CBI at the Comunity College: Is it Feasible?


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CBI at the Community College Level: Is it Feasible?

Content-based instruction (CBI) refers to the teaching of language through exposure to content that is interesting and relevant to learners. This content serves several purposes. First, it provides a rich context for the language classroom, allowing the teacher to present and explain specific language features. Additionally, it addresses the learners’ need for cognitively challenging input that can both facilitate language acquisition and help foster critical thinking skills.

In their pioneering volume on CBI (1989), Brinton, Snow, and Wesche identified three prototype models of CBI—theme-based, sheltered, and adjunct—documenting their implementation in a variety of ESL/EFL contexts. Additional “hybrid” models of these three prototypes have continued to evolve as institutional experiences with CBI expand.

Although many agree with the teaching/learning concepts that underlie CBI as an approach to second language instruction, numerous factors can impede its successful implementation. In this 90-minute workshop, panelists explore the question of whether CBI is feasible in the California community college context. Following a brief orientation to CBI, presenters from five California community college programs provide details on existing CBI programs at their community colleges. They then discuss successes and challenges in implementing CBI at the community college with respect to a variety of issues, including the selection of content or discipline areas, program design, funding, and administrative concerns. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and share their own experiences.


Donna M. Brinton
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA

Nancy Sander
West Los Angeles College
Culver City, CA

Sharon Jaffe
Santa Monica College
Santa Monica, CA

Patricia Kelly
Southwestern College
Chula Vista, CA

Marsha Chan
Mission College
Santa Clara, California

Barbara Luther
Saddleback College
Mission Viejo, CA

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CBI at the Comunity College: Is it Feasible?

