LINGUIST List 32.2241

Thu Jul 01 2021

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Cammarata, Ó Ceallaigh (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 20-May-2021
From: Laura Dubcovsky <>
Subject: Teacher Development for Immersion and Content-Based Instruction
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

EDITOR: Laurent Cammarata
EDITOR: T.J. Ó Ceallaigh
TITLE: Teacher Development for Immersion and Content-Based Instruction
SERIES TITLE: Benjamins Current Topics 110
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Laura Dubcovsky, University of California, Davis


“Teacher Development for Immersion and Content-Based Instruction” consists of a compilation of seven articles focused on immersion programs in Hong Kong, Alberta and Ontario in Canada, Dublin and Limerick in Ireland, and Minnesota in the United States. In the introduction Cammarata and Ó Ceallaigh highlight the success of immersion language programs that combine second language learning and subject matter knowledge in integrated instruction. Well-documented studies have largely shown how bilingual and immersion programs, such as Dual Immersion (DI) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), bring about greater and more durable linguistic, cognitive, and cultural benefits than do traditional second language curricula (Lazaruk, 2007). However, the book editors notice a dearth of studies that examine and support prospective teachers and teacher educators during the immersion preparation years. The articles in this volume advocate for stronger and well-balanced immersion programs. They all share similar concerns about teachers’ knowledge of the content areas in the language of instruction, the need for a vast and robust linguistic repertoire to accompany the academic requirement, as well as the development of teachers’ literacy skills to identify relevant features across school texts, genres, and discourses. Although the different authors address unique topics and situate their studies in specific educational contexts, they all agree in finding more effective ways for integrating content and language, while offering more frequent and richer opportunities to improve the immersion learning experience.

In the first chapter, Peichang He and Angel Lin illustrate the possibility of “Becoming a “language-aware” content teacher: Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) teacher professional development as a collaborative, dynamic and dialogic process.” Their chapter builds on the notion of teacher language awareness (Andrews & Lin, 2017), arguing that disciplinary teachers need to develop not only subject matter knowledge, but also language knowledge, closely related to the specific discipline and general academic school demands (Schleppegrell 2004). In addition, teachers are required to gain pedagogical knowledge to make the highlighted integration of content and language more accessible for all students (Shulman, 1987). He and Lin follow the trajectory traced by a science teacher who teaches science in a secondary school in Hong Kong. Her path shows a series of professional stages marked by the dynamic involvement between the teacher and her colleagues, as well by dynamic interactions with her students. The science teacher starts by being a simple user of scientific language, privileging almost exclusively the knowledge of the disciplinary content. Gradually, the educator moves onto a new stage, in which she adopts linguistic tools to analyze words, phrases, and structures closely related to scientific content. Finally, the teacher reaches an insightful stage that allows her to reflect on ways to better motivate her students toward the scientific subject matter, while considering specific linguistic features that may further students’ understanding and production of scientific knowledge. In closing, the authors underline that a supportive preparation program should include courses that facilitate the systemic integration of language and content and promote collaboration, productive dialogues, and joint participation among prospective teachers and educators.

In the second chapter, titled “In search of immersion teacher educators’ knowledge base: Exploring their readiness to foster an integrated approach to teaching,” Cammarata and Cavanagh pursue a better comprehension of current French immersion preparation programs in Canada. The authors focus on the instruction of language, literacy, and subject matter, recognizing educators’ influential role in preparing stronger and more knowledgeable immersion teachers. Experienced educators should nurture pedagogical and disciplinary languages, as well as encourage teachers’ awareness of intricate connections between different types of knowledge. As shown in Figure 1 (p. 46), the success of immersion instruction is based on the balanced combination of content, language, literacy, and pedagogy. Cammarata and Cavanagh offer an analytical tool, the Interconnected Knowledge for Integration (IKI), which helps juxtapose and combine relevant features, to determine areas of intervention that might optimize immersion teachers’ performance (Appendix A, p.65). The authors compare the ideal IKI model with educators’ actual unbalanced knowledge and distribution, through the visualization of uneven circles (Figure 2, p. 53). Cammarata and Cavanagh stress the need for a strong curriculum, dedicated to immersion teachers only, and which offers a detailed understanding of the varied and intricate knowledge required. Above all, they emphasize the importance of well-prepared educators, who can provide a strong cosmovision of the content area, properly accompanied by adequate grammatical and lexical structures, and included in coherent texts of clear thematic orientation.

