I have recently come across some videos of a debate at the 43rd Annual IATEFL Conference which took place in Cardiff in 2009. The contributions of Peeter Mephisto and Mina Patel have made me reflect on the complexity of introducing CLIL practices in the school and on the little attention we pay to what students need to face this change when discussing about applying this new methodology.
CLIL has become a motor for reform in school. The implementation and success of CLIL methodologies in the class is not a going solo thing. It requires a discussion within the institution which must lead to globally rethink its pedagogy and redefine the roles of the members in the educational community.
Implementing CLIL leads to a complex change which involves not just teachers, but also the school, the administration, the students and their parents. In order to successfully implement CLIL methodologies all the actors must be consciously and actively committed to the change. Otherwise, efforts carried out by highly committed and motivated teachers can lead to a frustrating huge waste of time and resources.
Teachers must go through extensive training programs to improve their foreign target language skills and to learn the specific CLIL methodological tools. Furthermore, they must also redefine their identity as CLIL teachers and get on well with it both in the classroom and in the relation with their colleagues.
Schools must support this change by building a framework to effectively allow coordination and collaborative work among departments. That leads to rethink time schedules and subject department boundaries. This can only take place if the administration resolutely pledges their commitment to CLIL and invests money on the resources required to implement it.
Both Peeter Mephisto and Mina Patel point out that little attention has been given to what students need to face this change. They hold that students need guidelines to manage their feelings and expectations towards the new class dynamics introduced by CLIL. They also require to understand the learning process they are going to go through. In this adaptive process, the assistance the students get from their parents is essential. Therefore it is important that parents get also involved in this change, so that they can support their children.
In conclusion, if we want to effectively implement CLIL in our schools it is necessary to open a debate with all actors of the educational community. This debate must be brave enough to question the school pedagogy , its internal organization and its relationship with the students’ parents.