Developing CLIL Training for
The development of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) could be one way forward in motivating pupils to expand their foreign language learning in England. Following the removal of the requirement for all pupils to learn a foreign language at key stage 4 (ages 14-16) there has been a decline in the take-up of languages after the age of 14. Concurrently, the entitlement to learn a foreign language throughout key stage 2 (ages 7-11) has led to diversity of pupils’ experience before starting at secondary school at age 11. CLIL could be one solution to enthuse pupils through their first stage at secondary school. This paper outlines a collaborative action research project to integrate a training module in CLIL for Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) teacher trainees as part of their Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) programme at the University of Warwick with the support of Tile Hill Wood School and Language College. Tile Hill Wood School has a national reputation for innovative work in CLIL; it was one of the 2006 winners of the European Award for Languages for its CLIL work and in 2007 was a CILT (English National Centre for Teaching of Languages) 14-19 network for immersion teaching. The research reports on trainees’ evaluations of their teaching of CLIL lessons in a range of secondary schools, and the impact of the CLIL approach on learners, their own teaching, and the school departments in which they were teaching. It also reports on the challenges trainees encountered in using this approach. The project culminated in a successful Association for Language Learning showcase event in June 2008 where trainees presented their work and considered the impact on learners and schools.
Keywords: CLIL, integrated language learning, bilingual programmes, immersion teaching, teacher education
Whilst there are some pockets of good practice in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) in England, this approach is still considered to be innovative practice and is not widespread. This paper outlines why CLIL could be one solution to combat the decline in take-up of languages after the age of 14 in England, and how, following the success of CLIL in one specialist language college, the language college and university collaborated to develop a training module in CLIL for MFL teacher trainees as part of their Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) programme for secondary teachers.
The decision in England (DfES, 2002a) to remove the requirement for all pupils to learn a foreign language at key stage 4 (ages 14-16) has led to falling numbers taking languages at this level, as reflected in the 2006 Language Trends at Key Stage 4 survey (CILT, 2006). Concurrently, the government’s 14-19 Green Paper and MFL supplement in England (DfES, 2002a) and the National Languages Strategy (DfES, 2002b) outlined plans for an entitlement for each pupil to learn a foreign language at primary school throughout key stage 2 (KS2, age 7-11) by 2010. However, there is great diversity in the languages taught, the potential models for including languages, the time allocated and the linguistic expertise of the teacher at primary level.
The CLIL approach could be one way of motivating pupils in England to expand their foreign language learning to continue after the age of 14 and also to cater for the diversity of experience at the start of secondary school following the introduction of foreign languages in the primary sector. The Languages Review (DfES, 2007:15) recommended ‘the introduction of more stimulating and relevant content’ to the languages syllabus and ‘clear guidelines and support for a more appropriate and varied content to the secondary languages curriculum’. The Review (2007:16) also recommended ‘opportunities to think through how language learning can be integrated into parts of other learning (CLIL), so that the language can be used in motivating contexts without detriment to learning in the target discipline.’
The CLIL approach is becoming more popular in the UK, as evidenced in the recommendations of the above report (DfES, 2007) to increase support for initiatives in this area and greater dissemination of existing experience. CILT, (the UK government's centre of expertise on languages) (2008) states that schools using this method report that the students’ ability in the language improves more quickly than those studying the language in discrete language lessons, whilst at the same time, their ability in the main subject is as good as those studying it in English. Many CLIL initiatives are currently being developed. For example, some Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are including school placements abroad on an exchange basis as part of the PGCE programme so that subject teacher trainees teach their subject through their own or the foreign language and trainees from other countries are placed in schools in England. A further initiative is to create Integrated Language Learning (ILL) networks to include collaboration between a HEI, local authority, secondary schools and primary schools to develop integrated language learning methodology and smooth transition between the sectors.
A new National Curriculum and revised Programmes of Study for secondary schools in England (QCA, 2008) have been devised for implementation in Year 7 (age 11, the first year of secondary school) from September 2008. The curriculum aims to provide an entire planned learning experience underpinned by common values and purposes with a new framework for personal, learning and thinking skills. The revised Programmes of Study focus primarily on aims, concepts, and processes rather than coverage of content and there is a stronger emphasis on linguistic competence, knowledge about language, creativity and intercultural understanding. There is an emphasis on ‘real’ content and links with other curriculum areas. CLIL methodology clearly adheres to these proposed goals.
CLIL is a new approach to foreign languages teaching, where content is learnt through the foreign language in an integrated way so that language learning is linked with other areas of the curriculum. Marsh (2002:15) describes CLIL as ‘any dual-focused educational context in which an additional language, thus not usually the first language of the learners involved, is used as a medium in the teaching and learning of non-language content’. The advantages of this approach are that the teaching is focused on content whilst language is used for an authentic purpose and is assimilated in a natural context. This can boost learners’ motivation to learn languages.