In the third chapter, Leavy, Hourigan, and Ó Ceallaigh attempt “Unpacking dimensions of immersion teacher educator identity.” This chapter explores the identity development of two mathematics teacher educators who use Irish as the language of instruction at the elementary school level. The authors follow the “community of practice” (Wenger, 1998) framework and analyze “critical incidents” (Skovholt & McCarthy, 1988) to underline significant episodes in the search of immersion educators’ identities. The authors trace a developmental continuum that shows how the mathematics educators start by adopting an extreme defense of their discipline, prioritizing the subject matter while exposing a clear tension between content and language components (Phase 1). They gradually move to a more flexible position that includes timid interactions and incipient negotiations between the subject matter content and its corresponding language, signaling the possibility of an integration of the two spaces (Phase 2). Finally, the immersion educators reach an “immersion-responsive” status, by which they start to accept the strong influence of the society to build individual identities (Phase 3). The authors conclude that while developing personal identities is always a challenging task, developing the professional identity of immersion teachers is even more complex and requires active support of the bilingual community of practice. Only through positive interactions, productive dialogues, and narrow collaborations can immersion teachers develop assertive and more powerful identities.

Chapter 4, “Teacher adaptations to support students with special education needs in French immersion: An observational study,” extends the range of the student population that typically attends immersion programs to include students with learning difficulties. Mady reviews literature about inclusion in general education and the few studies that focus on particular students within immersion programs (Arnett, 2010). The author draws from sociocultural theories to gain a deeper understanding of French immersion programs in Canada, concluding that the adoption of inclusive practices will benefit students with special needs. Therefore, she encourages adapting the curriculum and designing differentiated activities, and illustrates some options, from modifying strategies (Table 1, p. 102) to establishing appropriate types of interaction (Table 2, p.105), and from presenting content in different modalities (Table 3, p. 106) to using adapted materials extensively (Table 4, p. 106). Mady also includes teaching models that show how to modify lesson plans and promote differentiated instruction, following a more comprehensive perspective of language and cognition. Finally, she calls for a stronger immersion professional preparation, which enables prospective teachers to examine their own beliefs toward inclusion, based on well-founded scientific knowledge. The author highlights not only the integration of language and content, but also the existence of an inclusive immersion curriculum that welcomes all students.

In Chapter 5, Tedick and Zimmer address “Teacher perceptions of immersion professional development experiences emphasizing language-focused content instruction” in an online course in Minnesota. They use three socio-cultural categories of the “community of practice” (Wenger, 1998) to signal features that have a high impact on teachers’ ability to attend to language during immersion content-based instruction. The three categories of learning by doing (“practice”), experience (“making meaning”), and becoming (“identity”) converge in recurrent and influential themes for immersion practices. Among them, Tedick and Zimmer pinpoint: (1) meaningfulness of the instruction, (2) instrumental feedback for raising students’ language awareness, (3) enactments to put into practice concepts and strategies that encompass language and content, (4) observable positive changes in students’ learning and language production, (5) teachers’ reflections on deeper language understanding, and (6) collaborations with other immersion colleagues and across disciplinary teams. In closing, the authors encourage the design of immersion professional courses that incorporate these themes, on the one hand because they foster content, linguistic, and pedagogical knowledge, and on the other hand because they empower immersion teachers, encouraging them to take up leading roles, participate in professional conferences, and maintain high expectations for student learning and language production.

Chapter 6, “It was two hours […] the same old thing and nothing came of it”: Continuing professional development among teachers in Gaeltacht post-primary schools,” starts with a general overview of immersion programs in Ireland. The author, Ní Thuairisg, focuses on major challenges faced by teachers and students, as well as on some precarious conditions found in immersion classrooms. Regarding language proficiency, educators show uneven levels in the use of Irish as the medium of instruction. While some feel stronger in oral conversations, others can write Irish but are not confident to speak it in public, and others understand the language quite well but cannot deliver instruction, etc. Likewise, students from Irish descent attend immersion programs mostly to comply with their parents’ desires. Many of them limit the use of the heritage language to the classroom domain, as required by immersion program mandates. Maintaining the Irish language is nowadays a challenge, as younger generations are shifting rapidly into English, showing a clear inclination toward the language perceived as more powerful and hegemonic, and using English almost exclusively outside of the classroom. Additionally, most Irish immersion programs lack adequate teaching and learning resources, display poor curricula, and offer little or no support for students with special needs. Not surprisingly, teachers feel increasingly disengaged and overall dissatisfied with the educational environment. Given the current situation, Ní Thuairisg suggests substantial changes in the CPD model to support immersion teachers in specific content areas, classroom management, and bilingual assessments. The author emphasizes that CPD should be conducted by experienced trainers with a solid foundation and vast teaching experience, capable of fostering immersion professional identity and incoming teachers’ leadership.

