CONTENT BASED INSTRUCTION
Content based instruction (CBI) is a teaching method that emphasizes learning about something rather than learning about language. Although CBI is not new, there has been an increased interest in it over the last ten years, particularly in the USA and Canada where it has proven very effective in ESL immersion programs. This interest has now spread to EFL classrooms around the world where teachers are discovering that their students like CBI and are excited to learn English this way.
Types of Content Based Instruction
The Sheltered Model
Sheltered and adjunct CBI usually occurs at universities in English L1 contexts. The goal of teachers using sheltered and adjunct CBI is to enable their ESL students to study the same content material as regular English L1 students. Sheltered CBI is called "sheltered" because learners are given special assistance to help them understand regular classes. Two teachers can work together to give instruction in a specific subject. One of the teachers is a content specialist and the other an ESL specialist. They may teach the class together or the class time may be divided between the two of them. For example, the content specialist will give a short lecture and then the English teacher will check that the students have understood the important words by reviewing them later. This kind of team teaching requires teachers to work closely together to plan and evaluate classes. It has been used successfully at the bilingual University of Ottawa, where classes are taught in English and French, (Briton, 1989).
The Adjunct Model
Adjunct classes are usually taught by ESL teachers. The aim of these classes is to prepare students for "mainstream" classes where they will join English L1 learners. Adjunct classes may resemble EPA or ESP classes where emphasis is placed on acquiring specific target vocabulary; they may also feature study skills sessions to familiarize the students with listening, note taking and skimming and scanning texts. Some adjunct classes are taught during the summer months before regular college classes begin, while others run concurrently with regular lessons.
The Theme Based Model
Theme based CBI is usually found in EFL contexts. Theme based CBI can be taught by an EFL teacher or team taught with a content specialist. The teacher(s) can create a course of study designed to unlock and build on their own students' interests and the content can be chosen from an enormous number of diverse topics.
How Does Theme Based CBI Differ from Sheltered and Adjunct Models?
Theme based CBI is taught to students with TEFL scores usually in the range 350 to 500. These scores are lower than the TEFL 500 score which is often the minimum requirement for students who want to study at universities in English L1 contexts. Because of the lower proficiency level of these students, a standard "mainstream" course, such as "Introduction to Economics" will have to be redesigned if it is to be used in a theme based EFL class. For example, complicated concepts can be made easier to understand by using posters and charts, (Mercerize, 2000, p.108).