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“I can’t teach that!...Alright, I guess I can.”: A Love-Hate Relationship with Content Based Instruction Dr. Barry Lee Reynolds National Yang-Ming University.

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Presentation on theme: "“I can’t teach that!...Alright, I guess I can.”: A Love-Hate Relationship with Content Based Instruction Dr. Barry Lee Reynolds National Yang-Ming University."— Presentation transcript:

1 “I can’t teach that!...Alright, I guess I can.”: A Love-Hate Relationship with Content Based Instruction Dr. Barry Lee Reynolds National Yang-Ming University Education Center for Humanities & Social Sciences

2 Outline  Introduction  Theoretical foundations  Content based instruction history  Selected Questions & Possible Answers

3 Defining Content Based Instruction  Content Based Instruction (CBI) allows for simultaneous instruction in both content and language skills.  In other words, students are exposed to language instruction through content instruction (priority is placed on the content).  Language learning is contextualized.  Language learning is intrinsically motivated (related to students’ real life needs).  Curriculum is flexible and should be adapted to students’ needs/interests.

4 Sheltered Content  In a sheltered class, the teacher uses special methods and techniques to "shelter subject matter," i.e., make the content more accessible to second language learners.

5 Subject-Matter Core  The fundamental organization of CBI curriculum is derived from the subject matter, rather than from forms, functions, situations, or skills.  Communicative competence is acquired during the process of learning the content.  Any study about the language is done in order to use language as a tool to communicate about the content.  Language-based courses, according to Swaffar (in Krueger & Ryan, 1993), assume that language must be mastered before content can be understood, whereas content-based courses assume the reverse: "... students must think about what content means in order to know what they are looking for in language" (p. 185).  Attention is shifted from learning language to learning language through content.

6 (Some) Theoretical Foundations  Krashen’s Comprehensible Input Hypothesis (Krashen, 1982; 1985)  Offers students contextualized language curricula built around meaningful, comprehensible input  Cummins’ Two-Tiered Skill Model  Basic Interpersonal Language Skills (BICS)  Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP)  Cummins (1981) argued that learners cannot acquire cognitive academic language skills from everyday conversation; developing these cognitive skills requires task-based, experiential learning typified by students’ interactions with contexts, tasks, and texts that present them with complex interdisciplinary content.

7 (Some) CBI History (1/3)  Unlike English for Specific Purposes (ESP), CBI often lacks formal teacher training.  Brinton, Snow, and Wesche (1989) noted “The very notion of converting to content-based teaching involves re-educating teachers to view their instructional domain and responsibilities quite differently than they might previously have. Unless adequately prepared for their new teaching duties, teachers will invariably have to fight the urge to rely on their traditional teaching techniques as well as on materials and lesson plans developed over the years for a different audience, many of which may be inconsistent with the goals of the content-based program. (pp )

8 (Some) CBI History (2/3)  Master (1992) also noted “CBI requires an adjustment on the part of the ESL teacher, who may be intimidated by the prospect of having to teach subject matter with which he or she may not be familiar. This fear of subject matter is well known to English for Specific Purposes (ESP) practitioners, who have long had to deal with the same issue, but for ESL it raises questions about teacher training for new teachers and teacher development for those who have been teaching ESL for some time.” (p. 77)

9 (Some) CBI History (3/3)  Master (1992) further emphasized that content- area instructors should receive training in adjusting their speech and delivery to the needs of English language learners.

10 How can teachers build the necessary interdisciplinary foundation?  Teachers and administrators must work together to determine what content knowledge students require.  The focus should not just be to combine the study of language with content areas but some content areas may need to be combined.  Content area and language teachers may need to collaborate.

11 How do teachers achieve the desired balance between language and content?  First, a teacher must ask: “What content will I teach?”  Regardless of the setting, the content of CBI courses should be perceived as important, relevant, and useful to the learners.  Some students will have the language abilities to receive more native-like content based instruction but for others they will require more sheltered content instruction.

12 Who will teach the course, a language teacher, a content specialist, or both?  Regardless of how administration decides to handle this problem, instructors must be more than just good language teachers.  Instructors must be knowledgeable in the subject matter and know how to elicit that knowledge from their students.  This combination of skills is not often found in a single language instructor.  A team-teaching approach may offer an advantage; however, the multi-teacher approach is not the only approach.  In cases in which a language teacher takes on a CBI course single-handedly but lacks the content knowledge, the acquisition of the necessary expertise will be a major challenge to the teacher.

13 How do teachers define and evaluate student learning outcomes?  Learning activities focus on understanding and conveying authentic messages and accomplishing realistic tasks using authentic language.  Communicative oral interviews can also be effective means of assessment.

14 How do teachers provide students with the appropriate authentic input?  Using grade school or high school texts has a dual benefit.  Such textbooks present simplified, yet authentic, input while providing students with insight into the world view of the culture being studied.  The core materials include texts, videotapes, audio recordings, and visual aids selected primarily from those produced for native speakers of the language.  The time required to develop a library of "authentic materials," is significant time in finding the materials, planning the scope and sequence of topics, updating the materials, and preparing activities to exploit them.

15 What are the appropriate activities and tasks to exploit this authentic input?  Klee and Tedick (1997) claim that the successful CBI instructors need to use a wide variety of sheltering activities that includes lectures, small- and large- group activities, student projects and presentations, invited speakers, and the use of all sorts of audio- visual aids.  The question of how much authentic text reading to assign is one of the crucial decisions in sheltering content.  If students seem overwhelmed with readings, a teacher may assign specific portions of the readings to each student and ask them to take turns leading a discussion on their assignment.

16 What is the role of students' first language in coping with authentic language and texts?  A common technique in CBI classes is to use readings on relevant topics in the students' native language to support readings and activities in the foreign language.  CBI in the hands of an expert can help learners to develop the needed tolerance for ambiguity and to develop strategies for coping with large quantities of unknown information.  Unfortunately, the traditional practice of linguistically "spoon- feeding" students and always keeping the foreign language input to small, manageable chunks, is not necessarily conducive to developing the coping skills that are needed to function in the real world.  If the input is artificially kept to only small chunks at a time, then the learner can easily choke, especially if the learner has become accustomed to depending on translation to get the meaning.

17 How do teachers deal with error correction to maximize learning and motivation?  Do not overemphasize the importance of grammatical competence.  Only correct learners when communication breakdowns occur.

18 How can teachers use student input to ensure ongoing evaluation and adjustment?  For CBI programs to meet the needs of students, there must be a mechanism for ongoing program evaluation and the flexibility to make adjustments based on student input.

19 References  Brinton, D. M., Snow, M. A., & Wesche, M. B. (1989). Content-based second language instruction. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.  Cummins, J. (1981). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In J. Cummins (Ed.), Schooling and language minority students: A theoretical framework (pp. 1-50). Los Angeles: Evaluation, Dissemination, and Assessment Center.  Klee, C. A., & Tedick, D. J. (1997). The undergraduate foreign language immersion program in Spanish at the University of Minnesota. Content-based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods,  Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.  Krashen, S. (1985). Input hypothesis: Issues and implications. New York: Longman.  Krueger, M., & Ryan, F. (1993). Language and content: Discipline-and content-based approaches to language study (Vol. 3). DC Heath & Co.  Master, P. (1992). What are some considerations for teacher training in content-based instruction? The CATESOL Journal, 5(1),


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