Even if such integration is featured at state or bilingual education, one shortcoming is common: lack of teacher education and qualifications to teach language AND content.
In many countries, it has been suggested that the best way to overcome this situation is by promoting team teaching. By team teaching, in the CLIL/CBI environment, we mean the working together, for planning and/or teaching one class, of a foreign language teacher and a subject teacher. For example, if my school has decided to introduce CLIL by offering Geography in English in secondary education, then I, the English teacher, will be working hand-in-hand with the Geography teacher. This ‘joint venture’, so to speak, has the benefit of bridging the gap between language knowledge and non-language knowledge involved in this integration; however, it has been reported that it doesn’t do wonders everywhere. Below, you’ll find some examples:
- Mehisto (2008) in a study on CLIL in Estonia asserts that in some schools teacher resistance to work together was so great that integration had to be abandoned as student achievement began to decline in both language and content.
- Troncale (n/d) and Stoller (2004) suggests that there must be systematic coordination since, when CLIL is more language-oriented, teachers tend to choose topics which are not necessarily their students’ needs in both their personal as well as academic spheres.
- Creese (2005) reports on the lack of institutional time and school structure to facilitate any joint planning. What is more, when CLIL is content-oriented, the language teacher is usually shadowed by the content teacher who wants his learners to know History, for example, without any simplifications or adaptations needed for language learning. This tension between teachers (Barwell, 2005) shows clear fractures in the classroom which affect learners’ success directly. Kong (2009) also states that content teachers tend to stress content neglecting both language learning and the foreign language teacher even inside the classroom they share.
In my own context, we’ve decided to try out CLIL in the last year of secondary school. In our case, it’s language-oriented. In brief, the EFL subject offers students to revise/learn Geography in English. Therefore I am teaching Geography and English simultaneously, though English is central and Geography serves as context for language learning. Because it was hard to even meet with the content teachers (lack of time, no time or room for planning, unwillingness to pair up with language teachers) we decided to only ask them for the Geography syllabi in the school and once we got that we started planning together among the three EFL teachers.
The point I’m making is that when team teaching between language and content teachers doesn’t seem to work, the second option, at least in our context due to the characteristic that English as a subject is offering a ‘CLILish’ approach, is to explore team teaching among the language teachers.
How does it work?
- We get together and look for material we can use following the Geography syllabi available.
- We divide contents and plan lessons around the four skills and vocabulary, grammar appears following ‘grammar awareness’ or ‘grammar noticing’ within skills. We try to combine contents already familiar with new topics.
- We exchange materials, activities, notes, resources.
- Each one teaches one class and sometimes, we may group two classes together and teach them together (the school structure is not prepared for other possibilities as we’re all teaching different classes at the same time).
- We also meet with content teachers during breaks to ask them about some specific aspects and possible sources for materials.
- It’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas and beliefs about teaching.
- It’s also a great chance to see my fellow teachers teach and benefit from their experience.
- The fact that we plan together and exchange activities is just ‘glorious’ as that saves us a lot of time, I take one activity to share and come back home with two more.
- There’s strong cohesion among teachers as we all know the what’s and how’s of each class.
- It’s not always easy to co-teach one class.
- Sometimes we lack expertise in the content we teach.
- We may be seen as elitists.
Having said this, I’d like to know whether anyone in this site is exploring team teaching, whatever the interaction, and how it works in your own context.
Hope to hear from you all,