Content-Based Instruction | TESL Issues

Content-based Instruction (CBI)

Content-based Instruction (CBI), according to Brinton, Snow and Wesche (1989), is the integration of content learning with language teaching aims. More specifically, it refers to the concurrent study of language and subject matter, with the form and sequence of language presentation dictated by content material. Such an approach contrasts sharply with many practices in which language skills are taught virtually in isolation from substantive content. Through CBI, language becomes the medium to convey informational content of interest and relevance to the learner. Language takes on its appropriate role as a vehicle for accomplishing a set of content goals (Brown, 2007)((Brown, H. D. (2007). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy (3rd Ed.). White Plains, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.)).

Content-based Instruction (CBI) is one of the five manifestations of ‘skill integration’ approaches.

  • This approach refers to the teaching of language through exposure to content that is interesting and relevant to learners. This content serves several purposes. First, it provides a rich context for the language classroom, allowing the teacher to present and explain specific language features. Additionally, it provides for what Stephen Krashen (1985) calls ‘comprehensible input’ – challenging language that is slightly above the current linguistic level of the student which, according to Krashen, provides the foundation for successful language acquisition.
  • It is important to note that the selection of contents extends over more than one lesson. In fact, CBI units are often several weeks or more in length.

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