Content based instruction


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Content based instruction

  1. 1. 25Content-Based InstructionYoon (Christina) HeoAbstractContent-Based Instruction (CBI) has been found to be an effective approach to teaching English as a second languagebecause with CBI, students can develop their language skills as well as gain access to new concepts through meaningfulcontent. This paper reviews general information about the features of CBI, including its theoretical foundations andmodels. The paper also covers several issues to be considered in the application of CBI such as assessment of languageand content, teacher education, and the use of CBI in the EFL classroom. The relationship between CBI and skill-based instruction, particularly in the teaching of writing, will also be discussed. Finally, I suggest that CBI can fit inwell with broader principles of language teaching and learning in both ESL and EFL situations.IntroductionContent-Based Instruction (CBI) has been consider for an effective use of Content-defined as “the teaching of content or in- Based ESL Instruction, including types, syl-formation in the language being learned labus design, and materials of CBI (Davies,with little or no direct or explicit effort to 2003).teach the language itself separately from thecontent being taught” (Krahnke, as cited in Theoretical FoundationsRichards & Rodgers, 2001, p. 204). This Content-Based Instruction is based on threeteaching approach is considered by many main theories of language: “language is text-researchers an effective and realistic teach- and discourse-based,” “language use drawsing method in terms of combining language on integrated skills,” and “language is pur-and content learning. According to Crandall poseful” (p. 208). First, in Content-Based(1999), CBI can be used in various ways de- Instruction, language teaching focuses onpending on the skills being taught and in- how information and meaning from mean-cludes not only traditional teaching methods ingful content are utilized in discourse orsuch as grammar-based instruction or vo- texts, not in single sentences. Next, thecabulary development but also contempo- skills of the target language are not separaterary approaches such as communicative from each other, and they together are in-language teaching and humanistic methods volved in all activities. For example, stu-(p. 604). CBI is also supported by Krashen’s dents in CBI are supposed to “read and take“Monitor Model”: if students are given notes, listen and write a summary, or re-comprehensible input, it is less difficult to spond orally to things they have read orlearn the target language, and as a result, written” (p. 208). Moreover, grammar isthey can acquire (verses. learn) it. Krashen considered a component of all language(1982) emphasized ways of decreasing skills, not a separate one for language learn-learner anxiety, such as providing interesting ing. Lastly, using language is always for atexts as well as meaningful activities, which certain purpose, and a key purpose of usingare comprehensible to learners, and CBI has language is to communicate meaning (pp.the following essential features: “learning a 208-209).language through academic content, engag- According to Richards and Rodgersing in activities, developing proficiency in (2001), “language is purposeful” (p. 208).academic discourse, fostering the develop- When learners have purposes, which mayment of effective learning strategies” (Cran- be “academic, vocational, social, or recrea-dall, p. 604). Thus, this methodology puts tional,” and concentrate on them, they canemphasis on “learning about something rather be motivated depending on how much theirthan learning about language” (p. 604). There interest can be in their purposes (p. 208).are several issues which teachers should Language also includes the main purpose,
  2. 2. 26communication. To give students compre- teaching method in terms of “contextual-hensible input for their purposes, teachers ized language curricula” (Brinton, Snow, &have to ponder how teachers would be able Wesche, 1989, as cited in Kasper, 2000,to communicate with students in the target p. 4).language. Stryker and Leaver (1993), as cited Cummins’s two-tiered skill modelin Richards and Rodgers (2001), suggested (1981), as cited in Kasper (2000), showedthat teachers use the following examples: that students should be supposed to de- Foreigner talk or modifications that velop these language skills through CBI: make the content more understand- BICS, basic interpersonal communication skills able: modification includes simplifica- (“the ability to converse with others and to tion (e.g., use of shorter T units and articulate needs in the L2”) and CALP, cogni- clauses), well-formedness (e.g., using tive academic language proficiency (“the ability to few deviations from standard usage), use the L2 both to understand complex, of- explicitness (e.g., speaking with nonre- ten decontextualized linguistic structures, duced pronunciation), regularization and to analyze, explore, and deconstruct