Tag: CLIL

Writing an ebook with students

Writing an ebook with students

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My students have written an ebook!

You can read it for free here.

From an ELT perspective, this ebook is the result of a semester-long CLIL class, with project-based learning and a real and motivating outcome! If you want to find out how we did it, this post is for you!

Context

Our class was on British cultural studies, aimed at master’s level students of English Studies. This class aims to promote language learning and learning about content, in this case a particular British cultural topic. Usually, students are expected to do one oral presentation and one piece of written work as the assessment for this class. Only the other class members see the presentations, and the individual teacher is the only one who reads the essays, in order to grade them.  I’d say this is a pretty standard set up.

Background

Last summer, a colleague and I revamped our British cultural studies classes to move towards project-based learning. In 2016, our students hosted an exhibition open to staff and students a the University, which you can read about here. It was pretty successful, though the students involved found it a shame that all their hard work was only seen by a limited audience. Of course, the audience was a lot less limited than usual, but that’s what they said anyway…!

And so I came up with the idea of producing an ebook this year, which could then be made available publicly. I had seen other organisations use smashwords, and read about how easy it could be to publish a book through that site, so that’s what I thought we should do. I chose the umbrella topic of Britain in the Nineties for our focus, and 23 students signed up. I provided an outline for the class, which included a general module description, assessment requirements for the module, a provisional schedule for the ebook (to be sent to publish in the last week of semester!), and a selected bibliography of recommended reading on the topic.

Our semester is 14 weeks long, with one 90-minute lesson of this class each week. So how did we manage to produce an ebook in this time?

Weeks 1-3

In the first three lessons, I provided a video documentary, an academic article and a film for students to watch/read as a broad introduction to the topic. In lessons, we collected the main themes from this input (key words here: politics, music, social change), and discussed how they were interlinked. Each week, a different student was responsible for taking notes on our discussions and sharing these on our VLP for future reference. In week three, we rephrased our notes into potential research questions on key topic areas.

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At the end of each lesson, we spent some time talking about the ebook in general. As the semester progressed, the time we spent on this increased and resembled business-like meetings.

Week 4

By this point, students had chosen topics / research questions to write about and discussed their choices in plenary to ensure that the ebook would present a wide-spread selection of topics on Britain in the Nineties. The students decided (with my guidance!) to write chapters for the ebook in pairs, and that each chapter should be around 2000 words, to fulfil the written assessment criteria of the class. Writing in pairs meant that they automatically had someone to peer review their work. To fulfil the oral assessment criteria, I required each writing team to hold a ‘work in progress’ presentation on the specific topic of their chapter. I had wanted to include these presentations to make sure I could tick the ‘oral assessment’ box, and because having to present on what they were writing would hopefully mean they got on with their research and writing sooner rather than later!

Weeks 5 & 7

The lessons in these two weeks were dedicated to writing workshops and peer review. We started both lessons by discussing what makes for good peer review, and I gave them some strategies for using colours for comments on different aspects of a text, as well as tables they could use to structure their feedback comments. These tables are available here. Regarding language, these are post-grad students at C1 level, so they’re in a pretty good position to help each other with language accuracy. I told them to underline in pencil anything that sounded odd or wrong to them, whether they were sure or not. If they were sure, they could pencil in a suggestion to improve the sentence/phrase, and if not then the underlining could later serve the authors as a note to check their language at that point.

In week 5, we looked at different genres of essay (cause/effect, compare/contrast, argument, etc), and how to formulate effective thesis statements for each of them. This focussed practice was followed by peer review on the introductions students had drafted so far. By this point, the students had decided that their chapters could be grouped thematically into sections within the ebook, and so did peer review on the work of the students whose chapters were going to be in the same section as their own.

In week 7, we reviewed summaries and conclusions, and also hedging language. Again, this was followed by peer review in their ‘section’ groupings, this time on students’ closing paragraphs.

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Weeks 6 – 11

Almost half way through the semester, all writing teams were working on their chapters. In the lessons, we had a couple of ‘work in progress’ presentations each week. Further to my expectations, the presentations did an excellent job at promoting discussion, and particularly prompted students to find connections between their specific topics – so much so, that they decided to use hyperlinks within the ebook to show the readers these connections. Some students also used their presentations to ask for advice with specific problems they had encountered while researching/writing (e.g. lack of resources, overlaps with other chapters), and these were discussed in plenary to help each writing team as best we could. The discussions after the presentations were used to make any decisions that affected the whole book, for example which citation style we should use or whether to include images.

