Faculty Resource Blog

Content-Based Language Teaching with Technology

February 13, 2013 · No Comments

The University of Minnesota’s Content-Based Language Teaching with Technology Web Resource Center is  full of useful information for teachers of many languages. You can find teaching and asssessement strategies, as well as lesson plans that incorporate Content-Based Teaching and technology. To check out the center follow this link: Content-Based Teaching with Technology

Here are some excerpts about Content-Based Instruction from the resource center’s site:

Content-Based Second Language Instruction:
What is it?

CBI is “…an approach to language instruction that integrates the presentation of topics or tasks from subject matter classes (e.g., math, social studies) within the context of teaching a second or foreign language” (Crandall & Tucker, 1990, p. 187).

Support from SLA research:

  • Natural language acquisition occurs in context; natural language is never learned divorced from meaning, and content-based instruction provides a context for meaningful communication to occur (Curtain, 1995; Met, 1991); second language acquisition increases with content-based language instruction, because students learn language best when there is an emphasis on relevant, meaningful content rather than on the language itself; “People do not learn languages and then use them, but learn languages by using them” (GUGD website) [see Georgetown stats]; however, both form and meaning are important and are not readily separable in language learning (e.g., Lightbown & Spada, 1993; Met, 1991; Wells, 1994).
  • Language learning becomes more concrete rather than abstract (as in traditional language instruction where the focus is on the language itself) (Genesee, 1994).

Research on Instructional Strategies that Support CBI and SLA

  • CBI lends itself to cooperative learning, which has been shown to result in improved learning (Slavin, 1995; Crandall, 1993).

Support for CBI from Educational and Cognitive Psychology

  • Facts and skills taught in isolation need much more practice and rehearsal before they can be internalized or put into long term memory; coherently presented information (thematically organized) is easier to remember and leads to improved learning (Singer, 1990); information that has a greater number of connections to related information enhances learning, and content acts as the driving force for the connections to be made.
  • Content-based instruction emphasizes a connection to real life, real world skills (Curtain, 1995); in content-based classes, students have more opportunities to use the content knowledge and expertise they bring to class (they activate their prior knowledge, which leads to increased learning of language and content material).

Program Outcomes that Support CBI

  • Research conducted in a variety of program models (see Grabe and Stoller, 1997 for details) has shown that content-based instruction results in language learning, content learning, increased motivation and interest levels, and greater opportunities for employment (where language abilities are necessary)—the research has emerged in ESL K-12 contexts , FL K-12 (immersion and bilingual programs), post-secondary FL and ESL contexts, and FLAC programs.
  • CBI allows for greater flexibility to be built into the curriculum and activities; there are more opportunities to adjust to the needs and interests of students.
  • The integration of language and content throughout a sequence of language levels has the potential to address the challenge of gaps between basic language study vs. advanced literature and cultural studies that often exist in university language departments.

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