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Integrating Language and Content: a Shared Responsibility

By Alison McNulty

Tashkent International School (TIS) in Uzbekistan is a linguistically and culturally diverse International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, in which more than 80 percent of the almost 500 students enrolled do not have English as their first language.
Such diversity makes the school a fascinating place to work, but also presents big challenges in the learning and teaching of subject content and in the language of instruction. While school policy is clear that ‘… language learning in school is not a separate discipline and cannot be isolated from all other learning,” making this statement a reality means that all faculty have to buy into their role as language teachers as well as subject content teachers.
Over the last four years, TIS has introduced the Middle Years Programme (MYP) English Language B program and a Foundation English program, which offers the general English component of the Language B program, in-class support and an English for Academic Purposes course (EAP).
From these changes grew the idea that teams of language and content specialists could collaborate to design materials using the language specific to their subject’s content. In order to embed the concept that all faculty are language as well as subject teachers, a program of professional development sessions was put in place in academic year 2012-2013.
The program aimed to raise faculty’s awareness of the challenges for learners and to exemplify good practice in English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI). The sessions were led by the English language specialists from the TIS Foundation English department with input provided from a distance by a UK consultant.
The first session in November 2012 reviewed the TIS language policy and the teacher’s role as an English language teacher. Subsequent sessions throughout the academic year took a more hands-on approach and participants rotated through a series of workshops which involved working together within their departments to create their own materials to either guide or support learners.
The program concluded with a full week’s visit to the school last October by Keith Kelly, an external consultant, who undertook observations, filmed elementary and secondary classes, and conducted a whole school professional development day. The last two days of the visit consisted of materials development workshops for the secondary departments and the elementary grade level groups.
It will be some time before we can evaluate how successful the program at TIS has been, and whether all faculty members will buy into their dual role as language and subject content teachers; but there were some encouraging signs in the feedback teachers gave after the consultant’s visit.
“A success story … Our professional development set aside some time to create language guides. I crafted a menu of language options for speaking about patterns, trends and anomalies when using data.” - Amanda, MYP science
“We recognized that each subject had vocabulary and verbs that are common to the topic, and we could easily create subject area vocabulary reference lists. All of this takes time but we are heading in the right direction.” - Renee, Grade 10 and DP humanities
“We developed a writing frame for reflection which is one of the MYP mathematics criteria. Students always find it difficult to understand what is expected in these math reflections, which are very different from other subject reflections. I have started using writing frames with my Grade 8 and 9 and they are really helping the students structure their ideas.” - Shalini, MYP and DP mathematics. l
Ms. McNulty is Secondary English Language Coordinator at Tashkent International School.

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