CLIL in Science Education

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Key Words: Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), English across the Curriculum (EAC), language awareness in Science education, Chemistry lessons.

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) has been used for more than a decade by teachers of different subjects to improve the English language competence of learners. The approach of this case study and of the project it describes is different: The author’s intention has been to promote CLIL as a means of enhancing both the attractiveness and the perception of science subjects in school. This has been based on the assumption that the use of a foreign language enhances language awareness in both teachers and learners. The different roles and kinds of language in science lessons are usually not evident and lacking language perception is often an important obstacle to the understanding of science concepts.

When employing a foreign language teachers have to select materials with care in order to match their pupils’ linguistic level. As there is an obvious connection between cognitive and language levels, an adequate choice with respect to both issues is likely. At the same time learners also focus on language. This will help them to understand the formulated concepts.

Besides, a focus on language leads to an increase in the variety of methods employed, and there are lots of excellent English materials on offer that are at the same time well suited as far as language apprehension is concerned.

Additionally, the simultaneous learning of content and language promotes perception and memory both in the linguistic and the cognitive domain.

Both the fact that the tasks are formulated in English and their design in itself make them interesting for students that are normally disinclined to go to great lengths in science lessons. On this basis the concept is suited to enhance the attractiveness of science lessons for girls having adopted traditional gender roles.

An additional aspect that has been taken into consideration is the use of CLIL in classes with a high proportion of immigrants. While it is clearly necessary to aim at a harmonization of first language competence of autochthonous and allochthonous learners, the regular use of a foreign language in science lessons supports immigrant students in two ways. On the one hand English is foreign language for (almost) all students alike. On the other hand bilingual (or multilingual) students have an enhanced ability to switch languages.

The purpose of this project has been to establish a community of practice of science teachers who employ methods and materials on the basis of the CLIL concept and to share ideas how to optimize CLIL for the benefit of science education on the basis of the theory outlined above. This has been done by workshops, publications and a Moodle platform for communication. The workshops offered an outline of the concept and were dedicated to material study and lesson planning. The author’s efforts have met with considerable success and a continuation of this work is planned in different contexts. The evaluation contained in this case study is based on the data collected in the author’s own Chemistry classes as well as obtained from several teachers out of the group of workshop co-workers and participants. Publications have mainly been prepared in context with other projects, e. g. Promise and Crossnet. The platform offers the possibility to exchange concepts, methods and materials for the use of CLIL in the science classroom. For the time being its promotion has been slow - probably due to teachers’ reluctance to deal with this rather new medium of communication.

Additionally, a team of three teachers (focussing on biology, chemistry and physics respectively) will cooperate with the author (in the frame of a Comenius 2.1 project “Crossnet”) in an in depth investigation concerning the scope of CLIL in science education.

Autor/in: Elisabeth Langer
Durchführende Institution/en: RG, WRG, ORG u. EHS Henriettenplatz (915016)
Fach/Fächer: Chemie, Geografie, Englisch, Biologie, Physik, Informatik
Schulstufe/n: Sekundarstufe II

Dateien: Kurzfassung, Langfassung, Anhang
Weiterführendes Projekt von: Englisch als Arbeitssprache im handlungsorientierten naturwissenschaftlichen Unterricht