In the next chapter, Arnott and Vignola present “The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) in French immersion teacher education: A focus on the language portfolio.” The authors explain how CEFR offers descriptors that can better discriminate among basic, independent, and proficient users, as well as among varied modes of communication (e.g., reception, production, interaction, and mediation). CEFR also facilitates artifacts that encourage self-evaluations, such as passports and biographies, as well as action plans and integral dossiers. The detailed information contrasts with more general preparation in Canadian teaching preparation programs, which do not typically provide immersion teachers with a strong foundation or opportunities to improve the second language. Therefore, Arnott and Vignola stress the value of adapting portfolios for the Canadian context, recognizing this as an efficient tool to identify language proficiency levels and cultural knowledge more accurately. The authors carefully weigh strengths and limitations found during the portfolios’ implementation (Table 2, p. 187). Among the former, self-evaluations of French competency, reflections that raise language awareness, and possible action-oriented activities are clear benefits for both student-teachers and experienced instructors. Among the latter, high pressure, short time for completion, and hard management constitute major challenges faced by beginning teachers, while unnecessary repetitions or irrelevant items may lead to boredom or disengagement. Despite these disadvantages, adapted portfolios are preferred as positive assets to French immersion programs, as they can strengthen teaching preparation through clearer objectives, lesson plans that integrate language and content, efficient instruction, and accurate measures of assessment.


“Teacher Development for Immersion and Content-Based Instruction” is an updated anthology of articles that emphasizes the need for continuing preparation of immersion teachers in second language and culture. The book addresses teachers, stakeholders, and researchers involved with bilingual/immersion education around the world. It is a significant contribution to the improvement of content-based immersion programs, focusing on stronger connections between subject matter and linguistic knowledge, as well as on complex issues of professional identity within the immersion community. Moreover, the articles are situated in different educational settings, from Hong Kong (Chapter 1) to Canada (Chapters 2, 4, and 7) and from the Republic of Ireland (Chapters 3 and 6) to the United States (Chapter 5). Some of the articles trace interesting parallelisms between immersion teachers’ language proficiency levels in distant contexts, such as Ireland and California (Chapter 6), while others highlight common immersion classrooms’ needs or similar immersion teachers’ struggles for agency and leadership across countries (Chapters 3 and 5, respectively).

This edited book also addresses issues of inclusion, which is a less discussed topic in the field of immersion programs. For example, Chapter 4 offers effective tools to facilitate the incorporation of students with special needs, while questioning the “most suitable” type of population that may attend these types of programs. The authors challenge the largely debated elitist nature of immersion programs, forcing practitioners and scholars to revisit traditional notions of language and cognition, which sometimes function as confounding variables in bilingual education (Cummins, 2007). Finally, professional and lay readers alike will enjoy the flexibility of the table of contents, as it is possible to choose, skip, or change the order of reading the chapters according to one’s personal interests and orientation. Each chapter constitutes a self-contained corpus of knowledge that follows either more general or more specific perspectives, supported by either theoretical principles or practical implications for the classroom. Some articles acknowledge the limited number of participants and/or the constraints of results based on self-assessment surveys, while others are empirical studies that contain quantitative data. Overall, “Teacher Development for Immersion and Content-Based Instruction” brings positive insights to further new studies and to replicate or enhance offered models in different immersion settings.


Andrews, S., & Lin, A. (2017). Language awareness and teacher development. In P. Garrett & J. Cots (Eds.), “The Routledge Handbook of Language Awareness” (pp. 57-74). London: Routledge.

Arnett, K. (2010). Scaffolding inclusion in a Grade 8 core French classroom: An exploratory case study. “Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics”, 6(4).

Cummins, J. (2007). Rethinking monolingual instructional strategies in multilingual classrooms. “Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics”, 10(2), 221-240.

Lazaruk, W. (2007). Avantages linguistiques, scolaires et cognitifs de l'immersion française. “La Revue Canadienne des Langues Vivantes”, 63(5), 629-654.

Schleppegrell, M. (2004). “The language of schooling. A functional linguistics perspective”. Mahwah,NJ: Erlbaum

Skovholt, T., & McCarthy, P. (1988). Critical incidents: Catalysts for counselor development. “Journal of Counseling and Development”, 67(2), 69-130.

Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. “Harvard Educational Review”, 57(1), 1-22.

Wenger, E. (1988). “Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Laura Dubcovsky is a retired instructor and supervisor from the Teacher Education Program in the School of Education at the University of California, Davis. With a Master’s in Education and a Ph. D in Spanish linguistics/with special emphasis on second language acquisition, her interests tap topics of language and bilingual education. She has taught bilingual teachers to use and practice communicative and academic Spanish needed in bilingual classrooms for more than ten years. She is currently leading professional development courses for bilingual teachers and interpret in parent/teachers’ conferences. She also translates at the Davis Joint Unified School District, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, YoloArts in Woodland, Davis Art Center, STEAC, and in the Zapotec Digital Project of Ticha.
Laura is a long-standing reviewer for the Linguistic list Serve and the California Association of School -University Partnerships (CASUP), and she also reviews articles for the Journal of Latinos and Education, Hispania, Lenguas en Contexto , etc as requested. She published “Functions of the verb decir (‘to say’) in the incipient academic Spanish writing of bilingual children in Functions of Language, 15(2), 257-280 (2008) and the chapter, “Desde California. Acerca de la narración en ámbitos bilingües” in ¿Cómo aprendemos y cómo enseñamos la narración oral? (2015). Rosario, Homo Sapiens: 127- 133

Page Updated: 01-Jul-2021