“I Wouldn’t Say There Is Anything Language Specific”: The Disconnect between Tertiary CLIL Teachers’ Understanding of the General Communicative and Pedagogical Functions of Language
Keywords:Higher education, teacher education, language of instruction, discussions, questions
CLIL teachers, particularly in tertiary “hard” CLIL settings, tend to underestimate the role of language for developing conceptual understanding of new content. Nevertheless, they consistently engage with English outside the classroom and even report a variety of activities that they carry out in English with the explicit hope that this will improve their language skills. However,
they do not seem to develop transfer strategies that would allow them to benefit from this language engagement in their teaching. The results of a nation-wide study on CLIL teacher wellbeing in Austria confirmed this disconnect, prompting our present follow-up study, which aims to combine teacher training and research and to raise tertiary CLIL teachers’ levels of Teacher Language Awareness (TLA). By means of an online questionnaire, class observations and stimulated recall interviews, we explored teachers’ conceptualization of language, specifically their awareness of the language needed for effective content teaching. Results suggest that research-based TLA coaching must be part of CLIL teacher training to resolve the disconnect between the general communicative functions of language, on the one hand, and the pedagogical functions of language, on the other hand. This can help teachers unlock the potential of their existing language engagement for improving their classroom discourse and practices.
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