Week 12

In week 12, all writing teams submitted their texts to me. This was mainly because I needed to give them a grade for their work, but I also took the opportunity to give detailed feedback on their text and the content so they could edit it before it was published. I was also able to give some pointers on potential links to other chapters, since I had read them all. I felt much more like an editor, I have to say, than a teacher!

In the lesson, we had a discussion about pricing our ebook and marketing it. To avoid tax issues, we decided to make the ebook available for free. One student suggested asking for donations to charity instead of charging people to buy the book.

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This idea was energetically approved, and students set about looking into charities we could support. In the end, SHINE education charity won the vote (organised by the students themselves!) I dutifully set up a page for us on justgiving.com: If you’d like to donate, it can be found here.

 

At this point, we also discussed a cover for the book. One student suggested writing ‘the Nineties’ in the Beatles’ style, to emphasise the links to the 1960s that some chapters mentioned. We also thought about including pencil sketches of some of the key people mentioned in the book, but were unable to source any that all students approved of. Instead, students used the advanced settings on the google image search to find images that were copyright free. A small group of students volunteered to finalise the cover design, and I have to say, I think they did a great job!

Week 13

During the lesson in this week, the ebook really came together. Some of the students were receiving more credit points than others for the class, based on their degree programme, and so it was decided that those students should be in charge of formatting the text according to smashwords’ guidelines, and also for collating an annotated bibliography. I organised a document on google docs, where all students noted some bullet points appraising one source they had used for their chapter, and the few who were getting extra points wrote this up and formatted it into a bibliography.

Formatting the text for publication on smashwords.com was apparently not too difficult, as the smashwords’ guidelines explain everything step-by-step, and you do not need to be a computer whizz to follow their explanations!

Week 14 and beyond

This week was the deadline I had set for sending the ebook for publication. After the formatting team had finished, I read through the ebook as a full document for the first time! I corrected any langauge errors that hadn’t been caught previously, and wrote the introduction for the book.  This took me about 2 evenings.

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Then I set myself up a (free) account at smashwords.com and uploaded the ebook text and cover design. Luckily, the students had done a great job following the formatting rules, and the book was immediately accepted for the premium catalogue! (*very proud*)

 

Another small group of students volunteered to draw up some posters for advertising, and to share these with all class members so we could publicise the ebook on social media, on the Department’s webpage, and in the University’s newsletter.

Et voila! We had successfully published our ebook in just 14 weeks!

Evaluation

I’m so glad that I ran this project with my students! It honestly did not take more of my time than teaching the class as ‘usual’ – though usually the marking falls after the end of term, and it was quite pressured getting it done so we could publish in the last week! In future, I might move the publication date to later after the end of semester to ease some of the stress, though I do worry that students’ might lose momentum once we’re not meeting each week.

The students involved were very motivated by the idea that the general public would be able to read their work! I really felt that they made an extra effort to write the best texts they could (rather than perhaps just aiming to pass the class). This project was something entirely new for them, and they were pleased about their involvement for many reasons, ranging from being able to put it on their CV, to seeing themselves as ‘real’ writers. They have even nominated me for a teaching prize for doing this project with them!

Sadly, one student plagiarised. Knowingly. She said that she was so worried her writing wouldn’t be good enough, so she ‘borrowed’ large chunks of texts from an MA dissertation which is available online. Her writing partner didn’t catch it, and was very upset that their chapter would (discreetly!) not be included in the ebook. He was very apologetic to me; and probably also quite angry at her. If the reason she gave was true, it obviously rings alarm bells that I was expecting too much from the students or didn’t support them enough. I will aim to remedy this in future. It could, of course, just have been an excuse.

Also, some other students reported feeling that this project demanded more work from them than they would normally have to put into a class where the grade doesn’t count. Maybe this is because writing in a pair can take more time and negotiation, or maybe they also felt stressed by having to write their text during term time, rather than in the semester break when they would normally do their written assessments. Overall, though, the complaints were limited and often seemed to be clearly outweighed by the pride and enjoyment of being involved in such a great project!

