Integrating content and language in English language teaching in secondary education: models, benefits, and challenges.


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Integrating content and language in English language teaching in secondary education: models, benefits, and challenges.
    111   Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching Department of English Studies, Faculty of Pedagogy and Fine Arts, Adam Mickiewicz University, KaliszSSLLT 2 (1). 111-136   Integrating content and languagein English language teachingin secondary education:Models, benefits, and challenges Darío Luis Banegas University of Warwick, UKMinisterio de Educación del Chubut, Argentina Abstract In the last decade, there has been a major interest in content-based instruction(CBI) and content and language integrated learning (CLIL). These are similar ap-proaches which integrate content and foreign/second language learning throughvarious methodologies and models as a result of different implementationsaround the world. In this paper, I first offer a sociocultural view of CBI-CLIL. Sec-ondly, I define language and content as vital components in CBI-CLIL. Thirdly, I re-view the srcins of CBI and the continuum perspective, and CLIL definitions andmodels featured in the literature. Fourth, I summarise current aspects around re-search in programme evaluation. Last, I review the benefits and challenges of thisinnovative approach so as to encourage critically context-responsive endeavours. Keywords : CBI, CLIL, CBI continuum, CLIL models Over the last two decades the integration of English language learningtogether with subject-matter content in formal education has received greatinterest in Europe and other parts of the world (Banegas, 2011; Coyle, Hood, &Marsh, 2010, p. 1; Dalton-Puffer, 2007, p. 1; Lyster & Ballinger, 2011; Moate,2010, 2011; Navés, 2009, p. 22-23). This integration has given rise to two  Darío Luis Banegas 112   broad approaches: (a) CBI (content-based instruction), and (b) CLIL (contentand language integrated learning) (Dalton-Puffer & Smit, 2007, p. 7-24).In this paper, I examine the central features of CBI and CLIL by looking attheir components, definitions, models, underpinning rationale and implemen-tation outcomes found in the literature under the light of sociocultural theory.I review the benefits and challenges of this so-called innovative approach(Kiely, 2011) so as to encourage critically context-responsive endeavours. Sociocultural underpinnings in CBI-CLIL A sociocultural theory perspective is usually developed to understandthe relationship between learning, language, and content. Language is the  mediating tool through which content and language are co-constructed in alearning environment (Moate, 2010). This integration could also become morecomplex when learners focus on language-focused talk as well as content-focused talk. It is through these interrelations that learners begin to engage intasks which require complex language derived from curricular complex rela-tions (Kong, 2009, p. 239-248).However, a word of caution is advanced by Pica (2002). In a well-grounded empirical research study, the author sought to identify ways in whichteachers modified interaction about content. Although integration may becomesuccessful when it responds to learners’ interests, Pica states that a strong focuson meaning and function, an activity which may presuppose the overlook ofform, could deprive learners of improving their language proficiency. What Pica(2002) fears is that language learning will be incidental and errors may never becorrected. In turn, this may affect learners as they will acquire new curricularcontent without receiving language feedback and support so that both compo-nents of the integration benefit from each other. If this does not happen, atsome point, poor language development will block content learning.When considering the links between sociocultural theory and secondlanguage acquisition, authors such as Lantolf (2000), Lantolf and Thorne(2006), and Warford (2010) assert that the human mind is mediated throughphysical and symbolic tools, such as language, which mediate the relationshipbetween us and the objects of our experience. One example of mediation isteacher talk in interaction (Kong, 2009; Moate, 2010, p. 40-41; Short, 2002;Tasker, Johnson, & Davis, 2010, p. 130), which scaffolds the appropriation ofscientific concepts, cultural knowledge, and linguistic knowledge (BarrancoPérez, 2007; Mohan, 1986, p. 2; Mohan & Slater, 2005). Gibbons (2002, p. 10)defines scaffolding as a special kind of help by which the teacher temporarilyassists learners while they perform different tasks so that, in the future, they  Integrating content and language in English language teaching in secondary education: Models . . . 113   can become autonomous and work on their own. Scaffolding can take theform of asking questions, activating prior knowledge, creating a motivatingcontext, encouraging participation, offering hints, and feedback. It may alsoinclude adapting materials to respond to learners’ needs (Guerrini, 2009, p.74; Reiss, 2005, p. 6-8) while fostering students’ higher order mental capaci-ties and cognitive content engagement (Hall, 2010, p. 213; Kong & Hoare,2011, p. 310; Lyster & Ballinger, 2011, p. 283).Within CBI-CLIL, for example, Llinares & Whittaker (2009, p. 78-85) sug-gest that content could be scaffolded when it is linked to students’ personalexperiences, previous content taught in their L1, or through skills work in tasks(Mehisto, Marsh, & Frigols, 2008, p. 139-140). Along these lines, CLIL and CBIare examples of reversing the focus on language to urging teachers to attendto the role of content in scaffolding second language learning (Bailey, Burkett,& Freeman, 2010, p. 615). This assistance occurs in what is known as the zoneof proximal development or ZPD (de Guerrero & Villamil, 2000, pp. 51-52;Mehisto, 2008, p. 109; Ohta, 2005, pp. 505-506). However, I believe thatteachers need to ensure that scaffolding only acts as a safe net for the intro-duction of new content (Coyle, Hood, & Marsh, 2010). If the CLIL lesson is onlyreduced to the repetition of the L1 curriculum in another language, motivationand cognitive engagement may be threatened.Last, Richards and Rodgers (2001, p. 204-215) agree with Larsen-Freeman (2000, p. 140) on the fact that people learn another language moresuccessfully when they acquire information through it. Richards and Rodgers(2001, p. 215) also point out that CBI has two major goals: autonomous learn-ing (cf. Wolff, 2003, p. 211-215), and the adoption of different roles by learn-ers such as interpreter, explorer, source of content, and joint participant incontent and