Vol. 3:2 (2015) ► pp. 194–217
Language attention in content-based instruction
The case of language instructors teaching content in a foreign language in Mexican higher education
Subject-matter specialists teaching content via a foreign/second language in higher education often exhibit a meaning-based pedagogy, unsystematically attending to inaccurate language. This observational study examined whether two foreign-language-teaching-trained instructors teaching content in English in a Mexican undergraduate program would emulate these instructional patterns, or would attend to language favouring language-and-content-integrated pedagogy. In the study, over 400 instructional episodes, video-recorded during 18 hours of regular-classroom teaching, were analyzed using the COLT observation scheme (Spada & Fröhlich, 1995). Results showed that the foreign-language educators favoured content, erratically attending to inaccurate language during communication breakdowns. Language attention occurred reactively through word translations, lexical-gap scaffolding, and isolated explanations for non-target phonological forms. These instructional patterns may result from the language teachers’ newly assumed content-based instructional roles. To favour language attention during subject-matter teaching, language instructors need training and curricular support that helps them draw on their foreign language teaching experience as they deliver content.
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