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Criteria for producing CLIL learning material 

Peeter Mehisto 

 Abstract This article first describes some general criteria that can be applied to the development of any type of learning materials. Second, the article lists criteria for creating CLIL (content and language integrated learning)-specific learning materials, and provides examples of how to apply each proposed criterion whilst also providing a corresponding rationale with references. Third, additional requirements pertaining, among others, to technical, environmental and social issues that apply equally to CLIL and non-CLIL materials are presented. This article aims to serve as a practical tool for CLIL materials development, hence it uses an atypical format and structure.  


3. Specific criteria 

CLIL-specific learning materials support the creation of enriched learning environments where students can simultaneously learn both content and language, whilst becoming more adept learners of both. 

Quality CLIL materials are cognitively highly demanding for learners who need to assume the additional challenge of learning through an L2. However, excessive cognitive load can be avoided by incorporating enhanced scaffolding and other learner support mechanisms to help students reach well beyond what they could do on their own. Quality learning materials help students build a sense of security in experimenting with language, content, and the management of their own learning. In addition, quality CLIL materials are highly integrative and multilayered and they help increase the likelihood that both content and language learning will be meaningful.  

The following ten criteria for the development of quality CLIL materials take into account the added challenges posed by CLIL for both the learner and for educators, and seek to apply aspects of good pedagogy in a CLIL-specific manner. Each of these criteria seeks to maintain a dual focus on content and language.  

 1. Quality CLIL materials:   - make the learning intentions (language, content, learning skills) & process visible to students. For example:  

 Content  1. You can name in writing the fifteen major tectonic plates.  2. You can explain how tectonic plates affect one another.  

 Language  3. You can use analogies in scientific descriptions, including explaining their limitations.  

 Learning skills  4. You will be able to summarise other students’ ideas  

 2. Quality CLIL materials:   - systematically foster academic language proficiency. 

For example: Scientific language is drawn to the attention of students by identifying its various component parts in the learning material or by asking students to identify within the materials: its characteristics (tone, unemotional and factual, evidence-based vs personal opinion); its functions (separating and explaining causes and consequences); connectors for comparing and contrasting (however, but, on the other hand, in contrast, in the same way, conversely, on the contrary); subject-specific vocabulary (sternum vs breastbone); words with different meanings (omnivore vs animal that eats all kinds of food); and other subject-specific vocabulary and discourse patterns. In addition, key structures, terminology, phrases and sets of phrases can be highlighted.   As academic language is often decontextualized (little information about context, and meaning is conveyed primarily by linguistic clues), CLIL materials can provide additional contextual information to help students to process the language. Also, as academic language is more precise than the language used for social discourse, CLIL materials can contrast both of these types of language to make them visible to students.   Content subject materials can include intended language outcomes to foster ongoing, step-by-step growth in a student’s use of academic language. Short-term language outcomes are linked to long-term outcomes so students can better see the progress they have made and what still remains to be learned.  Rationale:  For students to develop academic language proficiency a systematic effort is required by educators and students across Grade levels (Cloud et al. 2000: 14). In general, it is thought that it takes about 4-7 years for immigrant students in English speaking environments to develop academic language proficiency (Hakuta 2000: 10: Cummins 2000: 586). Faced with teaching challenging academic content to students who are far from proficient in their L2, teachers could resort to task reduction and simplification. Cummins (2007: 126)7 warns that if teachers make student tasks cognitively easier than foreseen in the curriculum, they may inadvertently trap students in an impoverished learning environment, where they will not be able to learn the language and content they need for academic success. Quality materials that help draw attention to the component parts of academic language and their use, act as a scaffold for content teachers who may also find it challenging to identify and teach the language of their subject.    

Rationale:  Marzano (1998: 127) and Hattie (2009: 246, 2012: 47-49) both argue that setting clear instructional goals for students, and providing feedback on how students are progressing towards these have a powerful effect on student learning, as well as on improving cognition and student achievement. Wood et al. (1987) found that challenging goals significantly increased learning. For students to be able to achieve a learning goal, they need to first know and understand that goal (Black et al.  2004: 14). In the domain of language learning both Gardner (1985) and MacIntyre (2002) argue that visible goals are central to building and maintaining learner motivation.

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