To celebrate the launch of Project fourth edition, Tim Herdon writes about some of the practical implications of CLIL programmes and considers where we are going with CLIL (or where CLIL is taking us). Tim Herdon is a Senior Teacher Trainer at OUP, and has been involved in CLIL for six years.
For a number of years we’ve been hearing and reading about CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). CLIL programmes, in which a subject from the mainstream school curriculum is taught in a second language, have become increasingly common in both primary and secondary, especially in the last decade. In the mid-90s, when CLIL was a new initiative, there was a certain amount of scepticism about this approach, which was natural and probably quite healthy – it would be chaotic if we jumped on every new bandwagon that came along. However CLIL now looks set to stay and in many countries it has strong government support with funds allocated towards teacher training and syllabus and materials development.
In fact the impact of CLIL is such that it is even having a backwash effect on the way ELT coursebooks are published. More and more courses now contain short cross-curricular sections in some or all of the units. This has come to be called ‘soft CLIL’ – a short excursion into the world of CLIL rather than a full journey. Predictably, ‘hard CLIL’ is the term used to describe the full journey: the teaching of a complete subject, or a specific area of a subject, in L2, over a longer period of time.
This raises an interesting question for English teachers: in the future will we see a gradual shift from soft CLIL to hard CLIL? I would say that yes, I think we will: CLIL continues to gain in popularity, and I think its impact on General English course materials will continue to increase. And the way CLIL is implemented is partly responsible for changing perceptions: in schools the English teacher is often central to the implementation of CLIL programmes, both in terms of teaching and coordination. In fact the increased contact between English teachers and teachers of other subjects through involvement in CLIL programmes has been one of the biggest benefits, and this has contributed to CLIL’s increasing popularity.
The Lexical Approach has come and gone, Audiolingualism has been dragged screaming from the room and the Silent Way has now fallen, well, silent… what about CLIL? Is it just a passing fad, or is it here to stay? What do you think?