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Teaching CLIL: Classroom Benefits

Wall-mounted map with woman pointing to a townIn her first guest post for OUP, Maria Rainier, a freelance writer and blogger, talks us through some classroom benefits of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL).

Sometimes, just thinking about developing a CLIL program or even teaching one CLIL lesson can be intimidating, overwhelming, and confusing. But don’t let the tough appearance of CLIL fool you – it can be a very intuitive, natural way to teach and learn. Like any instructional method, though, it requires a certain amount of understanding and dedication from you. It also helps if you’re willing to learn through the process of teaching, as I’m sure you are – being teachable is one of the keys to successful pedagogy. CLIL can be successfully implemented by one teacher, but often, two teachers collaborate before developing lesson plans – and that means learning from each other. By expanding the knowledge available to your students, you’re also expanding your own understanding, learning new material so that you can teach it well. Although it can be a difficult process, it’s often rewarding to teach CLIL. But no matter what you have or haven’t heard about this method, the following description of CLIL and its benefits and challenges can help you decide whether or not it has a place in your classroom.

The pedagogical intentions behind CLIL

You’re probably well aware that Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a way of approaching foreign language instruction subtly through subject-oriented teaching. For example, you might focus on teaching the geography of Spain, but the secondary learning objective would be Spanish vocabulary associated with geography. It might not sound like the most logical approach, but why has it been growing in popularity? – And what’s the point of CLIL?

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Does everyone need math?

Multicolored abacusAs part of our series of posts exploring a “question-centered” teaching approach, we asked Ian Stewart, author of Cows in the Maze and Math Hysteria, to give us his thoughts on the above question, featured in the new course Q Skills for Success.

Few of us make regular use of the math we were taught. Increasingly, clever gadgetry does all the sums for us. Why, then, do schools insist on teaching it to everybody?

It’s funny how math is always singled out for this question. ‘I never use any of the math I was taught,’ people moan. Speaking personally, I never use any of the history, geography, chemistry, physics, metalworking, poetry, or Shakespeare that I was taught. Or soccer, for that matter.

But no one asks why those things were included in the syllabus. We are taught all these things for many reasons: it’s part of being a well-rounded person; it trains the mind or the body; it keeps kids off the streets; it helps us to understand our world and our place in it; and it offers us more employment opportunities. The same goes for math.

But there’s another reason. Everything taught in school math — algebra, trig, whatever — is of vital importance in some major area of human activity. Thousands of applications of mathematics directly affect our daily life: finding new sources of oil; finding efficient ways to target customers for online sales; sat-nav; cellphones; the Internet; jet airliners; medical scans; even keeping our water safe.

We seldom notice, because the role of math is to make things easier for us, so by the time anything affects us directly the math is hidden away where it can do its work quietly without further human intervention.

Which means we don’t need the math, right? Wrong. We don’t need it to use the gadgets. But where did the gadgets come from?

Suppose that, at the age of ten, say, we told 90% of schoolchildren ‘Math is too hard for you, you don’t want to make the effort, you won’t be able to learn it. So we’re going to make life easy for you: you don’t have to do it.’ Sighs of relief all round. ‘Oh, by the way, that means you will never be able to become an engineer, an airline pilot, a financial analyst, a doctor, an optician, a computer programmer, a statistician…’ The parents would be screaming that we were violating their children’s rights.

We would also be killing our society. We wouldn’t be training enough mathematically competent people to keep everything running, let alone invent whatever new gadgets and methods will be needed in the future.

Find out how you can use questions like “Does everyone need math?” in class.


Ian Stewart is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and Digital Media Fellow at the University of Warwick, UK. He is the author of Cows in the Maze and Math Hysteria (OUP).

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Where should our energy come from?

Wind energy farmAs part of our series of posts exploring a “question-centered” teaching approach, we asked Mark Maslin, author of Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction, to give us his thoughts on the above question, featured in the new course Q Skills for Success.

As the Director of the Environment Institute at University College London,  I believe that global warming is the most serious issue of the 21st century. It challenges the very structure of our global society.

The problem is that global warming is not just a scientific concern, but encompasses economics, sociology, geopolitics, local politics, and most importantly where should we get our energy from.

Global warming is caused by the massive increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, resulting from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

The most sensible approach to preventing the worst effects of global warming would be to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The idea of cutting global carbon emissions in half in the next 30 years and by 80% by the end of the century may sound like fantasy; however, already the United Kingdom and California have made legally binding commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

There is a large range of alternative energy sources to choose from which produce very little greenhouse gases; such as solar, wind, wave, hydro-electricity, geothermal, biofuels, nuclear fission, and nuclear fusion when we finally get it to work.

In addition, if countries still have to generate energy from fossil fuels such as coal, new technology is being developed called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which will prevent the harmful carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere.

This move away from fossil fuels will be driven not just by global warming, but also by the fact that gas and oil reserves are running out. Countries in the 21st century have become very aware of ‘energy security’ and want to reduce their reliance on import of fossil fuels.

This is an exciting brave new world. 70% of all global energy requirement predicted for 2030 has yet to be built.  This means we have a real opportunity to change to low carbon energy production in the future.

Find out how you can use questions like “Where should our energy come from?” in class.


Mark Maslin is the Director of the Environment Institute at University College London, UK. He is the author of Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction (OUP).

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