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Argentina, a group of student-teachers felt unmotivated to learn English as a foreign language ... context perspective which examines learners as individuals.



Learning subject-specific content through ESP in a Geography-teaching programme: An action research story in Argentina

Abstract Pre-service teacher education courses on subjects such as Biology, Geography or Spanish may include ESP in their curricula. ESP can be taught with a view to reinforcing content and language integrated learning (CLIL). The purpose of this study is to understand how CLIL and ESP can complement each other. In an initial Geography teacher education programme in southern Argentina, a group of student-teachers felt unmotivated to learn English as a foreign language because they perceived their lack of subject matter knowledge in Geography as a higher priority. Instead, they demanded more Geography-related coursework. In this research setting, English language-learning motivation, authenticity and identity played a crucial role. Through action research, the group of student-teachers and their tutor examined and implemented practices during the course of one academic year. Data were collected by means of a questionnaire, diaries and interviews. Results show that the use of authentic materials, a focus on subject matter knowledge and language awareness-based activities had a positive impact on student-teachers’ trajectories as future teachers and foreign language learners. Keywords: CLIL; teacher education; motivation; authenticity; identity; action research

1. Introduction The global predominance of English has led to the inclusion of ESP courses at university level across the world (Aguilar, 2017; Aguilar & Rodríguez, 2012; López & Puebla, 2014; López & Tello, 2008; Ochoa Alpala, 2015; Valenti & Galimberti, 2015; Wannagat, 2007; Yang, W., 2016a; Yang, W. & Gosling, 2014). Tertiary education institutions which offer pre-service teacher education courses on subjects such as Biology, Geography or Spanish have also included ESP in their curricula. Following Ruiz Garrido and Fortanet-Gómez (2009, p. 179), ESP is “the term that has traditionally been used for the courses which aim at teaching the English language needed for specific situations, mainly related to academic or occupational contexts”. Such contexts, the authors explain, shape the pedagogical approach underlying ESP as they imbue it with subjectspecific content although content learning is not the primary aim. In this regard, ESP is centred on language, skills, discourse and genres of specific disciplines (e.g., Medical English), adopting a functional and instrumental perspective within a given higher education course (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998). While the ESP literature has extensively examined strategies for improving English language learning and teaching (e.g., Harding, 2007; Paltridge & Starfield, 2013) through specific courses


and materials based on careful needs analysis (e.g., Basturkmen, 2010), less attention has been paid to the role and impact of subject matter learning through ESP courses. Furthermore, little work has been conducted in tertiary teacher education institutions which provide ESP courses to student-teachers who negatively assess their pre-service subject-knowledge. This study therefore seeks to understand how an ESP course can contribute to studentteachers’ subject-specific knowledge in a teacher learning environment where the need to integrate content and language learning, English language-learning motivation and identity play a crucial role among a group of future teachers of Geography. In addition, this study attempts to respond to Ushioda’s (2016) recent call for practitioner research on motivation by adopting action research (AR) as the preferred approach for investigation. Ushioda (2013, 2016) noted that motivation in language teaching and learning should be approached from a relational and incontext perspective which examines learners as individuals. Such a position, the author observed, can be achieved by investigating specific classroom settings and events, and therefore teachers are in an advantageous position as they are insiders and have access to learners over long periods of time. This paper discusses the following key concepts: firstly, CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), motivation, authenticity and identity are examined in relation to learning subject matter content in ESP. Secondly, the research context and action research methodology are presented, followed by the analysis of the data collected through each of the cycles which constituted this study. Finally, a CLIL-ESP model is suggested for pre-service teacher education programmes in other contexts where ESP courses can become a vehicle for content learning.

2. Theoretical background A succinct explanation of some terms used in this paper is required. However, it exceeds the scope of this article to offer a thorough discussion of these. CLIL, which has its roots in Europe, has been defined as a dual-focused approach through which integration is sought between teaching language and teaching content (Dalton-Puffer, 2011) and can be found across all educational levels including higher education (Fortanet-Gómez, 2013; Taillefer, 2013). In W. Yang’s (2016b, p. 45) words: “[W]hat differentiates ESP from CLIL is that the latter has dual focuses, i.e. both language and content, while the former places emphasis on providing learners with sufficient language skills to master content knowledge.” CLIL’s dual focus has given rise to different models and practices placed on a continuum (Coyle, Hood & Marsh, 2010) where the ends highlight content or language learning respectively; thus, terms such as hard and soft CLIL or content-driven CLIL and language-driven CLIL are used (Ball, Kelly & Clegg, 2015). At the content end of the continuum, CLIL is defined as an educational approach in which a non-language subject is taught through the medium of a language other than that of mainstream education (Cenoz, 2013; Dalton-Puffer & Nikula, 2014; Ioannou Georgiu,


