TIC: Teachers’ identity in CLIL

On this page I’d like to investigate into why teachers would  carry out CLIL which potentially (acccording to the data I have collected so far) puts them into a deficit position, a  discursively ambivalent position, a site of struggle. Something that I have called the CLIL paradox

To explore this question more deeply let me share this page with YOU, meaning I’d be very interested in your comments on this.

My ideas may be best presented at the moment through my talk in Madrid. Therefore let me share my introductory notes and the slides of this talk.

Introductory notes:

I’m having the pleasure to tell you about a qualitative study that was and still is carried out at a lower secondary  comprehensive school in Austria. But before I am going to report on it in detail allow me to shed a few words on my own identity narrative in this context. Or as B. Norton claimed, “All research studies are understood to be situated, and the researcher integral to the progress of a research project”. 82

I have had the pleasure to either work with teachers in several CLIL in-service training courses or visit classrooms and talk to experienced CLIL teachers in the past 15 years. Furthermore, at my teacher education instution the university college of Upper-Austria we have installed for the last 6 years a preservice CLIL training module where student teachers have to carry out short and hopefully sweet CLIL projects in their practicum. Throughout these years my CLIL identity as a teacher, teacher educator, and researcherwas guided and kept busy by questions such as (Gierlinger, 2007)

  • How do teachers cope with the very open and unstructured CLIL situation in Austria? What do they actually understand by CLIL?
  • According to practitioners, is there a right time for CLIL? Do pupils need to have a certain minimum language competence level?
  • Are certain subjects more or less suited for  CLIL?
  • And above all, what do these teachers see as the most pressing problems or challenges?

Doing some research on this and the booming literature on all sorts of “C”s helped me to come up with methodological support to CLIL teachers and students and develop my own CLIL teaching model which following the prevailing fashion, had to be dressed into four letters and was wickedly named CALM and more recently transformed into the acronym SALT.

However, then the almost simultaneous occurrence of three critical incidents happened, firstly, a dramatical change in my own language learning identity from expert to beginner – in other words from English into Spanish, secondly the reading of John Hattie’s book, Visible learning for teachers (2012) and Dwight Atkinson’s Alternative Approaches to the Second Language Acquisition with special emphasis on a chapter by Bonnie Norton and McKinney “An Identity Approach to Second Language Acquisition”, and thirdly some very critical students, who despite my massive CLIL advertising campaign wouldn’t share my enthusiasm and essentially stayed critical and a pain in the neck. To which I am now very grateful.

These three things made me suddenly realise that I had put a lot of effort in “doing CLIL” and forgotten about “being CLIL” or in other words” Why would passionate teachers (Hattie, 2012) opt for a teaching self in another language that has a strong potential to cast them in a deficit role and might even lessen the impact of their subject teaching?.  A situation that I would like to call the CLIL paradox.

Slide: the overall study

So it felt like Christmas and Easter falling together when two very experienced, non-language expert subject teachers (Austria has a dual system of teacher graduation) not only decided to leave their comfort zone and teach their respective subjects in English but also offered me the chance to observe and videorecord them in a CLIL and a non–CLIL class at the same subject level throughout a school year. J. taught chemistry as a CLIL subject in class 4b and taught the same content in class 4a. W did the same thing in history with 4b being the CLIL history class and 4a the non-CLIL history class.

The 14-year-olds attended a non-selective lower secondary comprehensive school (Hauptschule) and learning through CLIL took place in a modular version of CLIL, meaning they attended five projects lasting around six lessons each. This is certainly not a bilingual or immersion class but it reflects Austrian reality in non-elitist schools and it definitely proved enough experience to question and reshape teachers’ identities.

All classes (CLIL and non-CLIL) were video recorded, two pairs of students in each class were audio recorded and a reflection session with the teachers after almost every lesson was audio recorded. Apart from these lesson-based reflection session the teachers also carried out longer pre- and post project interviews that were partly guided by already sifted materials. This has led to a massive amount of data which is still updated as two more lessons will actually be filmed while I’m on this conference here with more reflective audio recording being done this coming week. Therefore this is very much work in progress and at the same time is part of a larger project following other Austrian and Spanish teachers on their road to a – as Bonnie Norton and David Block would have it – socially constructed, changeable, contradictory and even conflictive CLIL identity. Unfortunately, this also means that a fair amount of the data has not been transcribed yet and only the reflection sessions have been fully coded using MAXQDA. In this respect we are very much talking about ongoing research, having said so, I do feel confident concerning the general drift and the recommendations for teacher training that I will propose.

This process lead to identifying-somehow not unsurprisingly-the variables foreign language competence (FLC) and foreign language learning history (FLLH) as decisive categories with respect to teachers’ CLIL identity.

This talk will therefore focus on J’s and W’s CLIL self perception as mediated through the foreign language. An important corollary of this focus will be investigating into and analysing their code switching behaviour. In other words, for which reasons would they code switch in their CLIL classes?


ALP-CLIL_2013_A tale of two teachers_blog_version

Code switching in the CLIL classroom – my reference list:

Code switching in the CLIL classroom seems not to be a top research priority which is reflected in the scarce number of publications I could find relating to CLIL and code switching. Nevertheless, find my choice below:



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