The significance of content and language-integrated learning of the English language

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014

Author: Oskolkova Anna, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

In the strategy of Kazakhstan -2050 the trilingual policy emphasized equal acquisition of the third English language in the bilingual country. It is supposed that through learning subject content in three languages students will get access to additional information, new perspectives, and deeper understanding of other cultures [4, p. 5]. The created trilingual environment increases students’ potential, develops their flexibility, critical and creative thinking, and ability to cross-cultural cooperation, fosters respect towards themselves and others, and increases their willingness and skills to learn the languages. In this regard CLIL approach in education might be the nearly single solution which combines the content of the training curriculum and teaching in a foreign language. “CLIL is an umbrella term covering a dozen or more educational approaches (e.g. immersion, bilingual education, multilingual education, language showers and enriched language programs). If learning content through languages has been practicing in Kazakhstani tertiary education, for secondary schools it still needs developing and determining ways of implementation [4, p. 543]. According to the last elaborated curriculum for these schools, History of Modern Kazakhstan, Kazakh language and Literature are taught in Kazakh, the language of instruction for Russian language and Literature is Russian, subjects like Visual Arts, Global Perspectives, Economics lessons, half of Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, and Physics are taught in English [2, p. 21].

The other reason to state that CLIL approach is able to bring our country trilingualism is based on recently held international practice results. In 1998 the European Platform, in cooperation with the CLIL schools network, laid down a standard for bilingual VWO [3, p.130]. In 2003, a quality project was launched to monitor the development of CLIL in individual schools. This standard is considered to be the guideline for new schools and underlies school efforts to secure a CLIL quality guarantee. The standard recognises four components, namely ‘results’, ‘educational process’, ‘quality’ and ‘preconditions’. The first component, ‘results’, describes the final aims of the CLIL streams for students to study not only for language purposes, but also with a view to preparing themselves for an international future. Knowledge of English and the ability to live and work in an international environment are considered to be important aspects of CLIL. Today schools are main providers of learners to universities and by the results of obligatory IELTS exam for school-leavers; they have an opportunity to study overseas too.

The second component, ‘educational process’, defines quantitative and qualitative requirements. Quantitative requirements include the number of hours taught and the subjects to be taught using CLIL. English as the second or third language is specifically mentioned as having a similar status to that of first language.

The ‘quality’ component includes teaching skills and human resources, required language proficiency to at least B2 according to Common European Framework level, native speakers to support the CLIL stream, etc. Undoubtedly, teachers are informed about the work expected of them and how they are meant to carry it out, for example a didactical profile of teachers is given. CLIL makes demands on teachers that differ somewhat from those experienced in mainstream education [1, p. 143]. They are meant to encourage their students to actively use the target language as often as possible. In this way knowledge of specialist terminology in each subject is acquired. Naturally, a lot of attention is paid to communication skills. The second component also includes internationalization, which is meant to play a central role in the school's policy and curriculum.

The third and fourth components include measures to ensure that the school pays attention to the quality of its CLIL stream and the preconditions for setting it up. In this respect, it is important to mention that teachers have special pedagogical development courses or sharing workshops. Like other language teachers we are encouraged to make contribution in developing subject course plans, enriching it with supplementary materials on CLIL. Teacher is allowed to fulfill the course plan with other relevant material according to the new integrated curricular.

Theoretically, experienced teachers can teach English without a textbook. However, it is not easy to do it all the time, though they may do it sometimes. Many teachers do not have enough time to make supplementary materials, so they just follow the textbook. Textbooks therefore take on a very important role in language classes, and it is important to select a good textbook or be collateralized with a data base of supplementary materials.

Next moment is that during English lessons, students need to activate their ability to apply English in the context of core curriculum subjects. Further it is projected that all elaborated and selected materials will be applied in designing of new textbooks based on CLIL approach. Therefore, every teacher should be a specialist and be able to modify not only teaching process but also teaching materials in terms of to meet today’s students’ need.

If to analyze the background of teaching materials development experience, it can be found that critical distinguishing of materials development from a holistic methodology sub-section started to raise the interest of educators from the middle of 1990s. Before, materials usually served as examples of a particular method but it was little said about the principles and procedures of materials development. There were only some publications reflect the questions of how to evaluate, select materials on practical way.

Language policy is Kazakhstan's path of integration into the world community. Today in Kazakhstan society, it is carried out the policy of trilingualism which aimed in acquiring by the population Kazakh, Russian and English languages. Secondary schools in Kazakhstan make contributions on realization of the policy in different levels. In schools Kazakh, Russian and English languages are taught not only as language subjects but also as a medium of instruction for content subjects to give an incentive to academic language as well as content learning. The significance of shifting the focus from a language as a subject to a language as a tool is that through learning subject content in these three languages students will get access to additional information, new perspectives, and deeper understanding of other cultures. The main reason why CLIL has become essential to Kazakhstan is that it might be the way of State Language Policy implementation.