2012). At the language end of the continuum, CLIL is conceived as a language-learning approach through which language learning is enhanced by drawing on subject-specific content for its contextualisation, meaningfulness and use (Coyle et al., 2010; Ikeda, 2013; Ruiz de Zarobe, 2013). Some authors (Ball et al., 2015) object to the notion of CLIL as a language-learning approach because it presents CLIL as too wide an umbrella term which confuses the teaching of content through another language with content-based language teaching (Cammarata, 2016). However, in Latin America the literature offers examples of CLIL which represent both ends of the continuum (Banegas, 2015; Cendoya & Di Bin, 2010; Ramos, Forte & Bacci, 2016). Since its inception, CLIL has been researched in relation to various phenomena (Pérez-Cañado, 2016), one of these being the relationship between motivation, a central construct in this study, and CLIL. According to Ushioda (2014, p. 31), “[m]otivation is widely recognised as a variable of importance in human learning, reflected in goals and directions pursued, levels of effort invested, depth of engagement, and degree of persistence in learning.” Because persistence and motivation sustainability fluctuate over time, Dörnyei, Muir and Ibrahim (2014) have put forward the notion of directed motivational current, which “can be described as an intense motivational drive which is capable of both stimulating and supporting long-term behaviour, such as learning a foreign/second language (L2)” (p. 9). This definition underlines the dynamic nature of motivation and the forces which operate to increase or reduce motivation in time. Motivation to learn a language in higher education can increase or decrease over time (Busse & Walter, 2013), and may be linked to learners’ interests and goals, which may go beyond learning a language for its own sake and be associated with other interests connected to the specific degree they pursue in higher education. It has been suggested that CLIL acts as a driver for learners to enhance and sustain their motivation to learn (Lasagabaster & Doiz, 2017; Lorenzo, 2014). Sylvén (2017) observes that motivation “as a multifaceted and complex phenomenon” (p. 52) is affected by different factors in a CLIL environment. One central factor, Sylvén explains, is the sense of relevance that students find in the content through which language is learned. Learners may be motivated to learn content which derives from the school curriculum and may be related to their experiences. For the context of this study, it may be worth outlining how language-learning motivation interacts with teacher motivation, or the motivation of teachers-to-be, particularly when they are about to finish their teaching course. Dörnyei and Ushioda (2011) indicate that one factor which may influence teacher motivation is that of intrinsic motivation, or autonomous motivation emerging from the educational process itself, or the subject matter, and teacher efficacy. Within the CLIL spectrum, future teachers can be motivated to learn a language because the subject matter through which it is learned is authentic and inherent to their specialisation. Authenticity and CLIL are briefly discussed below. Authenticity is a complex and evolving concept in English language education. Pinner (2014, 2016), based on the multiple and often overlapping definitions provided in Gilmore (2007), developed an authenticity continuum to cater for the different dimensions entailed by


authenticity. These dimensions include the real (outside the classroom), the classroom, the community, and the individual uses of language; they represent the contexts, reasons and needs of such uses. Authors highlight that authenticity refers not only to the use of sources of input not originally intended for foreign language teaching, but also to contents (Pinner, 2013a), activities (Henry, 2013; Papaja, 2014), interaction (Timmis, 2016) and purposes (Pinner, 2013b) which are meaningful to users in their respective contexts. As indicated above, authenticity plays a critical role in the motivation of learners in CLIL settings. For example, Lasagabaster, Doiz and Sierra (2014) agree that in CLIL lessons, input, goals and tasks reflect the mainstream school curriculum allowing learners to see English language learning as relevant because it becomes a medium through which curriculum content is learned. Furthermore, in a study carried out at a Japanese university, Pinner (2013a) found that learners were motivated to learn English because lessons offered them the possibility to learn about content areas as well as improve their language skills. One important driver which taps into motivation is identity, which Norton (2013, p. 45) defines as “how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future”. According to Esteban-Guitart and Moll (2014), “identity is embedded in concrete, historical cultural factors such as social institutions, artifacts, and cultural beliefs” (p. 35). Such definitions signal identity as a concept and phenomenon in constant evolution and may be helpful for student-teachers to understand how they perceive themselves as individuals and professionals within and beyond educational institutions. In the teaching profession, Barkhuizen (2016) observes that identities are constructed within social relationships and structures such as the syllabus, pedagogical practices and educational policy frameworks. Student-teachers are also affected by such structures in their role as learners with individual learning histories at teacher education institutions (Eick & Reed, 2002). In a study with novice teachers, Ruohotie-Lyhty (2013) proposes to understand professional identity “as a tool through which individuals make sense of themselves in relation to contexts and other people (…). It includes the understanding teachers hold of themselves as professionals” (p. 121). Beauchamp and Thomas (2009) suggest that a deeper understanding of teacher identity can help design more effective pre-service teacher education programmes. The way in which student-teachers, who have neither finished their formal initial teacher education nor gained professional experience, perceive their professional role can become a driver to embrace certain activities and attitudes over others during a teacher preparation course. To understand emotions, the authors highlight the importance of reflection in exploring and shaping identity in pre-service teacher education as they noted that “identity development in preservice teachers cannot be taken for granted” (p. 185) and therefore “identity development needs more overt attention” (p.185). The present study is located at the intersection of CLIL, motivation, authenticity and identity. Although considerable research has been devoted to ESP in higher education, there is a research gap in understanding the impact of content learning through ESP courses in initial teacher education programmes. The present study aims to narrow this gap by exploring ESP in an Initial Geography teacher education programme in Argentina.


