What is CLAC?

View a video presentation by CLAC Consortium Chair, Diana Davies (Princeton University) for a concise overview of CLAC: CLAC 101:  Definition of Terms

General principles of CLAC include:

  • A focus on communication and content
  • An emphasis on developing meaningful content-focused language use outside traditional language classes
  • An approach to language use and cross-cultural skills as means for the achievement of global intellectual synthesis, in which students learn to combine and interpret knowledge produced in other languages and in other cultures

Within this large framework, CLAC can take many forms, depending on specific content and curricular goals within a discipline. Among areas of interest to CLAC educators are:

  • Alternative models of education that foster the acquisition of cross-cultural competences
  • Frameworks that serve to build connections between comparative literature, cultural studies and area studies
  • K-16 articulation models
  • Content-based language instruction and the development of new content-based foreign language textbooks and discipline-specific learning materials and technology
  • Study abroad including programs focused on professional studies
  • Heritage learner programs
  • Service learning models in cross-cultural contexts

The longstanding Languages Across the Curriculum (LAC) movement is built upon a simple, primary concept: Students should have multiple opportunities to apply their knowledge of languages in a variety of curricular contexts, not just within the traditional language classroom. Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum builds upon this basic idea: Knowledge exists within and is shaped by culture and, therefore, just as materials in many languages can and should be incorporated into all parts of the curriculum, intercultural perspectives can and should inform the teaching of academic content in many curricular contexts. LAC and CLAC strive to make translingual and transcultural competence a reality for all students, not simply for those who major in a foreign language or participate in immersive study abroad programs. Similarly educators across disciplines and languages are encouraged to cooperate and transcend curricular/co-curricular divides in order to incorporate international inquiry and discovery into all aspects of a student’s educational experience.

Is CLAC a form of Content-Based Instruction (CBI)?  CLAC is not synonymous with Content-Based Instruction. While CBI puts content at the service of language learning, CLAC engages languages (and intercultural perspectives) to achieve a better and more multi-faceted understanding of content. It is also not just another call to bring culture into the language classroom. While CLAC practitioners applaud the move away from the traditional, literature-focused approach to foreign language learning, CLAC focuses less on bringing disciplinary content or culture into the language classroom (“the curriculum across the languages,” if you will) than on assimilating languages and cultures into instruction and research across a wide range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts.

What are the origins of CLAC?  Languages Across the Curriculum shares a philosophical and pedagogical foundation with Writing Across the Curriculum and other “across the curriculum” movements that gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, in that it emphasizes a means of communication in the creative and active understanding of course content. In 1989, Richard Lambert, then director of the National Foreign Language Center, argued that language instruction in the U.S. was too often seen as a goal in itself: “This argument resembles that used for universal science education aimed at producing scientific literacy, not the ability to ‘do’ science” (Opening Keynote Address, CALICO1 1989, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs). The challenge of helping students to “do” languages was picked up by others in the 1990s, as evidenced by the Department of Education (FIPSE) funded American Council on Education projects “Net Gain” (1996) and “Next Steps for Languages Across the Curriculum” (1998), as well as by the development of LAC programs at institutions including Earlham College, St. Olaf College, the University of Rhode Island, and Binghamton University.

Culture increasingly emerged as an important focus for LAC practitioners within the past ten years. The 2001 conference “Internationalizing the Curriculum: Content and Language,” hosted by Binghamton University led to a follow-up in 2004 entitled “Languages and Cultures Across the Curriculum: a Post-9/11 Imperative.” Two additional conferences, at the University of Iowa in 2005 (“Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum: Responding to a National Need”) and at Portland State University in 2006 (“Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum: Building New Connections”), further explored the culture theme and gave birth to the acronym, CLAC.

What is the CLAC Consortium?  The co-organizers of the Iowa conference (The University of Iowa, Binghamton University, Baldwin-Wallace College, and Portland State University), with strong support from ACE, established a national CLAC Consortium, which was further developed at the Portland State University conference. The Consortium (comprised of the original group of four now joined by Drake University, University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, the University of Richmond, Skidmore College, and Wittenburg University) has created a Web site (http://www.clacconsortium.org) to disseminate information about the CLAC mission and philosophy, as well as highlight best practices.

Consortium members are also committed to promoting the goals of CLAC and supporting fellow practitioners by hosting national conferences, including CLAC 2008 at UNC-Chapel Hill, 2009 at Baldwin-Wallace College, and 2010 at Skidmore College, with the next conference scheduled for 9-10 March 2012 at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Future Consortium projects may include the pursuit of collaborative grants, the development and publication of CLAC teaching materials and resources, and the establishment of a mentor network in support of new and nascent CLAC programs.

What does CLAC look like?

In practice, CLAC takes a wide variety of forms, including but not limited to the following:
1) Linked language and content courses or content courses with specially designed language modules;
2) Content courses taught entirely or partially in languages other than English;
3) Co-taught courses in which content is infused with an international perspective;
4) Large lecture courses with break out or discussion sessions that are conducted in and include the use of materials in a variety of languages, facilitated by graduate or advanced undergraduate native speakers;
5) Discussion sections that are conducted in English but actively incorporate intercultural perspectives (perhaps through the use of English language materials produced in non-English speaking countries); and
6) Study abroad programs that actively and reflectively link together linguistic and cultural experiences from the classroom, the home-stay, and all parts of daily life in the host country.

CLAC is not a one-size-fits-all method. Each institution must develop a CLAC program that is relevant and applicable to its own institutional strengths, limitations, and goals.

iCALICO (Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium) Journal. Vol. 6, No. 4 (June 1989): 7-22. iiSee FIPSE (U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education) Grant Database: http://www.fipse.aed.org/grantshow.cfm?grantNumber=P116B960308 and http://www.fipse.aed.org/grantshow.cfm?grantNumber=P116P950030. iiiSee: Foreign Language Education: Funded Projects FY91 to FY95: November 1995 (Washington: NEH, 1995). Also see the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Web site at: http://www.acenet.edu//AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home .

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  1. Pingback: Culture and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) « Héctor Javier Martín Sampedro

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