Beheydt, L., & Hiligsmann, P. (Eds.) (2011). Met immersie aan de slag/Au travail, en immersion.
The book "Au travail, en immersion" ("working with immersion") presents a collection of both practical and theoretical chapters about immersion education in the French community of Belgium, written in two of Belgium's official languages, Dutch and French.
In Belgium, educational matters are decided on the regional level, which results in different policies in the Flemish and the French-speaking part (Flanders and Wallonia). In the latter, immersion education or CLIL has been practised for more than a decade and was officially sanctioned by a decree in 1998. CLIL was first implemented in primary schools but at the moment it exists in over 250 primary and secondary schools, most of which opted for Dutch immersion, since this is the official language of the Flemish community (Van de Craen et al., 2011).
The present collection of articles is based on a seminar organized by the University of Louvain (UCL), which aimed to inform teachers and researchers about the benefits of CLIL and to deal with frequent doubts regarding this form of education. Despite over a decade of experience with immersion, the introduction states that questions remain whether CLIL does not result in poorer content learning, if it is not an elitist form of education and how it should be implemented successfully by teachers, who often lack clear methodological guidelines and specific materials. These and other issues are addressed by the various chapters of the book, which contain accounts of personal experiences with immersion projects, results of research carried out in CLIL contexts and didactic guidelines for teachers.
Chapter 1 relates the experience of a primary school in the French community which started with English immersion in 2003. The authors explain how the school dealt with a number of obstacles, for instance the difficulty of finding native speaking English teachers who possessed the right degree to teach at the primary level in the French community, or the need to create pedagogical materials adapted to the curriculum and the language level of the learners. The authors present a positive evaluation of their school's CLIL programme, highlighting that the students learned their mother tongue equally well as those students who received all their lessons in French and that they developed a feeling of ease in their second language. However, it appears no objective test of the learners' English proficiency was carried out. The second chapter, based on research, shows a less positive picture of the language proficiency of immersion students and offers a didactic proposal to enhance language learning in a CLIL context. Based on findings that immersion students tend to exhibit signs of fossilization and often have a limited vocabulary and phonetic ability in the target language, the author stresses the need of providing appropriate input and enhancing students' motivation to learn the target language. Not only does the author make a case for offering comprehensible input, but he also believes students should be made to focus on language form, by providing them with both corrective and contrastive feedback (contrasting L1 and L2 forms) and by pushing them to use the target language in interaction with the teacher and with their peers. Similar to the first chapter, chapter 3 provides a personal experience of a speech therapist involved in a plurilingual project in favour of migrant children in Brussels. Although this is not the typical CLIL context, it gives useful insights into dealing with bilingualism in pre-school and primary school, and making sure children develop positive attitudes to their mother tongue, as well as to the target language. By involving the parents and promoting language awareness, the project was able to form fully bilingual individuals who felt supported by the school environment and obtained much better results in secondary education than the majority of migrant children in Flanders.
Chapter 4 is another didactically oriented chapter, presenting a proposal from the Netherlands to focus explicitly on language within the context of immersion. The author shows how a series of specially designed content lessons can enhance language learning, for example by providing a specific language goal for each lesson, such as being able to write a letter or hold a debate related to the subject. There is ample emphasis on subject related terminology and on ensuring students learn to use this terminology actively, by working in pairs or groups and receiving feedback on their production.
Chapter 5 presents the results of a research study on immersion students' subject knowledge in two classes at the 5th year of primary education who were 50% immersed in Dutch. These students' ability to recall and explain experiments presented to them in a science class was compared to that of non-immersion students. Although no significant differences in content knowledge were found between the immersion and the control group, the researchers concluded that it may be necessary to make the meaning of subject related concepts more explicit, by contrasting them with their mother tongue counterparts, for instance.
Chapter 6 is a didactic proposal for integrating an explicit focus on grammar into the subject classroom, by making use of a specially designed reference grammar whenever specific language problems surface. Finally, chapter 7 offers practical tips for making the learning of Dutch more motivating by using interactive games, songs and poetry.
By combining experiences and didactic proposals from a wide range of immersion related contexts, the present volume provides useful information for researchers who are not familiar with the way CLIL is practised in the French community of Belgium, as well as giving teachers interesting guidelines and examples of how to integrate content and language in immersion programmes. However, those who wish to get a more in-depth, systematic review of the results of immersion education in Belgium will need to look elsewhere.
Universidad Publica de Navarra
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Estudios sobre Educacion|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2016|
|Previous Article:||Dale, L., & Tanner, R. (2012). CLIL Activities. A Resource for Subject and Language Teachers.|
|Next Article:||Wiley, T. G., Sook Lee, J., & Rumberger, R. W. (Eds.) (2009). The Education of Language Minority Immigrants in the United States.|