Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) Day at Aston

Aston University is hosting a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) Day on Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Aston University has long been at the forefront of using CLIL in higher education, and teaching in the target language represents one of its unique selling points. Student recruitment to modern languages is above the national average. Results in the National Student Survey show almost 100% student satisfaction across all languages, and students especially mention teaching in the target language as key to their success. Moreover, employability prospects for Aston language graduates are regularly amongst the top 5 nationally.

At Bordesley Green Girls School (BGGS), an inner city school in Birmingham, 89 percent of girls study languages at GCSE and 81% of these girls report that they enjoy learning a language. A sizeable group of 28 students also study languages at AS and A2. Value-added scores for languages are the highest of all EBacc subjects in the school. Languages are at the heart of whole school improvement. The Head Teacher Judith Woodfield has indeed shown that standards have risen in all other subjects at Key Stage 3 thanks to the adoption of a European curriculum which has CLIL at the heart of its delivery. Research in the UK and internationally shows that this approach to language learning leads not only to language improvement but also to cognitive acceleration.

The results from both BGGS and AU demonstrate that the negative national trend for languages is not inevitable. Given the right approach, children from any context and at any level of education can achieve success in languages. We believe that language is a skill that can be accessed by all; its potential for inclusivity is a key strength that needs to be advertised widely.

The aims of the workshop are:

  • To present CLIL success stories internationally (Estonia) and locally at different levels of education;
  • To share your own good practice during the Show and Tell sessions
  • To network for the promotion of CLIL as a highly effective approach to language learning and of its related benefits for the individual and the society.

Plenary talks:
Peeter Mehisto  (University College London Institute of Education) – Getting concrete with CLIL

Judith Woodfield  (Head teacher, Bordesley Green Girls School) – How Content and Language Integrated Teaching Can Halt the Decline of Languages in Schools

Elisabeth Wielander (Aston University) – Something to talk about: Integrating content and language in tertiary education

Workshop with Peeter Mehisto – Scaffolding through the unavoidable gateway of short-term memory: A CLIL essential

Show and Tell Event

9.30-10.00     Registration
10.00-11.00    Welcome and Peeter Mehisto
11.00-11.30    Coffee
11.30-12.15    Judith Woodfield
12.15-13.00    Elisabeth Wielander
13.00-13.45    Lunch
13.45-14.45    Workshop with Peeter Mehisto
14.45-15.30    Show and Tell 1
15.30-16.00    Coffee
16.00-16.45     Show and Tell 2
16.45-17.00    Closing

Register to reserve your free place at this event

Addressing English as a Lingua Franca in Language Teaching Theory and Practice: Challenges and Opportunities

This CPD event was run by Nathan Page (lecturer in applied linguistics at Aston) on May 4th, and was attended by staff and students of the university. The session was based around an overview of major theories and findings in the English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) research movement, and then an application of those to a specific context of language teaching and learning which formed the basis of Nathan’s PhD research.

ELF research tells us that many features of standard English lexicogrammar and pronunciation can be varied with no effect on mutual intelligibility between speakers. It has documented some of the processes involved in maintaining that mutual intelligibility, and has also pointed out which specific features are likely to cause breakdowns in communication and which are not. Given this backdrop, the audience were asked to consider a rather controversial question: to what extent is the teaching of all standard forms of English relevant in English education today?

Of course there are many ways of approaching that question, and certainly matters of educational context and individual identity, aspirations (and so on) are of paramount importance. It was noted that it is not uncommon for teachers or learners to have either ambivalent or openly hostile reactions to some of the concepts and ideas associated with ELF. This issue was expanded upon by demonstrating that – in a Japanese context where the English learners are volunteers preparing to work overseas in diverse global contexts – there certainly must be a strong case for adopting an ELF-type position on teaching practices, and yet some teachers were openly dismissive of global diversity in English, preferring to adhere strictly to standard forms of the language. This was shown to be a complex, multi-layered issue as research from the context shows many reasons which justify an ‘intelligibility based’ approach but this comes with many caveats indicating that some focus on standard forms of English is still important to the volunteers.

Ultimately, the session pointed out that an awareness of the issues raised by ELF is important for all teachers of English, but that the associated concepts represent both challenges and opportunities for classroom pedagogy, largely dependent on context and also learner identity.

If you would like more information, Nathan can be contacted on He also has an open-source publication available at .

CPD: ICT as motivational tools in MFL classrooms (with Joe Dale)


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Qualified MFL Teacher Status in four years at Aston

teacherFrom next academic year, Aston is offering a new undergraduate programme which combines a BSc in Spanish, French or German with Qualified Teacher Status within four years. After graduation, successful graduates will be able to apply immediately for modern languages teaching positions in secondary schools without undertaking a PGCE. Like all other MFL degrees at Aston, the new programme includes a fully integrated period of study abroad with extensive preparation and support offered by Aston’s award-winning placement team.

To find out more about this exciting new option for MFL students, please click here.



Second Annual ‘How does language & literacy work?’ Conference at Aston University

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On behalf of CLERA and InterLanD (School of Languages & Social Sciences), Dr Urszula Clark hosted the second annual conference on the topic: ‘How Does Language & Literacy Work?’ on 17th May 2014. The conference continues the ground breaking collaboration begun last year between University researchers, providers of continuing development programmes in teaching English as an additional language and teachers across the primary and secondary sectors.

The conference aimed to:

  • Make the workings of the language system explicit in order to appreciate the role language plays, in constructing knowledge across all learning areas.
  • Build understandings about the patterned ways meanings are made within and across genres so that educators are able to develop students’ language resources to understand and produce those genres.
  • Enable participants to understand and use the differences between spoken and written language, both as a teaching and a learning tool.

