Switzerland - CLIL Training
Ecole Professionelle et Commerciale de Nyon
I did three days of training in the professional and commercial school in Nyon, Switzerland on March 17-19 2016.
I worked with 9 teachers from the school from Economics, Accounting, Maths, IT, History and Environmental Studies. It's a quite unique school in that all the students who attend are actually working or in apprenticeships and they come to school for study to get a 'matura' or a school leaving qualification. The students can include teenagers or adults as the classes are open to adults who've entered the world of work but decided to go back to school to get a qualification.
The training initiative is part of a move to offer schools the opportunity to be given a 'bilingual' status. The training will be for 12 days over the coming year or so.
As you might imagine it was a busy time, with classes going on, exams taking place, teachers coming and going to classes. On top of that, there was a general feeling that a 'ready-made' course just wasn't what the teachers needed. I'd prepared for the meeting with quite an amount of apprehension if I'm honest as I knew that there was some dissatisfaction among some of the teachers at the idea of 'going back to school'. I think for this reason, I'd over-prepared. This allowed me ultimately a lot of resources to pick and choose from.
When I got to the school the school director after introductions, as well as the course provider, did a very good thing. They left us to it. This removed any need for a 'formal' pitch of the course and we could get down to discussing the teachers' needs. I introduced myself to the teachers and then simply suggested that we negotiate the agenda for the training. This discussion led to us 'flipping' the course. By this I mean I still had my prepared content to offer and there was a certain amount of focused input in plenary, but the agenda was set by the teachers themselves. How did this work? In actually fact, a focus from me led to the teachers breaking off to work individually with my visiting them to discuss their particular needs and what I might be able to offer. During discussion areas of interest came up and I drew this together back in a short plenary focus with the whole group. This focus then led to a further break-out into subject work with my facilitating.
It's certainly an intense way of working, and I felt very nervous about leaving the agenda so loosely dependent on feedback from the teachers. As it was, I think we achieved a great deal. I'd like to thank the History department in particular for inviting me to observe a class. Being able to sit in a lesson and see and hear how things are going was a valuable experience.
The first thing to say about the school is that it looks like a lot of the student body is already functionally bilingual in English, with the latest cohorts sitting a Cambridge Exam as entry level to the courses. The subjects already taught in English are very dense and content heavy subjects like Economics. Many of the other subjects will be taught at a later date in English. I quickly realized that the best thing I could offer would be techniques for dealing with subject-specific terminology and in fact that is where we started.
The focus points we initially included:
general academic language
guiding learners through input
working with text input
working with multi-media input
A significant discussion we had was around language production. Namely, to what extent should the students be taught how to talk and write academic subject language. My feeling is that it is part of a CLIL approach. But there was some feeling that there's no need to focus on this aspect of learning. It's enough that students understand, that their language develops 'naturally'.
An example of this can be seen in the following question:
You can see in the part of the answer that is given that a 'specific' kind of language is demanded in the text. In order to get the marks, I argue, the students need to produce sentences which describe the feelings and reactions of the Germans to the treaty. This 'academic language' can tend to be invisible, and I think it needs to be made visible in the classroom.
A CLIL approach can offer a method for dealing with this language AND at the same time offer conceptual structures for guiding learners through input content. Such a structure with a prompt 'read the text and find aspects of the treaty the German people reacted badly to' guides students in their search for the key content.
The map above allows students to find and note the main aspects of the treaty. But, crucial to CLIL, is to find a way to offer key academic language to students to 'support their output' in the subject. We can do this by embedding key phrases around the conceptual structure.
Now, there is one way of looking at it that suggests that students will 'pick up' this language along the way. It's a very 'native speaker' approach to teaching. I think it's a little risky to assume this, and suggested that we can do students a great service by making this language salient. It's not language teaching, it's CLIL.
I'll be less nervous about the next visit, and in fact, know that I'll have a lot to do back at home in preparation. This will have me teaching myself basic accountancy, investigating History themes for conceptual structures and general academic language, looking at PPT in Economics themes for ways of guiding learners through their lectures. The environmental studies subject is a very motivating and exciting initiative. Imagine, students preparing for professional positions considering issues to do with sustainability as part of their studies. I'll also be looking for English-medium resources for teaching Microsoft applications, and business letter writing.
I've never worked in this way before, building and setting the development agenda DURING the course, but I have to admit that while it is a challenging environment to work in, it is a buzz, and, what is more important, we achieved our goals!
The colleagues enjoyed the Bulgarian experience I'd prepared and tasted delicious savoury bits and pieces from back home. I'll have to prepare some sweet treats for the next visit in June.
A fuller description of the entire process
is given in this site.
I'd be interested to hear from anyone involved in similar 'flipped' training.