events

El desarrollo de políticas lingüísticas: en busca de la sinergia ¿perdida?

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El pasado mes de febrero he tenido la posibilidad de asistir, un año más, al encuentro sobre enseñanza bilingüe y plurilingüe que organizan el British Council y la Universidad de Alcalá. En esta edición el tema principal era el desarrollo lingüístico y las políticas de enseñanza plurilingüe. El encuentro es un excelente foro de encuentro de universidades  y administraciones educativas de todo el país, con una organización impecable. 

El programa incluye sesiones plenarias y grupos de trabajo, por lo que se incentiva la participación de todos. Cada año tengo la posibilidad de conocer a personas involucradas en el desarrollo de políticas lingüísticas. Este año pude organizar mi agenda para asistir a dos plenarias, la impartida por Sarah Breslin, que nos habló del gran trabajo que están haciendo en el centro europeo de lenguas moderna se; y la inspiradora sesión conducida por Fernando Trujillo, a quien tenía muchas ganas de conocer en persona y que, como buen conocedor de la realidad educativa en el contexto español, señaló la importancia de los Proyectos lingüísticos de centro. 

Además de escuchar estas sesiones, participé en grupo de trabajo en el que fluyeron muchas y enriquecedoras ideas. Me gustaría compartir con vosotros tres ideas que he resaltado como las más importantes de las que me he llevado conmigo después del encuentro. 
  

La primera idea es que todos los participantes creen que estamos en una situación de cambio de paradigma. En concreto se señaló la necesidad de que las administraciones educativas trabajen de la mano con las universidades. No cabe duda de que si se incentiva la innovación y la investigación educativa y se crean canales de comunicación entre los centros y las universidades todos salimos beneficiados. No se pueden dictar políticas educativas sin bajar al campo de trabajo pero tampoco sin escuchar a aquellos que ven llegar nuevos aires por el horizonte. Todos juntos conseguimos más y mejor.

La segunda idea es la importancia de visibilizar los proyectos lingüísticos de centro. Fernando Trujillo en su intervención tocó un tema muy interesante y es que todos los centros tienen un proyecto lingüístico, pero la mayoría no lo sabe. Por tanto, antes de empezar desde cero hay que preguntarse qué estamos haciendo ya y evaluar cómo nos está yendo, y por qué estamos haciendo lo qué hacemos, qué objetivo tiene. A veces en los centros se puede instaurar prácticas rutinarias que se hacen “porque siempre se ha hecho así”. Es hora de ver las raíces de esa idea o práctica y buscar tierra nueva para transplantarla :).

La tercera idea que me llevo es que las universidades quieren hacer cosas diferentes, pero se ven atadas de pies y manos para poder desarrollar muchos de los proyectos que desearían. Los actuales modelos de acreditación y verificación de títulos deberían poder proporcionar un espacio para la innovación y la experimentación, por ejemplo. Otro asunto de suma importancia es la movilidad, aunque la internacionalización es una necesidad en el contexto actual, la realidad es que los convenios suelen surgir de contactos personales con profesorado de otras instituciones, y cada plaza conseguida es fruto del arduo trabajo de los responsables de las oficinas de relaciones internacionales. Sería necesario un apoyo y una estructura que facilitará esta labor.

Como veis, todavía queda mucho por hacer, pero lo mejor del encuentro es comprobar que son (somos)muchas las personas que estamos trabajando por una sociedad con oportunidades de desarrollo lingüístico, de conocer al otro, de entendernos, y de respetarnos. You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one. 

(c) Alberto Roldán/ British Council

What’s the role of English in Higher Education?

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What’s the role of English in Higher Education? This was the main topic of an event which took place in Segovia (Spain) last week, as reported by the University World News. The British Council, in collaboration with the IE University organised this international meeting where universities from different countries worldwide and experts from the British Council and the European Commission were involved. The key issue of the meeting was to discuss the implications of offering English courses and programmes at university and to reflect on the quality of this academic offer.

