Exploring the essence of content and language integration

This month we published Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual Education edited by Tarja Nikula, Emma Dafouz, Pat Moore and Ute Smit. In this post, the editors explain how the book came together.

Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual EducationThis book is concerned with the educational practice in which a language other than the students’ first language is used as the language of instruction. The main entry point is content and language integrated learning (CLIL), a form of education which has been popular in Europe since the 1990s and is now gaining ground globally. When looking at existing research on CLIL, it is clear that the interest has mainly been directed towards the effects of CLIL on learning, especially on target language learning. In this book, we argue that more attention needs to be paid to content and language integration, which is, after all, a core concern in CLIL. It needs to be better conceptualised and problematised to provide – among the heterogeneity of forms of implementation of CLIL and other types of bi- and multilingual education – guidelines for practitioners to support the simultaneous teaching and learning of content and language.

This book consists of 11 chapters. It is the outcome of a project called Language and content integration: towards a conceptual framework (ConCLIL) based at the University of Jyväskylä, funded by the Academy of Finland, in which researchers from Finland, Austria, Spain, the UK and Canada joined forces to come to a better understanding of integration. The ConCLIL project involved us continuously discussing, debating and exploring what we mean by integration and realising in the process that such discussions often lead to challenging and questioning the often taken-for-granted notions of language, content and their learning. The opportunity for dialogue and collaboration that the project provided through team members’ research visits to Jyväskylä has been highly valuable, and we hope that some of the sense of this dialogue is also reflected in the volume. Our first face-to-face meeting as the ConCLIL team took place in Jyväskylä in February 2012, in our woollen socks due to the -29°C winter coldness outside. Since then, we have read, discussed and commented on each other’s chapters in several meetings and have learned a lot in the process.

Staying warm in the first team meeting. Photo by Pat Moore.

Staying warm in the first team meeting. Photo by Pat Moore.

The main message conveyed by the volume is the need to recognise the complexity of integration both in research and practice and to escape the duality of content and language as separable entities. In other words, integration is not a matter of neat binaries and distinctions but a multi-layered web of influences, something akin to the interlacing woollen threads depicted on the cover of the book. Because of its complexity, integration has implications at various levels of educational practice. In this volume, we focus on three interconnected perspectives, those of a) curriculum and pedagogic planning, b) participant perspectives and c) classroom practices. The first refers to decisions that need to be made on what will be integrated (which subjects), and with what aims, and also to the teachers’ need to have conceptual tools to plan integrated teaching. The second orientation highlights how the realisation of any plan is highly dependent on stakeholders’ beliefs and perceptions. For example, a crucial consideration for both research and practice is how CLIL teachers’ views of their role as content and language teachers are informed by their conceptualisations of language and content. Thirdly, integration is eventually a matter of in-situ classroom practices that entail varied opportunities to address content and language interdependence either implicitly or explicitly. We need more knowledge of such processes to understand integration better and to realise it in pedagogical practice.

It is obvious that the relevance of content and language integration goes well beyond CLIL. It is central in all forms of bi- and multilingual education, whether called immersion, content-based instruction or CLIL. Such contexts where an additional language is used in instruction may highlight the importance of content and language integration, yet is equally relevant for all education because knowledge construction and display are always both content and language matters.

CLIL in Higher EducationFor further information on this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in our other volume on this topic, CLIL in Higher Education by Inmaculada Fortanet-Gómez.

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