bilingual education

Policy Dialogue British Council

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BC Policy dialogue

Dicen que más vale tarde que nunca, así que con un ‘poquitín’ de retraso, aquí van mis conclusiones de mi asistencia al Policy Dialogue organizado por el British Council y la Universidad de Alcalá a principios de febrero con el título: Formación continua del profesorado: modelos de éxito e implicaciones para la enseñanza AICLE. Let’s go!

 

 

 

 

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To be or not to be? Enseñanza bilingüe en Educación Infantil

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La implantación de los programas bilingües en España se ha centrado generalmente en la etapa de la educación primaria. Sin embargo, muchos docentes reclamaban que la inmersión se adelantara a la educación infantil, cuando los niños y niñas están más receptivos al aprendizaje de lenguas adicionales y están comenzando a desarrollar sus destrezas lectoescritoras. El pasado 28 de octubre la Consejería de Educación de la Comunidad de Madrid anunció su intención de implantar la enseñanza bilingüe en centros públicos de educación infantil en la etapa de 3 a 6 años. En este post os cuento cómo se presentó el proyecto, mi opinión sobre esta iniciativa y más. Let’s go!

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My report on… XXXIX Aedean Conference

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Hi everybody!

I’m back to comment on the 39th Aedean Conference held at the Universidad de Deusto, in Bilbao (Basque Country). I was delighted to attend this conference in such a beautiful place. And to top things off, the weather was absolutely fantastic.  The Conference ran from 11th to 13th November and, as always, I participated in the Language Teaching and Acquisition Section, coordinated by Prof. Francisco Gallardo del Puerto (Universidad de Cantabria).

My participation revolved around students’ perceptions and concerns on the use of CLIL in Teacher Education Degrees. This study saw the participation of forty-three  4th year students from our bilingual Primary and Infant Teacher Education degrees. Information was gathered using a questionnaire and focus-groups. Our main aim was to find an answer to the question: “Do students consider that taking the bilingual itinerary adds value to their training?” The main findings were quite revealing: 100% of the participants stated that they would choose the bilingual itinerary if given the opportunity. They also perceived that they had learned more contents, competences and didactic strategies solely due to following this itinerary.

Apart from this, the students’ comments reinforce some conclusions drawn from a previous study, with students from previous academic years. These findings, presented at Franklin Institute (2014), lead us to think that the implementation of CLIL may enhance students’ growth mindset (Dweck). If this is the case, CLIL will not only help attain better language proficiency in an additional language and good-quality teaching-learning methods, techniques and strategies, but will also have an influence on how students envision their own learning capacity.

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An infographic on Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset. Source: https://blogthenewcenturyschool.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/nigel-holmes-graphic.jpg

There were some common aspects among the variety of topics presented in the sessions:

– interest in knowing how L1 positively or negatively influences L2 and to what extent this impacts and interferes with L3, L4, ETC.

I was not at all surprised, as this was a topic of interest when I was studying my degree (a long time ago now), and is still a matter of controversy. Why do elements which are similar in L1 become problematic when using L2? This issue has now expanded to a new scenario: speakers of three or more languages, as shown in the studies by Gutiérrez-Mangado & Martínez Adrián and Llinàs-Grau & Puig Mayenco. There is an interest in discovering whether learning one language helps the acquisition of specific language structures in other languages. However, to my surprise, Cummins was not mentioned at all. “Is the Interdependence Hypothesis out of fashion now?” I wondered.

– some talks aimed to describe the effect of task repetition in language acquisition.

I found this quite intriguing. It seems that some teachers have discovered that, if students are exposed to the same task time after time, the language used in the task tends to be more correct and the use of L1 is reduced. Also, it appears that when students are familiar with the content and procedure, they can focus on language. This suggests that they need to organise things first, and then they can pay attention to meaning.

It is evident that there is a cognitive component here. However, the word ‘cognition’ was barely used when dealing with these types of studies. It is necessary to make a stronger link between language and cognition. It is essential to have a look at the Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) of participants, and their ability to use High Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) to discover whether cognitive demands and cognitive level are influencing these results.

–  CLIL as a context and as a pedagogical approach

As I put forward in my last post about AEDEAN Conferences, I was quite frustrated with the fact that schools were being labeled as CLIL whenever an additional language was used to teach content. My concern arose from a lack of distinction between schools embracing a methodological shift and those simply continuing a traditional approach. I mentioned this in my presentation to highlight that CLIL is not  just a context, but rather a pedagogical approach which has certain tenets. I insist on the need to distinguish bi-, tri-,and plurilingual contexts from CLIL contexts which are confirmed to be implementing a methodological change fostering the 4 Cs . That’s my view.