It is no surprise that most universities are pursuing EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) programmes as a way to increase their reputation. EMI programmes attract international students to their institutions, and improve undergraduates’ profiles to match the needs of an increasingly demanding labour market. According to the UWN article, many institutions are aware of the need to implement the ‘mother tongue + 2’ objective set by the European Commission, and consider EMI programmes to be an opportunity of improving the quality of university teaching. However, there is still much debate on how this can be achieved in a short period of time.

From my point of view, we are mixing two ideas. One is that English should become ‘a lingua franca’, and the second is that English should become THE language of higher education. In my opinion, all university students should be helped and trained to have a good command of English, as this will help them not only in their professional but also everyday lives. That said, the way we are going to improve students’ communication skills in English is another debate, however I don’t consider a completely monolingual programme to be a valid option. It is not how often you teach in English, it is how well you do it, and here we deal with the issue of methodology. Is EMI good just because we are delivering subjects in the English language? Are all EMI programmes successful? I’m afraid not.

Will English become the lingua franca in HE?
Will English become the lingua franca in HE?

From the meeting held in Segovia, issues were raised on two main areaspolicy implications for successful delivery of EMI courses, and “practical implications of EMI: methodology, quality and assessment’. In the first session, participants raised awareness on the danger of launching EMI programmes without prior training and preparation. Obviously, many institutions want to rush to offer the same academic degrees their counterparts are implementing, but organising a good EMI programme means a minimum training period of 1 year, according to my own experience. Also, participants mentioned the need to embed administrative and academic structures to support EMI projects. This is essential, as the EMI programme is a University academic proposal, in which everybody is involved in some way or another.

Regarding the second session, on the practical implications of EMI. Participants considered that this could be a ‘tool for improving the quality of teaching’. I couldn’t agree more. I consider that pedagogy has been disregarded in Higher Education Institutions. Many lecturers are leading experts in their fields of specialisation, but don’t know how to create knowledge in their classrooms. If we help these people to communicate more effectively, to work on higher-order thinking skills, to scaffold their input, etc, we are going to get better, long-term and more effective learning. Also, they will be provided with a set of teaching tools which are easily transferable to their classes taught in their mother tongue.

Another issue raised in the second session was the difficulty of establishing shared policies regarding language testing, and the need to compensate EMI teachers for this extra work they are doing. Bilingual projects in Spain have chosen Cambridge ESOL and Trinity Exams to assess students’ performance in terms of language competence. However, this is making many academic programmes suffer from the so-called washback effect. Besides that, I wonder what would happen if we measured the success of EMI programmes in terms of the 4Cs proposed by Do Coyle: Cognition, Content, Communication and Culture. Language performance is just a leg of EMI programmes.

All in all, I’m confident about the work Universities are doing to provide students with better instruction in or through English. The main issue that should be raised is that everything starts with the training provided to teachers. If head departments are happy just checking the English competence of their lecturers, EMI programmes will not be making the most of this opportunity of improving teaching-learning quality in Higher Education.

If you are interested in knowing more about how  our CLIL teacher training degrees are organised, please visit this link.

Note: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ http://www.freedigitalphotos.net.

XXVII GRETA CONVENTION

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GRETA ANNUAL CONFERENCE
GRETA ANNUAL CONFERENCE

The English Teachers Association of Andalusia announces the celebration of its XXVII Curso Anual para la Enseñanza del Inglés (GRETA Annual Conference), which will take place at the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, University of Granada on 17th, 18thand 19th of  October 2013.

The contents of our sessions will be organised in four main lines of work:

  • ·        Developing students skills successfully in the XXI Century: Practical examples of effective teaching and classroom management, use of new technologies and task based learning.
  • ·         Pragmatic proposals for the Infant, Primary and Secondary Classroom.
  • ·         English for Specific Purposes in Vocational Training Courses.
  • ·         CLIL Methodology in Bilingual Programmes, ELT and Content teaching, tailor-made courses for specific teacher training needs.

Registration is now open and available here: http://www.gretaassociation.org/web/guest/curso-anual-2013

4th Day at the Bilingual Campus

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We finished our Bilingual Campus with a day on Culture (or Community or Citizenship, depending on the authors :)). We started the morning sessions with Edward Marks, from Building English Language School (Madrid), who gave a talk entitled “Art, Culture and Language Learning”. His motto for this session was: Your classroom is a canvas; your classroom is your world. And during the session he presented English as a ‘land’ full with possibilities, as this image show.

