Peter the Great Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic University (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 8431-8440
ISBN: 978-84-09-14755-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2019.2013
Conference name: 12th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 11-13 November, 2019
Location: Seville, Spain
Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) proves effective as a preparatory stage before using English as the lingua franca in ever-increasing English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) programmes in tertiary education. In diverse models of integrating content and language, practitioners face a challenging issue of how to support the students’ simultaneous learning of new disciplinary content and academic domain-specific language. A growing number of researches in this area indicate that scaffolding of the cognitive activity in the target language plays a decisive role. One of the instruments which help students acquire academic knowledge, to a large extent theoretical by nature, and stimulate thinking is the use of active questioning. However, systematic observations in class reveal two problematic areas: firstly, students find it difficult to think of what questions to ask when processing academic content. Secondly, students, even those who are relatively fluent in English, experience difficulties in suggesting appropriate grammar structures for questions which they consider relevant and, in addition, make multiple mistakes.

In this paper we present our action research which seeks to answer the following questions:
1. What types of questions do first-year students choose to ask in order to understand theoretical input?
2. What language problems do they experience in formulating their questions?
3. What effect does regular questioning practice and explicit grammar learning have on students’ ability to control content and language?

In the research presented, we used a diagnostic test in a group of first-year students who, in addition to a general English course, studied a CLIL course “An introduction to economics” and in a control group of students who only had a general English course. During the research, we involved the CLIL students in various question writing activities with a focus either on content or on language. The former included content-processing tasks for students to conceptualize a new disciplinary topic after reading the text by communicating with a partner and writing questions which they thought they need in order to find conceptual links between the concepts in the text. The latter covered both theoretical and practical studies of how to form various types of questions.

The preliminary findings reveal that CLIL students’ regular collaborative questioning practice while conceptualizing the academic input raises students’ awareness of the cognitive value of an inquisitive mode of learning which, in turn, supports the acquisition of new academic disciplines; it also increases the diversity of the types of questions and reduces the number of grammar mistakes in question sentences. In the control group of non-CLIL students, we found no changes in the types of questions used and rare improvement in question forms. In light of this, we conclude that questioning practiced for real learning purposes contributes to the positive developments though language problems remain. Obviously, students need more time and more diverse experience in focused questioning drawing on a wide diversity of grammar structures and a need for more focus on language when using English as the language of instruction.
Cognitive activity, critical thinking, questioning, content and language integrated learning (CLIL), tertiary education.