We arrived as a diverse group from at least 9 different European countries and from different educational settings. All of the 10 Comenius group members and Valencian participants had come with hopes and expectations to learn, some a little unsure of what to expect, others having already had some exposure to CLIL ideas and practices.
I turned out to be the only participant from higher education. This was something I had sort of anticipated when I selected the course from the Grundtvig training database as it fell under Comenius. This would still be interesting for me however, I’d been assured by the course organiser, when I asked for advice: CLIL was definitely also appropriate in higher education. Yet it took 5 days to hear in the final session from the course leader that in fact CLIL was not really a thing for higher education, in contrast to primary and secondary schools.
On the plus side, what I took away from the course was better insights in the different educational settings from the other participants (esp. the Spanish), in other words a wider understanding of (lifelong) learning in Europe. The wonderful cooperative work in the mixed groups, the passion with which most participants spoke about education, the intercultural / international experience, the creative ideas that came up by free association of all present, the insightful presentations of the primary and secondary school teachers that shared their hands-on experiences with us, the Favara school visit: these were all positive and stimulating aspects in the course.
I often learn best when I actively participate and contribute, I try to be constructive to make a course a success and I share what I know, because I realise time and again that there is so much you get in return. That worked best when we got the assignment to design a model and apply the 4 C model (communication, culture, content and cognition) to work out the theme of Global Citizenship.
On the whole, the course group assignments were not bad. However, the feedback on them was: after reporting back or presenting results of the group work, the course leader often quickly went on to press a message on us that had already been in his mind before anyone said anything and then steered us into another direction. The same thing happened when a participant answered a question: a superficial response, hardly any real, content based dialogue in getting to grips with some of the real CLIL issues. That's why a feeling of being ignored arose. Others started complaining in the breaks about the lack of input and materials.
Outright critical were the participants who had seen our course leader working on his computer and replying to mails during the sessions, even when participants were presenting their CLIL lesson plans e.g.
It was interesting for me to see that some had decided to be as indifferent as our course leader and started working on their everyday tasks as well or playing games on a notebook, as a sign of silent protest. This kind of passive resistance was a cultural lesson to me from Greece. Another one was the hesitation on the part of the Spanish participants to voice their opinions when some Comenius group participants invited them to express their views on the course and its contents at the end of the day.
The Valencian Board of Education, the Conselleria d’ Educació Generalitat Valenciana, is an important governmental organisation with a lot of power. In order not to jeopardise their careers or to face future negative measures the Valencian participants refrained from openly commenting on the way the 5 day course was run.
As for the 5 day programme, it had undergone some changes by the time we got our folders at the start of the week. In itself that’s not a problem. However, the actual programme was definitely a downgraded version of the provisional one, having deleted 2 speakers / CLIL experts. Not only that, but the course facilitator didn’t really adhere to the updated programme either. We never had the review of the day for example.
Anticipating a final evaluation on the last day we were dumbstruck (again) by seeing the course end without reviewing it and / or discussing our individual experiences and learning results. We did get a compliment however! We’d been the most active and best CLIL group so far. Now why didn’t that produce any smiles on our faces, hmm? Was there an evaluative questionnaire then??? No chance.
And then there was the issue of the course costs… another intensively debated issue in our Comenius group. No one really understood why the rate for accommodation costs had been set at the price of 650 euros when hotel accommodation (incl. 5 breakfasts) was only 275 euros and lunches around 75 euros all in all. Our morning coffee with delicacies (and possibly other catering provisions) can hardly have amounted to 300 euros per person. In a discussion with the two people in charge, these costs could not satisfactorily be accounted for on the spot.
To sum it up: CLIL is an interesting, promising, innovative educational approach, well worth exploring and implementing. However, if you decide to take a State-of the-Art CLIL course, just make sure (or hope and pray) that it is not the pompous David Marsh who is the course facilitator. Here's the result of the photos I took.
This course has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.