I also had the opportunity to talk to several speakers about this, and they told me I was right in indicating that CLIL should imply a methodological adaptation to a bilingual context. However, this was very difficult to prove in a ‘real’ study, as teachers were not willing to give information about their teaching practices. This leads me to the next point.

– Researchers admit having difficulties when obtaining information from schools

Even though this was not part of any of the sessions, the discussion came up when one person in the audience talked about his experience. Researchers have the feeling that teachers don’t want to cooperate with them, and therefore, it is virtually impossible to obtain information from real practical experience. In my view, this is completely true, but I can understand the teachers’ points of view, as they are bogged down by timetables, lots of paperwork, families and a myriad of children with different learning needs. Therefore, our point of view as researchers should be: what can I do for them in the short run? If we want this collaboration to happen, we must think about how we can help them to work better, and how they can collaborate with our universities. See for example how Celaya and Panelli, participating in this conference, mentioned how they had changed their questionnaires because teachers had spotted several difficulties in the original model. Personally, I’ve had school teachers talking in my lessons, and these have been rewarding not only for them, but also for me and my students. A different kind of relationship, beyond “just giving information or data”, must be established for the benefit of both parties.

– Culture: towards transculturality

The 4th C, Culture, has been the main topic of several of my posts on this blog. As you know, simply put, I consider that an English teacher should not limit his/her lessons to show how English people or American people live, their traditions, beliefs and celebrations. I believe that if English has become an International Language (EIL), it is also a tool to access any culture. In that sense, one of the speakers, Karen Jacob, mentioned the need to adopt the term “Transcultural” to denote how you can learn from and interact with different cultures. In her words, it gives a sense of “multidirectional movement”. In this context, Clavel-Arroitia and Pennock-Speck presented an interesting study involving telecollaboration between two high-schools located in Spain and Poland.

 

I hope this quick review is both informative and interesting. I’d love to read your comments.

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Me in beautiful and sunny Bilbao 🙂

I’d like to thank James Crichlow and Carolina Benito for revising the original version of this post. Thanks for all your suggestions!

¿Por qué CLIL? / Why CLIL? (Versión española / Spanish version)

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Feliz nuevo curso 2015/2016 a todos. Comienzo este nuevo año académico con una entrada escrita en español, la primera de la historia de este blog. La razón por la que he decidido hacerlo es que durante el curso pasado las diversas tareas que he desempeñado me han dado la oportunidad de conocer a muchos educadores, maestros y maestras, profesorado con diferentes perfiles, de diferentes lugar y con diferente formación. En muchas ocasiones he debatido con ellos sobre la enseñanza bilingüe, y en un 80% de los casos me han comentado que el término CLIL les era completamente ajeno o no habían recibido suficiente información sobre él. Cuando esto sucede no puedo evitar sentir cierta rabia, porque me parece un error privar al profesorado de la oportunidad de conocer una manera de trabajar que les va a ayudar a desempeñar de una manera más eficiente su labor, y que va a redundar en una educación de más calidad. En este post intentaré delinear las bases de estas cuatro letras.

Cuando en un centro escolar se decide apostar por una enseñanza bilingüe el primer paso suele ser el de asegurar que el profesorado tenga una competencia alta en inglés. Aprender el idioma se convierte en un objetivo fundamental y lógico, dado que se va a convertir en la lengua de comunicación con los estudiantes. No me detendré aquí en el tipo de lengua que los estudiantes de magisterio y profesores tendrían que adquirir (quizás en otro post, es un tema interesantísimo), pero a partir de ese momento, se puede cometer la mayor equivocación de todas a la hora de implantar el proyecto: considerar que la enseñanza bilingüe consiste en impartir lo mismo, del mismo modo y en otro idioma. Porque precisamente el lugar donde radica la magia de la enseñanza bilingüe es en la metodología. Impartir una asignatura en una lengua que no es la materna para los estudiantes requiere un cambio metodológico que, lejos de perjudicar, nos da la oportunidad de mejorar el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje. En este crucial segundo paso del camino se encuentra CLIL.

