One of the top scholars in the area of content-based language teaching (CBLT) is Dr. Marguerite Ann Snow.
For decades, Dr. Snow has published on how to better integrate language and content in the classroom.
As such integration is one of the major struggles for CBLT teachers, especially in foreign contexts, I thought it would be helpful to post a little about Dr. Snow’s work and discuss a few takeaways for my CBLT readers.
Dr. Marguerite Ann Snow is currently a professor in the Charter College of Education at California State University, Los Angeles. She earned her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also completed her Master and Bachelor degrees. The bulk of her publications are in the interest areas of immersion education/content-based instruction as well as academic English. She also has written a few publications regarding standards in English language teaching and teacher training/education. The following sections will briefly discuss three of Dr. Snow’s major contributions to the field of English language teaching.
The bulk of her publications are in the interest areas of immersion education/content-based instruction as well as academic English. She also has written a few publications regarding standards in English language teaching and teacher training/education among other topics.
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Snow’s career, you can read more details here: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/marguerite-ann-snow-phd
Now that you have a general idea of Dr. Snow’s background, let’s take a look at a few of her publications.
A Framework for Integrating Content and Language
A major challenge in the implementation of content-based language teaching is balancing content and language. One of Dr. Snow’s first major works outlines a framework for planning the integration of content and language instruction (Snow, Met, & Genesee, 1989).
The framework presents a model for which language teachers and content teachers can combine their respective objectives into an integrated lesson or unit. According to the authors, learning objectives come from (a) the second/foreign language curriculum, (b) the content-area curriculum, and (c) assessment of the learner’s academic and communicative needs (Snow, Met, & Genesee, 1989, p. 205). The model calls for both content and language teachers to come together with their respective objectives and combine them based on the content.
Although language curriculum typically follows a certain sequence, this sequence would be altered based on the content curriculum. This framework is of much relevance today as CBLT continues to struggle with integrating language and content, most commonly with content taking precedence over language in the classroom. As a result, CBLT students are often found to have underdeveloped language skills.
While the framework does discuss two teachers involved, in many CBLT settings, there is only one teacher for both content and language instruction. However, this framework still gives a good map of how a CBLT teacher should consider curriculum and syllabus development.
An Adjunct Model of Content and Language Integration
The next study looks at a university ESL program aligned with general university coursework. While I know much of my audience consists of K-12 EFL teachers, I believe this study still has relevance, particularly for understanding how your “language courses” can align with your “content courses.”
Snow and Brinton (1988) examined the effectiveness of a 7-week summer program for incoming freshmen where students were enrolled in an intermediate ESL course and an introductory psychology course.
In integrating the two courses, the ESL course curriculum was designed to support the tasks students would do, particularly writing, in the introductory psychology course.
Although the student participants had much lower ESL placement scores than non-participants upon admission to the university, the participants performed equally well as their counterparts on a simulated final exam following the program. This study shows the effectiveness of linking content courses with ESL courses in universities. The authors believe the effective nature of the program lies in the authenticity of the material and current/future applicability of the skills taught. The authors suggest that universities should consider an adjunct model linking content and ESL courses for international students rather than having an ESL program which is isolated from the general
This study shows the effectiveness of linking content courses with ESL courses. The authors believe the effective nature of the program lies in the authenticity of the material and current/future applicability of the skills taught. The authors suggest that universities should consider an adjunct model linking content and ESL courses for international students rather than having an ESL program which is isolated from the general
The authors suggest that schools should consider an adjunct model linking content and ESL courses for students rather than having an ESL program which is isolated from the general coursework of the students.
Connecting with the framework above, in EFL programs that have separate language classes and content classes, this study shows that it is more effective for the objectives of the two classes to be aligned.
Teacher Training for English as a Lingua Franca
While the bulk of Dr. Snow’s work is concerned with content-based language teaching, she has also done work in teacher training. With the rapid spread of the English language, English has become a lingua franca, or a language without native
With the rapid spread of the English language, English has become a lingua franca, or a language without native speakers, and more and more English students are being taught by local non-native speakers in contexts where English is not a local language. To address this changing teaching environment, Snow, Kamhi-Stein, and Brinton (2006) discuss two case studies that illustrate teacher preparation in the age of English as a lingua franca.
The first case study discusses the development of teacher standards in Egypt. Egyptian faculty and American specialists collaborated to develop sets of standards for English teachers, teacher trainers, educational leaders, and in-service training programs. The result was an “Egyptianized” set of standards that respected local English language use, local methodologies for teachers, and encouraged continuous professional growth.
The second case study showcases language proficiency and professional development in Uzbekistan. Ten faculty members in an English-medium instruction institution participated in a two-year professional development program. The program worked to improve the language proficiency of the participants in a way that was conscious of the legitimacy of many varieties of English. It also helped the teachers develop professionally with sensitivity to the local educational needs. In summation, Snow, Kamhi-Stein, and Brinton’s (2006) work
Snow, Kamhi-Stein, and Brinton’s (2006) work emphasizes the need for teacher training in an era of English as a lingua franca to be designed with local needs in mind rather than based on a Western model of education.
And for expat teachers teaching EFL, it is a good reminder that our Western ways may not be compatible with the local contexts we teach in. For us to be successful, it is on us to adapt.
Dr. Snow’s work continues to be very influential in the field of English language teaching, particularly in CBLT.
This brief snapshot of three pieces of work hardly breaks the surface of her publication of books, book chapters, journal articles, and more nor do my summaries do her work justice.
However, I hope these brief snapshots can help you reflect on elements of your own CBLT practice.
What do you think of Dr. Snow’s work and how do the ideas presented apply to your context? Let me know in the comments.
Snow, M. A., & Brinton, D. M. (1988). Content-Based Language Instruction: Investigating the Effectiveness of the Adjunct Model. TESOL Quarterly, 22(4), 553–574. https://doi.org/10.2307/3587256
Snow, M. A., Kamhi-Stein, L. D., & Brinton, D. M. (2006). Teacher training for English as a lingua franca. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 26, 261–281. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190506000134
Snow, M. A., Met, M., & Genesee, F. (1989). A Conceptual Framework for the Integration of Language and Content in Second/Foreign Language Instruction. TESOL Quarterly, 23(2), 201–217. https://doi.org/10.2307/3587333