activity selection. By advancing these aims, the idea that learningand teaching content and language should be seen as collaborative work be-tween educators and learners is once again established on solid ground. Defining Language in CBI-CLIL In this section I outline what is usually meant by language and content ,an enterprise which could be rather difficult (Davidson, 2005, pp. 220-221;Hermann, 2008). On the language side and illuminated by sociocultural theory,most researchers (Cammarata, 2009, p. 561-562; Coyle, Hood, & Marsh, 2010,p. 37; Creese, 2005, p. 190; Kong, 2009, p. 234; Mohan & Slater, 2005, pp. 153-155) agree that language plays a functional role in CBI-CLIL because it serves asa medium to learn a school subject embedded in formal education. In effect,language is seen as a conduit for communication and for learning (Coyle,  Darío Luis Banegas 114   Hood, & Marsh, 2010, p. 54). This functional view of language is associatedwith the concept of communicative competence (Hymes, 1972), which hasbeen further developed in relation to CLIL by several authors (Brown, 2007, p.218-222; Dalton-Puffer, 2009; Davidson, 2005, p. 220; Lotherington, 2004, p.707; Nunan, 2004, p. 212; Savignon, 2007). It entails the learning of new dis-courses, such as mathematical discourse (Hofmannová, Novotná, & Pípalová,2008, p. 23). Bentley (2010, p. 11) proposes that learners should know con-tent-obligatory language and content-compatible language to cater for thedifference between subject-specific and general discourse. In my view, such asuggestion seems to respond to content-driven approaches (see pp. 119-121)as students’ content knowledge will be prioritised in their assessment.In connection with discourses and a functional view of language, Coyle(2007b, p. 53) developed a Language Triptych to represent how language maybe progressively learnt and used through interrelated perspectives. One per-spective is language of learning , that is, the learning of key words and phrasesto access content. Secondly, language for learning focuses on the languagestudents will need to carry out classroom tasks such as debating, or organisingand presenting information. Last, language through learning makes room forunpredictable language learning as it is concerned with new language emerg-ing from the cognitive process students are engaged in. All in all, the triptychoffers both a focus on form (cf. Spada, 2010) and a focus on meaning. Thismeans that a lesson can be enriched if students not only identify tenses andhow grammar patterns work but, simultaneously, put those grammatical itemsto meaningful use by learning content about other school subjects, for in-stance. Grammar may still be taught incidentally and explicitly depending oncontextual circumstances and also recycled and assigned true meaning by in-viting students to embed content into words. However, teachers and studentssometimes suspect that language learning may only benefit those studentswho have received EFL instruction or private lessons through a more gram-mar-oriented or coursebook-driven approach (Banegas, in press). In this sense,CLIL may be seen as elitist as it only benefits those who already know the lan-guage to some extent. Defining Content in CBI-CLIL Content may be identified with nonlanguage subjects or scientific disci-plines (Wolff, 2010, p. 103) “packaged in some way” (Morton, 2010, p. 98).Such a feature, however, may be hard to achieve. For example, Rogers (2000)criticises content-basics adherents for not defining the type and quantity ofcontent to be explored. This position demands active and independent in-  Integrating content and language in English language teaching in secondary education: Models . . . 115   volvement of teachers and school authorities interested in developing anadaptable curriculum for the integration of content and language (Wolff,2010, p. 104-107). After all, the essential feature of CBI-CLIL should be that thecontent addressed truly emerges from students’ L1 school curriculum.Barwell (2005, pp. 143-144) suggests the use of subject area instead ofcontent since the latter could be merely seen as the product of contextualisedteacher-learner interaction. His view is that content may be perceived as anexternal entity detached from the language which may lead to no languageexploration. He also argues that if language is only the medium of instruction,not only is its status diminished in the integration, but also a rather false mes-sage can be conveyed: That language is devoid of content. If this view isstrengthened, then language learning will be merely incidental (Langman,2003, p. 4). Paz and Quinterno (2009, p. 28) assert that language is contentand its content is grammar, phonology, semantics, and skills development.Perhaps these fears could be minimised by the discursification of language inthe sense that language, even when it plays a functional role, could be taughtby looking at how specific discourses are constructed.In a similar vein, Mohan and Slater (2005, p. 155) admit that defining con-tent and language from the point of view of integration is debatable. They solvethis intricacy by resorting to a functional view of language as it offers a broaderperspective where meaning, functions and context are considered. The authorsadd that while content is the meaning of a discourse, such as science discourse,language is the wording of a discourse. This view requires that learners need tounderstand what is being meant, a school subject or curricular content, and onthe other hand, how that meaning is worded in language, thus offering learnersthe possibility of paying close attention to how a language works.Last, Coyle, Hood, & Marsh (2010, p. 42, 53) stress that language learn-ing with its focus on form and meaning should not be reduced to incidental orunplanned grammar. With this position in mind they stress that content, ini-tially related to a discrete curriculum discipline, needs to be seen as beyondknowledge acquisition. For these authors, content is related to cognition, thus,we should also see it as skills development and understanding which leads tostudent-generated knowledge.In sum, language may be viewed as a scaffolding tool, with its own con-tent as a system, which can be used to express functional meanings, such asnarrating, describing a process, comparing sources, expressing opinions, or ex-changing information. Conversely, content is an abbreviation of curricular con-tent from subjects such as History, Geography, Biology, or Economics amongothers. However, content should also include language as a system of subsys-tems, as an object of study positioned in systemic functional linguistics. CBI and
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