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Conference 18th -19th February 2011 at Rovereto at MART

 

These are comments on the 8 page handout given to each visitor to the conference. I have tried to get underneath the CLIL tendency to just affirm wonders, and to understand the premise on which it is based.

 

Speaker 2. Graziano Serragiotto

His talk was to define the "competenze" of the CLIL teacher, thus implicit in this is the claim that a CLIL teacher has to have some special abilities. Well, in simple terms that is obvious, since he/she must know a subject AND a language AND be capable of teaching them together. Thus in the case of the CLIL teacher, there is the danger of a double negative feedback (the electronics term that describes the mutually reinforcing disturbance of one input by another). In CLIL, managing linguistic understanding along with subject understanding is not easy (especially in Italian mixed ability classes) and is quite likely to lead to superficial learning in both. Wales, Catalonia or Quebec's 50 50 bilingualism is quite a different matter and also in my opinion, a 9 hour regime in Elementary schools, with their limited subject content has some chance of success. But I read in an educational pamphlet (IPRASETrento) that Marsh thought that 8-9 hours is a quality CLIL program. (However he told me at the conference that he never wrote that, so I must say, in my own name, that 8-9 hours is in MY opinion, a realistic timetabling. Beware the corner cutters

 

A conosce la lingua e I contenuti

a.      This double competence, but what is the degree of "conosce"? It matters)

B. sa valutare, adattare, usare materiali didattici

b.     Suely that's true of any teacher

C.   sa creare materiale didattico

c.     IDEM

D   sa giustificare didatticamente le sue operazioni

d.     obviously IDEM

E    sa proporre diverse attivita…metodi... secondo esigenze

e.      This is absolutely central to all teaching.

F    monitorraggio … ricerca-azione

f    A general teacher competence.

The more I read the statements of CLIL "practitioners" (notice such words that lift the CLIL teacher above the rabble!), the more bewildered I become. How is it possible that this pretentious and immodest nonsense should gain so much status?

         The claims are so large and so immodest that you can hardly get your mind around them.  The best way to at least try to unravel the mystery of such inflated claims is to take some texts by absolute believers and see if one can analyse what is going on under the often turgid and abstract prose.

         You will see the original texts that were handed out inside the official program of the Conference on CLIL at Rovereto in February 2011. "Per un CLIL di qualita'"

What exactly is the specific "competenze" of CLIL teachers. Being able to not suffer from either or both of the negative feedbacks described above.?? The speaker talks of "monitoraggio", is that a fancy term for "checking that your teaching is getting through"? As for the ability that Serragiotto speaks of (having a good relationship with other teachers and students); what has that got to do with a specific CLIL teacher. Surely all teachers have always known that is essential?

 

Speaker 3 Geraldine Ludbrook

         What is a "competenza metodologica didattica", other than the fact that a CLIL teacher must know an L2 AND a subject AND also be able to avoid comprehension melt down in his students is certainly an extra arduous "competenza". In fact it's precisely the arduousness of the whole ambitious CLIL enterprise THAT is the problem. What happens if a lot of teachers are not up to this TRIPLE "comtetenza"? We will get a very watered down version in which appearances are saved by the magic acronym, CLIL.

Let us shift ground a moment and go to Wales, Catalonia and Quebec, where there are schools which are doing 50 50 CLIL. Now that is wholly admirable and POSSIBLE. After all, they are also surrounded by a double culture and everyday use of both languages with TV programs and newspapers etc. In the question that I asked Marsh lies the problem for me: "when is CLIL no longer CLIL"? It seems now that CLIL is still CLIL even in little module courses. How is that possible? Here we come to the nub. These CLILers who speak good news to Brussels had to save their project by giving, as the Guinness advert claimed " a power to reach those parts which other beers don't"! Thus there is the talk of Dieter Wolff of CLIL bringing about "real change in our education systems" (SYSTEMS no less!). or Gisella Lange's idea of CLIL as a Trojan Horse to wake up all subjects!! But wait. We have said that the real sales pitch and its real difficulty is this "2 lessons for the price of one" and the risk of getting neither right. The danger of incomprehension or mere banal reduction of the subject.