  1. 1. CBI at the Community College Level: Is it Feasible? Donna M. Brinton, University of Southern California Nancy Sander, West Los Angeles College Sharon Jaffe, Santa Monica College Patricia Kelly, Southwestern College Marsha Chan, Mission College Barbara Luther, Saddleback College
  2. 2. Session schedule Time Topic Presenter(s) 9:00 Welcome and introduction of panel participants Donna 9:05 Overview of CBI and its models Donna 9:30 Description of CC programs Panel participants 9:55 Questions to participants Donna 10:20 Additional questions from audience All 10:30 End of session
  3. 3. Overview <ul><li>Content-based instruction (CBI) is the integration of selected content with language teaching aims. Applicable to both ESL and EFL instructional settings, CBI is a flexible approach that is constantly evolving. This panel will provide descriptions of current models of CBI, present descriptions of CBI programs currently being implemented in California community colleges, and discuss issues involved in implementing the model at this level. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Origins of CBI <ul><li>CBI is often traced to the appearance of Mohan’s Language and Content . In this text, Mohan claimed that… </li></ul><ul><li>language should and could not be taught in isolation from content; </li></ul><ul><li>authentic content provided the richest and most natural context for language teaching to occur. </li></ul>Mohan (1986)
  5. 5. Defining CBI <ul><li>. . .we define content-based instruction as the integration of particular content with language-teaching aims. More specifically . . . it refers to the concurrent teaching of academic subject matter and second language skills. The language curriculum is based directly on the academic needs of the students </li></ul>
  6. 6. Defining CBI, cont’d. <ul><li>and generally follows the sequence determined by a particular subject matter in dealing with the language problems which students encounter. The focus for students is on acquiring information via the second language and, in the process, developing their academic language skills. </li></ul>Brinton, Snow, & Wesche (2003, p. 2)
  7. 7. Some basic CBI premises <ul><li>The goal of CBI is to provide a meaningful context for language teaching to occur. </li></ul><ul><li>This context is provided through the theme or academic content that is selected as the organizing principle. </li></ul><ul><li>Content drives the curriculum, i.e., it is the starting point for decisions about language selection and sequencing. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Basic premises, cont’d. <ul><li>Language and content are taught concurrently. </li></ul><ul><li>Comprehensible input, provided through the content materials, fosters language acquisition. </li></ul><ul><li>Overt attention to language and skill instruction complements the input students receive via the content materials; this focus on form leads to comprehensible output. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The “prototype” models CBI Theme-Based Sheltered Adjunct
  10. 10. Theme-based instruction <ul><li>Theme-based instruction refers to instruction that focuses on specific themes of interest and relevance to the learners. The themes provide the point of departure for skill- and language-based instruction. They create the organizing principle for the course. Typically, themes extend over several weeks and provide rich input that allows learners to acquire the L2. </li></ul>Brinton, Snow, & Wesche ( 2003)
  11. 11. Example #1 <ul><li>Multi-skills ESL/EFL course </li></ul><ul><li>In this type of course, each module is organized around a different theme, e.g., </li></ul><ul><li>Extreme sports </li></ul><ul><li>Voluntourism </li></ul><ul><li>Your green footprint </li></ul><ul><li>Smart cars </li></ul>
  12. 12. Example #2 English for Academic Purposes (EAP) writing course Advanced ESL writing course in which students investigate homelessness in the U.S. via essays, academic text excerpts, a short story, and a documentary video. Critical thinking and writing skills are stressed. Christine Holten (personal communication)
  13. 13. Sheltered instruction <ul><li>Sheltered instruction refers to instructional models in which students with gaps in their L2 proficiency are separated from the mainstream. The medium of content instruction is the students’ L2, with the content instructors receiving specialized training in sheltering techniques. In this manner, they help students to access the content material. </li></ul>Brinton, Snow, & Wesche (2003)
  14. 14. Sheltered instruction, cont’d. <ul><li>The students’ exposure to rich academic language and complex concepts provides optimal conditions for second language acquisition to occur. </li></ul>Brinton, Snow, & Wesche (2003)
  15. 15. Example 9 th grade sheltered English This class follows the regular English 9 syllabus but enrolls only non-native English speakers. Students read well-known short stories and an abridged version of Great Expectations . The teacher includes additional vocabulary exercises and provides students with extra study questions. Adamson (1993)
  16. 16. Adjunct instruction <ul><li>Adjunct instruction refers to instructional models in which a content and language course are paired. The two instructors collaborate to dovetail their instructional objectives. The content course provides the point of departure; language objectives are identified with respect to students’ linguistic needs in the content class. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Adjunct instruction, cont’d. <ul><li>Second language acquisition occurs 1) through exposure to high-level, challenging language in the content course and 2) through the systematic academic language instruction provided in the language course. </li></ul>Brinton, Snow, & Wesche (2003)
  18. 18. Example Freshman Summer Program 1 st year university students attend a summer bridge program to prepare them for the demands of the university. The program involves an EAP course paired with a general education course (e.g., Introduction to Psychology, Human Geography, Political Science). Academic preparation is stressed. Brinton, Snow, & Wesche (2003)
  19. 19. Example Glendale Community College Based on an initiative proposed by the College Access Program, ESL instructor Young Gee conducted a needs analysis of his students; based on this analysis he paired his advanced reading and writing class with the social science class “Asians in America.” Gee (1997)
