIL; Assessment; CLIL Training; CLIL the future of TEFL.
Each section takes a focus from the comments of the participants for ease of organization and there has been a concerted effort to present a range of the opinions expressed during discussion.
Colleagues wanted to clarify what exactly CLIL is, one colleague suggesting that CLIL is the latest bandwagon and another that it's something that has been going on for years. Discussion did begin to describe a CLIL Methodology, but it's clear that there is still a lot to do.
A colleague pointed out that teachers will always teach to the test whatever that may be. Colleagues also stressed that CLIL means that both the content and the language are taught and that is why both should be evaluated at the same time. Others suggested that with young learners assessment should avoid accuracy. One opinion was very strong about describing the risks of CLIL assessment for learners who know the content but don't have the language.
Discussion revolved around which kind of teachers should be trained for CLIL: Subject teachers or language teachers? A question related to this concerned confidence and competence among teachers to actually be able to carry out the job of a CLIL teacher. Teacher qualifications were considered to be of utmost importance if CLIL is to be successful and a number of colleagues stressed the problem of implementation and risks entailed in projects being rushed.
CLIL means a reevaluation of the role of the language teacher in the classroom and will mean more language teachers working more closely with the content curriculum in their language classes. The factors behind this phenomenon were discussed in depth.
As well as all of the above there was a wide range of specific examples given from many different contexts.
It feels like we really only scratched the surface and that there is still a lot to be done.
Inside Fielded discussion on CLIL
There was a lot of discussion about what exactly CLIL is, whether it is different from other approaches such as EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) or CBI (Content-based Instruction) or CALLA (Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach). One colleague sees CLIL as a special form of TEFL, with the main emphasis being on the language. Another colleagues is equally sure that 'CLIL is of course content-based instruction, which is an area loaded with confusing and overlapping terminology ...
There was much discussion on the topic of assessment. Colleagues stressed that CLiL means that both the content and the language are taught and that is why both should be evaluated at the same time. Another colleague suggested an alternative way of doing assessment is a mark for content and a separate mark for language. In response to this last suggestion it's important to add the question which was posed 'Can you actually separate the two out? (I think not).' This colleague then goes ...
There was broad agreement in the discussion that there is almost no pre-service training for CLIL. There was also a suggestion that what in-service training there is 'is patchy at best and is often done in a very ad hoc manner'.
CLIL means a reevaluation of the role of the language teacher in the classroom. CLIL will have more language teachers working more closely with the content curriculum in their language classes. It will also see more TEFL teachers introducing more content into their language teaching.
It's interesting and useful to give the rich and varied information offered in the discussion about different contexts around the world where content and language are integrated.
It was a thoroughly challenging discussion, one which I think raised more questions than found answers. This means that there is ample opportunity for you, the reader, to get involved.