English is full with possibilities
English is full with possibilities

His was a very practical, dynamic and interactive session full with ideas to make the most of a work of art using TPR, Theatre, Music and Science as the main elements. Participants enjoyed putting his ideas into practice, and considered that his crosscurricular perspective of teaching was really interesting. Even though he admitted that his teaching conditions are very different from the ones a Primary teacher may have, as he is running a Language School, he also highlighted the idea of the teacher as an active ‘player’ in class which helps students think and speak as much as possible.

Edward Marks
Edward Marks

The second morning session was run by prof. Josue Llull, one of my colleagues, and the wisest person I have ever known 🙂 He works in the field of Social Sciences, and this time he concentrated on Heritage Education. In his talk he emphasized how important heritage is, and how heritage is linked to affection and respect. For this reason, heritage education should be included in Infant and Primary Education. He believes that teachers can introduce activities and projects working on Heritage Education in their classrooms, but that they can also benefit from the many resources which are available on the Internet. In fact, he presented some nice ideas from the Kids’ Council of the National Trust in England , and an experience he has conducted with University Students using a blog. Finally, he invited us to use his blog to find out more ideas and practical resources.

Josué Llull
Josué Llull

After Josue’s session, it was time for the farewell party. Josue and Matthew thanked all the people involved in the organisation of the event, our Student Helpers, Rebeca and Alberto, the Campus Secretary, Rocío, our Assistant teachers, James and Ana, and of course! they thanked all people participating for their enthusiasm and active role during the sessions. Then, they shared out the Course Certificates (Congrats to all of you!), and the American BBQ party was started (we joined Americans in their 4th July celebrations!).

American BBQ
American BBQ

We hope this was a nice experience for everybody, and see you next time, hopefully in the 4th Edition of our Bilingual Campus!

3rd day at the Bilingual Campus – Communication

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Our 3rd day at the Bilingual Campus was devoted to Communication. We started the morning sessions with Sheena Mitchell (Macmillan ELT Trainer) who presented a workshop entitled “Skills for CLIL”. Sheena went through four main skills she believes CLIL teachers should have and CLIL students should acquire and develop; these are a) activating prior knowledge; b) go for more cognitive language; c) work on more academic and subject-specific language; and finally d) metacognition (learning to learn). To put these areas into practice we worked with several techniques and resources, such as the KWL charts, mindmaps, etc.

Making questions with Sheena
Making questions with Sheena

From her session, I highlighted two main ideas. The first one is that CALP is a very important issue in the CLIL classroom, and it is very important to integrate it. We cannot teach the lesson as if our students were native English speakers and then stop the lesson to revise a language point, which may be disconnected from what they are doing. It is extremely important to support input and output so that students can develop their CALP while learning the content.

The second important thing I took from Sheena’s session is questions. It is very important to make the appropriate questions and I’m not just thinking about the teacher as the question-maker, students should learn to make appropriate questions. I loved how Sheena connected this idea to thinking skills, and talked about skinny questions and fat questions, based on Dale and Tanner’s proposal.

From a more practical point of view, she brought some interesting resources in the class. We learned how to use hulla hoops to make ven diagrams, how to make the most of wordwalls and eva foam :). Also, she shared how to make youtube work without having those disturbing ads around. Just by typing the word “quiet” after www. in the browser, these will disappear.

The second session of the day was conducted by my colleague, Matthew Johnson. His session was focused on Scaffolding input and output. What I loved most of Matthew’s session is that he not only talked about main issues concerning CLIL but put them into practice while explaining them. This is something I miss much in seminars. Many experts talk about how student-centred teaching-learning is very important, but they do it using a teacher-centred, lecture-based session!