Schools work on implementation of this policy in a curricular level. The content language integrated curricular and other supporting documents developed together with the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education.

For carrying out this issue, it was necessary to consider CLIL because it has lots of verges and interpretations. The European Commission gives the next definition "Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), in which pupils learn a subject through the medium of a foreign language……" this explanation proves CLIL is perceived as a part of a Curricular, which is true but is not precise about the level of students and to what extent should be the language immersion. The other definition is more detailed "CLIL refers to situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content, and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language". Content and Language Integrated Learning: The European Dimension - Actions, Trends and Foresight Potential). This citation emphasises the 'dual-focused' objective of CLIL and justifies its importance within the implementation of bilingual or trilingual policies. Moreover, observations showed that CLIL based curricular is able to lead to several of benefits. Coyle wrote that CLIL is "… an approach to bilingual education in which both curriculum content (such as science or geography) and English are taught together. It differs from simple English-medium education in that the learner is not necessarily expected to have the English proficiency required to cope with the subject before beginning study" [4, p.546]. These observations once again demonstrate us that CLIL is much more powerful in terms of improving of language skills, and the most essential consideration is that learners of different levels in a foreign language can be involved to do their 'CLIL-ing'. This sounds fabulously, but there several reasons to state that relying on the practice of introduction of CLIL.

- Teachers consider carefully their teaching methodology from both content and language in order to learners understanding the content properly and are able to apply English;

- CLIL input requires careful lesson planning starting from introducing key terms, usually science subjects’ vocabulary, encouraging students to work in groups, eliciting appropriate tasks which would result in an increase of the skill-based focus of the learning;

- As CLIL involves curricular it goes without saying that the educational materials need to be elaborated;

- Language learning is likely to be more clearly focused and seen from different sides, for example science terminology is studied equally as common widely used vocabulary.

All these bullet-points are desirable, in educational terms. Ensuring that students understand the content, reducing teacher-talk, increasing the focus on skills, making students to learn language items that are always contextualized are always functionally necessary in the classroom. Undoubtedly, there are many pros which school administration, students and teachers can face in implementation of this policy. First of all, students are motivated in not only learning English as a foreign language with a set of grammar and vocabulary but in acquiring it through the relevant and realistic meaning. If students cannot relate a studied foreign L2 or L3 to their own life and the L2 or L3 is not taught in connection with authentic context, students might have problems. They may find it difficult to understand why they need to learn the foreign language if it is not related to their lives in any way. However, if language and also content learning demonstrated more relevance to the everyday lives of students, their motivation for learning an L 2,3 and their general interest in a particular subject might increase [1, p. 112]. Therefore, introduction of CLIL in Kazakhstani secondary education in the scope of implementation of the trilingual education comes in handy forcing the policy to teaching and learning methods. However, regarding secondary and high schools there is little experience and outcomes’ analysis of content language integrated learning or one can find examples of their overlapping in teaching and learning English as a temporary phenomenon. Therefore, CLIL in English class still needs developing and determining ways of implementation.

New developed English course plans require from an English teacher to teach content through language regarding some topics and facilitate student’s progress on science subjects. Up-to-date requirements to the implementation of this policy gave rise to many questions in teaching and learning language. From one hand, students with different language levels (L3) have to understand the appropriate grammar and vocabulary structures and on the other hand, they must memorize and retain more specific information, specific vocabulary of Science subject. Observation and discussion between academic and linguistic subjects’ teachers determined students’ poor performance in English takes place in the learning of Science subjects. That’s why CLIL is becoming a call of the time in the Science lessons as well as in English.

In spite of counted above advantages of CLIL approach, teachers today face the main hindrance to implement this approach into practice, the shortage of materials. Moreover according to the new curricular there is no tie to the course book and teachers are free to use any relevant materials, especially with CLIL input. Therefore the central issue of the thesis became the consideration of possibilities for materials development with CLIL approach. The first taken action was the research of the theory on teaching materials development.

Materials include textbooks, video and audio tapes, computer software, and visual aids. They influence the content and the procedures of learning. The choice of deductive versus inductive learning, the role of memorization, the use of creativity and problem solving, production vs. reception, and the order in which materials are presented are all influenced by the materials. The overview of literature on EFL materials development shows the significance of the topic for linguistics and reflects its way during the last forty decades. As it is seen, now it is focusing less on ways of selecting materials and more on the application of theory to practice and practice to theory. But there are still little investigation’s results about their actual communicative effectiveness. For this sphere to become more valuable and credible it needs to become more empirical. There might be an investigation which compares the long term effect on students’ communicative competence of various materials applied by one and the same teacher to ‘instruct’ the same theme to equivalent learners. Or it would be interesting to give learners of equal competence to choose different materials to the same communicative aims, and compare their achievements. Likewise, comparison of the effects of materials produced in different ways for example, text driven vs. teaching point driven to achieve the same objectives would be also important.