the (e.g., use of canonical word order), and concepts presented in academic texts”) (p. redundancy (e.g., highlighting impor- 5). Cummins’s main idea was that it would tant materials through simultaneous be impossible for ESL learners to acquire use of several linguistic mechanism. academic language skills from general ESL (p. 209) classes and everyday conversation; to de- The views above are the foundations velop these skills, which the learners need inof Content-Based Instruction, and the theo- the next step of academic courses and regu-retical importance of CBI is that through lar classes, they need “complex interdisci-CBI learners can “interact with authentic, plinary content” (p. 5). Therefore, content-contextualized, linguistically challenging ma- based ESL instruction needs to includeterials in a communicative and academic both the common features that other meth-context” (Richards & Rodgers, 2001, p. 4). ods have in ESL teaching and an integralCBI promotes three theoretical founda- part in language learning. Content-Basedtions: Krashen’s comprehensible input hy- Instruction is used not only for teaching thepothesis, Cummins’s two-tiered skill model, target language, which is the same goal ofand cognitive learning theory, which will be other methods, but also for providing “aexplained below. less abrupt transition before programs” Krashen (1985) explained the differ- (Crandall, 1995, p. 6).ence between learning and acquisition: even The third foundation of CBI is cogni-though both terms are used to describe sec- tive learning theory, in which it is believedond language skill development, acquisition that learning is accumulated and developedis more closely related to the process of first in several stages: first, the cognitive stage (thelanguage development, while learning is of- learners are developing the language skillsten the case for second language develop- through the required tasks), then, the associa-ment (p. 4). For example, immigrants to the tive stage (they are more improved and haveUS who are at young ages (i.e., before the strengthened their skills, but still need sup-critical period) may be said to acquire Eng- port to accomplish the tasks), and finally,lish as a second language. They can develop the autonomous stage (they are able to “per-the target language as their native language. form the tasks automatically and autono-Learning, on the other hand, involves adult mously”) (Anderson, 1983, as cited inlearners such as those in ESL courses plan- Kasper, 2000, p. 5). This theory maintainsning to enter a university in the United the idea that students progress in theirStates. Thus, Krashen believed that learning learning through the stages listed above anda second language should be similar to ac- that students require “extensive practice andquisition if it is to be effective: the focus of feedback, as well as instruction in the use ofacquisition is on meaning rather than form. various strategies” (Kasper, 2000, p. 5).From this perspective, CBI is an effective
  3. 3. 27 In addition to these theories, Richards gested that teacher should think about –and Rodgers (2001) introduced another “(a) learning a language by studying of aca-view on learning, which shows additional demic text, (b) focusing student attentionassumptions underlying the principles of on underlying knowledge and discourseCBI: structures of academic text, (c) developing People learn a second language most students’ learning strategies, (d) focusing on successfully when the information they holistic language development through inte- are acquiring is perceived as interesting, grated thematic units, (e) developing aca- useful, and leading to a desired goal. demic language, skills, and discourse Some content areas are more useful as through the use of texts, tasks, and themes a basis for language learning than oth- drawn from other content areas, and (f) fo- ers. Students learn best when instruc- cusing on the development of tasks, themes, tion addresses students’ needs. Teach- and topics” (Crandall, 1999, p. 606). Thus, ing builds on the previous experience in content-based language instruction, of the learners. (pp. 209-211) teachers should account for academic con- Moreover, Snow and Brinton (1988) cepts and language skills at the same time.studied “essential modes of academic writ- According to Davison and Williams (2001),ing, academic reading, study skills develop- as cited in Stoller (2004), courses taughtment and the treatment of persistent struc- through CBI present students with themestural errors” (p. 556). According to their related to academic concepts so they canstudy, the activities of CBI could enable learn the language they need depending onlearners to learn the target language by syn- “the weighting of different curricular ele-thesizing all information and the new input ments” (p. 268). As an example model,from meaningful and authentic text and Martin (1990), as cited in Stryker and Leavercontent. It could also make them integrate (1997) proposed? to initiate this approachthe four traditional skills through