I’m really pleased with how this project panned out, and would recommend other teachers give it a go! I’m very happy to answer any questions in the comments below, and for now, I wish you inspiration and happy ebook-project-planning! 🙂

 

 

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Exhibiting CLIL: Developing student skills through project-based learning

Exhibiting CLIL: Developing student skills through project-based learning

Dr Jenny Skipp

Exhibiting CLIL: Developing Student Skills through project-based learning

My dear colleague Jenny has just held  her first ever presentation at an iatefl conference!

It was a very well delivered talk, with a perfect balance of theory and practical ideas teachers can adapt into their own teaching. It’ll probably be of most interest with young adult learners, and also for teachers looking for ways to stretch their advanced learners. Want to know what she talked about? Look no further, here’s a summary:

Jenny presented a CLIL project she ran with a post-grad British cultural studies class at Trier University (Germany). Cultural studies classes in this context are for advanced EFL learners and thus have two aims – language learning and learning about content, in this case a particular British cultural topics. Making them good examples of CLIL.

Based on Coyle et al’s conceptualisation of CLIL as encompassing four Cs, content, cognition, communication, and culture, Jenny and I devised project-based British Cultural Studies classes, which she then took as the basis of an investigation of the opportunities it afforded for developing language and academic skills.

The project was setting up an exhibition on the topic of the course, which would be open to all staff and students at the University. The students in the course are working at a C1-2 language level. How do you test C2 level?? Jenny thinks an exhibition might be one way.

Previous Culture Studies courses had required students to hold an in-class presentation and write a final essay. We hoped this project would prevent them from only seeing their presentations or essay topics as isolated from what their peers were doing, which we believe was limiting to students in their language acquisition and practice, as they worked on making the exhibition as a collective whole.

Over the course of the term, students had round table discussions in lesson time, gave ‘work in progress’ oral reports on their exhibits in pairs to prompt discussion, and collaboratively wrote a concept paper to present the content and flow of the exhibition. They thus used the language of team work and of exhibit design, and were given feedback on it orally. On the exhibition day we also monitored their interaction with visitors, as they were explaining their exhibit topic to non expert peers and staff from various academic departments. After the exhibition, students wrote short individual essays at end of course.

So, what opportunities were really provided for language acquisition and practice?

Here, Jenny assessed this through the lens of the language tryptic described by Coyle et al. She explained, very convincingly, how studentrs developed…

Language Of Learning – general subject language, which is easily learnt or already known, in this case there were some concrete terms that stuck out to surveyed students- “popular vs mass culture” “identity”, “economic/economical”

Language For Learning – in this category, Jenny saw feedback languages used when evaluating others’ work in progress, language for data collection such as creating interview or survey questions, linguistic analyses, and differing register and synonyms and expressions for describing the exhibition to different visitors.

Language Through Learning– figurative and idiomatic language, new words & how to use them naturally, academic register, and colloquial expressions, were all mentioned by students. But not just specific words, it was also evident that students developed new ways of talking about concepts and their topics.

75% of the students, who were surveyed after the end of the course, perceived good opportunities for topic specific language learning during the term-long preparation, and 82% during the exhibition. And in their essays they demonstrated a noticeable improvement in this and general language naturalness.

Jenny was really pleased to see students talking to exhibition visitors about exhibits – they were seen to be paraphrasing for a non-expert audience, lower level undergrads, or using formal register with more informed lecturers — this ability to adapt language to play around, scale up or down their language to explain their understanding of complex topics to different people would seem to be one way to show C2 level language competence!

Academic skills were trained by this project, too – HOTs that fit into the ‘cognition’ C, with students analysing data from many sources, evaluating & synthesising it to make their exhibition. Jenny found she could tick all the boxes, as it were, of Coonan’s taxonomy. Students also noticed these opportunities for criticality.

Overall, then, it seems that both linguistic & conceptual techniques, and communicative competences  were practised and developed by this CLIL project, as well as cognitive abilities and transferable skills such as collaboration, organisation, teamwork, students perceived this, and demonstrated it in both their exhibition and essays. The final C was also addressed in this project, with students demonstrating expanded cultural sensitivity and international perspective.