French immersion programmes have been developed in Canada since the 1960s, designed primarily ‘to provide Canada's majority-group English-speaking learners with opportunities to learn Canada's other official language' (Genesee, 1994: 1). These programmes, based on the teaching of non-linguistic subjects in French to children whose native language was English, were the first to be subjected to intensive long-term research evaluation and produced positive results. Cummins (1999) summed up research over 30 years which found that students gain fluency and literacy in French at no apparent cost to their English academic skills; that there is no evidence of any long-term lag in mastery of subject matter taught through French and with respect to French skills, by the end of elementary school (grade 6) students are close to the level of native speakers in understanding and reading French although their expressive skills of spoken and written French are less well developed. While the Canadian experience is not necessarily directly transferable to Europe, it has nevertheless stimulated valuable research in this area and encouraged a wide range of experimental activity.
In Europe, interest in bilingual education methodologies started to increase in the 1990s due to European socio-economic integration and globalization. This was further developed through Council of Europe activities and in 1996 the term CLIL was introduced (CLIL compendium online, www.clilcompendium.com). One of the aims of the European Commission stipulated in the Action Plan 2004-2006 (Commission of the European Communities, 2003:7) advocated ‘mother tongue plus two other languages’. The Action Plan also emphasized that CLIL should significantly contribute to achieving the goals of language education and provide opportunities for pupils to use their language skills alongside immediacy of purpose.
‘It opens doors on languages for a broader range of learners, nurturing self-confidence in young learners and those who have not responded well to formal language instruction in general education. It provides exposure to the language without requiring extra time in the curriculum, which can be of particular interest in vocational settings.’ (Action Plan 2004-6:8)
CLIL is supported by the European Commission and European Council and is also one of the priorities of national governments. Several major European organisations specialising in CLIL projects have emerged and there have been numerous initiatives throughout the European Union to promote this approach. A Eurydice publication (2006) offers an interesting analysis of CLIL provision in the education system. It deals with the status of languages and levels of education concerned, examines the aims and range of subjects taught through a foreign language, considers evaluation and certification and discusses factors inhibiting the general implementation of CLIL.
CLIL has gained support from political authorities because it contributes to the development of multilingual interests and attitudes, prepares learners for internationalization and provides learners access to the wider cultural context. It is believed that languages will play a key role in curricula across Europe and the combination of subjects and languages offers learners a better preparation for life in Europe, in which mobility is becoming increasingly more widespread.
Marsh and Langé (2002:8) claim that CLIL promotes not only linguistic competence but also cognitive development and thinking skills:
‘Because of the different “thinking horizons” which result from working in another language CLIL can also have an impact on conceptualisation, literally how we think. Being able to think about something in different languages can enrich our understanding of concepts, and help broaden our conceptual mapping resources. This allows better association of different concepts and helps the learner go towards a more sophisticated level of learning in general.’
The situation in the UK, as an English speaking country, is somewhat different from other European countries. The Nuffield Languages Inquiry (2000) recommended that there should be a nationally co-ordinated programme of bilingual learning in the UK (i.e. studying a curriculum subject through the medium of a foreign language). Following this, the use of the CLIL approach started in the UK with the Content and Language Integration Project (CLIP) hosted by CILT. This three year pilot study, led by CILT and the University of Nottingham, ran in eight project schools selected on the basis of set criteria at both primary and secondary level from 2002.
A classroom based action research approach was adopted for this project. Picciano (2004) defines action research projects as school-based studies that seek to improve performance and solve problems. Indeed, the aim of an action research project is to bring about practical improvements and innovations, implement a change or develop social practice. Burns (2005: 58) defines action research as a response to a perceived problem or an identified “gap” related to, for example, teaching, learning and the curriculum. In this case there was a desire to improve an aspect of teacher education by including innovative practice in CLIL and disseminating this to a broad range of schools.
The aim of the project was to develop and enhance CLIL practice in schools by designing training input for MFL teacher trainees during their one year PGCE course. Initially the training input in 2005-06 was to raise awareness of CLIL practice by providing information and examples of good practice from Tile Hill Wood School and Language College. In the subsequent year this training input led to an assessed subject completion task whereby trainees had to plan, teach and evaluate two CLIL lessons during their final teaching placement. In 2007-08 this training input was extended with a view to staging a CLIL showcase event at the end of the year. Consequently trainees received an initial in-service training programme on the CLIL approach, a more detailed session on how to plan CLIL lessons, as well as a planning surgery before they embarked on the final planning and teaching of CLIL lessons during the final placement.
The training input was provided by Tile Hill Wood School and Language College who have developed a national reputation for their innovative work in CLIL teaching in PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education), Geography, Science, Maths and Music in French in Year 7 (age 11-12). The teachers’ experience of CLIL was very positive: they found that the enriched content gives language learning a purpose, it is challenging and discursive, and encourages thinking skills, opinion giving and justification. Teachers enjoyed working collaboratively, planning learning objectives thoroughly and developing resources. In terms of attainment pupils achieve a higher than average level across the skills throughout year 7 in French. Furthermore, in the subjects delivered through CLIL pupils’ achievement is in line with their expected target at the end of Year 7. Pupils’ attainment is in some cases higher than in the other groups taught through English. Pupils with Special Educational Needs are particularly successful. Furthermore the CLIL approach has an impact on attainment of transferable skills: independent learning, risk taking, problem solving, listening skills, and thinking skills.