discus- with “thematic modules” from Krashen’ssions and writing about the materials. In aspect (p. 14). It was found to be? an effi-addition, if “a strong network of tutorial cient? approach to try to apply CBI to theand counseling services, as well as an on- existing program, but teachers did not needcampus residential program and an organ- to totally change all elements that the pro-ized recreational and social program” can be gram had. They needed to make only mini-offered to students, CBI can provide stu- mal changes. Martin used “the modulardents with effective benefits in their learn- format,” which “is self-contained and,ing with the original content (p. 556). therefore, flexible, movable, and relatively inexpensive to implement since elaborateModels of CBI interdisciplinary collaboration is not re-To design a content-based lesson, teachers quired” (p. 15).should consider their linguistic, strategic, There are several general subjects thatand cultural objectives. Through the class, are used in CBI: mathematics, science, andstudents are supposed to improve their social studies. Cuevas (1981), as cited inEnglish skills, to learn strategies to be ap- Crandall (1995), successfully introduced theplied in all subject areas, and to understand Second Language Approach to Mathematicsthe culture of English-speaking people Skills (SLAMS), which can be applied to(Richards & Rodgers, 2001, p. 211). More- regular mathematics lessons. It involves theover, according to Crandall (1999), second objectives of CBI through mastering thelanguage instructional models (as described mathematics concepts and the languageby several researchers including Edward skills. Thus, SLAMS was made up of two(1984), Milk (1990), Mohan (1986), Tang strands, one focusing on mathematics con-(1993), Chamot (1994), O’Malley (1994), tent and the other, language skills (p. 32).Enright (1988), McCloskey (1988), Spanos Kessler and Quinn (n.d.), as cited in Cran-(1990), and Grabe (1997)) should be con- dall (1995) introduced Science Learning andsidered with several features. They sug- Second Language Acquisition as an example
  4. 4. 28of CBI: the lesson gives learners new sci- this case, two teachers team teach. Oneence concepts through the text and enables teacher gives a short lecture and the otherthem to acquire the language skills (p. 71). teacher checks the students’ understandingWhile the learners interact with the new in- of the content and helps with any problems.put, they can develop their language skills. The other model, called the adjunct model,However, it is arguable that learners need a is a kind of “EPA (English Proficiency As-certain level of language fluency and profi- sessment) or ESP (English for Special Pur-ciency (p. 71). To support the positive side poses) class, where emphasis is placed onof CBI, Penfield and Ornstein-Garlicia acquiring specific target vocabulary” (Da-(1981), as cited in Crandall (1995) suggested vies, 2003). The classes are taught by ESLthat depending on the class situation, teach- teachers, and the main purpose is to enableers may use the learners’ first language to students to follow ordinary classes whichintroduce and discuss new scientific con- they are required to take with other studentscepts (pp. 71-72). The effectiveness of speaking English as their native language.teaching science through CBI is revealed in Some adjunctive classes are offered in thebilingual as well as monolingual English en- summer months before the beginning of avironments. English can be developed along regular semester.with learning science (p. 72). Finally, King,Fagan, Bratt, and Baer (n.d.), as cited in Assessment of Language andCrandall (1995), strongly believed that social Content in CBIstudies classes taught through CBI would be Assessment of CBI can be a problematicexcellent for second language development component, and yet it is critical that instruc-with the following class activities: “follow- tors evaluate students’ learning (Kasper,ing directions, reading maps and charts, out- 2000, p. 19). Student performance in mostlining, note-taking, using textbooks, prepar- ESL classes is evaluated by general assess-ing oral with written reports, interpreting ment tasks such as “discrete, decontextual-cartoons, and using library references” (p. ized tasks,” and their main focus is on lin-108). Students are encouraged to learn new guistic structure or vocabulary (pp. 19-20).subject matter and are able to apply specific However, students in CBI classes cannot belanguage skills for a certain purpose. Ac- evaluated in the traditional way because theycording to the researchers, social studies were exposed to more input and contentconcepts are the most meaningful concepts information through the class. According toto use when teaching language skills (p. 108). Kasper (2000), “designing authentic and in-Thus, using CBI in social studies classes of teractive content-based assessment” wasCBI may “enhance and accelerate students’ required because learners in CBI had tolanguage acquisition, as well as assist in the “complete discourse level