III Foro Nebrija

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Last Thursday the 3rd edition of the Nebrija Foro was held in Madrid. This one-day seminar aims to provide participants with the opportunity of listening to CLIL experts and/or practitioners, and get to know trendy topics and shared concerns. I would like to share some of the conclusions I drew from the sessions I attended.

First, in my view, there is a huge concern about the ‘digital component’ in education and, more specifically,

Digital tools in Bilingual Education seem to be a major concern
Digital tools in Bilingual Education seem to be a major concern

in CLIL. Almost all sessions mentioned the key role digital tools can play to develop cognition, interaction, collaborative work, etc. I admit I’m also exploring this, as I’m now getting training on the use of different digital tools in education, but I also think that we should be cautious: it is not the tool we use, it is what we do with it. Using Twitter in my lessons won’t make my students use their HOTS (High Order Thinking Skills) automatically. Hence, the tricky point here is not digital tools but PLANNING. If we train teachers how to plan effectively, they will make the most of any resource (digital or not). In any case, it is true that new generations are digital-native, and we should find ways to learn ‘the language’ they feel more comfortable with 😉

Second, there is a progressive tendency to replace Culture (one of the four Cs put forward by Coyle) with Community (which was proposed by Mehisto, Marsh and Frigols (2008). This does not come as a surprise, taking into account what I have mentioned in the paragraph above. That is, the word ‘community’ is linked to the digital world everywhere. Also, I guess that Culture may be a misleading concept for practitioners: “is it the Culture of the English-speaking cultures?” “my culture?” This is a clear shift towards ELF (English as a Lingua Franca)

Third, believe it or not, I gather that there isn’t consensus about what CLIL is. I still consider that there are many experts talking about EFL or ESL and labeling this as CLIL (and this is not so!). In one of the talks, CLIL was defined as “the term for the European version of bilingual education”. In my opinion, this is not a fair definition. First, Teaching in a Foreign/Second Language is not necessarily CLIL. There are ‘bad’ bilingual practices, and CLIL tries to make the most of bilingual education. Second, I really think that there isn’t a unique European version as such, many models coexist, and this is not CLIL all the time.

The following point I’d like to make is a warning note on the ‘search for’ recipes to implement CLIL. Even if I agree on the need to establish common ground so that not everything is labelled as CLIL, I also see that some people try to ‘sell’ ‘the CLIL didactic sequence’, and this can be a disaster if it is applied literally to any classroom. In fact, sticking to a foreseeable structure will spoil the ‘variety’ factor CLIL plays with. The student should be constantly challenged and engaged.

And last, but not least, some Bilingual Projects are in urgent need of an integrated curriculum encompassing integrated objectives and a major shift in the English language subjects. It is paradoxical that CLIL content teachers are applying innovative techniques and strategies whereas EFL teachers are still dealing with the present perfect with the same group in the next hour! Literacy should be included in the English Language Curriculum, as the projects set by the British Council/Ministry of Education have been doing for many years now.

Nebrija Foro Bilingual Education
Nebrija Foro Bilingual Education

Regarding the more practical workshops, I believe that some work should be done to provide Primary Teachers with tools to support their students’ reading comprehension. Some tips I can think of is to use colours for keywords, add pictures to reinforce understanding, and show alternative terms for a concept or idea. We shouldn’t forget that there are less able students that need to have clear scaffolding when dealing with texts.

Once again, this Foro is a great opportunity to meet people, exchange ideas and experiences and start up new projects with colleagues from other institutions. I’d like to thank the organisers for this wonderful opportunity to talk about Bilingual Education and CLIL.

Images have been obtained from: http://actualidadnebrija.com/2013/06/28/educacion-bilingue-estrategias-y-nuevos-retos/

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