Issues Ideas Educ.

Applying Innovation to CLIL

Giovanna Gallo

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flipped classroom, CLIL, technology, active and cooperative learning, interaction, critical thinking, creativity.

PUBLISHED DATE November 2017
PUBLISHER The Author(s) 2017. This article is published with open access at

This paper describes a successful experience of flipped classroom conducted at the University of Salento, Italy, with students of English of the Courses of Study in Science of Primary Education, for the past three years. The initiative arises from the realisation that the traditional lecture does not work anymore with the new generations of students who need different stimuli in order to get the appropriate skills and competences required for their future profession. In a traditional lecture, students just take notes and try to memorise notions so as to pass the final exams and, after that, they tend to forget most of what they studied during the course. Moreover, in spite of the awareness of the importance of speaking English today, and in spite of various reforms aimed at achieving better competence, Italian students graduating from secondary schools, generally enter University with a low-level competence in the language. The pedagogical model of the flipped classroom applied to CLIL, along with strategies of non-formal education, involving team-work and problemsolving, based on the principle of learning by doing, were used to introduce theoretical topics and to perform a number of activities aimed at inclusion and intercultural education. Through active participation in discussion, different tasks assigned which required critical thinking, creativity and the use of communication technologies in creating several products, the students were able to master the theoretical topics planned for the course as well as the teaching approaches, methodologies and strategies to put them into practice in their future jobs.


My decision to use the pedagogical model of flipped classroom, three years ago, arose from two considerations. First of all the realisation that the traditional lecture is no longer adequate for the new generations of students who need different stimuli in order to get the skills and competences required for their future profession, in this instance, primary school teachers. Years of teaching experience made me realise that what students do, during the traditional lecture, is just take notes in a passive manner and then try to memorise notions so as to pass the final exams and, after that, they tend to forget most of what they studied during the course.

Second, every new academic year, I have to deal with the problem of students who cannot communicate in English. In fact, in spite of the awareness of the importance of speaking English today, and in spite of various reforms aimed at achieving better competence, Italian students graduating from secondary schools, generally do not reach even a low-level competence in the language. The teaching of English as part of the curriculum in primary school was introduced in the 1990s, and reinforced by a number of successive reforms. Therefore, students enrolling in university nowadays have studied English for more than ten years. However, most of them lament problems with the language in school, problems with teachers’ methods, and some are even anxious about it. Of course, the problem is not with the students. If they were able to learn their mother tongue, often a dialect, and the Italian language, they should be able to learn another language as well. Thus the problem must lie somewhere else, in other words, in the Italian educational system. And the main problem with the Italian system at all levels, in my opinion, is the tendency to regard the teaching of Foreign Languages as any other subject matter. At all levels means starting from Ministerial educational policies, through planning, methodologies and teacher training, organisation of timetables, to the actual teaching in the classroom, which is today affected by heavy cuts on funding, and therefore, a lack of appropriate structures, teaching aids, etc.

However, the main problem affecting the teaching of English in Italian schools is the lack of appropriate teacher training, and the problem becomes more relevant for primary school teachers. It is well known that the sooner children are exposed to a foreign language, the better they can master it. Nonetheless, a great number of teachers of English in primary school lack an adequate competence to do this job, mostly because of the lack of teacher training.

At a public examination for 1,027 posts as primary school teachers held last June in Italy, only 826 candidates passed, and those who failed were found unable to translate their theoretical knowledge into teaching practice. Since my students will hopefully be teaching in primary school, the challenging task I faced was twofold: Teaching English and, at the same time, teaching my students to teach the language to primary school children, and I wanted to do so in a stimulating, involving, and effective way. I decided to provide them with a solid theoretical basis, as well as a great deal of practice, through an innovative approach, the flipped classroom applied to CLIL, which is called “development of specific transversal competences” in Italian universities, along with a number of non-formal education strategies

In my teaching experience, I have always used a content-based approach, aimed at teaching and learning content, chosen according to the students’ course of study, through the medium of English, thus teaching theoretical content and relevant vocabulary, which could be useful for the students’ future profession, and the language at the same time. The approach is similar to CLIL, strongly supported by the European Commission and required by the Italian Ministry of Education.

I have always found this approach to teaching English effective since students are exposed to a great amount of authentic, stimulating material in the target language, which provides useful information, and therefore intrinsic motivation for the students who are involved in activities that require the active and meaningful use of the language. Three years ago, when I set up to use the flipped classroom model, I decided that I would continue to use a teaching approach based on content chosen from a number of subjects across the students’ curriculum, since I was sure that it was very effective in providing my students with the necessary vocabulary and concepts related to their course of study, as well as the competence needed for their future profession.

The content of my syllabus for the course of study in Primary Education therefore included: An overview of the history of English and its worldwide spread; the resulting emergence of a number of varieties of the language, or World Englishes, with a focus on the differences between the British and the American standards; International English and its use as a tool for intercultural education; theories of learning; teaching methodologies; the Critical Period Hypothesis; teaching English to young learners; intercultural and inclusive education, thus involving subjects such as history, pedagogy, psychology, didactics and also some geography.

In this experience the difference lies in the media used for the presentation of content, which is no longer delivered through lectures and the use of printed material such as books or handouts, but through videos, slides, text files, and other digital resources posted on a social learning platform, which the students watch by themselves before coming to classes.

Page(s) 155-173
ISSN Print : 2320-7655, Online : 2320-8805
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