See speakers 5 and 6 for excellent examples of the way CLIL church lays claim to EXCLUSIVE possession of ALL previous goals of education! The sheer cheek of it beggars belief.

 

Speakers 5 Federica Ricci Garotti

Here we really enter the inner sanctum of the mysteries. There is this extremely familiar, but none the less dangerous for that, distinction between "explicit" and "implicit" learning. This is more familiar to us as that distinction, "acquire" versus "learning", that though it is valid enough when considering how the L1 child learns 14 hours a day with one to one mother teacher, it is very suspect when transferred wishfully to schools. I believe you could call it a post '68 piety, whereby learning is considered fascist, authoritarian where acquire is the process of free self directed autonomy. But even in the case of the L1 child I don't see why we have to make this distinction so dualistic. Anyway the effect of this dualism in language teaching has been disastrous, and this distinction, implicit and explicit is a further twist of the tail. The speaker doesn't make a very convincing case for this even less convincing dichotomy to that of learn - acquire. In an attempt to aid clarity, (which in fact makes things darker), the implicit explicit polarity is added to by conscio - inconscio. We now see the radical idea that true learning ("che non e' labile"!) occurs unconsciously! (Like learning to drive?). You see again the deep influence of the "acquire" description of the child's mother tongue learning which somehow is imported to a few hours of distracted school lessons.

Apparently, implicit learning is aided by motivation and feeling (affettivita'). However Garotti now follows with a list of intellectual, "left brain",  abilities that are supposedly aided by this "implicit" "unconscious" learning, and which lead to "reasoning, reflection, classification ability, conceptualising ability". All of these achieved CLIL extras are what my teachers of 55 years ago wanted to awake in me! But poor things they just taught languages or subjects!

You see once again with Garotti (not her fault, it's the Zeitgeist!), this typical appropriation of any previous educational "good" as being exclusively delivered by CLIL.! Did someone say that money corrupts the judgement?

Garotti closes her analysis of the good and the bad, by describing the teaching methodology that does NOT bring home, "reasoning, reflection, classification ability, conceptualising ability". She describes such a didactics as failing because it "privIlegia attivita' di tipo informativo o compilativo dove la dimensione cognitiva sara' coinvolto solo minimamente". Odd, I thought "cognitivo" was the word associated with mere "conscious", "explicit" "learning". That too has now been taken over by CLIL

But really! What subject teacher does not aim to stimulate "reasoning, reflection, classification ability, conceptualising ability", and this compilativo, what actually is the concrete detail of this wickedness? I suppose a vocabulary list would be compilativo. Instead, I suppose, the students must implicitly, unconsciously "acquire" the vocabulary without cudgelling their freedom loving brains? But children who have been interested by competent teachers don't inhabit this dualistic world: How can you develop an ability in "reasoning, reflection, classification ability, conceptualising ability", without also using judgements that are "informativo o compilativo"?

It's all part of the operation of putting pseudo boundary markers around CLIL.

It's this Masonic impertinence towards all previous teaching and teachers that is intolerable in the CLIL church. Those above mentioned virtues are set against teaching activities that are "del tipo informativo o compilativo which apparently the rank and file donkeys of instruction use in lessons. Oh brave new world! Let's pass to speaker 6.

 

Speaker 6. Peeter Mehisto "Complexity competence and CLIL"!!

His conference summary is really the worst for empty attitudinising.

He tells us that Complexity competence is the ability to "understand, synthesise and "navigate"(!) the various……diverse contexts in thoughtful ways". Well, preferably expressed in better English, isn't that what all teachers have to do? PM continues that the CLIL teacher must research and accumulate assessment data in order to "drive" (!) decision making, distributing management and leadership" (CLILers seem to share a fantasy of being captains of industry with all this loathsome manager speak!. )…"CLIL teachers aid learner autonomy (that was what my teachers of 55 years ago wished for!) ……… by "atomising" (!!) and .."making visible academic language" ("atomising" surely makes (INvisible) Why not just write, "by avoiding academic language". - if that's what "making visible" means.

         Apparently the central ability that comes from "complexity competence" is the ability to understand, synthesise and "navigate …differences inherent in individual views?? =?? people are different?) procedures, organisation and systems (=?? Simply the difficulty of understanding and of being comprehended?)

