Content and Language Integrated Learning

Learning Geography in English: Cool or fool?




Description of Research Project: Due to the globalization and mobility in Europe the student profile in German schools has rapidly changed. The number of classes which contain speakers of other languages has increased tremendously. Since non-linguistic subjects are taught through a foreign language in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) classes, they are regarded as meeting points of subject and language providing learners with an opportunity to improve their flunecy, linguistic spontaneity as well as communication skills. In this sense, it is a valuable approach to improve language learning in the context of linguistic and socio-cultural diversity since the operating language is a foreign language for both L1 and L2 speakers in CLIL settings.

According to the related literature, most of the studies in the field of CLIL focus on the subject or linguistic achievements of learners in CLIL and non-CLIL classes; however, an investigation into learners' underlying motivations to participate in CLIL classes has been neglected. In particular, there is still a research gap concerning the potential of CLIL for fostering harmony in language learning in linguistically and culturally heterogeneous classrooms. The project outlined here is an attempt to close this research gap.

Considering the fact that approximately 40 % of school children between the first and fifth grade consist of immigrant children in Augsburg, the project basically focuses on the motivational differences among German L1 and German L2 speakers to prefer CLIL classes. Why do pupils prefer learning a school subject in a foreign language (English)? Are German L1 and L2 speakers motivated to attend CLIL lessons by similar reasons?

Where: Out of 10 secondary schools (Realschulen) in Swabia which offer CLIL classes for the subject of geography, 6 schools accepted to participate in this study. These schools* are: Staatlich Realschule Buchloe, Markgrafen-Realschule Burgau, Konradin-Realschule Friedberg, Hans-Maier-Realschule Ichenhausen, Staatliche Realschule Lindenberg, Leonhard-Wagner-Realschule Schwabmüchen.

Who: 146 7th grade pupils with an average age of 13 filled out the questionnaire (56,2 % males; 40,4 % females; 3,4 % unspecified).

How: A semi-structured questionnaire on learning geography through CLIL was implemented as research instrument.

When: The participating secondary schools conducted the research and returned the completed questionnaires within the period from November to December 2012.

After collecting the data, the responses were analyzed by means of SPSS 20. Some of the preliminary results are as follows:

  • The most frequent motives for attending CLIL classes in general are "future career and education" and "improving English".

  • The most frequent motive for attending CLIL classes for both German L1 and L2 speakers is "future career and education'".

  • The majority of the subjects would not prefer attending CLIL classes in another foreign language because of "insufficient command of another foreign language", and "extra workload".

  • The subjects who are interested in attending CLIL classes in another foreign language would do it mostly due to their "motivation for learning other languages".

The project and some of its interim findings were presented at the 47 th Annual Conference and Exhibition of IATEFL in Liverpool on 11th April 2013. After exploring the results of the questionnaire, the final part of the presentation was devoted to a discussion on the further research steps. The next phase of this study will aim at examining the motivations of non-CLIL learners of geography with migration background in the same secondary schools to find out why they do not prefer learning geography in English. Moreover, the parents of non-CLIL learners of geography with migration background will be interviewed to explore, whether they are informed about this opportunity at schools, and whether they would find it useful for their kids.

Project Manager: Dr. Senem Özkul, M.A. (Augsburg University, Associate Professor)

Project Assistants: Sara Vali, M.A. & Parnaz Kianiparsa, M.A. (Augsburg University, PhD Candidates)

Project Funding: Philologisch-Historische Fakultät der Universität Augsburg / Hausmittel für Forschungsvorhaben nach Typ A

*We would like to express our most sincere gratitude to all of the participating secondary schools for their efficient and constructive cooperation.