Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Role and Tasks of a CLIL coach

As a follow up to my last blog about the CLIL coach, where I posed some questions about the role and tasks of the CLIL coach, here are some more concrete ideas about the role and tasks of  a CLIL coach at your school. Thanks for the input from my CLIL coach group this autumn, who helped to develop these ideas


The role of a CLIL (content and language integrated learning) coach is to support the awareness and development of their CLIL colleagues in CLIL methodology and (if appropriate) in language development.


The tasks and responsibilities of the CLIL coach can be defined as follows. The CLIL coach…

1.       … coaches colleagues on CLIL methodology by, for example, observing lessons (live or on video), discussing CLIL lessons and giving feedback.

2.       … helps CLIL teachers to implement CLIL in their lessons.

3.       … organizes workshops that focus on CLIL methodology – internally or from external organizations.

4.       … assists colleagues in developing a CLIL career plan by, for example, suggesting courses (in the Netherlands and/or the UK or other countries) or passing on recent developments in CLIL.

5.       … liaises with their TTO coordinator about the development of the CLIL department, inspections from the European Platform and other CLIL issues.

If s/he is a language expert or language coach, the CLIL coach …

6.       … helps colleagues with their language development.

7.       … assists colleagues in finding resources and adapting existing resources for their CLIL lessons.

8.       … gives language-related feedback on tasks, tests, projects, etc. that CLIL teachers have created.


In order to carry out these tasks effectively, the CLIL coach needs about 100 clock hours per 15 teachers per year. If the CLIL coach also has a language coach role in their school, s/he needs an extra 50 hours per 15 teachers per year.

The timetable needs to allow the CLIL coach space to be able to observe and give feedback to CLIL colleagues.
What are your ideas about the role and tasks of a CLIL coach? I would love to hear from you...



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

CLIL coaching

I have recently been training a group of 15 secondary school teachers from Dutch secondary schools to become CLIL coaches. In three days, we work on CLIL coaching skills, observing teachers and the role and tasks of the CLIL coach at school.

The idea of a CLIL coach - a colleague at your school who supports other CLIL teachers In working on their language and CLIL methodology - is a relatively new one, and so new issues have emerged during the course. We have discussed, for example, issues like:

   What can a CLIL coach do if he or she is asked to coach a "difficult" colleague, or a colleague who doesn't really want to work (any more) in the bilingual stream?

   In which language do coaches want to coach? English or the teacher’s - and often their own - first language? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

   How can teachers approach their school management about the position and facilitation of a CLIL coach at school, in times of economic cut backs in education? In other words, how can they 'sell' the idea that a CLIL coach at their school will improve the quality of teaching and perhaps team feeling, if a school invests in one?

   What are the limits of the CLIL coach's responsibilities? Where do they start and end?

   How can we communicate to our colleagues that the CLIL coach is more than someone who gives feedback on language?
We haven't yet got clear answers to all of these questions, but we are working on them. As a result of these discussions, the group is creating a letter which will go to school management at the end of the CLIL coach course, to clarify to their schools about what a CLIL coach is. This letter will include information about the role and tasks of a CLIL coach. In my next blog, I will share some of these ideas.

The biggest step that my coaches have made is that of realizing that they are guides on the side, that their role is to coach other teachers to find their own solutions to a CLIL challenge or classroom dilemma. And this role demands, for some of them, a set of new skills. A CLIL coach might be a bit more of a CLIL expert than the teachers he or she coaches, but it is not his or her role to give advice or tell someone else what to do.

For trainers who might be interested, I have made thankful use of two classics on mentoring and coaching: Julian Edges's (mine is pretty dog-eared) book, Cooperative Development (1992, Longman) and MentorCourses by Angi Malderez and Caroline Bodsczky  (1999, Cambridge University Press). Ideas from Bateson about reflection form the basis of my coaching model, keeping the teacher and their development centre stage during coaching. Short clips of CLIL teachers from (this is a Dutch site: search under CLIL skills) provide useful food for discussion about, How would you coach this teacher?, What qualities does this teacher have that you can name?, What does this teacher do really well? What compliments  could you give this teacher about his lesson? 

