Materials Development: A Constituent Element of Teacher Training for EMI in Higher Education

Materials Development: A Constituent Element of Teacher Training for EMI in Higher Education

Javier Ávila-López (University of Cordoba, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2318-6.ch014


This chapter reviews the literature on materials development for EMI, providing keys for evaluation, adaptation, production, and exploitation of learning materials for English-taught higher education courses. It identifies the key assets in the coordinated application of materials development and EMI research, drawing on the prerequisites for coordinated language use and content learning. The key approaches for the development of interactive communicative materials are considered and analyzed to provide a deep insight on the rationale behind the main educational proposal—task-based content through language teaching (TBCLT)—that offers a number of indications to develop task-based EMI materials taking into account the potential of a text-driven syllabus that includes integrated project work as a staple diet of classroom dynamics.
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English-medium instruction (EMI)1 has been growing in the last 20 years at a significant pace (Dearden, 2015), and if we include the younger sister (CLIL) in the equation, the figures are impressive. The trend permeates all different layers of education, namely: kindergarten, primary, secondary and tertiary levels, from public to private institutions. Both approaches aim to teach content in a language other than the mother tongue of the students. The terminological problem is an issue not completely solved as Macaro, Curle, Pun, An, & Dearden (2018:46) suggest, however, for operational reasons, we’ll stick to their definition of EMI: “The use of the English language to teach academic subjects (other than English itself) in countries or jurisdictions where the first language of the majority of the population is not English”. (p.37).

The highest growth is in tertiary education, Mitchell (2016) reports 8000 courses being taught in English at Universities in countries where the majority of the population do not have English as their first language, with 5 million students travelling abroad and many studying in English in their own countries. In the European case, this educational offer is regulated by the “area of higher education.”

The drive seems to be internationalization (Macaro et al., 2018), defined by (Knight, 2013:85) as ‘the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions (primarily teaching/learning, research, service) or delivery of higher education.’ Among the practical reasons for this growth, the academic one has to be taken into account (about 94 per cent of research in international, high-impact publications is in English). Countries where students are normally highly proficient in English have switched into English for STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). There is also the assumption that EMI will boost students’ possibilities for success in the job market, with higher social and economic possibilities. Governments, universities and students find this 2 in 1 offer attractive in educational and economic terms.

As we advance in the process, it seems necessary to integrate a new paradigm of teaching and learning, that of EMI. An important number of challenges with regard to teaching different areas in a foreign language have emerged regarding two categories: the linguistic and the methodological one.

The assumption that simply asking for a higher linguistic level will lead to a more successful implementation of the curricula is no longer sustained (Clegg, 2011). There is a difference in teaching content subjects in L1 or L2, apart from a high command of the target language,

linguistic and pedagogical demands are made on the teacher, ranging from curriculum design, assessment, scaffolding, and materials development. New approaches to teaching have come into play, higher demands lead to different paths to success.

The proper design and implementation of materials seem to be one of the steepest areas in EMI implementation, basically because of the persistence of the “assumptionist” view that leads to adaptations of materials and resources designed to fulfil a different objective, usually for a different population. There is a dearth not only of materials to implement EMI, but also well-defined guidelines for the demanding process of materials design and preparation (Ball, 2018).

This chapter tries to tune up relevant current theories of language learning and basic principles of learning in an attempt to underline the potential of the derived methodology, focusing on developing successful materials for the challenges this new approach poses to the profession. Not only are analyzed insights into the rationale and the methodology, but it is also proposed a procedure to generate EMI materials that may lead the education practitioner from generating the first idea on the thematic axis of her unit to the development of the final activities for the classroom.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Tasks: In EMI, these are activities where the learners are asked to use the target language in order to achieve a particular outcome related to the related content of the course.

Experiential Learning: Referring to ways of acquiring language and content through experiencing it in use, specifically through interaction with content in the target language.

Language Awareness Approaches: These approaches try to develop in the learners the ability to discover how the language is used through discoveries they work out themselves.

Project Work: A series of activities that allows the students to study and do research on the content of the subject, they act by themselves using their abilities, personal experience, and aptitudes to implement the assignment.

Discovery Approach: An approach which develops activities that help learners to focus on noticing relevant aspects of the learning process, in EMI, either language or content related.

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