The University of Calabria (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN17 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 9109-9118
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0071
Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain
STEM-education through a foreign language is gaining popularity as classrooms around the world seek to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s globalized workforce. It would almost be “immoral” to ignore the fact that our students must be able to use foreign languages in professionally appropriate ways. However, it would also be immoral if instruction through a foreign language fails to provide students the depth of disciplinary knowledge needed to enter their chosen professional communities of practice: we cannot sacrifice content-learning for the sake of learning foreign languages. The question is therefore, “if the learning of STEM content at upper secondary and tertiary is already challenging in the mother tongue, would a foreign language not make what is already difficult, impossible? In this presentation, I will illustrate how, when STEM-education is offered through a foreign language (FL) that is seasoned with some digital tools (e-), we automatically redesign instruction. For example, FL-STEM teachers realize that learners may not have the linguistic resources to understand extensive “explanations”. We therefore delineate strategies that forego passive listening and deploy tasks in which students must actively and interactively use the FL to negotiate meaning, discuss and debate understanding and thus co-construct knowledge. This helps us achieve the content-dimension of STEM-education. In addition, at the end of FL-STEM instruction, we would expect students to be able to use the FL well to speak and write about content in academically appropriate ways (otherwise, why not just teach in the mother tongue?). Although we should also expect such productive academic literacy from instruction through the mother tongue, FL-STEM makes explicit this language-dimension of content knowledge: even in the mother tongue, if a student cannot use language to speak and write about electronegativity properly, can we be sure they have learnt it well? This presentation first discusses the complexity of STEM education, even in the mother tongue and discusses why FL-STEM naturally calls for significant change in instructional design. Data from neuroscience research and cognitive load theories of instruction will be presented to sensitize viewers to the fact that the brain is always on and actually constantly trying to make sense of input, provided that the input is comprehensible. FL-STEM prompts us to consider the comprehensibility of both the content and the language in our instruction. The presentation will then illustrate how simple and freely-available digital resources have been used to transform challenging STEM-content into comprehensible aliquots of learning that address complex concepts one at a time, through tasks that oblige students to actively and interactively discuss, think and thus understand. By sequencing these tasks within learning progressions that also cater to the development of academic language proficiency, students are able to not only understand content-concepts deeply, they also master the complex disciplinary discourse needed for speaking and writing about complex STEM content in appropriate ways. Learning outcomes will be presented. This presentation illustrates how e-FL-STEM makes it possible for content and FL-experts to work from our respective comfort zones as we redesign STEM-education along both the content- as well as the language-dimensions of knowledge.
STEM through a foreign language, CLIL, EMI (English Medium Instruction), tertiary STEM in foreign language, digital learning of STEM in FL, e-FL-STEM.