Key to the course at the start was to create a safe environment where potential coaches feel safe together, through spending time on getting to know each other. We have worked on looking at teachers' qualities and using them during coaching, and helping teachers through active listening. And the coaches have practiced a lot of coaching In threes (teacher, coached and observer) and given feedback to each other about coaching skills.
The next CLIL coach course starts in December.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Jolly CLIL lollies


I am often asked to give workshops on encouraging CLIL students to speak more. Among  the challenges that CLIL teachers face in organizing speaking in their classrooms is the problem that not everyone participates. “The shy students don’t participate,” the teachers say, or, “Not everyone participates in the lesson.”
Apparently only about a quarter of your students consistently put their hands up to answer a question, or so says Dylan Wiliam, of London's Institute of Education. The rest just turn off. Some teachers have banned ‘hands up’ as a teaching strategy in favour of different strategies to get students involved in their classrooms. Using wooden lollipop sticks is one of these and apparently Professor Wiliam has been using them for over a decade.
Lollipop sticks
So how do I use these communication regulators in my workshops? At the start of a workshop, I put an 11cm wooden lollipop stick next to each participant’s place, which gets them wondering where the ice creams are, or what they are going to do with the lolly sticks. Then I ask everyone to write their name – the one they would like to be called - on a lolly stick and I collect them together. I have a special lollipop tin for this.
I don’t ask my participants to put their hands up; instead, I try to engage everyone by using the lolly sticks. Each time we have a discussion, or I ask a question, I pause for a while so that everyone has time to think about their answer, then choose a random lollipop stick. That person then answers the question. This means that I don’t always work with the ‘keen’ participants, that everyone stays awake and thinks, since anyone might be asked to answer my question.
More ways
You can use the lolly sticks in other ways:
  • For pair work. Give their two lollipop sticks to a pair of students. Pose a question, give students time to think, then the person whose lollipop stick is turned over first must answer first.
  • For dividing your class into groups: shuffle the lollipop sticks and create groups.
  • For group work: give each group their sticks. They must answer a discussion question in turn, as their lollipop stick is revealed.
  • For a class discussion. Choose three sticks and pose a (higher order) question. The first two students respond to the question; the third student says which answer he or she finds the most appropriate and why.
Coloured lolly sticks
I have also recently discovered and ordered coloured lolly sticks and will be thinking of some creative ways to use these.
Multi-sided dice
Some enterprising teachers I worked with recently in Essen in Germany showed me other communication regulators which they use twenty- and thirty-sided dice, which have a similar purpose. They throw the die, then check their name list: whoever’s name is at that number on their class list must answer the question. And if they can’t answer the question, they are allowed to ask another question.
A one hour BBC programme, The Classroom Experiment, on the use of lollipop sticks and other strategies to get students involved and engaged. Includes the mystery of the missing lolly sticks…
Does anyone else have good strategies to get everyone to participate?







Monday, 7 July 2014

World cup CLIL and teaching maths

Lots of things have been happening this (academic) year, which is why the CLIL reflections blog has been dormant. In September 2013 I started as an independent education consultant and have been giving CLIL courses in the Netherlands as well as in other countries, from  Denmark to Catalonia  and Kazakhstan. And I see to my shame that our last blog post was in May 2013.

My colleague Jason Skeet is also going to pastures new and will be returning to the UK to work at the Norwich City College. I will miss you, Jason! So I want to breathe some new life back into the CLIL reflections blog with a new background and a mid-year 2014 resolution to write something useful for my readers about CLIL every month.


CLIL and maths

As a pre-(northern hemisphere) summer topic, I have chosen the (southern hemisphere topic) world cup, or CLIL and teaching maths. Some maths teachers struggle with teaching the language of maths and often ask me questions like, “How can you do CLIL activities in maths?”, or “We can talk about Pythagoras in maths – but how can we bring more culture into the maths classroom?” Or they say, “There isn’t really any language in maths, is there?”. Of course in some ways, these maths teachers are right: it is much easier to create of CLIL activities in the more ‘text-heavy’ subjects like history, geography or biology, which provide readymade text material and language in their course books. But more and more maths teachers are catching on and creating great maths lessons which include language (the C of communication) and (the C of) culture.