2. Research context 2.1. The institution The study was conducted in a tertiary teacher education institution which offers teacher education programmes in pre-primary and primary school teaching, English language teaching for primary and secondary education, and History, Spanish and Geography for secondary education. Located in the city of Esquel, north-west of Chubut, Argentina, it attracts many secondary school graduates from Esquel and other small towns in Patagonia. In Argentina, the academic year begins in March and finishes in late November, with a winter break in July. Teacher education institutions are organised according to this calendar and modules may be one term (either March to July or August to November) or two terms, that is, a complete academic year. The Initial Geography Teacher Education Programme, hereafter IGTEP, was a four-year programme consisting of 40 mandatory modules delivered in Spanish and divided across three components: general education (e.g., Pedagogy), subject-specific content (e.g., Climatology) and professional practice (e.g., Geography Didactics). The components respond to Shulman’s (1986, 1987) main components of teacher education programmes: general pedagogical knowledge, subject matter knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. As part of those 40 modules, the programme included two one-term consecutive and mandatory ESP modules, called English I (Term 1) and English II (Term 2), in the fourth year of the programme. According to the programme curriculum, both ESP modules had the following aims: (1) to develop reading strategies with different text genres (Lee, 2001; Paltridge, 2013); (2) to encourage the awareness of teacher education materials in English; (3) to value cultural diversity; and (4) to promote intercultural communication in initial teacher education (Leeman & Ledouz, 2003; Tarozzi, 2014). The curriculum also states that the modules would specifically take the pedagogical format of a workshop, that is, a practical stance, and focus on reading strategies, thus asking tutors to explore the links between ESP and reading, as recently discussed in Hirvela (2013). It should be stressed that the curriculum did not include any references to English for Academic Purposes or possible connections with another module featuring earlier in the programme: Spanish for Academic Purposes.

2.2. The issue In 2015, I taught both ESP modules on the IGTEP described above. Due to a high drop-out rate in the third year, the group consisted of only ten student-teachers. Three of them were in their early twenties and the rest were in their forties. Two were already primary school teachers, but because they had started to teach Social Sciences in lower secondary education classes, they had to qualify in an area of the Social Sciences to retain their posts. By the time we started, two had at least one year’s experience of teaching Geography in secondary education. It should be noted that


in Argentina, student-teachers may hold teaching posts because of the shortage of qualified teachers. The issue which motivated this study emerged in the first lesson. I was received with animosity, and two of the student-teachers openly described their problem: They had formally asked the educational authorities to replace the ESP modules with Geography-related modules because they felt that their knowledge of Geography was limited and that the hours allocated to ESP could be more usefully employed in strengthening the subject-specific component of their programme. They had even discussed the possibility of taking the modules independently and only sitting the final exam. In sum, issues around demotivation and lack of expectations emerged together with the student-teachers’ concerns about their initial preparation as teachers of Geography. This became a critical situation for all parties involved and so we were compelled to find a solution to this problem. Given my background and experience with CLIL and curriculum development in initial teacher education, I embarked on an action research (AR) project with two guiding research questions: 1. Can a CLIL-enhanced ESP course improve student-teachers’ language as well as content learning? 2. Can student-teacher motivation be enhanced if ESP modules contribute to subject matter knowledge?

3. Research methods Within a qualitative paradigm, this study is identified with AR, which is understood as “a selfreflective, critical, and systematic approach” (Burns, 2010, p. 2) and explores a teacher’s own professional context to achieve transformation through intervention (Edwards & Burns, 2016). ARbased studies can be found in higher education with a professional orientation (Gibbs et al., 2017; Villacañas de Castro, 2017) or connected with English for academic and literacy purposes (Ilin, Kutlu & Kutluay, 2013; Rose, Rose, Farrington & Page, 2008), yet AR is seldom employed to report advances in ESP (Gollin-Kies, 2014). However, the literature offers a few studies (Chen, 2000; Chevez Herra, 2009; Whyte, 2013; Yang, Y-F., 2016) aimed at strengthening ESP pedagogies, teacher development and learners’ active involvement through AR. In education, transforming pedagogies supported by AR can be achieved through a participatory dimension (Villacañas de Castro, 2017) which includes both teachers and learners, among other actors, as active agents of change. AR carried out by teacher researchers (e.g., Banegas et al., 2013) with the aim of transformation often involves cycles which may include the following stages: (1) issue identification where the issue could be a problematic situation or a situation needing to be improved but not necessarily stemming from a negative event; (2) initial investigations into the teacher’s setting; (3) action, that is, the design of how to exercise change; (4) intervention, that is, putting the action design into practice; and (5) reflection and evaluation of the intervention. These stages could be repeated over a given number of cycles and do not represent a strictly linear