This research, and Jenny’s compellung pkug for CLIL, shows that a project as a collaborative event facilitates the use, practice & feedback of language, as well as key skills! Try it yourself!

Slides and materials available from:

Skipp@uni-trier.de

Read more: Jenny Skipp & Clare Maas, Content & Integrated Learning: In Theory and In Practice, Modern English Teacher, April 2017.

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CLIL in Practice – An Example Activity

CLIL in Practice – An Example Activity

What is CLIL? 

2200500024_e93db99b61.jpgThe acronym CLIL stands for “Content and language integrated learning” and was coined by David Marsh to denote an approach to language teaching with a dual aim, namely learning a foreign langauge and simultaneously learning something new about a subject, new content.  

In their 2010 book, Coyle, Hood & Marsh present four components – the 4Cs  – of CLIL

Content (What are the learning outcomes regarding the subject content?).

Cognition (What higher-order thinking skills are included to encourage meaningful learning?). 

Communication (What language and skills will be learnt and what langauge and skill swill be practised?).

Culture (How can the activity promote awareness and tolerance in students, and an interest in looking beyond the ‘self’?) 

Here is an example lesson project that encompasses the 4Cs of CLIL:

Example CLIL Project: Mock general election

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In this project, one class group is one constituency in the UK. If you have several class groups, each of them can represent one constituency. If students or teacher need a basic introduction to egovenment/parliament and elections in the UK, the PPT below can be used [3].

Students in the class / in each class are divided into~5x pairs or small groups , each of which represents one of the main British political parties (e.g. Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens). Each group nominates one candidate, whose name will appear on the ballot paper (the teacher should make these [1]).

In their party groups, students research the general philosophy of their party and use the party’s website and other promotional material to inform themselves about the main policy ideas of their party. This can be done as homework or in class, and can be supported by providing a webquest or worksheet where necessary – this can also be used to introduce and practise key election / political vocabulary. If this is done in class, with further research at home, the teacher could also provide basic information about the parties to help guide students [2].

Once they have a general idea about their party, students should create a slogan to accompany their election campaign. This can also be written or edited after the next stage.

Students are asked to choose 4-5 main policy areas which they deem most relevant to the target voters in their constituency, and to find examples or data which support their party’s policies in these areas. The teacher could also provide statistics, graphs, etc. as data which the students can analyse  to find the most pertinent points for supporting their party’s ideas. This can also be done as homework, and students can then divide up the policy areas to research.

Students watch an example party political broadcast – this should be from a party that is not being used in the mock election, so as to avoid unfair advantage! Students should be guided to notice useful phrses or features of the language (& persuasive techniques) used in the broadcast, and should take note of these. This is best done in class so the teacher can monitor the language noted. A worksheet could be provided with questions to guide students’ attention to specific points of the speech.

eu-parliament-strasbourg.jpgFocussing on the policy areas they have chosen and the supporting evidence they have analysed, and employing the language features they noted down from the party political broadcast, the party groups then create short speeches / party political broadcasts (max. 5 mins) to present and promote their policy ideas to the class group (=target voters). To ensure that all students speak, each one can present one policy idea. Students can also create one poster or PPT slide to advertise their party, main policies, and candidate.

Whilst listening to the parties’ speeches, the audience takes notes on the key policies and how well supported they are in the speech. They can be instructed to use these notes to make their decision about who to vote for.

ballot-1294935_960_720.pngOnce all of the speeches have been heard, the room can be re-arranged to make polling booths, where students will be able to cast their vote anonymously. The teacher hands out the ballot papers, and provides a ballot box for the students to cast their vote in.

Either the teacher, or 2 nominated students count the votes and present the results.

 

As an extension, students can be invited to discuss the electoral system and analyse the results – this could also be given as a homework writing task.