Luis Suarez and probability

During the 2014 World Cup, I was giving a CLIL training course at Visser ‘t Hooft Lyceum in Leiden. Michiel Hendriks - a creative maths teacher - talked about his maths lesson. Our workshop was a couple of days after the football match in which Luis Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini in his shoulder: food in itself for discussion with CLIL learners. Michiel spotted this video, entitled Suarez takes bite out of Swedish bookmaker. Apparently, a 24-year old Norwegian man, Richard Helmersen, bet 100 kroner (€12,50, £10 $16US) that striker Luis Suarez would bite someone during the World Cup. The Norwegian managed to win 17,000 kroner (about €2500, £2,000, $2,850 US): an online bookmaker had offered odds of 175/1 that Suarez would bite someone again during a game in Brazil.


Language in maths

Michiel just happened to be teaching the topic of probability in his CLIL maths lessons that week. And the title of the video, Suarez takes a bite out of Swedish bookmaker was a good excuse to teach the idiom take a bite out of something.
As a starter, Michiel asked his students to answer these questions, thus giving them a reason for viewing the video and working on their listening skills:
  1. How much money, in Swedish kroner, did the man win?
  2. How many kroner did he bet?
  3. How does this relate to the odds given?
  4. What is the man going to spend it on?
Michiel was aiming to teach this rule: The probability of an outcome equals the number of ways the outcome can happen, divide by the total number of possible outcomes.  And through the clever example of the bet on Suarez’ biting Chiellini, he could bring the topic to life, linking it to real life and make it relevant to the class, since probably all of his students were following the World Cup. Students could talk about how we work out the chance that something will happen in maths.
Michiel then showed his students (on 30 June) the odds of who might win the world cup:
He pointed out that the odds of Argentina winning the world cup are four to one. He told his students, “You, as a punter (a person who bets) could put money on Argentina winning. If that happens, the bookies will have to pay you four times the amount of money you put on Argentina winning. What the bookmaker means by this is that in four out of five situations Argentina will lose and in one out of five situations Argentina will win. This is called the chance. In the chase of Argentina, they have a one in five chance they will win."
Again, he checked understanding of this input through a few questions, clarifying the difference between the words odds and chance, which are important concepts here.
  1. The odds of Germany winning the world cup are___________
  2. This means the chance of Germany winning is about a ______________________
  3. What are the odds of Holland winning the world cup?
  4. What is the chance Holland will win the world cup?
  5. If you bet 25 euro’s on Holland winning, and they do, how much would you win? Remember to write down your calculations.
  6. Chances pop up everywhere. Try to think up 3 other examples. Give your examples in a sentence.

The language of probability in maths

Of course, maths uses numbers for describing probabilities, written as fractions, decimals or percentages. It also use percentage scales, starting at 0 (impossible) and ending at 1 (absolutely certain). We use phrases like, “It’s likely that it will rain tomorrow”, or “It is impossible to find a human being who is more than 3 metres tall,” or “It’s unlikely I’ll see her tomorrow. I think she’s on holiday in Brazil.” We use language to make judgments about how probable an event is, use the future tense with “will” and words like (very) likely, (extremely) unlikely, even chance. probably, possibly, impossible, maybe. And in order to talk about probability, Michiel’s students needed and used this language. And trawling the net, I found this PowerPoint slide on the Times Education Supplement site which encourages students to talk about probability scales, neatly demonstrating a lot of the language related to probability. 
Who says maths doesn’t use language? I leave you with two questions:
  1. How probable is it that you think a little differently about teaching language in maths after this blog entry?
  2. On the probability scale from 0 to 10, how probable is it that Michiel’s students will remember his lesson?