Continuemos prestando atención al significado de sus palabras: Content and Language Integrated Learning. Fijémonos que la palabra pone el acento en el proceso de aprendizaje (learning), mostrando así que se trata de un enfoque centrado en el estudiante. La primera palabra que encontramos es ‘contenido‘, porque es éste el que lleva la delantera. Enseñamos en inglés (o en otra lengua adicional), y lo hacemos para que el estudiante aprenda unos contenidos. Y estos contenidos aparecen ‘integrados’ con la lengua. No podemos separar el contenido de la lengua, van unidos. Por tanto, no se trataría de enseñar lo mismo que haríamos en español pero en inglés, y tampoco se trata de que enseñemos un tema como excusa para tratar un aspecto lingüístico.

En otro orden de cosas, muchos profesores temen aprender un enfoque o metodología nueva porque creen que van a ‘perder’ ese estilo de enseñanza que han desarrollado durante los años y que funciona. Lejos de que esto ocurra, mi experiencia es que la formación en CLIL hace que potencien los mejores aspectos de su docencia, y añadan otros que les facilitan tener herramientas docentes nuevas. El impacto es tal que muchos docentes a los que he tenido la suerte de formar me han confesado que su docencia en español, las clases que imparten en su lengua materna, también se benefician de este salto cualitativo.

La enseñanza bilingüe es posible si hay un cambio metodológico
La enseñanza bilingüe es posible si hay un cambio metodológico

¿Y cómo ponemos en marcha CLIL? Existen varios modelos que pueden guiarnos para entender como funciona este enfoque metodológico, pero yo emplearé las famosas 4 Cs de Do Coyle. Esta autora, profesora de la Univ. de Aberdeen, presentó cuatro pilares fundamentales para desarrollar CLIL. Por un lado tenemos:

  • el contenido: es el que marca el camino, y por tanto no hay que reducirlo. Si estamos reduciendo el contenido, tenemos que reflexionar sobre nuestra planificación, y las estrategias metodológicas empleadas. Algo no estamos haciendo bien, así que es necesario detectarlo para mejorar la próxima vez.
  • la comunicación: la base de una enseñanza/aprendizaje activo. No se trata solamente de desarrollar las competencias comunicativas de los estudiantes, sino que es a través de ellas cómo se desarrolla el aprendizaje. Para hacer enseñanza comunicativa nos valdremos de recursos que faciliten la interacción, ya sean tradicionales o digitales.
  • la cognición: yo la considero esencial. No todas las tareas que sugerimos a los estudiantes tienen el mismo nivel de exigencia cognitiva. El cerebro no utiliza las mismas destrezas (ni energía) cuando piensa acerca de, por ejemplo, cinco palabras relacionadas con el mundo animal, y cuando pido al estudiante que compare a un león y a una ballena en términos biológicos. Reconocer esta dificultad y equilibrarla es fundamental. Muchos materiales trabajan con destrezas de pensamiento inferiores, o sugieren tareas complejas sin apoyarlas con el adecuado apoyo lingüístico.
  • la cultura: un concepto que ya he tratado en este blog y que ha suscitado más de una polémica en foros de expertos. Coyle sugiere que prestemos atención a los elementos culturales implícitos y explícitos que trabajamos. Muchas veces ni siquiera somos conscientes de ellos, por ejemplo, si trabajamos con la pirámide alimentaría, ¿creéis que contiene los mismos alimentos en España, Japón o Kenia? Una búsqueda en ‘google’ os puede dar una respuesta bastante sorprendente. Aprovechemos la ocasión para que los estudiantes puedan ser ciudadanos del mundo, y que el inglés sea la llave para poder acceder a él.

Esto no es nada más que un ligero barniz del potencial que el enfoque CLIL tiene para vuestras aulas. Mucho podríamos hablar sobre el andamiaje, BICS y CALP, la hipótesis de la intedependencia de Cummins, la integración con otras metodologías activas, etc. Si tenéis la oportunidad de conocerlo, no dejéis de aprovecharlo 🙂

La formación en el enfoque CLIL asegura la calidad educativa en la enseñanza bilingüe
La formación en el enfoque CLIL asegura la calidad educativa en la enseñanza bilingüe

Si te ha interesado este post, puede que te interese el Título de Posgrado ‘Expert in CLIL‘ del Centro Universitario Cardenal Cisneros, orientado a profesorado que quiere iniciarse en el conocimiento y práctica del enfoque CLIL. Formación Online con sesiones presenciales opcionales.

Imagenes cortesía de Patpitshaya y Photostock. Freedigitalphotos.net

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.

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!