process because reflection, for example, cuts across stages (Luttenberg, Meijer & OolbekkinkMarchand, 2017). Finally, stage (6) is reporting or the dissemination of findings, which is what this article represents. It should be stressed that reflection is conceived as a complex and “essential condition for AR” (Luttenberg et al., 2017, p. 88) and, within AR, it may refer to a form of systematic awareness of one’s actions and beliefs, and function as a lever for change; therefore, contemplation may have consequences for practice. In this study, this last stage is central because the teacher researcher’s and student-teachers’ reflections collected through journals and interviews constitute the findings and provide the necessary connections for the discussion of theoretical underpinnings and practice. As has been discussed elsewhere (Crawford-Garrett, Anderson, Grayson & Suter, 2015), systematic reflection with student-teachers through AR may help transform not only their conceptions and practices but also their tutor’s own beliefs and positions by developing their criticality, understood as the development of critical thinking skills and critical pedagogies (Banegas & Villacañas de Castro, 2016). The present AR project was divided into four AR cycles covering the duration of the two ESP modules. Cycles 1 and 2 took place between March and July 2015, while Cycles 3 and 4 extended from August until the final exam in November 2015. Once the issue had been identified in the first lesson, Cycle 1 consisted of four stages: initial investigations, action, intervention, and reflectionevaluation. Cycles 2-4 had a shorter span as they did not include initial investigations and the student-teachers were completing their practicum. It should also be made clear that the order of stages did not reflect a static linear process as reflection and action developed across stages. The Findings section mainly concentrates on the evaluation stage of each cycle. Given the dynamic nature of AR, data collection and analysis unfolded in tandem throughout the four cycles. Data collection included an open-ended questionnaire, audio-recorded interviews, and, for the purpose of encouraging reflection (Luttenberg et al., 2017), diaries were kept by both the student-teachers and me, their ESP instructor. In their diaries, we would record the content, activities, and materials of each lesson, and our emotions and opinions around teaching and learning (Sample questions: Did you find the lesson meaningful? What would you change?. It was underlined that we would share our entries through interviews. All data were collected in Spanish; I translated into English only those extracts which appear below. The questionnaire was administered at the beginning of Cycle 1 as part of the initial investigations to elicit the ten student-teachers’ perceptions, expectations and motivations at the beginning of the module. It consisted of sentence beginnings such as the following: “I like/don’t like English because…”, “In my opinion, learning English is…”, “I use/don’t use English for…”, “From this module I expect to…”, “I would like to learn more about…” and “I am studying to become a Geography teacher because…”. The interviews were arranged into two groups of five student-teachers to avoid time and work constraints, and were carried out during the evaluation stage of each cycle as an opportunity to


share diary entries. During each of these group interviews, we reflected on the intervention stage, that is, the materials that were developed and the lesson delivery. Although the ten studentteachers kept a journal, three stated that they had not made regular entries. The evaluation stage, which combined the group interview data with diary entries, became a space for critical incident analysis since some of the entries recorded critical classroom moments. As indicated above, diaries were kept by the student-teachers and myself. In my own diary, I recorded critical incidents, defined by Farrell (2016, p. 226) as “any unplanned or unanticipated event that occurs during a classroom lesson, and is clearly remembered.” In my case, my entries of such incidents were then shared with the student-teachers during the evaluation stage of each cycle. Although lessons were held twice a week, entries could be recorded after every lesson or at the end of each week. The student-teachers were encouraged to write about the content, delivery and materials of the lesson, what they felt they had learnt content- and language-wise, and their feelings about and reactions to the teaching and learning processes we were all part of. Data analysis was carried out through thematic analysis (Attride-Stirling, 2001; Braun & Clarke, 2006; Saldaña, 2016). Coding, conceived as an iterative process (DeCuir-Gunby, Marshall & McCulloch, 2011), entailed different stages since open-ended inductive coding was applied to the raw data collected (interviews and author’s diary) until emergent codes were analysed through axial coding to strengthen connections. Once a codebook containing a set of codes, their definitions and examples was established, raw data were re-examined. For intersubjectivity and reliability purposes, a colleague acted as an inter-rater of different anonymised sections of the transcribed group interviews using the code set. Differences with the inter-rater were discussed and sections of raw data were re-analysed. Axial codes, hereafter called unifying themes, were then organised into thematic networks (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). Figure 1 shows the unifying themes (small circles) which are interconnected to different but related thematic networks (large circle). Such unifying themes are illustrated in Section 4 on the Findings. It should be noted that written consent to use the anonymised data in articles and conference presentations was obtained from the student-teachers at the end of each term.


Figure 1. Unifying themes and thematic networks.

Reading skills development Role of ESP in teacher education

Subjectmatter content

Expectations Situated learning

Concerns Awareness development

Authentic materials

Course evaluation Practicum experiences


Language learning

Learner motivation

4. Findings This section reflects the four AR cycles implemented with attention to the data collected as described above. I concentrate on the reflection-evaluation stage of each cycle.

4.1. Cycle 1: From initial expectations to preliminary reflections The questionnaire administered at the beginning of the module was completed by all ten student-teachers. They were asked to include their expectations of this module and topics of interest. In connection with subject matter-related topics, student-teachers’ answers were grouped under two main subjects and I used these to develop my syllabi: (1) Physical Geography (climate, reliefs, biomes) and (2) Human Geography (migration, population, urbanisation). When I asked student-teachers why they had suggested such topics their responses indicated that they wished to know more about certain aspects because the modules they had completed had not provided them, in their opinion, with sufficient input or connections with teaching geography. While the English I module was built around Physical Geography, English II was contextualised in Human Geography. Within this framework the following language-related content was developed during both modules: reading strategies (e.g., skimming and scanning, predicting content from clues such as illustrations or titles), text types and features, information structure, textual references, word classes, word formation, coherence and cohesion, discourse markers, parataxis and hypotaxis, and semantic fields. With the aim of integrating content and language, I


devised worksheets and study guides based on different Geography coursebooks targeted at secondary school students in the UK1. Concerning student-teachers’ expectations, two unifying themes emerged through thematic analysis of their written responses: (1) developing reading comprehension skills and (2) accessing Geography content in English for classroom use. The following excerpts illustrate these categories: Cintia:

I’d like to know more about Geography syllabi in other countries. To find information on the Internet about catastrophes, or Human Geography content to provide my future students with more updated and international info. (Excerpt 1)


For me I think I would like to have practise on identifying topic sentences in paragraphs, like the most relevant info so that then I can study more efficiently. (E2)

In line with the literature on CLIL and motivation, it is worth noting that the interest in establishing connections between content and English language learning emerged as a motivational drive to engage with this module. According to the questionnaire results, learning English was “learning grammar and vocabulary” or “learning tenses”, and such views had a negative impact on the student-teachers as, judging by their prior formal experiences, they did not see the value of learning English in higher education through a grammar-based method. As the first lessons progressed, I realised that CLIL had the potential to raise student-teachers’ motivation since the instrumental value assigned to the ESP module responded to their needs and interests by providing further subject-specific input, which in turn, contributed to their pedagogical knowledge.

4.2. Cycle 1: Evaluation This stage comprised two group interviews carried out at the institution’s library. Before the interview, they had been asked to read their diary entries, and even engage in initial coding of their own entries if they wished, as their entries would be the focus of the interview. The studentteachers were divided into two groups of five. They had their diaries with them at the time of the interview and four of them brought a mindmap which condensed their entries. In both interviews, the same themes emerged: (1) the value of authentic materials; (2) self-awareness of progress; (3) impact on the practicum; and (4) the need to increase input complexity. With reference to the theme of the value of authentic materials, some student-teachers had recorded in their diaries the bibliographical references of the coursebooks I had introduced during the first lessons as the aim of those lessons was to identify and locate topics in a coursebook table


of contents. All the student-teachers acknowledged the novelty of using authentic materials; it was the first time in their trajectory as English language learners that they had been systematically exposed to materials not intended for ELT: Carolina: I guess it’s the first time I have a real book to learn English, not a coursebook like at secondary schools, but a real book that real people use. That’s challenging and it’s fantastic because even if we don’t understand everything, we have an idea of the context, the key points. (E3)

During the interviews, both groups stated that they had started the module with reservations and fear of failure because of their limited level of English. They believed that they would be asked to present Geography-related content in English or write brief reports; nevertheless, they noticed that the module was focused on reading and listening comprehension skills, and that both languages could be used. For example, in some activities, the texts and questions were in English, but the answers could be in Spanish. Victor, for instance, said: Victor:

At the beginning I was lost. I wanted to look up every word in the dictionary, but then we became aware of key words, most repeated words, words similar to Spanish and the like. After a month, I realised that I was able to understand what a text was about, that I could google contents on the web, or that I could find info in a coursebook. (E4)

Impact on the practicum was a theme that I recorded in my own diary and shared with the groups: Tutor:

I was surprised when you all asked me to borrow the coursebooks to make copies of them, even of the sections I wasn’t planning to use.


You know what, I love the maps, the tables, the charts, the figures. I used some of the figures about volcanoes and tectonic plates in my practicum. Andrea also used some of the maps and the representation of an earthquake. We just scanned the maps and left them as they were, in English. I realised that the materials you gave us could be modified to use in our own lessons. (E5)

Lastly, they all agreed that they would like to work with longer and more complex texts and suggested the inclusion of documentaries from the National Geographic Channel, for example, to develop their reading and listening skills further. They also requested a focus on these skills at the


expense of writing because they realised that English would be helpful to understand or look for key information on the Internet.

4.3. Cycle 2: Evaluation Through the second half of the English I module, the student-teachers were exposed to academic texts from coursebooks and documentary extracts, followed by comprehension questions, multiple choice activities, true/false statements as well as activities such as labelling figures to incorporate subject-specific terminology and underlining examples of connectors or passive voice construction to develop language awareness. I included assignments with an online component which encouraged them to navigate open-access journals in their field. During the diary-based group interviews carried out at the end of the term and module, the following themes emerged in both groups: (1) concerns about the subject-specific component in the programme; (2) learner motivation; and (3) content learning through language learning. The student-teachers acknowledged their limited subject-specific knowledge. Some added that most of their diary entries were about new concepts and content they had learned through English, and their concerns about the quality of the overall course.

As part of such group interviews, I shared three critical incidents which I had recorded in my diary, and they became the main source of discussion in the group interviews. Incident 1:

We were reading a text about recording the elements of weather and climate. The text mentioned “two slightly different thermometers”. I genuinely asked them what that meant. I didn’t know about these two thermometers. Nobody could answer my questions. Some of them expressed their frustration that they couldn’t answer my question. (E6)

Incident 2:

We watched a short video about Hurricane Katrina. The reporter explained that Katrina went suddenly from Level 3 to Level 5. I had no clue so I asked them: What makes a hurricane’s intensity or whatever move from one level to the next? How do you measure these levels? Again, the same situation. Nobody answered. They made some guesses. While we continued working with a follow-up reading text, one of the studentteachers googled my query and at the end of the lesson shared what she found. (E7)

Incident 3:

Today, they were working in pairs, they had to read some texts on ocean currents and label a picture. All of a sudden, Carolina asked me, “Darío, do you study the topic of the lesson before coming to teach us?” I said, no, that I prepare the lesson, select strategies, activities, and prepare some


other things in advance, that I now focus more on how to teach the lesson. Perhaps I revise the what when I need to teach a lesson on systemic functional grammar in the English teaching programme. And she was like, “oh, because when we do our practicum or micro-teaching experiences we have to study the content first because sometimes we don’t know much about it, like the other day when we couldn’t agree or understand the text about anticyclones.” (E8)

My sharing of the three critical incidents described above prompted the student-teachers to reveal their concerns about the subject-specific component in the programme and its impact on their education as future teachers: Andrea:

I think we all felt bad when we couldn’t answer your questions. We’re about to get our degree. Your questions are simple. Your questions are about the climate and elements. Every time I need to plan a lesson for the practicum, I first need to study the topic. Sometimes we have to teach contents which we haven’t studied here. (E9)

Although such incidents seemed to have a negative effect in their trajectories as future teachers, they all appreciated that, contrary to their initial perceptions, the module had enhanced their motivation in different ways. Sol:

I’ve ended up liking English, the module, because I now see that when there’s a question about something we don’t know, I need to find an answer. There’s something I need to learn for my students and for my own growth as a professional. (E10)


I now feel motivated because we’re learning new aspects, not only useful vocabulary, but we’re learning concepts, we’re expanding our knowledge while learning English. I think it’s also motivating because we’re using authentic materials, and materials and resources that we can use with our students. I thought that we’d only learn about grammar, but here we’re learning grammar and vocabulary through topics which are specific to us, and topics we need to understand more deeply. (E11)

Concomitant with learning motivation, the student-teachers stressed the novelty of learning subject-specific content through English:



I feel that, well, maybe my grammar is still weak, but I’ve acquired a lot of vocabulary, specific terms from Geography. So I’m learning English through Geography, and learning Geography at the same time. And here we’re paying attention to how texts are organised, coherence, cohesion, all that, and we do it while learning about world biomes, or facts or case studies we don’t know anything about, or perhaps we’ve heard on the news but without a proper analysis. (E12)

4.4. Cycle 3: Evaluation English II, the second ESP module in the programme, started in August 2015 and finished in November. The ten student-teachers passed the first module and were in a position to take this second module which included the following topics: population (density, distribution, growth and trends), migration (types, refugees), urbanisation, and tourism. Readers may notice that the topics suggested by the student-teachers at the beginning of English I were all included. In terms of language learning, reading skills development, language awareness, textual grammar and semantic fields were addressed with longer or more complex written and spoken texts. Throughout the module, we all kept diaries, which we agreed to analyse to extrapolate the most recurrent topics. Based on the thematic analysis of the interviews, the following unifying themes emerged: (1) dissatisfaction with IGTEP in general; (2) learner motivation; (3) the value of authentic materials; and (4) awareness of improvement in content and language learning. Readers may notice that as the sessions unfolded some themes became recurrent. With reference to dissatisfaction with the IGTEP in general, the student-teachers seemed to have gained trust and developed a critical voice which they were ready to share with me. By way of illustration, Iris said: Iris:

Regardless of whether we study more or less, I feel the exit level is low. I feel I don’t even know the basics. Some modules have repeated the contents, and others, we don’t have quality input. We read copies and articles, but we don’t have the necessary scaffolding to become critical based on facts. (E13)

Iris’s words relate to the emerging theme of learner motivation. The student-teachers agreed that their motivation to learn English remained positive because they realised they could benefit from the module in terms of content and pedagogy. This latter aspect related to the theme of the value of using authentic materials. Andrea:

I’m still motivated to learn English because I find it helpful and useful for my development as a future teacher. (E14)



I find the way we’re learning fascinating because it’s closely related to our degree. I like finding journal articles or navigating all these open-access journals for teachers. I had no clue they existed! And this is what I like the most, that all these materials are authentic; they’re not for children who study English. It’s real English. And we can use them to plan our lesson. (E15)

Finally, student-teachers’ awareness of improvement in content and language learning can be demonstrated in the following excerpts: Iris:

I think it’s quite telling that we’re learning Geography contents in the English module. I never expected this. I can see that sometimes, some of the things I tell my students come from what we’ve read in English. (E16)


I can see that I’ve acquired more technical English, vocabulary above all, and reading strategies to understand texts. What I know about migration movements comes from what we’ve learnt here in English and Spanish. (E17)

4.5. Cycle 4: Final evaluation The last AR cycle was characterised by fewer face-to-face lessons and further work on a virtual environment where online activities became more demanding as the student-teachers were required to read entire journal articles2 to complete reading activities. The final group interviews yielded the following themes: (1) criticality; (2) situated learning; and (3) the benefits and challenges of English in initial teacher education programmes. The theme of criticality surfaced through a critical incident I had recorded and shared with them around the use of maps in a lesson about urbanisation and climate. The coursebook presented a world climate map where Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela were labelled as “other climates”. Incident: When they saw that the map said “other climates”, they couldn’t believe how inaccurate it could be. One of them went to the library and brought secondary school textbooks and we all ended up comparing world climate maps. We agreed that “our” maps offered more detailed and accurate information. This made us reflect on how critical we need to be with input materials when we prepare our lessons. (E18)


As a response to such an incident, the student-teachers expressed the necessity to reflect on ideologies behind teaching materials. For example, Victor observed: Victor:

Thanks to having access to textbooks and syllabi produced in other countries, we can now compare and contrast what we have here and think about the benefits and challenges we have. These are issues which go beyond this English module, but they’re very significant for us from sociopolitical and pedagogic angles. We’re now more critical of maps, graphics and texts. (E19)

In this last cycle, the students-teachers also recognised the centrality of situated learning, that is, learning opportunities anchored in their lived experiences in and out of formal education and within the IGTEP programme. Alda:

I guess we’ve realised that learning situated in our learners’ lives is vital. This is what I’ve experienced in this module. I guess the most important impact on me is not only the English we’ve learned but how we did, in context, with teacher-produced materials, with links to our secondary school curriculum and the like. (E20)

Lastly, the student-teachers highlighted the benefits and challenges of learning English in initial teacher education. On the one hand, the benefits mentioned were: wider access to online resources, access to updated materials, access to lesson plans and projects from other contexts, opportunities to work collaboratively with other teachers at schools, and chances to broaden their cognitive skills through learning another language. On the other hand, challenges included: student-teachers’ limited and varying levels of English, additional time needed to understand authentic materials, and a lack of subject-specific knowledge to understand the texts.

5. Discussion This section is organised into three sub-sections. While in Sections 5.1 and 5.2 I discuss the research questions of CLIL enhancement and of motivation, in Section 5.3 I suggest a CLIL-ESP model for ESP modules in initial teacher education. Readers should be aware that the brief discussion of the first research question corresponds with the fact that the impact of content and language learning on student-teachers informs the second research question, which focuses on motivation. It should be recalled that this study was prompted by student-teacher demotivation to complete an ESP module, and so the bulk of the discussion focuses on this theme.



Content and language learning

The first research question sought to examine whether a CLIL-enhanced ESP course could improve student-teachers’ language and content learning in an initial Geography teacher education programme which was negatively assessed by the student-teachers. While the improvement in student-teachers’ motivation due to the inclusion of subject-specific content was evidenced (Busse & Walter, 2013; Pinner, 2013a), their perceptions and performance during exams, which allowed them to pass both modules, confirmed the positive impact of stressing content in the ESP modules under examination. It is difficult to separate content and language as central elements because, following the CLIL approach, they were holistically integrated in the modules. In this regard, what was expected to be a traditional ESP module was transformed into a CLIL-enhanced ESP module which allowed the student-teachers to learn new subject matter knowledge together with English. In Cycle 3, the benefits of CLIL surfaced with renewed strength in the context of the IGTEP as content learning included two interdependent dimensions. On the one hand, content referred to the learning of new subject matter knowledge, that is, new Geography content (E12, E16, E17). On the other hand, it referred to the learning of pedagogical content knowledge, that is, the learning of how to teach Geography specifically (E15). In this respect, authenticity played a major role not only through the use of authentic materials but, above all, through authenticity of input as discussed in Pinner (2016).



The second research question sought to examine whether student-teacher motivation could be enhanced if ESP modules contributed to subject matter knowledge. According to the student-teachers’ opinions canvassed at the beginning of this module, it might be suggested that they were demotivated to learn English because (1) they were concerned about the limited subject matter knowledge contained in the specific modules, and (2) their perception of learning English was as a grammar-based approach disconnected from their IGTEP (E11). Given the issues which prompted this AR study, results show that focusing the ESP modules on subject matter knowledge enhanced the student-teachers’ motivation to learn English. It should be noted that the participants’ concerns with the quality of their programme in terms of subjectspecific knowledge remained constant in Cycles 1–3. Excerpts 9 and 13 attest to this permanent worry. To them English I and English II were not modules where subject-specific content was merely instrumental or subsidiary to English language learning, as suggested by Ruiz Garrido and Fortanet-Gómez (2009). Their perceptions and demands (E1) required that the ESP modules offered a dual aim in which content and language learning carried the same weight. The modules


were therefore transformed to meet their needs, and the outcomes were positive. Studentteachers’ motivation to learn English emerged in Cycle 1 and continued to be stressed until Cycle 3 where it seemed to stabilise. However, it was not only subject matter knowledge per se that acted as a major driving force; the student-teachers’ motivation to learn English also derived from different sources which enhanced and maintained their motivation. Firstly, the inclusion of authentic materials was observed as a motivating feature of the modules (E3). Not only were they helpful to contextualise English language learning within the IGTEP but also to enrich the student-teachers’ practicum experience as noted in E5 and E10. In addition, motivation appeared associated with autonomy, as reported by Victor (E4). Secondly, the motivation to learn English exceeded the subject-specific component of the programme and permeated the student-teachers’ professional practice component. Due to the positive impact of using authentic materials, English became a tool to enhance their current (E5) and future teaching (E14) because they realised that English gave them access to materials produced elsewhere in the world (E15) and allowed them to experience professional growth (E10). In this landscape, the relationship between CLIL and language-learning motivation has proved positive as found in other settings (e.g., Lasagabaster & Doiz, 2017). Following Dörnyei et al.’s (2014) concept of directed motivational current, the student-teachers’ motivational current was transformed from negative to positive given the CLIL-ESP pedagogies adopted in both modules. Motivation sustainability, in line with Ushioda (2014), was achieved through the development of pedagogies and content which responded to the student-teachers’ concerns with subject matter knowledge and their efficacy as future teachers. Thus, intrinsic motivation associated with participants’ professional identity emerged as the major drive behind this learning experience in teacher education. This professional identity motivated the student-teachers to reflect on their learning as well as practicum practices (E1, 2, 10, 11). From a sociocultural view of identity (e.g., Barkhuizen, 2016; Ruohotie-Lyhty, 2013), they saw themselves as future professionals in relation to (a) the teacher education institution and its deficient Geography programme, and (b) their future learners. They moved from seeing themselves as poorly equipped student-teachers to future teachers who could work towards professionalisation.