Materials

[3] PPT on government/parliament and elections in the UK: PPT UK Elections

[2] Basic information about political parties (adapted from YVote): Election-political-parties info

[1] Ballot papers (adapted from YVote): Election-ballot-papers_enlarged_with-text-fields

The 4Cs of CLIL in the example activity

CONTENT

  • Understanding the electoral system (first-past-the-post) of UK general elections
  • Understanding the general approaches and some main policy ideas of key political parties in the UK
  • Understanding the principles of British democracy, parliament and government

 

COGNITION

  • Analysing input texts for biased information
  • Analysing data regarding policy topics
  • Evaluating relevance of various policy topics to the class group (=target voters)
  • Synthesising information from various sources into speech

 

COMMUNICATION

  • Election-specific language 
  • Argumentational language and techniques of persuasion 
  • Grammar for referring to future time
  • Public speaking skills
  • Functional / operational language to facilitate group work

 

CULTURE

  • Promoting tolerance of various political views
  • Comparison links to political parties in students’ home country/ies
  • Actively engaging students with the issues around them
  • Helping address the trend of voter disengagement amongst young people
  • Enabling students to become informed and questioning citizens

Introduction to CLIL – Content & Language Integrated Learning

I am currently co-teaching a class on cultural studies and how culture can be taught and used within an EFL classroom. Imagine my surprise on hearing that my students – future EFL teachers at German secondary schools – had never heard of CLIL. The last couple of IATEFL conferences have been brimming with presentations and discussions about content and language integrated learning, but it seems not everyone has heard about this trend. And even those who have heard about it are not really sure what it means, particularly what it could mean for their teaching.

And so I set my students a project – to devise key questions that arose when they first heard about CLIL, and to produce a resource for introducing it to other teachers. They have agreed to let me publish their work here, partly to reach an authentic audience, and partly to introduce other teachers to CLIL who may not yet have heard about it or understood how they could use it in their own teaching setting.  I have added only slight edits to what my student teachers produced to make it more accessible to a more international audience. We would love to hear what you think about this introductory information – please use the contact form below or add your comments!

The following introduction to CLIL was researched and written by Juliane H., Helena L., Constanze Q.-M., Timon B. and Thomas H., and edited by me and Carol E. 

CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning

Key Questions:

  1. How is CLIL defined by different people?
  2. What do I need to know to use CLIL?
  3. What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of CLIL?
  4. Is CLIL used in the German school system?

1) How is CLIL defined?

Hartmut Ebke:
CLIL refers to the teaching of a current subject other than foreign languages in more than one language.

British Council Teaching English:
CLIL has become the umbrella term describing both learning another (content) subject such as physics or geography through the medium of a foreign language and learning a foreign language by studying a content-based subject.

European Commission’s Eurydice Report:
The acronym CLIL is used as a generic term to describe all types of provision in which a second language (a foreign, regional or minority language and/or another official state language) is used to teach certain subjects in the curriculum other than the language lessons themselves.

Summary:
The most important fact all three definitions share is that new content, i.e. information/factual knowledge that the learners did not previously know,  is taught in a foreign language. In some cases this is called “bilingual education” , where subjects such as math, biology or physics are taught in a foreign language such as French or English. As we can see from these different definitions, CLIL can therefore take various forms which fall along a continuum between teaching an entire school subject through the foreign language, and using input on information students didn’t know before to teach them some new language points.

In many EFL classrooms, factual information and understanding of the target culture is transmitted, which is new to the learners, and this input is used as the basis for language exercises. For example, a text about a certain aspect of life in the UK can be looked at either from a content or from a language perspective. The same input is therefore used to teach both content and language in an integrated manner. Many EFL or other MFL teachers do this in the lessons, without considering it anything special or thinking of it explicitly as CLIL. In many definitions, though, this is what CLIL is, in a less “intense form than providing pupils with an entirely bilingual education.

2) What do I need to know to use CLIL?

For EFL teachers wanting to include some CLIL in their teaching, the standard principles of good teaching and organising a good lesson apply. However, there are a couple of points to bear in mind when starting to use CLIL with your learners.