tasks” and theacculturation process” (p. 113). skills evaluated in the assessment were in an Not all schools are able to offer classes academic setting (p. 20). Students are re-dedicated to CBI, but there are two alterna- quired to interact critically with academictives: the sheltered model and the adjunct materials in terms of meaningful and con-model of CBI (Davies, 2003). These enable textualized text to analyze their knowledgestudents both to learn English skills in an (p. 20). Assessment of CBI should not beESL class situation and to experience the simple and isolated; students must be re-language usage in a real situation with their quired “to integrate information, to form,English-speaking peers. The difference be- and to articulate their own opinions abouttween the models explained above and the the subject matter,” not to analyze the lin-sheltered model is that the students can ob- guistic structure of the target language (p.tain assistance from two teachers. Accord- 20).ing to an example in Davies (2003), this Crandall (1999) also mentioned that itmodel was effectively applied to speakers of would be impossible for teachers to “sepa-two languages, English and French, at the rate conceptual understanding from linguis-bilingual University of Ottawa. Generally, in tic proficiency” in CBI when they want to
  5. 5. 29evaluate students’ learning (p. 608). With is generally used in ESL, the teacher can de-that thought, he suggested that teachers sign a syllabus that includes broad and vari-could make assessment of students’ learning ous topics which students would be inter-through “paper and pencil tests to include ested in, and offer additional supplementsjournal entries, oral responses to questions from the Internet, newspapers, and otheror reports, demonstrations of understanding, diverse reading sources organized by topics.and student projects” (p. 608). In addition, This model is to teach both the content and“checklists or inventories” can be used to language skills. The CBI EFL teachersassess language development: it may show should care about assessment as much aseach student’s mastery of the lesson includ- their ESL counterparts. Continuous assess-ing concepts and structure (p. 608). These ment is needed in CBI and “daily quizzes,methods have been developed as alternative journals, and direct oral feedback” can bestrategies to assess students’ learning. used (Davies, 2003). Their teaching phi- losophy is that learners’ motivation may beTeacher Education for CBI highly activated by interesting topics andTeacher education is a complex issue in CBI. content and that learners need to enjoyStudents in a CBI class are supposed to learning. Therefore, theme-based CBI is thelearn the target language and some concepts best teaching approach for combining lan-related to the content at the same time. It guage learning and content learning (Davies,means that teachers should be knowledge- 2003).able in the two areas and effectively “com- Another positive CBI example isbine language and content instruction” shown in Adamson’s case study of teaching(Crandall, 1999, p. 608). According to sociolinguistics to Japanese and ChineseCrandall (1999), teachers who are to teach second grade students in Japan (Adamson,the target language with CBI have to be n.d., p. 1). Through “collaborative dia-trained in places where specialized teacher logue,” the CBI increased students’ per-training for CBI exists such as in Florida formance and also reduced students’ anxietyand California in the United States, and in related to interaction in class (Swain, year?Australia (p. 608). Moreover, teacher educa- as cited in Adamson, n.d., p.1). The studytion programs may be developed in collabo- describes “how multilingual collaboration inrative projects, which are done between sci- a sociolinguistics course has created an ac-ence or social studies teachers and language tive atmosphere where the discussion andteachers (p. 608). Therefore, to be an ESL negotiation of content-based meaning”teacher for CBI, one needs sufficient time (p. 9).to master “co-planed curriculum and in-struction” (p. 608). The Relationship between Content- Based and Skill-Based Instruction:Content-Based Instruction in the CBI and Teaching Writing SkillsEFL Classroom Shih (1986) showed that CBI can be effec-The interest in Content-Based Instruction tively used to teach writing. (p. 623). Ac-has spread to EFL classroom situations be- cording to Shih’s study, CBI is distinctivecause teachers believe that the language from the traditional approaches in four fea-education in those contexts should be more tures (p. 623). Students are supposed tolike ESL situations. Even though the ap- write something related to the text that theyproach cannot be applied in the same way, read or heard through lectures in class, andan alternative form called “the theme based the writing should be focused on “synthesismodel” has been introduced in some coun- and interpretation” of the new input (p.tries (Davies, 2003). According to Davies, 623). Writing here is not about personal oran EFL teacher and a content specialist can individual experiences, which were the mainteach together for the theme-based CBI, the topics of the traditional language classroom.content is not as limited or specific as in an Moreover, the class focused on “what isESL classroom. Instead of the content that said more than on how it is said,” which is
