Posts by Author

A disciplinary literacies perspective on subject teaching (Or: Why every teacher is not a language teacher)  0

As I have written here before, I am a great fan of the possibilities offered by Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Having taught multiple languages in various contexts in my time, there is something very appealing about what Kees de Bot once referred to as “The Sneaky Way” (2007: 276) of helping learners acquire a language while using it to focus on curriculum content. To those with a background in second language acquisition, it just makes so much sense!

If it makes so much sense, why is it so hard for CLIL teachers to live up to the expectations outlined in the theoretical and practical literature on CLIL? In the Dutch context, several studies have drawn attention to the apparent shortcomings of CLIL classroom practice (e.g. de Graaff et al. 2007, Koopman et al. 2014, van Kampen et al. 2017, Oattes et al. 2018) when held up against models based on theories of language pedagogy and second language acquisition. Clearly, for the teachers involved in those studies, CLIL as we understand it does not make as much sense as it does to me.

 

Every teacher a language teacher?

As a teacher educator in the World Teachers Programme, I have the privilege of working with enthusiastic and talented new teachers from a range of disciplines. While collaborating on a forthcoming publication recently, Liz Dale and I noted that the student teachers we each work with are most receptive to the idea of CLIL when we approach it in a way that leaves space for their disciplinary identity (Dale et al., 2018). Rather than preaching the adage “every teacher is a language teacher” and asking students of biology, history or computer science to conform to the ideals that title implies, I find it more helpful to ask students to consider the roles of language and communication as integral aspects of their existing expertise in their subject. “Every discipline has its own ways of thinking, behaving and communicating” seems a more constructive approach that does justice to teachers’ real areas of expertise. As a teacher educator, it is not my job to turn all teachers into language teachers, but to help them recognise and make salient to learners (Ball et al., 2015) the language and culture of their subject in ways appropriate to their age and level of readiness (see Coyle & Meyer’s (2021) Lego model for an illustration).

 

A new perspective on perspectives

This idea that each subject has its own “culture” (Coyle, 2015) is a crucial aspect of disciplinary literacies. This is a similar view to that taken in Fred Janssen’s perspective-oriented education, which takes as its basis the idea that different disciplines view phenomena through different lenses. What disciplinary literacies adds to the discussion, however, is the idea that different perspectives are communicated in different ways and through different means (or ‘text types’). A social scientist is likely to use different sources and produce different types of output than a mathematician or an art historian, and will therefore need support from a teacher who is an expert in the genres of their subject. This applies in foreign-language CLIL settings, but also in mainstream settings: after all, who speaks ‘Geography’ or ‘Physics’ as their home language?

 

So what about the language teacher?

Does this mean that language teachers have to relinquish their dream of teaching language “The Sneaky Way”? I think not. In fact, I would argue that a disciplinary literacies approach finally offers language teachers the opportunity to realise that dream within their own subject. Language teachers are experts in content areas such as literature, linguistics, culture and intercultural communication (Meesterschapsteam mvt, 2022). Rethinking language curricula around content such as these would reposition language subjects as disciplines in their own right, with their own perspectives and disciplinary literacies (see also an earlier post on this).

 

Next steps

Having established that teachers are well-equipped to support development of disciplinary literacies from their own subject perspectives without compromising their disciplinary identity, the question remains as to how best to support them in finding the best ways to do so. Do you have ideas for how to approach this or are you interested in carrying out research? Get in touch with your ideas via t.l.mearns@iclon.leidenuniv.nl.

 

And… Join us at World CLIL 2022!

Want to connect with colleagues in the international CLIL community? On 7-8 July this year, ICLON will team up with Nuffic to host the World CLIL conference in the Hague. We promise a packed programme with a wide range of workshops on location and over a hundred presentations and symposia available to both on-location and online participants. Registration is open until the 15th of June, but why wait? See www.worldclil.com for more information.

 

References

Ball, P., Kelly, K., & Clegg, J. (2015). Putting CLIL into Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

de Bot, K., 2007. Language Teaching in a Changing World. The Modern Language Journal, 91(2), pp. 274-276.

 

Coyle, D. (2015). Strengthening integrated learning: Towards a new era for pluriliteracies and intercultural learning. Latin American Journal of Content and Language Integrated Learning, 8(2), 84-103, doi:10.5294/laclil.2015.8.2.2

 

Coyle, D., & Meyer, O. (2021). Beyond CLIL: Pluriliteracies Teaching for Deeper Learning. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

 

Dale, L., Oostdam, R., & Verspoor, M. (2018). Searching for identity and focus: towards an analytical framework for language teachers in bilingual education. Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 21(3), 366-383 DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2017.1383351

 

de Graaff, R., Koopman, G. J., Anikina, Y., & Westhoff, G. (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. doi:10.2167/beb462.0

