Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL): Definition.
First question: can you just tell me who you are and what you do?
I’m Edward Russell and I’m the Head of Teacher Training at the English Language Centre in Brighton on the south-coast of England.
And you teach on CLIL, what does that stand for?
So CLIL is Content and Language Integrated Learning. This is a teacher training course for teachers of English and other subjects who might be transitioning from teaching in one language to teaching in two languages in their schools.
Most often, these language teachers are looking to include more content in their teaching, so rather than teaching general English they’ll teach geography through English with language support built in. We work with them on either developing their subject knowledge or helping them to be more aware of language within that subject. For example in science there is the thing of nominalisation, you have a verb and you make it into a noun by adding an ‘ion’ ending; for example evaporate changes to evaporation. We make language teachers aware of linguistic functions like this when they are teaching science in English. Showing language teachers who are going to teach science that this is the key vocabulary which they need to be aware of when they are teaching is part of what we do. Is this making sense?
Yes, it is making sense. So what you do is focused more on helping teachers to be able to teach certain subjects in different languages?
Yes it can be. So for example the teachers that we had in, each of them in their school has a different kind of Content and Language Integrated Learning because they do CLIL differently; some are doing trans-lingual CLIL, which is when they might teach one lesson in English and one lesson in their native language. They might teach the content first in the native language and then do some activities based on that content in English. Some teachers only teach in English with very little of their mother tongue. Each institution is doing it differently, it’s quite broad. There is not one way, there are many many ways that people are doing CLIL.
Is CLIL a far more specialised teacher training course than any of the general English courses that you do?
Yeah that’s right, it’s very
Yes it’s very specific. We need to be aware of different elements of language depending on the subjects the teachers are hoping to teach. A history teacher will be more interested in sequencing and chronological language as well as past tenses for example. And then an art teacher may be more interested in more descriptive language. Often you have people who are subject experts who don’t speak great English, and then language teachers who maybe aren’t content specialists and are trying to access the culture of art or history or whatever the subject is.
So when people come to you because they are teaching specific subjects, that requires very specific focus on exactly what that person needs from you in the course?
Yes, we’re aware from the very first day who’s teaching which subject, what their subject interests are and at what level they are teaching that subject. What we help with particularly is making subject teachers more language aware. By the end of the course I think they’ve got an understanding of what language and language skills the students need to use in their classes. And this is important. If they are teaching some kind of lecture in English they need to be aware that they need to support their learners’ listening skills. You know part of the course is about how to scaffold; what do you do before you start your lecture, what do you do during the lecture, and then at the end what can you do to support your students, not only with the content you are trying to get across, but also with the language needs.
So I suppose you have a structure that you can teach people and that structure differs every single time someone comes in because they have different needs?
Yes, I think that’s true. It’s also about providing useful frameworks for teachers. We provide teachers with structures that we’ve used because we know what you might want to try doing. And people will take from this what they want but that’s the opportunity that we provide. These two weeks are an opportunity to see a lot of different frameworks, a lot of different scaffolding at work that can support content learning but perhaps in a foreign or a second or third language.
What’s a typical lesson like? Do you work in seminars? How do the students feedback?
So a typical session may involve some kind of practical demonstration and then an application of that demonstration. It might be discussing how you might use this new knowledge or you may do a little bit of peer teaching. So I get to observe you trying things out. And in terms of feedback, we have a pause at the end of the first week to check on how everyone’s doing. On the first day we do a ‘KWL’; this is what do you know? That’s the K, what do you want to know? That’s the W and then at the very end of the course the L is what did you learn from this experience. What’s interesting in that first session is that there is a lot of peer teaching going on. These teachers bring a wealth of experience and knowledge with them and what each of them knows explicitly well is their own context, students, cities and they know the social and political make up of these places. They share experiences and knowledge on our courses. So in fact it’s quite light on theory because a lot of people bring a lot of the theory anyway. They are well qualified, well trained teachers and very interested in learning. What we give is this opportunity to perhaps try out some new things in a safe space.
It sounds like a very good way of creating an environment for people to come through and share what they know and build up this cross cultural, cross lingual experience.
Yes absolutely. A lot of teachers also come here to the UK because they want to build their professional networks and open opportunities for their students to do projects across the continent and across the world. We have teachers on this course from Italy, France, Estonia, Poland and Spain and they’ll keep in touch and in the future their students will do projects together. There may be social studies research where they do an interview and collect data out of the other class and then analyse that data to produce some kind of report for example. Or it may be more theoretical and it may be the Italian professor who was here will do a lecture in English for the Estonian physics department. There are a lot of opportunities for them to work together. Although not everyone realises it, I think that this is a real social learning space that we create. We provide this kind of environment for everyone where hopefully everyone feels comfortable and people are motivated.
Being now in 2016 and recently with Brexit do you think it’s increasingly more important to have courses like CLIL, where we still have this kind of exchange?
Yes I hope that in the future the Erasmus and Erasmus+ projects, which is what the teachers are on, will continue and that we can still share, work and collaborate together. In terms of the European scene, more and more countries are focused on having future European citizens of their country who speak the language of that country, one language of international global trade and importance and then a language that’s of interest. There is a European union paper called ‘The Future European Citizen’ and the idea is that you have the Mother tongue, a language of global economic use, at the moment it’s English so we’re on track with that, then a language perhaps of local interest. So I think English will remain important. There is still such a desire for UK universities. I think the greater exposure to general, academic and specialised forms of English gives learners a better chance of achieving in their education and accessing opportunities in education and in business in the future as well.
Thank You very much.