When Culture Is Content: Applications for Content-based Instruction in the World Language Classroom

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Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education


Content-based instruction (CBI) is a pedagogical approach used in the second/other language classroom that commits to addressing both language- and content-learning objectives. Scholars have found that, particularly in the planning stages, teachers struggle with achieving that balance (Donato, 2016; Lyster, 2007). This study examines world language (WL) teachers’ planning for CBI via these research questions: (1) When experienced teachers from traditional WL classroom contexts design CBI unit plans, what do these plans reveal about the pathways they take towards CBI in a traditional WL settings? (2) What broader challenges and opportunities related to using CBI in the traditional WL context are revealed? The data sources in this qualitative lesson analysis study are 36 unit plans developed as the final project for a graduate-level course on CBI in one US institution. The three investigators examined the content–language dichotomy and the academic content-cultural content dichotomy in each lesson and identified patterns. The findings reveal that teachers often chose content that was more cultural than academic in nature, and they were challenged by several aspects of relating the language and content objectives. Implications for researchers, teacher educators, and teachers present a broader discussion of CBI as a viable curricular option in WL classrooms.


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