Second Language Oral Production in High School Within the Context of CLIL Research Proposal

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This study is motivated by theoretical and pedagogical interests: to inform instructional design intended to integrate language and content and to explore how form and meaning intersect in SLA (second language acquisition). Both interests draw on an extensive body of research that encompasses theory and practice underlying three different yet related frameworks and lines of inquiry: content-based language teaching, form-focused instruction and attention and awareness in SLA (second language acquisition). All three of these areas are linked by a concern with the intersection of form and meaning in second language classrooms. Content-based language instruction was originally inspired as an alternative to traditional approaches to language teaching that favored form over meaning. Form-focused instruction brought language form to the foreground when meaning-focused, content-based approaches relegated the learning of language form to an incidental role. Research in attention and awareness has explored a focus on form and meaning as internal learner processes. The research questions guiding the present study were motivated by an interest in these areas.

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TOPIC: Research Proposal on Second Language Oral Production in High School Within the Context of CLIL Assignment

Bilingual and immersion programs are often highly content-driven. The purpose of these programs is to learn the academic subject matter while simultaneously learning the language. Examples include French immersion programs in Canada and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) across Europe. French immersion programs began in the 1960s. In these programs, non-French speaking elementary and secondary school students study all or part of their academic content courses in French, a language which shares official status with English but remains a minority language in many parts of Canada (see overview by Swain & Johnson, 1997). Typically, immersion classes are taught by the same teacher who is responsible for both language and content instruction. In Europe, CLIL has been widely adopted since the 1990's. While English, French and German are the most common target languages, over 30 target languages across the European Community are included. In CLIL, the mandate is to focus not only on language and content but also on developing skills for intercultural communication and internationalization.

These models are more moderate than either immersion or theme-based programs in terms of the degree to which they are language or content driven. They are common in universities and colleges and usually designed to help adults learn the language necessary to study specific subject matter. In sheltered programs, one teacher teaches the same content as in the mainstream program but employs strategies to accommodate learners' proficiency levels so they can work through the content. In adjunct classes, two teachers are typically involved: a content specialist teaches the subject matter and a language specialist in a separate class teaches the language that connects with the content (Burger et al., 65). Some sheltered programs, such as those at the University of Ottawa in Canada, employ a comprehension-based approach. The goal of this approach is to develop comprehension as a meaning-base and help learners with the academic language they need for the content in the program. Although the comprehension-based curriculum does not exclude a role for grammar teaching, it is situated as 'emerging' from the content, unplanned and incidental.

A primary goal of much research in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) has been to develop an understanding of how form and meaning connect in the process of second language (L2) learning: how do they intersect, what makes it happen and why does it sometimes fail to happen? An understanding of these processes is crucial in helping us design instruction that will facilitate form-meaning connections in the language classroom.

An example of empirical research that has been conducted in content-based programs for adults is situated in the post-secondary sheltered and adjunct models of bilingual education at the University of Ottawa in Canada. This bilingual university offers degree programs in both English and French. Burger et al. provide an overview of the development of this program and summarize research conducted since its early inception in 1981. Program evaluations over several years have consistently reported positive results for both language gains and content mastery by learners in the sheltered and adjunct programs. In these evaluations, language learning has been assessed with standardized global proficiency tools and content outcomes have been assessed with standardized academic achievement tests. With regard to French language proficiency, research has shown that, when compared with students enrolled in French language schools in Ontario, French immersion students achieve close to native-like levels of reading comprehension, although their fluency and written productive skills are far from native-like, a finding that will be discussed in more detail later. Tests of academic achievement have shown no difference between immersion students and non-immersion students. On the question of English language proficiency, the research has shown that within a year of English language instruction being introduced into the French immersion program, the reading skills of early French immersion students are at the same level as those of non-French immersion students at the same grade level.

Benefits of Multilinguism

In line with the assumption that some form of attention is required for language acquisition, researchers have explored questions regarding the conditions and processes of instructed SLA that might contribute to the noticing of form in meaning-based instruction. In particular, two research areas or domains have been highly influential in subsequent FFI research: interaction and output. An example of research concerned with interaction is the work of Long who examined how interaction in the classroom contributes to establishing accurate form-meaning connections. He proposed that when learners interact and communication breaks down, they are forced to negotiate the language they use to make meaning. This process is thought to enhance the comprehensibility of input each learner receives, and to provide them with an opportunity to notice linguistic form, specifically those forms they need to communicate clearly. In addition, Long argues that when the learner is engaged in interaction and paying attention during the conversation, "the chances that the learner will detect the changes, understand them, and incorporate them is likely to be higher than when both form and meaning are opaque" (Long, 453). Interest in conversational interaction between L2 learners has inspired numerous studies exploring attention to form and meaning.

Interest in the role of output has also contributed to the research agenda investigating form-meaning connections in SLA. Krashen, in line with an input-driven perspective of language learning, argued that output was a product of learning and served only to provide more comprehensible input. Swain (1985) agreed with the essential role of comprehensible input but suggested that learner output, rather than existing simply as the product of learning, also contributed to the process. She drew on research in French immersion, a content-driven, input rich context, which showed that teachers did not elicit extensive talk from the students and did not push them to produce grammatically accurate language when they did so. Swain suggested that this may be a contributing factor to the lower than expected outcomes in grammatical competence in production. She noted that when negotiating meaning, learners can make themselves understood with language that is both grammatically incorrect and socially inappropriate and she argued that learners need to be 'pushed' to use more accurate language to convey meaning. Articulated as the output hypothesis, Swain (1995) maintained that the act of producing output can contribute to learning in three ways: (a) it provides opportunity for learners to notice gaps between what they hear and read and what they are able to produce; (b) it allows language users to test hypotheses about how language works while they try to produce their own meaning; and (c) it provides the opportunity for learners to reflect on language metalingustically and to use the language to shape their thoughts. Drawing on this hypothesis, Swain and her colleagues have investigated how output can encourage learners to become more aware of their use of language form in communicative and content-based contexts such as French immersion (Kowal & Swain, 284). The link between output and noticing of specific linguistic forms has also been investigated in adult ESL (English as a Second Language) classrooms (Izumi & Bigelow, 278) and continues to be a focus of SLA research investigating a focus on form situated in highly meaning-focused contexts such as content-based language teaching.

Benefits of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning).

CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). is premised on the belief that language and content are inseparable in SLA, and that language is "a system that relates what is being talked about (content) and the means used to talk about it (expression)" (Mohan, 1). As a pedagogical framework, CLIL has been widely adopted as an alternative to traditional models of teaching that separated language and content. These models promoted teaching of language as the subject of classroom instruction and have been criticized as consisting of "piecemeal, bottom-up approaches" (Stryker & Leaver, 4). In adult and school-based education, it "aims at eliminating the artificial separation between language instruction and subject matter classes" (Brinton., p. 2) and offers a two… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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