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Research and practice in content and language integrated learning (CLIL)

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In this talk, we will discuss research findings and good practices from content and language integrated learning in the Dutch and European context. The talk will focus on effective ways to teach subject and language in an integrated way, discussing the successes and challenges of such integration. Learning processes and results will be discussed with respect to subject learning, target language learning and metalinguistic development.

Rick de Graaff is a lecturer and researcher in second language pedagogy at the Faculty of Humanities and the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Utrecht University. His main interests include the integrated teaching and learning of content and language, the opportunities of online distant communication for stimulating the development of intercultural communicative competence, and the role of explicit instruction in second language acquisition.

In the Netherlands, bilingual education aims at integrating content and language learning in the secondary school curriculum. This Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) usually takes place in English and is mostly offered at the higher levels of secondary education. Most CLIL teachers are non-native speakers of the target language and do not have a professional background in language pedagogy. How, then, can these teachers effectively contribute to the target language development and proficiency of their students? How do they integrate language learning aims in their content lessons? And, what is the role of the language teachers in supporting the content teachers and integrating content lesson assignments in their language lessons? In a previous study (De Graaff et al., 2007), it was found that subject teachers in Dutch bilingual education, being non-native speakers of English and without specific professional background in second language pedagogy, were able to implicitly apply effective principles for stimulating second language interaction and development. These include providing rich linguistic input, focusing on meaning and form, providing opportunities for pushed output and interaction, and paying attention to language learning strategies. But do schools and teachers really integrate content and language in the bilingual curriculum in order to simultaneously facilitate language development and content learning? An exploratory survey showed that most bilingual schools treat content and language as completely separate subjects: subject teachers teach in English but without any adjustments to the language curriculum; language teachers do not pay attention to the topics or the assignments their pupils are working on in parallel subject classes. In a design-based study, we aimed to find effective and feasible principles and methods for integrated and interactive content and language learning in cross-curricular assignments and projects. A rubric was developed and applied to describe the level of such integration, focusing on criteria such as organization, collaboration, aims, tasks, performances, feedback and assessment. With teacher teams of five different bilingual schools, several cross-curricular activities were developed and implemented, including contents such as Geography, History, Biology, Religious Education, Economics, Social Studies and English. Using the rubric as an inventory tool, I will discuss some good practices of interactive content and language integrated learning. I will argue that both subject and language teachers play a crucial yet distinctive role in providing integrated interactive opportunities for content and language learning.

De Graaff, R., Koopman, G.J., Anikina, Y, & Westhoff, G.J. (2007). An observation tool for effective L2 pedagogy in content and language integrated learning (CLIL). International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 10 (5), 603-624.

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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