Overall, development materials is now not only undertaken by practitioners but is also is a field of academic study. In spite of its great importance, materials development and evaluation has been a new trend in the process of language teaching. It does not have a long history. Tomlinson explains that the study of materials development was not given any real importance until the 1990s when books on this subject started to be published. Literature analysis behind teaching materials development determined main authors like Tomlinson, Masuhara and Harwood who are not only practicing writers of language-learning materials but also academics theorizing about materials development.

This findings gave us reasons to examine the process of teaching materials development which is consist of selecting, evaluation, adapting and production. Especially we paid attention to evaluation's two stages: External and Internal. Evaluation of the material is decisive stage in material development process and needs attentive consideration including the selecting of generated materials too. After going through these stages teacher comes to a conclusion to develop this material into a teaching material or to get rid of it even after the internal evaluation.

Next important part is materials adaptation. It is a part where teachers consider how to adapt materials systematically or intuitively every day. The analysis of references about materials adaptation is surprisingly little. In one of the main early publication on materials development, Madsen and Bowen, paid attention to adaptation process. They came to the important feature that considerate teachers are always adapting the materials they are using to the context in which they are using them in order to achieve the optimal harmony between materials, methodology, learners, objectives, the target language and the teacher’s personality and teaching style. In order to achieve this harmony Madsen and Bowen proposed an example of reasons for adaptation [1, p. 250]. The purpose of material adaptation is so that to make material meaningful and interesting for learners. Haines believes that the purpose of adaptation is render materials ‘more relevant and effective and effective’ [3, p. 56]. About the purpose of adaptation is to cater the heterogenic class mentioned in the works of Gibbons he acknowledges that adapted in so way materials can be ‘more engaging, achievable, and memorable [2, p. 67]. As a matter of fact, teaching materials analysis and evaluation assist teachers to gain good and useful insights into the nature of the material. In fact, it is extremely important for us as teachers to evaluate, select and adapt teaching materials to meet our teaching and students' learning needs in order to get the most out of learning potentials.

We found that CLIL-specific learning materials support the creation of enriched learning environments where students can simultaneously learn both content and language, whilst becoming more adept learners of both. CLIL class structure was taken as the base for developing sequenced material for teaching and below there are generally approved considerations which teaching with CLIL lesson should follow:

- activating prior knowledge;

- input and output;

- wait time;

- collaborative tasks;

- cognitive challenge;

- developing thinking skills.

According to these stages sample of materials and tasks were described in the thesis. Appropriate CLIL materials are cognitively highly demanding for learners who need to assume the additional challenge of learning through an L2 or L3. However, excessive cognitive load can be avoided by incorporating enhanced scaffolding and other learner support mechanisms to help students reach well beyond what they could do on their own. In turn, incorporating scaffolding means developing them as materials which is an extra challenge for teacher, efforts and extra time is devoted to materials development.

Appropriate learning materials help students build a sense of security in experimenting with language, content, and the management of their own learning. In addition, quality CLIL materials are highly integrative and multilayered and they help increase the likelihood that both content and language learning will be meaningful. However, to prepare this type of material and to cover complex content by scaffolding it language teacher should study the material and find the most appropriate ways to present the material to learners. This process might challenge language teachers either. To go through the whole process of materials development and not to give up will challenge a teacher’s stamina as well. For example, in order to select CLIL appropriate text or an authentic material teacher should have an access first to the resources and to some extent to be familiar with available text books.

The outcomes are unquestionably against the textbook as a teaching material because it needs huge amount of supplementary materials development with thinking of using CLIL in teaching aids. In materials development we should include requirements to meet students’ needs so that tasks must involve student into process by the gradual rise of task's complexity from the easy task to the questions of higher thinking order and to push student to develop their thinking an communicating skills trough collaboration and interaction. In addition, the peculiarities of CLIL materials were considered and were taken into consideration while example materials development. While the process the main challenges were listed and recommendation for teachers were provided.

Theoretically, experienced teachers can teach English without a textbook and develop materials with CLIL. However, it is not easy to do it all the time, though teachers may do it sometimes. Many teachers do not have enough time to make supplementary materials, so they just follow the textbook. Textbooks therefore take on a very important role in language classes, and it is important to select a good textbook or be collateralized with a data base of supplementary materials.


1. Coyle, D. “Content and Language Integrated Learning: Towards a Connected Research agenda for CLIL Pedagogies” // International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 2007.-#10(5) - 543-562 pp.

2. Dale L., Es W., Tanner R. CLIL Skills. - Expertisecentrum MVT ICLON, Universiteit Leiden, 2010.-130 p.

3. Genesee F., Lindholm-Leary K., Saunders W., Christian D. Educating English language learners: A synthesis of research evidence. -NY: Cambridge Un iversity Press, 2006.-423 p.

4. Lyster, R. Learning and teaching languages through content: a counterbalanced approach. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2007. - 54 p.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014

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