 

van Kampen, E., Meirink, J., Admiraal, W., & Berry, A. (2017). Do we all share the same goals for content and language integrated learning (CLIL)? Specialist and practitioner perceptions of ‘ideal’ CLIL pedagogies in the Netherlands. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Online first. doi:10.1080/13670050.2017.1411332

 

Koopman, G. J., Skeet, J., & de Graaff, R. (2014). Exploring content teachers’ knowledge of language pedagogy: a report on a small-scale research project in a Dutch CLIL context. The Language Learning Journal, 42(2), 123-136. doi:10.1080/09571736.2014.889974

 

Meesterschapsteam mvt (2022). Visie op de toekomst van het curriculum Moderne Vreemde Talen. Accessible via https://modernevreemdetalen.vakdidactiekgw.nl/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2022/04/Basistekst-visie-4.4.pdf

 

Oattes, H., Oostdam, R., De Graaff, R., Fukkink, R., & Wilschut, A. (2018). Content and Language Integrated Learning in Dutch bilingual education. How Dutch history teachers focus on second language teaching. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7(2), 156-176. doi:10.1075/dujal.18003.oat

Research into CLIL and Bilingual Education in the Netherlands: Where do we go from here?  0

My first encounter with bilingual secondary education (tweetalig onderwijs, or tto) was when I moved to the Netherlands in 2009, as a young and enthusiastic language teacher. Considering my already blossoming interest in Content & Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) at that time, I felt I had hit the linguistic jackpot. It seemed like pupils in Dutch bilingual schools were being offered the ultimate language-learning opportunity and I wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to become part of the tto community.

 

Nine years on, Rick de Graaff and I had the honour of editing the Winter 2018 edition of the Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics (DuJAL), which was dedicated to research in the field of CLIL and Bilingual Education in the Netherlands. Publication of this issue is timely considering that 2019 is the year that will not only see tto celebrate its 30th birthday, but also the year of the introduction of ‘tto 2.0’. Tto has a long-standing relationship with research which will hopefully continue into this new era.  I agree, however, with Dominik Rumlich’s comment from his ‘outsider’ perspective on the special issue that there is still much ground that can be covered. He goes into depth on a number of excellent pathways for future research, but I believe that there are even more directions we could head in.

 

So where do we go from here?

A young participant in my own research commented recently that tto is about so much more than just learning school subjects in English. In the light of the upcoming changes to bilingual education, it may also be time for research to distinguish more clearly between CLIL and other aspects of tto, such as global citizenship and personal development. Furthermore, as schools investigate approaches to teaching and learning that reposition the roles of teachers and learners (e.g. personalized learning), it might be valuable to investigate the viability of ‘traditional’ understandings of CLIL methodologies in such contexts, or whether these too need rethinking. A first step in this direction might be the investigation of whether a pluriliteracies approach as advocated by the Graz Group might suit the Dutch context, or whether a new, context-specific definition of CLIL might be more appropriate.

 

New contexts, new opportunities

Alongside developments within tto itself, bilingual education continues to spread to other areas of education, with the first research projects into bilingual primary education currently underway, and an increasing number of colleges of further education adopting a new variant of the approach. This comes amidst a fierce debate regarding the Anglicisation of higher education and a recent call for universities to follow the pedagogical examples set by tto and CLIL. These developments into different areas of education may lead to new strands of research altogether, creating room for expansion of the Dutch CLIL research community. In a different area of higher education, the Netherlands is host to a number of specialized teacher education tracks at both higher vocational and university level (for example Leiden’s own World Teachers Programme), and it seems a missed opportunity not to investigate how we can most effectively prepare new teachers for the demands that await them.

 

Breaking the CLIL monopoly

The final area that stands out for me in terms of further avenues for CLIL research relates to my own baggage: that of the young, enthusiastic language teacher who could not (and still cannot) believe her luck at falling into the lap of tto. In Anglophone countries, CLIL is often the domain of the language teacher and not of the teacher of Chemistry, History or PE. This raises the question as to whether there might be room in Dutch CLIL research for approaches to integrating content into the broader language curriculum, in order to bring the benefits of this rich approach to language learning to a broader, more inclusive audience. Belgian CLIL could be a source of inspiration for this: as illustrated during the CLIL Connect Conference in Brussels this month, a key difference between our two contexts is that CLIL in the Belgian context is not restricted to English.

 

As I enter my tenth year in the Netherlands and of my relationship with her unique bilingual education paradigm, it strikes me that Dutch research in our field – while undoubtedly impressive – really is just getting started. I, for one, am excited to see where the next ten years will take us.

 

Access the DuJAL Special Issue on CLIL and Bilingual Education via https://benjamins.com/catalog/dujal.7.2.

 

For more thoughts on the potential for more content in the Modern Foreign Languages curriculum, see the website of the Meesterschapsteam mvt at https://modernevreemdetalen.vakdidactiekgw.nl/2018/03/30/visietekst-meesterschapsteam-voor-curriculum-nu/ (in Dutch).