Matthew's session
Matthew’s session

Matthew talked about the concept of scaffolding, how teachers may conceptualise it in very different ways, and how we can implement it in class. To do so, participants’ voices were heard and considered. After this, we reflected on why texts may be considered difficult in the CLIL classroom and we discovered that the difficult thing is really the task, not the text. Then, Matthew gave a wide range of ideas to work with texts in the classroom, activating schemata, and enhancing students’ comprehension. The session was so active and interesting that participants didn’t want to stop (even if it was lunch time!)

CLIL teachers scaffolding
CLIL teachers scaffolding
CLIL teachers scaffolding a text
CLIL teachers scaffolding a text
CLIL teachers creating a poster
CLIL teachers creating a poster
CLIL teachers enjoying presentations
CLIL teachers enjoying presentations

In the afternoon, participants had the chance to meet Joseph Parkin (Edelvives Phonics Trainer) presenting a talk on Pronunciation, and they also participated in an interactive Theatre play entitled “A tribute to Catherine of Aragon and the Fallen at Flodden Fleid”, conducted by Soirée Creations.

And today… let’s go for CULTURE!

3rd Bilingual Campus

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Since 2006, I have been organising Summer Courses related to Bilingual Education and CLIL. It is my belief that teachers need to find time and places to share experiences and find out new resources and ideas for their lessons, and we, as teacher trainers, should provide them with these opportunities. As school schedules are too tight, we need to wait for the Summer holidays to  offer this courses which are targeted to Infant, Primary and Secondary teachers.

3 Bilingual Campus
3 Bilingual Campus

In 2011 I decided to give a major shift to the Summer course format, and invented what I called “Bilingual Campus”. My main idea was to have a practical course, full with workshops and hands-on activities, and with a specific section on language improvement, carried out in the afternoons. In 2013 we are proud to host the third edition, this time directed and organised by my colleagues Prof. Matthew Johnson and Prof. Josué Llull, and in collaboration with the publishing house Edelvives.

 

The 3rd edition will be running from 1st July to 4th July. The person in charge of the plenary was prof. Linda Gerena (York University, NYC). She has presented the findings from a research carried out thanks to a Fulbright scholarship, and in collaboration with the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Even though hers is a small-scale research, it was interesting to know

3 Bilingual Campus - Prof. Linda Gerena
3 Bilingual Campus – Prof. Linda Gerena

that the secondary students participating found that Bilingual Education was worth the effort, and asserted that they were not afraid of using English. This is a significant gap if we compare it with previous generations, which will run away just on thinking about how to answer a simple question in English.

Prof. Gerena has also talked about the main ‘ingredients’ of the CLIL salad. She has gone through Multiple Intelligences, Thinking Skills, Scaffolding and Resourceful materials, to name such a few. These are items we can put inside our teaching ‘toolbox’ and use in our classes, but we need to provide teachers with them first. In my opinion, it is also necessary to have the tools to know when and where to apply one or another, which is not always easy.

Next session was run by Prof. Jesús Aguado, one of my colleagues at the University. He is a Doctor in Theoretical Physics, and it is always a pleasure to see him work. In an entertaining session full of resources

3 Bilingual Campus - Prof. Jesús Aguado
3 Bilingual Campus – Prof. Jesús Aguado

and good humour, he has put forward the idea of ‘every place is a lab’ and ‘every person is a scientist’. Following a CLIL scheme, he has put Science down from the pedestal, and has given us many ideas to teach Science with hands-on experiences we can all bring to our lessons.

The afternoon session was a mystery tour around our town, Alcalá de Henares, a historical place full of hidden places. My colleagues Josué Llull, Ana Reina, James Crichlow and Matt Johnson had prepared a wonderful itinerary to discover the most beautiful places in our town. Participants have had the chance to meet historical characters 🙂 and

had to solve riddles to know where the next stop was, until they finally reached the famous façade of the historical Universidad de Alcalá. The tour has been really nice and enjoyable, and I’m sure the participants have learnt a lot about Alcalá, its places and famous people.

Mystery Tour 3Bilingual Campus
Mystery Tour 3Bilingual Campus

Let’s see what happens tomorrow!

3 Bilingual Campus - Univ. Alcalá
3 Bilingual Campus – Univ. Alcalá

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/