Thursday, 25 April 2013

CLIL in HE: impressions of the ICLHE conference in Maastricht (April 2013)

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the ICLHE (integrating content and language in HE) conference in Maastricht. Over 100 participants from all over the world Spain, Oman, South Africa, Denmark, the UK, Belgium, Finland gathered to talk about CLIL in HE. But I should firstly point out that its not called CLIL in HE, actually. In HE, they talk about ICL (integrating content and language) or EMI (English as a medium of instruction) and not CLIL. I swallowed the word CLIL every time I was about to use it.

Below, I describe some of the interesting themes that sprang out for me related to ICLHE.

No agreed ICL methodology
There appears to be no ICL methodology for higher education (HE). In her opening plenary, Cecilia Jacobs from Stellenbosch University in South Africa pointed out that there is no consensus in HE about the definitions of language, content or of integration! There are multifarious approaches to ICL in HE all over the world, the goals and rationale of ICL are different everywhere. She called for a collaborative pedagogy to benefit everyone. One interesting presentation about lecturing in Spain did, however, actually reveal that many lecturers already do have strategies for helping students to understand their lectures – strategies that they already use when lecturing in their mother tongue. For example, when asked about adapting materials, lecturers stated that they do these things: clarifying concepts (using elicitation from the students), giving examples, making resource material available before class, focusing on essential concepts, repetition. They also used scaffolding strategies, such as giving reading guides, providing glossaries, checking understanding by using questions, using more body language, using graphic organizers and providing multimodal input.

Lack of training
Connected with the lack of agreement on methodology, many countries are struggling with lack of time and funds to provide training for either teachers or students. Training is sometimes implemented after a problem with student drop-out or failure appears, but mostly ICL methodology training is ad hoc and sporadic. Trainers at language centres offer courses, for example, in “English in HE” and then integrate ICL methodology into those courses.

Students and lecturers language level
The level of both students and HE lecturers is a major issue. Many institutions seem to throw their lecturers in at the deep end and give them no choice: Next year youll be teaching chemistry (economics, philosophy) in English. Others just assume that their lecturers English is good enough, whereas it actually isnt. Another issue follows on from these two questions:  how can lecturers really help their students to understand high level material when they themselves arent really proficient English users or even worse - if they believe they are proficient but they arent? Questions which are still buzzing in my head. 

Reasons for ICL in HE
The reasons for ICL in HE are interesting. HE institutions want to attract international students, so change policy and offer courses in another language, mostly English. Some reasons for ICL in HE that I heard were: to market courses internationally; to attract national and international students; to promote the institution; to develop economic and cultural collaboration; to improve students language skills; to promote academic research and professional networking; to help students to get better jobs. But its mostly about marketing, I fear.

Language policy a thorny issue
One theme that recurred throughout the conference was that there is a real need for language policy in HE. I discovered through chatting with my colleague that my university (Utrecht University) doesnt have one, and that developing language policy let alone implementing one seems to be a minefield. For example, Finland wants to promote a multilingual policy of working in Finnish, Swedish (a minority language spoken by about 6% of the population) and English. And some areas of Spain are also developing language policy which aims to respect three languages: Valencian, Spanish and English. How do you write and implement a language policy at a HE institute which includes respect for the mother tongue(s) and which satisfies everyone? A real brain breaker.

Resistance on the part of lecturers in HE to improve their own language skills is a further issue. Lecturers believe that lecturing in a different language is exactly the same as in their mother tongue.  There is some convincing to be done here, so that lecturers become more open to improving their own (academic) language skills, as well as to developing an appropriate methodology for working in a second or third language at a high academic level.

Linguistic objectives
Lecturers in HE do not formulate linguistic objectives for their courses. Doing so might improve their and their students awareness about language and the language they are learning while studying, say, physics or business studies.