  • To make the first CLIL-lessons easy to follow, they should be clearly structured and pupils may need to be informed about the dual aims of each lessons.
  • To support pupils getting used to CLIL, the teacher may want to allow them to speak in their L1  to clarify points, ask questions, etc, to ensure that content is not lost due to being taught in a foreign language.
  • A group of pupils may be overwhelmed if they start learning through CLIL in subjects at the same time – this might lead to “cognitive overload“ and content and/or language points may not be retained.
  • The teacher can further support his/her pupils by providing authentic language input in the target language, by working with word lists and explaining key words in context with examples, by training learners in pre-reading/pre-listening strategies specific to the subject area, and by exploring cultural knowledge comparatively with their native culture.
  • In CLIL-lessons, pupils should encouraged to view themselves as learning in real-life situations because it helps them to acquire the foreign language “naturally”, as they have done their L1.
  • Pupils should not only have receptive but also productive skills in order to acquire a foreign language step by step. If pupils did not have any of these skills, the new teaching approach would probably not work out. (student-centred & task-based learning) .
  • Teachers should employ a wide variety of media so that learners “have access to many forms of non-lingual information“ (pictures, films, graphs etc.) in case they have not fully understood the explanations of content in the target language.
  • The teacher should also create tasks that “allow learners to express themselves in a non-verbal way“ (paintings, music etc.) if the focus is on testing understanding of the content.
  • The teacher may also want to include silent periods“ in the lessons which make it possible that pupils can “decide themselves when they want to participate verbally“ and give pupils time to digest the new information – the information load may be larger than in normal content or language classes (taught separately), so this is more important than normal.

3) What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of CLIL?

Advantages:

  • Especially teachers in Germany could profit from CLIL, because teacher training in Germany involves two subjects
  • Especially students with a keen interest in subjects, e.g. natural sciences, history or social sciences may simultaneously be more motivated to improve their language skills in order to understand the contents of the subjects they are interested in
  • Pupils can access subject-specific language terminology they might otherwise not learn
  • Students can develop intercultural communication skills and learn to use language to communicate authentic information and research in intercultural situations.
  • Due to the points above, it can lead to improved overall language competence
  • There is the possibility of gaining international certification
  • It may prepare pupils for their future studies and/ or working life more effectively than standard EFL teaching
  • Alongside language, they acquire cultural knowledge and understanding of a specific subject

Disadvantages:

  • One condition for teaching CLIL is that teachers need training in two subjects, one of them of course being the target language. Keep in mind that in many countries teachers receive training only in one subject
  • Students struggling with the target language could also have difficulties in understanding the contents  using in CLIL
  • Students might not acquire subject-specific terminology in their mother tongue
  • Currently, there is a shortage of teaching materials for CLIL. Teachers have to produce their own materials on various topics at various language levels; a task which can be very time-consuming

4) Is CLIL used in the German school system? 

CLIL is used in around 700 different schools of different school types in Germany but projects show that the concept of CLIL has never been a part of teacher- training programs. Typically, CLIL is practiced in Germany in the following contexts:

Schools: mainly grammar schools, but also Realschule. Comprehensive and vocational schools have also started making use of this type of education.

With the following languages: mostly English and French, but also Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Russian (these last four in very few schools)

Subjects which are taught completely in bilingual education: in most cases Geography, History, Politics, but also Social Science, Biology, Physical Education, Art, Music, Physics and Mathematics. 4
See here for an example: The CLIL approach in North Rhine-Westphalia

1 Primary schools

The CLIL approach is mostly not applied in German primary-education. For further information click on the link below
https://clil-lote-start.uta.fi/en/teaching/primary-education

2 Secondary schools
In year five and six the learners sometimes have the chance to prepare for CLIL by taking two additional English classes, but usually CLIL starts in year five and lasts until year ten. It is generally applied in geography first and later in history and/or political science. Depending on the school, students can continue in the upper level courses by taking “Grundkurse” with the CLIL approach. If they continue taking a course with the CLIL approach until year 13, it will be part of the Abitur and their certificate will include a note explaining which course was taken bilingually (Abendroth-Timmer 2007; Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009, p.153)
Click link for more information: 

Vocational schools
In the field of vocational schools the Content and Language Integrated Learning method can also be used. It is more a self- contained learning with modules provided in which the focus is clearly job- related and with reference to later applications and professions. (Abendroth-Timmer, 2007)
Click for Further information

4 Universities 
“Until recently there has neither been any pre-service nor any in-service training. Most CLIL teachers learn the CLIL-specific aspects of their profession in the field, i.e while they are teaching in CLIL classes. Now some German universities (including Wuppertal) offer an additional pre-service teacher training programme for students who want to qualify as CLIL teachers.” (Wolff)
Click for Further information