  20. 20. Fast forward 20 years…
  21. 21. CBI as an evolving architecture… <ul><li>CBI models continue to “flex” as new contexts emerge where the application of CBI is relevant. </li></ul><ul><li>When we originally wrote Content-Based Second Language Instruction in 1989, we could not envision the scope of CBI’s influence. </li></ul><ul><li>The three original prototype models that we proposed were our attempt to capture the reality of what was happening on the CBI scene at the time. </li></ul>
  22. 22. “ Prototype” models <ul><li>“ A benefit of viewing theme-based , sheltered , and adjunct as “prototype” models is that it will allow “consideration of other content-based variations which combine features of the three prototype models.” </li></ul>Brinton, Snow, & Wesche (1989/2003, p. 23)
  23. 23. CBI today: The evolving architecture Brinton (2007) CBI Theme-Based Sheltered Adjunct Sustained Content Modified Adjunct Simulated Adjunct Modified Sheltered Other “ Hybrids” LEI
  24. 24. Applicability to the local context <ul><li>Is CBI feasible at the community college (CC) level? </li></ul><ul><li>If so, which “prototype” model would be best? </li></ul><ul><li>What type of adaptations in the model might have to be made? </li></ul><ul><li>Is there administrative support for CBI? </li></ul><ul><li>What barriers to implementation exist? </li></ul>
  25. 25. Feasibility <ul><li>CBI is feasible at the CC level, as witness recent comments on the CC listserv: </li></ul>… the CBI course [was] very successful because it had academic rigor… the content was Art History… so we used the dense Art History text. Students also had to attend field trips and articulate with native speaking students at art museums. The Art History course was online and the ESL course was hybrid, so the students also learned… computer literacy. Students who passed both courses tended to do very well in Freshman English. The Art History course is a transferable, AA degree applicable course for Humanities. Sander (2010)
  26. 26. Some recent documented CC successes <ul><li>West Los Angeles College, Los Angeles </li></ul><ul><li>Title V-funded adjunct Art History/Advanced Writing and Reading online course </li></ul><ul><li>Southwestern College, Chula Vista </li></ul><ul><li>4-level theme-based curriculum </li></ul><ul><li>ESL adjunct course paired with Child Development </li></ul>
  27. 27. Documented successes, continued <ul><li>Saddleback College, Mission Viejo </li></ul><ul><li>ESL adjunct courses paired with Psychology and Cultural Anthropology </li></ul><ul><li>Mission College, Santa Clara </li></ul><ul><li>Sheltered content courses in Child Care and Child Development </li></ul><ul><li>Santa Monica College </li></ul><ul><li>ESL adjunct courses paired with Nursing and Child Development </li></ul>
  28. 28. Which model? <ul><li>The choice of CBI model should be tailored to the specific contexts in which it is used. </li></ul><ul><li>Any of the models presented above are possible in the CC context. </li></ul><ul><li>However, decisions should take into account student language proficiency, teacher competence, and a host of other factors. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Parting remarks <ul><li>The CBI syllabus provides an effective means of integrating language and content that is motivating to students. </li></ul><ul><li>It provides one possible option for ESL/EFL curriculum developers. </li></ul><ul><li>The infusion of challenging content into the language lesson reflects the reality of academic challenges that students face across the curriculum. </li></ul>
  30. 30. Ultimately… <ul><li>CBI’s success will depend on a number of locally-determined factors, including the availability of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>pre- and in-service teacher education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>administrative support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>faculty “buy-in” to the model </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>well-designed, challenging, and motivating instructional materials </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>appropriate assessment measures </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Questions to panelists <ul><li>Did you secure outside funding for your program? If so, what were the sources of this funding and how did you obtain it? </li></ul><ul><li>What types of logistical barriers did you encounter when launching your CBI program? How did you solve them? </li></ul><ul><li>What teacher training or materials development issues did you face? </li></ul><ul><li>What do you see as the long-term viability of the program currently in place at your institution? </li></ul>
  32. 32. Additional questions? Contact us… Donna M. Brinton, USC [email_address] Nancy Sander, West LA College [email_address] Sharon Jaffe Santa Monica College [email_address] Patricia Kelly Southwestern College [email_address] Marsha Chan Mission College [email_address] Barbara Luther Saddleback College [email_address]
  33. 33. References <ul><li>Adamson, H. D. (1993). Academic competence—theory and classroom practice: Preparing ESL students for content courses . New York: Longman. </li></ul><ul><li>Brinton, D. M., Snow, M. A., & Wesche, M. B. (2003). Content-based second language instruction (classics ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan. </li></ul><ul><li>Brinton, D. M. (2007, July). Two for one? Language enhanced instruction . Paper delivered at the TESOL ESP Symposium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Available at: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/trc_genform.asp?CID=1253&DID=7561 </li></ul>
  34. 34. References, cont’d. <ul><li>Gee, Y. (1997). ESL and content teachers: Working effectively in adjunct courses. In M. A. Snow & D. M. Brinton (Eds.), The content-based classroom (pp. 324-330). White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman. </li></ul><ul><li>Mohan, B. (1986). Language and content . Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. </li></ul><ul><li>Murphy, J. M., & Stoller, F. L. (Eds.). (2001, Summer/Autumn). Sustained-content language teaching: An emerging definition. TESOL Journal, 10 (2/3). [Special theme issue] </li></ul>