Throughout the conference, there was an appeal for collaboration between language and content teachers. Success stories were those that told of subject (Economics, Business Studies) lecturers in Denmark really working together to improve both ICL methodology.
My impression during the conference was that Denmark is leading the field in ICL in HE. The University of Copenhagen, for example, has a really well-thought-out language policy (focusing on ‘parallel language use’, and thus identifying in which situations Danish and English are used). Students and lecturers at some universities are thoroughly prepared. For example, at a university where teaching through English resulted in student failure and drop out, the language centre helped both students and lecturers to learn about academic strategies. Students were given diagnostic tests, and workshops in strategies: academic listening, writing and reading skills. Lecturers are also learning, for example, about (a) how to help students understand their lectures effectively, (b) strategies for giving feedback and (c) creating crystal clear exam questions.

Subject lecturers where are you?
ICL at least at this conference seems to be dominated by language specialists. But where are the subject lecturers? I met a couple of inspiring women again from Denmark at the conference dinner who teach design, but the rest of the delegates seemed all to be language specialists.
As at every conference, the most delightful moments were meeting other delegates from all over the world. Our extremely interactive workshop on whether HE ICL had anything to learn from secondary CLIL went really well, so that gave us (me and my colleague Annemieke Meijer) a buzz. We made new friends and contacts, all concerned with CLIL (oh, sorry, ICL, oh - no - EMI)!  

P.S. Thanks very muchto Annemieke for her useful feedback on a first draft of this blog.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The importance of teaching learning skills

Just read this excellent article by Peeter Mehisto, Criteria for producing CLIL learning material, which puts forward ten principles to guide the selection, development and design of CLIL lesson resources.

According to the article, quality CLIL classroom material should:
  1. make the learning intentions (language, content, learning skills) & process visible to students;
  2. systematically foster academic language proficiency;
  3. foster learning skills development and learner autonomy;
  4. include self, peer and other types of formative assessment;
  5. help create a safe learning environment;
  6. foster cooperative learning;
  7. seek ways of incorporating authentic language and authentic language use;
  8. foster critical thinking;
  9. foster cognitive fluency through scaffolding of a) content, b) language, c) learning skills development helping a student to reach well beyond what they could do on their own;
  10. help to make learning meaningful.
I particularly like the three-sided focus on learning in a CLIL context - language, content and learning skills – and how these all need to be addressed in terms of specific learning objectives for lessons, through on-going assessment and the particular support a learner is then given.

Moreover, a focus on learning skills could be an effective way for teachers to think about how these skills cross-over between their different subjects, and this could then be useful for planning cross-curricular projects.

Teaching learning skills in an explicit way in a CLIL classroom could include, for example, ways a learner can be supported in taking a step back and thinking about what they are doing, reflecting on their learning from different perspectives. So having pupils plan, monitor and evaluate their own work should become an essential CLIL teaching strategy. Get learners thinking about their learning; get them thinking about their learning of a specific subject and get them writing and speaking in English about their learning of this subject through English. This focus on learning skills adds another dimension to how we can think about CLIL.   

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Creative with CLIL

This video caught my attention this week, especially since my New Year's resolution (yet again) is to "Slow down". Give students 10 seconds to perform a task, and they all come up with the same answer. Give them 10 minutes and their creativity explodes!

But what does this mean for CLIL? For me, it means that we can:
  • give students more time to work on CLIL projects
  • ask students to spend time on writing drafts and rewriting longer pieces of writing (instead of lots of small ones)
  • get students to think more about what they are learning (use the well-worn idea of think, pair, share)
  • use HOTS (higher order thinking skills) more than LOTS (lower order thinking skills)
  • plan fewer activities in our lessons: the activities which we do do can then really engage students
  • encourage and reward creativity in language use when students are writing or speaking, rather than punishing them or marking them down for making silly mistakes
If we do these things, maybe our students' creativity will increase and you will be prouder of what they make or perform.

And if you want to be creative with CLIL, are new or pretty new to CLIL and would like some attractive teaching ideas for your lessons, we'd like to let you know that our CLIL starters course in Utrecht is starting again on 26 February. It's definitely going ahead, but there are still some places free and we would love to meet you! Here is the Application form.