CLIL Pedagogy: Insights and Practices – The Case of Tomsk Polytechnic University

CLIL Pedagogy: Insights and Practices – The Case of Tomsk Polytechnic University

Tatiana Sidorenko, Svetlana Rybushkina
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3266-9.ch007
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The chapter presents an overview of the content and language-integrated learning (CLIL) experience of Tomsk Polytechnic University as an illustration of the general discussion of CLIL methodology. CLIL-based courses are analyzed against the criteria of their place in the educational programs, teaching objectives, and organization. The chapter further aims to introduce and discuss requirements for students' language proficiency, the use of students' native language, lesson pace, and other factors that can affect students' engagement and the level of achieving learning outcomes. Theoretical insight into CLIL benefits and drawbacks and a practical study of TPU cases provides guidance for further empirical research and can build on the conceptual framework of nation-based CLIL practice. The framework informs qualitative research in disentangling causes and effects and has the potential to stimulate practical changes in CLIL didactics that are adequate for the context conditions of the Russian higher education area.
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The Bologna Declaration and the Lisbon Recognition Convention states ‘to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications’ as one of the goals for the European Higher Education Area (Lisbon Recognition Convention, 2004). This implies collaborative work and concentration of resources of member universities towards: a) expanding educational and cultural boarders, b) fostering scientific research fields at the tertiary level with integration of a research component into educational programs, c) integrating global teaching and learning experience, d) increasing the rate of academic mobility, and e) enhancing the quality of higher education through involving life-long learning strategies and effective, from the point of outcomes, pedagogical methods (Lisbon Recognition Convention, 2004).

Thereby, to respond to the global challenges, the Russian Higher Education (HE) sets a goal in Strategy for Innovative Development of the Russian Federation until 2020 to assure success and well-being of the Russian society by ensuring a high level of population welfare through science and technology advancement and innovative education development. Meeting this objective lies in the zone of responsibility of Russian universities (Glagolev et al., 2014).

The society well-being and sustainable country development require subject knowledge convergence that goes far beyond the national borders. This entails the understanding that the national language is no longer the only tool for effective and productive communication. The ongoing tendency force educators to overhaul once relevant competences as outcomes for engineering qualifications by adding to this list the ability to communicate in at least one foreign language. This insight triggered the revision in foreign language teaching policy among all Russian universities.

Very regrettably, we have to admit the fact that in spite of the time and resources invested in foreign language teaching before, the success rate measured as communicatively competent foreign language user is still low in Russia. The shortcomings may be attributed to the fact that the language learnt in a traditional foreign language classroom is often insufficiently associated with real-life communication. “If input is predictable and output is not spontaneous, how can we expect learners to be effective communicators if real-life communication is, just that, real” (Ting, 2010, p. 4). Search for methods able to improve the situation becomes an issue.

From this perspective, Russian HEIs similar to universities from all over the world face a challenging task of searching for new, more effective teaching methods. However, improvements, as practice shows, strongly depend on a particular context.

CLIL is commonly viewed as an effective tool by Russian universities because it can ‘kill two birds with one stone’, namely: a) increase language awareness among students by extending the borders in professional knowledge fields and including more cognition-based activities into learning; b) to improve language proficiency of subject teachers and thus to improve lecturing in English.

This chapter suggests the analysis (based on the experimental activities) of CLIL practices at Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU). It debates the advantages and challenges of CLIL, describes the success and failures encountered and the potential of CLIL in Russian HEI context. Such factors as course duration, content and language balance, and some methodology aspects are analyzed from teachers’ and students’ perspectives based on surveys, interviews, teachers’ observations and reflections. The authors do not claim to give a comprehensive overview of CLIL approach, but just offer the reflections based on personal teaching experience and relate them to some theoretical issues of CLIL.

We deeply hope that our experience, rather small at moment, will provide readers with some practical suggestions and raise issues for further reflections, particularly in terms of constructing teaching models and teacher educational programs without which the full potential of CLIL is unlikely to be realized and the approach risks to never achieve sustainability.

Key Terms in this Chapter

ESP (English for Specific Purposes): Teaching English to university students, with reference to the particular vocabulary and skills they need.

Lisbon Recognition Convention: The Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region that was developed by the Council of Europe and UNESCO and adopted by national representatives meeting in Lisbon on 8-11 April 1997.

Language Policy: The different initiatives taken by the universities with the purpose of enhancing the use of all the languages present in the curricula of studies.

Internationalization: Internationalizing HE is a process by which universities seek to promote quality competences to prepare graduates to a global interconnected society.

Tandem Courses or Double-Agent Courses: A course taught through English as a foreign or additional language by content-teachers and language teachers in strong collaboration.

Bologna Declaration: A document signed in 1999 by 29 countries to reform and coordinate higher education in Europe.

EMI (English-Medium Instruction): Educational practices in which lecturers do their teaching in English as a foreign or additional language, normally in line with university internationalization policies.

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