What is the impact of integrating language and content in higher education (ICLHE) and how do you study it?
Paper in proceedings, 2014
Recognised under different terms in our respective higher education contexts, the notion of integrating communication development alongside content knowledge development in disciplinary courses has seen increasing application since the late 90s. We talk of ICLHE in Europe, WID in US contexts, or use the partially overlapping phrase CLIL for ‘content and language integrated learning’. Support for integrating writing development into content area courses draws from the literature in educational development and research literature from various points of view including situated learning, cognitive apprenticeship, constructive alignment, disciplinary discourse, graduate profiles, and even from policy perspectives as the Bologna agreement or certification standards. Despite this support and the growing importance if ICLHE, it seems we have not really established a reliable way of measuring the impact of integrating the teaching and learning of communication with the teaching and learning of domain knowledge. Have we even defined what impact is it that we seek and what didactic approaches we should be comparing with?
The Saunders think piece poses a critical challenge with its critical set of implicit questions, and we believe our list of questions offers a project-specific adaptation of this challenge:
• What outcomes and outputs are we measuring?
• What outcomes and outputs should we be measuring?
• For whom or from what vantage point do we assess ICLHE?
• Who ends up using the research and how does that promote HE?
• How and when do we measure?
• How do we define what an ‘effective’ intervention is?
• What are the baselines we measure against?
These questions seek to explore both what is happening now in ICLHE assessment and what can and should be happening. They address the kinds of learning outcomes ICLHE might support for students, the kinds of writing products and textual / discourse artefacts we should be examining in our assessments, the ways in which those products and artefacts should be measured and analysed, and, ultimately, the ends to which our assessment should be directed.
The presentation opens on brief descriptions of necessary settings and a short definitional section before offering examples of ICLHE interventions that require assessment. However, the structural intention of the presentation is to set aside as much time as feasibly possible to participant generated discussion around this challenging cluster of issues. We hope that we can jointly explore new avenues by drawing on our different contexts and perspectives and the different research designs and approaches that grow out these.