Authors: Phil Ball, Keith Kelly and John Clegg

Publisher: OUP 2015

ISBN: 978-0-19-442105-8  

Where does anyone start when writing about CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) – and how can they make it equally relevant to teachers tasked with teaching the functioning of the human respiratory system and those attempting to explain the Wars of the Roses to students of English history? As the authors point out in their introduction, CLIL is, itself, a diverse phenomenon. Having been developed in a rather ad hoc fashion by individual teachers and institutions to suit a wide variety of particular needs within individual regions and countries, it is ‘by no means a uniform set of practices; neither does it necessarily provide principles which apply in every circumstance: what works in one place may not work in another’. This book attempts to take into account some of this variety as it examines the nature of CLIL, the skills and techniques which this form of education demands, and some of the criteria required to ensure its success.

The book is divided into ten chapters, some theoretical, others more practical. These are all richly illustrated with tasks from a large number of CLIL areas – everything from labelling the human skeleton, to determining the causes of flooding, to work on metals and their reactivity.

Chapter 1 looks at what CLIL is, and sets it in the context of other forms of second language education around the world. It ends with a list of several criteria which are perceived as essential for CLIL to succeed.

Chapter 2 narrows down the definition of CLIL and suggests ten principal features, which are then explored in more detail in subsequent chapters.

Chapter 3 looks at the relationship between content and language, proposing that language itself is a form of content and that the ability to produce language as well as to comprehend it is an important factor in determining success.

Chapter 4 looks at language in more detail, proposing seven principles regarding the types of teacher support needed in CLIL classrooms.

Chapter 5 examines the teachers’ role in guiding the learners through the various skills needed to understand the input in a CLIL task.

Chapter 6 offers the other side of the coin: how teachers can guide the learners into producing the output required by a CLIL task, particularly important in light of the view that production is the best indicator of learning success.

Chapter 7 focuses on the teaching material itself and issues surrounding its design. Again, these are presented in terms of seven principles, which include the importance of support through scaffolding and the pre-eminence of language salience.

Chapter 8 discusses assessment in CLIL, examining such topics as types of assessment, validity, ‘washback’ and skill-based tasks that form the basis of a series of competences. It looks at one issue in particular that is often raised by critics of CLIL: the risk of learners failing to demonstrate knowledge that they actually possess because of inadequate language ability.

Chapter 9 moves to the wider question of the issues that schools need to address in order to manage CLIL effectively. It looks at choice of subject, course structure, resourcing and the involvement of a range of stakeholders.

Chapter 10 considers the provision of training for CLIL teachers – a thorny issue, given the diversity of contexts in which CLIL is carried out. Although, as the authors point out, this diversity makes it difficult to propose a generic training model, they feel able to identify a series of basic training needs and put forward a set of options. They also offer a brief snapshot of the training in CLIL presently available for teachers, with the caveat that time may quickly render this out-of-date.

Each chapter ends with a useful summary and recommendations for further reading. In addition, Appendix 1 has reflection questions and practical tasks for the reader to undertake, each linked to the material in one of the ten chapters. Suggested answers to these questions and tasks are provided in Appendix 2. A glossary (particularly helpful in a field riddled with acronyms), a comprehensive reference section and an index can also be found at the end of the book.