CLIL in HE workshop sparks fascinating discussion between experts, practitioners and newcomers

On June 11, almost 30 delegates from British universities came together at the one-day workshop “Something to talk about: Integrating content and language study in higher education”, organised by Elisabeth Wielander on behalf of the Centre for Language Education Research at Aston (CLERA) and hosted by the School of Languages and Social Science (LSS) at Aston University. The event was funded by the Higher Education Academy as part of the discipline workshop and seminar series, in association with the AHRC.

©Jordina Sala-Branchadell

©Jordina Sala-Branchadell

The aim of the workshop was to disseminate findings from the organiser’s own PhD research, based on results from international research efforts, to outline the possible benefits of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in MFL degrees in UK Higher Education. It provided a platform for sharing practice in subject-specific content teaching through the target language and discussing implications for curriculum design and teacher training.

In the morning session, Elisabeth introduced the participants to CLIL, building on findings from its predecessor, Canadian immersion, and tracing the development of this European form of bilingual education since the term was coined in the mid-1990s. After presenting some European research investigating the gains and losses of content instruction in a second language (L2) as perceived by university students and instructors, Elisabeth then shared some findings of her own PhD research into the use of German as a medium of instruction in UK undergraduate programmes and showed how Aston University is implementing this teaching approach, which has been in use since the 1970s.

After lunch, two colleagues from each of the languages offered at degree level at Aston – French, German and Spanish – talked about their experience with L2 content teaching and shared examples from their teaching practice. The subsequent Q&A discussion raised some intriguing questions regarding the reasons why some universities embrace L2 content teaching, while others remain reluctant.

The Powerpoint presentations and handouts used on the day will shortly be made available on the HEA website and blog.

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