5.3. CLIL and ESP in initial teacher education Based on this pedagogical experience and the emerging themes which characterised this AR story, the following CLIL-ESP model is recommended for initial teacher education programmes which include English as a foreign language (Figure 2).


Figure 2. A recommended model of CLIL-ESP modules in initial teacher education.

The model proposed may resonate with other contexts and settings in initial teacher education. For motivation and content-cum-language learning to be enhanced, a language-driven, CLIL-based ESP module may need to be anchored not only in the subject-specific education of future teachers, that is History, Science or Mathematics, but also in the subject-specific pedagogies which inform and are enacted on a given programme (Pinner 2013a, 2013b). Located at the intersection of these two strands of teacher education knowledge, a CLIL-ESP module will be institutionally cohesive and coherent with the subject-specific component chosen by student-teachers, and the forms of assessment associated with it will be similarly cohesive and coherent. The content of the module will respond to the what and how of future teachers’ education, enabling all the actors involved to view the module as a formative part in teacher education rather than an add-on module. It is recommended that such a CLIL-ESP module feature, among other context-responsive characteristics, the following interrelated elements: -

Authenticity: authenticity of contents, purposes and materials, carefully selected and sequenced. Reflection: systematic inquiry into student-teachers’ perceptions of progress, awareness of their strengths and challenges, and identity as future teachers. Criticality: development of critical thinking skills to assess materials and examine the relationships between the module and the overall programme. Situated learning: context-responsive pedagogies which acknowledge the studentteachers’ learning biographies and languages. In monolingual settings, this also entails the use of the student-teachers’ L1 as another meditational tool to learning.



Engagement: the construction of the module syllabus is negotiated by the tutor and the student-teachers to increase agency and co-responsibility for the success of the module. Action research: research can be incorporated in the programme not only to provide CLILESP tutors with the means to systematically reflect on the programme but also to allow student-teachers to see teacher research in action.

Through this model, language learning and content learning are integrated as discussed in the literature (Ball et al.; 2015; Coyle et al., 2010). Furthermore, a pedagogical dimension is included in the module as it becomes a springboard to analysing professional practices, materials and educational paradigms which contribute to student-teachers’ education beyond language learning and subject matter.

6. Conclusion The present study responded to the concerns of a small group of ten student-teachers of Geography on a four-year programme in southern Argentina. While the student-teachers actively participated during the study over one complete academic year, it may be regarded as parochial given the sample size. Despite its limitations however, the findings may resonate with settings outside the confines of this class where ESP is mandatory in initial teacher education programmes. It may be concluded that the success of a language-driven CLIL approach for ESP was concomitant with the motivation to learn, given the identities “under construction” of this group of student-teachers. In their view, learning new content was more motivating than learning English, and therefore they realised that the latter was a tool to achieve the former. Although the ESP modules had initially been instrumental, they developed over time and became as formative as other subject-specific modules in the programme. Under this scenario, the definition of ESP put forward by Ruiz Garrido and Fortanet-Gómez (2009) does not suffice since, in the context of this study, ESP became a catalyst through which student-teachers accessed content which they perceived as lacking in the overall programme. This study highlights the importance of exploring student-teachers’ perceptions for programme development (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009) and including a thorough needs analysis as a first stage in ESP course development (see Flowerdew, 2013) through the systematic incorporation of student-teachers’ voices in the co-construction of the syllabus and ESP curriculum in teacher education programmes. In sum, ESP needs to dialogue more closely to the programmes where it is offered, and gain a more relevant presence beyond utilitarian needs through the inclusion of formative aims in initial teacher education. It is hoped that the CLIL-enhanced model recommended for ESP modules in initial teacher education programmes (Figure 2) can help ESP tutors enrich their practices and syllabi in different settings as the elements included in the model reflect the dynamic and complex nature of language teaching in higher education.


At a research level, and in line with the literature on ESP (Chen, 2000; Chevez Herra, 2009; Gollin-Kies, 2014; Whyte, 2013; Yang, Y-F., 2016), AR can be a valuable research paradigm to examine not only ESP and its language-learning implications but also ESP pedagogies in a dynamic space where other constructs, such as motivation, content learning and identity, play a role in teacher education through a micro-lens perspective (Ushioda, 2016). That said, future research embedded in AR may need to examine the extent to which English continues to be a tool to access subject matter knowledge after student-teachers’ graduation. Furthermore, through AR, ESP tutors’ identities may be compared with content tutors’ identities in relation to expectations and roles in initial teacher education programmes where subject matter knowledge features in a central position.

Acknowledgements I would like to thank Dr. Sue Wharton, the anonymous reviewers and the editor of the ESP Journal for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the article.

Notes 1. For example: Waugh, D. (2014). The New Wider World (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2. For example: and

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