Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Keynote #CLIL Teresa Ting second #language learning challenges

Y.L. Teresa Ting from the Universitá della Calabria (Italy) has an Italian charm and looks fabulous as she takes the stage.  Today she focused on the question on how the CLIL format can answer the many challenges of educating pupils in a foreign language, especially if one takes into account that the outcomes of native language courses keep having flaws. She is also clearly a teacher, narrating, yet paying attention at our focus, and she makes us do things (takes me back to the classroom).I was following with pleasure, until the sentence "students need good textbooks more then ever, as you never know what they will find on the internet" - okay, just imagine my face when hearing that sentence! Fun though, and the full keynote was definitely of interest. .

Throughout her keynote Teresa used notes to illustrate how students and teachers think. She put these sources online for those interested, to be found (google drive docs) here.

She opens with OECD skills outlook 2013. Where she refers to the challenge of literacy … how can instruction through a foreign language help.
Visible learning and the Science of How We Learn
(Hattie and Gregory Yeates (Routledge publishing))
What makes up great learning? One thing occurred in all classrooms, if teachers help see learning through the eyes of the students, and students see their learning through their own eyes.
Nobody likes to learn content that they did not choose.

Teresa Ting started off with starting English in Italy, while actually being a neuroscientist. Around 2000 Teresa was given the opportunity to engage with CLIL.
Evolution is a very conservative process, as such the brains of rats are comparable to human brains (Teresa first researched rats and learning).
Brain Reward System: part of the brain where rats would feel really good. It is part of the primitive part of the brain. Rats will press the stimulus until they are dead, omitting eating, drinking… Similar with human brains. When brain surgery  is done, this part in the human brain is stimulated.
Motivation is already embedded in the brain, it is there, we (as teachers) only have to activate it.

The big question: the point is: can we activate these pathways of motivation?
C1 level English as foreign language => implications that might be a problem.
In 1980 in the Anglophone ex-colonies science was given in English. Teachers did most of the talking, but learners kept quiet and did not understand most of it.
So the risk of C1 competences means that teachers => transmissive education.
In Italy the teachers do not speak, so they have to come up with different learning activities, AND the material will become easier, though aimed at reaching the learning goals.

At a given point during the presentation, Teresa gives us exercises to illustrate what learner-centered teaching with little input from the teacher is like (Inge note: very similar to cMOOC).
Then Teresa also illustrates the complex language use that occurs when learners are left to their own devices (or at least, when they are given more freedom).

Teresa refers to Lexical Density (Inge note: look up the tool you used for easy English, you used in MobiMOOC the Fog or something scale?).

With disciplinary expertise, the disciplinary literacy needed increases. Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977: academic language is no one’s mother tongue.
But disciplinary discourse is the most precise way of speaking (community language).
But the language of the community must be mastered. (disciplinary discourse), if you cannot do it, you have not learned the content yet (not mastered it).

The challenge: the discourse student should output to show they have learnt cannot be used as input for learning (Ting, 2015). Because if the language is too difficult (difficult), this is not picked up.

Working memory scans the environment to see what kind of information you need to pay attention too (short term memory). In a classroom you want to move from short term to long-term memory. But working memory is volatile, limited capacity (5-7 digits), limited duration (only seconds). To get into long-term memory, it needs to get attention, it needs to be attended to.
Working memory overload even in the mother tongue, good teachers are aware, but must be aware of this risk of disciplinary language for 50 minutes.
This is why Teresa creates tasks: transforming texts into task, which follow a learning progression.
(Inge note: parallels contextualized learning ).

Learning content always embraces two parts: the content itself, as well as the language which describes the content. If content is difficult, the language must be easy; if content is easy, the language can become difficult. Which is a way to be aware of working memory.

An option is assessment of learning for learning (see exercise 3 of the prints provided)… seems like cMOOC.
Inge note: In the CLIL-MOOC: Big macro content –learning is cut into little content pieces (eg. What are the elements of MOOCs, and what can we do with these elements, and do it). This is assessed, and based upon feedback, new iterations are provided, as well as reflective moments (progress diary).
Problems provide dilated pupils with those humans solving the problem, as soon as the problem is solved the pupil undilates: so it is a physiological response.
The brain likes solvable problems.
Haptic tasks: proprioceptive feedback also stimulates synaptic grounding.
Semantic incongruency: this alerts the brain, but it is not positive thing. Such information generates "distraction" and therefore is not easily processed. This points to the message that academic text is full of semantics which are incongruent with how we usually use our mother tongue. Which is why academic text is not a good source of input for learning - but an essential source for reference.
Priming: is a way to prepare humans for what is to come, and orient the brain (eg, being able to think whether what follows will be difficult or easy – cfr advanced organiser).
Important factor for language learning: we need to use a whole language approach to increase academic language and disciplinary discourse. Providing holistic language to increase contextualised grounding of the language.

Input must be whole language, tasks must be whole thoughts to make an impact. 
Teresa said: students need good textbooks in this day and age to increase their core concepts and details, as well as academic discourse.