  6. 6. 30revealed in teachers’ responses to students’ skills through the text, and to think aboutwriting (p. 623). Even though the students specific subject matter critically (Shih, 1986,are learning the target language and their p. 640). In addition to Shih, Richards andperformance is limited, the skills required in Rodgers (2001) considered CBI “a means ofclass are integrated into the academic acquiring information rather than an end incourses. Finally, the topics for the classes itself”: learners succeed in learning the lan-are extended, and students are required to guage because CBI is enough to motivatethink critically, do research, and use lan- them, and it makes the class more effectiveguage abilities equivalent to those of stu- (p. 207). Moreover, this is the most impor-dents speaking English as their native lan- tant point about CBI: CBI is believed toguage (p. 624). Thus, content-based better reflects learners’ needs in terms ofacademic writing instruction in ESL should preparation for academic courses and helpsbe emphasized for second language learn- the learners access the content of academicers’ future study in English. This method learning (p. 207).may be valuable for enabling them to im-prove and develop the required skills for Conclusiontheir academic courses because it may di- Content-Based Instruction can help learnersrectly affect their performance in the next develop their language skills for academiclearning stage. use as well as provide them with access to Useful and practical assignments play new concepts through meaningful contentimportant roles in this approach. Brostoff (Crandall, 1999, p. 609). CBI is an ideal ap-(1974), as cited in Shih (1986), suggested proach to learning the target language, butthat adequate assignments should help stu- for a content-based pedagogy, there aredents remember the text and new input, as special concerns such as assessment andwell as understand the concepts from their teacher education (Kasper, 2000, p. 22).content through their work (p. 636). In ad- CBI fits in well with broader principles ofdition to completing the work, the students language teaching and learning, and it canmust go through a real-world process in- be applied in various situations. It could bestead of using independent, creative, or un- used effectively in ESL as well as EFL class-realistic thoughts (p. 636). For example, to rooms. Of course, as with any teaching ap-write about the ways to keep a healthy body, proach, alternative lesson plans may be re-students directly research the information quired to apply this approach in a real ESLand put it together in their writing, instead or EFL classroom because there is not aof producing their own ideas as four or five perfect language teaching approach to beparagraph essays in a regular writing class. applied in all situations. In conclusion, CBI According to Shih’s conclusion regard- can be considered as “the leading curriculaing the use of content-based approach to approach in language teaching,” as long as itteach writing, writing is a specific tool is used in a suitable language teaching situa-which enables students to make judgments tion (Richards & Rodgers, 2001, p. 220).about the meaning of text after thinkingcarefully about it, to improve their languageReferencesAdamson, J. (n.d.). From EFL to content- Crandall, J. (Ed.). (1995). ESL through con- based instruction: What English teach- tent-area instruction. McHenry, IL: Delta ers take with them into the sociolin- System. guistics lecture. Asian EFL Journal. Re- Crandall, J. (1999). Content-based instruc- trieved September 20, 2006, from tion (CBI). Concise encyclopedia of educa- tional linguistics. Oxford, UK: Cam- pta_november_8_ja.pdf bridge University Press. Davies, S. (2003). Content based instruction in EFL contexts. The Internet TESL
  7. 7. 31 Journal, 9(2), Retrieved September 20, Snow, M., & Brinton, D. (1988). Content- 2006, from based language instruction: Investigat- Davies-CBI.html ing the effectiveness of the adjunctKasper, L. (2000). Content-based college ESL model. TESOL Quarterly, 22(4), 553- instruction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence 574. Erlbaum. Stryker, S., & Leaver, B. (Eds.). (1997). Con-Richards, J., & Rodgers, T. (2001). Ap- tent-based instruction in foreign language proaches and methods in language teaching. education. Washington, D.C.: New York: Cambridge University Georgetown University Press. Press. Stoller, F. (2004). Content-based instruc-Shih, M. (1986). Content-based approaches tion: Perspectives on curriculum plan- to teaching academic writing. TESOL ning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, Quarterly, 20(4), 617-648. 24(1), 261-283.
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