The lesson plan pro forma was adapted for CLIL lessons to ensure that the trainees focused on the content rather than language as in discrete language lessons. The outcome of these lessons demonstrated a wide variety of approaches. Trainees had a free choice of the year group to teach and the topic. In fact, the trainees taught every year group possible from a low ability Year 7 (age 11-12) to Year 13 (age 17-18). Lesson content included Food Technology, History, Geography, Maths, PE, PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education), Citizenship, Science and Philosophy. Trainees were complimented on their preparation:
‘This was breathtaking! Amazing Power Points, activities and work sheets. Everything was very thorough and prepared with the other subject well in mind’
[MFL Subject tutor, Warwick].
Trainees were asked to evaluate their lessons and the following findings are based on these. The impact of CLIL lessons on learners was clearly positive. Trainees reported, for example, the excitement leading up to the lesson and the fact that learners showed a genuine interest and desire to learn. They commented on learners’ realisation that French could actually be useful:
‘I managed to understand what to do even though it was in French!’ (Pupil, age 13)
‘Cooking was really fun!’ (Pupil, age 12)
‘The lesson was different and it was interesting to learn about history.’ (Pupil, age 14)
‘The Geography lessons were ok and I learnt quite a lot.’ (Pupil, age 12)
Trainees also considered the impact of CLIL lessons on their teaching. Teaching content through language, in their view, led to more varied activity ideas and a wider scope for learning than in normal language lessons. They realized that in order to help learners to access the content, they needed to focus on how to communicate a message and it was therefore necessary to simplify the language by using cognates, vocabulary already familiar to pupils, use of mime, actions and visuals to support explanations. The fact that learners managed to understand quite complex language in context gave them renewed confidence in their learners’ ability.
However, trainees also recognized various challenges associated with planning CLIL lessons. Firstly, it was more time consuming to plan than a normal lesson. They needed to start from the basics and to make time to meet with colleagues from other departments.
‘It requires an enormous amount of preparation: careful analysis of the language used to explain the content to pupils, research of the subject (if not known), inclusion of a variety of activities and catering for different learners’ styles.’
There was an awareness of the challenge of maintaining good pace without leaving anyone behind. They also encountered difficulties with some learners who had some initial misgivings: ‘What’s the point?’ or who still showed some resistance to the foreign language:
‘The students didn’t feel like they’d learnt much, but they had understood more than they thought: the problem was more a mental block about the language.’
A further challenge was associated with content knowledge and the need to possess secure content knowledge when teaching. This generally required finding time to meet and work with a subject colleague who needed to be willing and enthusiastic.
In spite of the challenges encountered by trainees their evaluations overall remained positive. They particularly appreciated pupils’ involvement and the fact that pupils were responsible for their own research. The CLIL approach engendered greater interest than in normal language lessons:
‘The pupils were a lot more interested than in some other lessons and really seemed to enjoy the more language based aspect of their Geography through French class.’
‘I couldn’t believe that all pupils, even those that are normally not interested at all, worked really well. I was worried when two of these boys wanted to work together on the poster as I thought they would not do anything, but surprisingly they designed a very good resource’.
Trainees worked hard in their preparation to design activities to make the learning interesting, relevant and interactive. They were encouraged by the level of thinking skills required and the learners’ ability to operate with demanding content through a limited range of language:
‘It was particularly interesting to understand the level of thinking and writing skills required in different subjects.’
‘Although the pupils were only level 2/3 in the Target Language, they were at least level 4 in the other subject and could still use their limited language to learn new things.’
Trainees taught the CLIL lessons in a range of secondary schools in the region and therefore had a wider impact in disseminating the CLIL approach. Trainees reported an interest from all teachers who were willing to embrace new ideas and be involved in collaborative working.
‘Once up and running it shows potential to increase children’s development exponentially’.
In one school, the staff was so impressed with the CLIL lessons that the trainee was asked to present the CLIL approach to the whole department and indeed other subject departments were interested. She also wrote an article for the school magazineabout the experience to be sent to thehomes of all pupils and prospective pupils of the school. The trainees’ experience was summed up by one trainee thus:
‘I hope the positivity and enjoyment that we all got out of these sessions may be understood by the lesson plans and evaluations as they were a fantastic experience for all concerned. The Geography Teacher, Head of Department and Director of Studies were present and the lessons were video recorded.’
The culmination of the project was an Association for Learning showcase event to disseminate the CLIL approach and to exemplify it through the materials and experiences of the teacher trainees. Almost fifty teachers from the local region attended this event which included an introduction by the university tutor and the language college assistant head followed by presentations from five trainees who showed examples of their teaching materials and evaluated their experiences critically.
Following the success of this project, the plan is to repeat this action research for secondary trainees in 2008-09. Primary PGCE trainees at the University of Warwick will receive language and culture up-skilling as part of their PGCE programme as they will be required to teach or support language learning to comply with the government’s vision that all primary children in England are to learn a language from age 7 through to 11 by 2010. This method of introducing the CLIL approach or integrated language learning can readily be replicated for the primary phase and further research will monitor these developments.
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