This year’s keynote speakers were Caroline Coffin, Professor in English Language and Applied Linguistics at the Open University, UK and Claire Acevedo, Freelance Education Consultant and Teacher Educator. There were also a series of workshops run by Dr Garry Plappert and Dr Urszula Clark, Aston University and Lee Donaghy, Park View Academy, Birmingham.

During the conference, there was plenty of opportunity for discussion of a range of issues in the field.

Feedback was positive. One delegate said, ‘This has increased my knowledge about functional linguistics. It has been an excellent opportunity to learn from a wide variety of professionals.’ Another delegate said, ‘Really excellent again, thanks so much for being so welcoming. I would definitely come again in 2015 & beyond!’

Many thanks go to Dr Urszula Clark for organising the conference and to all the speakers and delegates who gave up a warm, sunny Saturday to attend.

‘New Directions in Reflective Practice’ conference at Aston University

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CLERA held a one-day conference on 14th May 2014 aimed at bringing together researchers and English language professionals to share current approaches to reflective practice. The event was led by Dr Fiona Copland, Director of CLERA, School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University.

From left to right: Dr. Steve Mann, Dr. Sue Wharton, Professor Thomas S.C. Farrell, Dr. Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton, Dr. Elaine Riordan and Dr. Fiona Farr

From left to right: Dr. Steve Mann, Dr. Sue Wharton, Professor Thomas S.C. Farrell, Dr. Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton, Dr. Elaine Riordan and Dr. Fiona Farr

We were delighted to welcome many well-known researchers as speakers at the event. The opening plenary talk was delivered by Professor Thomas S.C. Farrell (author of Reflective Language Teaching: From Research to Practice).  Other invited speakers included Dr Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton, Aston University; Dr Sue Wharton, Dr Steve Mann and Sarah Banks, University of Warwick; Dr Jane Spiro, Oxford-Brookes University; Dr Fiona Farr & Dr Elaine Riordan, University of Limerick.

During the conference, there was plenty of opportunity for discussion of a range of issues in the field, from practical approaches to reflective practice to researching it effectively and evaluating it critically.

The conference was attended by 60 delegates comprising of Masters and PhD Research students, EAP tutors and lecturers in English Language Teaching from across the country.

Many thanks go to Dr Fiona Copland for organising the conference and to the British Council for sponsoring this event.

British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We call this cultural relations.

Survey: Investigating MFL teachers’ engagement with research

Colleagues from the University of York are investigating MFL teachers’ engagement with research and would like YOUR input:

Help needed!
What are your perceptions of research?
Have you ever used it? Would you like to? 

A group of researchers and teachers at the University of York are trying to find out about language teachers’ views about research and evidence, and about any engagement they have with research.

Please spare 15 minutes to complete the survey.

We are interested in knowing about the kinds of research activities that teachers engage in – such as reading about research online, in newsletters or in journals, hearing about it at workshops or conferences, or doing it yourself.  We’d also like to know what kind of evidence teachers consider to be important, for example, what tells teachers that something done in the classroom was effective? What kinds of problems do you think research might address? What informs the way we assess learning?

Please circulate the survey link as widely as possible!  The more responses we have, the more we can say about how engagement could be improved between research and teachers.

Successful Twilight Webinar on Teaching Speaking in the Language Classroom

CLERA held its first ever webinar on 23rd October. The webinar was run by Anne Burns who is Professor of Language Education and Director of CLERA.

The session focussed on teaching speaking in the language classroom. It looked at the key skills and knowledge required for competent speaking and also considered how they could be taught. Professor Burns presented the attendees with a teaching model for planning speaking programs and illustrated the model with sample activities that could be used in speaking classrooms. The session also considered how well textbook materials met the challenges of teaching speaking.

MFL, ESOL and EFL teachers as well as Research students from different parts of the world actively participated in the online discussion and shared good practice. One participant in Japan even stayed up until midnight to join the event.

Many thanks go to Professor Anne Burns and to the participants for making this webinar such a great success.

If you are interested in attending a webinar, please contact Jacquie Harding with suggestions.

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Professor Mitch Legutke on integrating school-based experience in teacher training

This year’s CLERA Distinguished Lecturer was Prof Michael Legutke who, in his talk, emphasised the crucial role of classroom-based experience in teacher training, including previous learning experiences which inevitably influence the theories and perceptions that student teachers bring with them. He then explained some basic principles for designing teacher education programmes and gave examples from his own work with trainee EFL teachers in Germany.

To find out more about the Lecture, go to the CLERA website.

Highlights from 2nd Annual Distinguished CLERA Lecture

On October 10, Prof Michael Legutke from the University of Giessen, Germany, presented CLERA’s second Annual Distinguished Lecture at Aston University.

Prof Legutke has had a long and distinguished career in MFL teacher education. In addition to teaching English in German secondary education, he has worked at the Department of Research at the Goethe-Institut Munich, as German Language Consultant to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is professor emeritus of TEFL at the Justus-Liebig University of Giessen in Germany.

He was critically involved in the development of the E-LINGO blended learning MA programme for training early English language teachers and is one of the principle creators of the Goethe Institute’s latest German teacher training programme, Deutsch Lehren Lernen (DLL), which is currently being piloted in a number of countries. The first training module (Programm BASIS) is being published in six parts by Langenscheidt, and the online distance programme is scheduled to start in 2014.

In his lecture, Prof Legutke focussed on the central role of the teacher in the language classroom. With regard to teacher education programmes, he emphasised the importance of combining a strong pedagogical theoretical foundation with ‘praxis’ – by providing students with examples of real classroom interaction in various settings and by integrating practica into the training programme at various stages.

The lecture was very well attended and received enthusiastically by both staff and students. At the reception following the event, Prof Anne Burns introduced her latest book, and a poster and book display presented some of the research activities in which CLERA members are currently involved.