PM then continues with more management speak: …….that the CLIL teacher "can support stakeholders" (!?? = help teachers and students to make sense of CLIL?) … "to cooperatively build structure (??) and yet encourage agency and knowledge building" (!!) What a senseless farrago of manager speak! What does it MEAN?

         Has the English language been brought so low. This prose is appallingly turgid and meaningless. It's like wading through mud. It is so pretentious. It continues…. "….the skill to avoid the co-construction (?) of pseudo-communities" and instead.."to build instead professional learning communities" " (what for love of God is a pseudo community and a professional community? This seems once more empire building by this self aggrandising and intolerant CLIL church, that has come to save us.

 

Speaker 7 Dieter Wolff

Wolff gives us another piece of mere declaration.. He says full and square "CLIL isn't just another language learning method", but the means "through which to bring about real change in Education systems" "SYSTEMS" no less! CLILers are hungry for funds and so must kill off all competition. Thus they offer politicians , besides the economy of " 2 for the price of 1", something else. They know that there is a general belief that schools are failing to interest pupils. So they claim that CLIL will transform ALL teaching in schools. (Once more that "Trojan Horse" sent into schools, spoken of by ispettrice Gisella Lange')

For the clearest example of what you might all the CLIL sales pitch see the extract below from the IPRASE pamphlet, "Il futuro si chiama CLIL" Il Futuro! Niente di meno!! Naturally, Dieter Wolff goes on to mysteriologically admit that such a grand design means "finding solutions to a number of complex issues" - but of course we can't be in doubt that CLIL will be up to pulling such issue-chestnuts out of the fire!

 

Speaker 8 Marsh. 

 

         Like the other speakers, Marsh takes possession of most of the aims and hopes of previous generations of educationalists and does the slight of hand of claiming that through CLIL all these things will be brought to pass. But consider the passage "During this period of change in our societies and schools, the focus is on how to introduce educational innovation which depends on understanding, developing and communicating what skills and knowledge are needed to ensure that quality outcomes are achieved"..... etc etc but why is this the dependent on CLIL_  Haven't just such baggy hopes been expressed by all the white hot "fundamental" changes in education or language teaching? The novelty of CLIL lies in this, that it doesn't want like all previous passing fashions to change language teaching but has upped the stakes and promised to change the whole bang shooting match!!     WOW indeed. the fact is CLIL must promise all this or the "two for the price of one",  would not be worth the risk of just doing botth badly.

 

Taken from IPRASE document "Il futuro si chiama CLIL"

........ Everywhere the same assertions are being made on behalf of CLIL. These 18 (!!) assertions are in fact, the most complete list of the aims (we once had) for humanistic education, which has been left to slowly wither within schools. In fact it is precisely the lack of such a holistic thinking ability in teenagers that prompted me to my Quixotic "3 cones" scheme with its 20 concept to help them to "think the modern world". I know it's a lost cause. It would need to operate across the curricula. But in CLIL, mere language teaching has cooked up this false porridge of promises. It's delirious: a form of bullying.    

CLIL..... "giova allo sviluppo di tutta la persona (1) ed avere influssi positivi sulla motivazione dei discenti.(2).. riguarda non soltanto L2 (3) ..bensi anche l'acquisizione di quelle competenze traversali (4) che interessano tutte le discipline (!) (5): la competenza espressiva,(6) l'autonomia nel proprio processo di acquisizione (!),(7) l'assunzione di un metodo di lavoro,(8) la concettualizzazione,(9) la capacita' di analisi (10) e di sintesi(11) la comprensione dei contenuti (12)e dei testi,(13) la motivazione all'apprendere (14). Graziie a CLIL there's student autonomy "La costruzione autonoma del sapere (p. 87) (15) and "chiamato..ad assumere la responsabilita' della propria personalle costruzione di significato (!) (p.88).(16) It also promotes (enforces?) teacher co-operation. (17) As if this wasn't enough, on page 72 it is asserted …. una "promozione di un atteggiamento di base volto all'apprendimento in tutto l'arco della vita" (WOW!!) (18) .

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