The materials are designed for a group of pre-Masters students enrolled on a "Social & Cultural Studies" module to prepare for a degree in the Social Sciences. Apart from subject content, the module seeks to teach relevant vocabulary and to develop study and critical thinking skills. While traditional lectures are used to introduce content matter, seminars are more learner-centred to allow students to explore and discuss ideas. As most of the students enrolled in this course come from China, this adaptation to a Western style of learning means a radical change from their previous, often teacher-centred education experience (Turner and Acker, 2002). Furthermore, the students have considerably lower English language skills than direct entry students1, with average IELTS entry scores between 5.5 and 6.0. As a consequence, many students remain passive and struggle to contribute to seminar discussions, especially early on in the course.
In order to provide the students with a greater understanding of their new academic environment and culture, the module includes a unit on the development of Western thought, focussing on the Enlightenment, modern and postmodern periods. It is for this unit, and the sessions on the Enlightenment in particular, that the materials presented in this documentation have been developed. In the past, students have struggled with this topic, not only because they lack basic historical background knowledge, but also because the seminar readings are linguistically challenging source texts from the period. Thus, it is the aim of the materials presented here to provide a scaffold that supports both content and language learning as well as the development of study and critical thinking skills.
The learning aims of the material can be summarised as follows:
In terms of content knowledge, the students will...
In terms of language, the students will...
In terms of study and critical thinking skills, the students will...
The idea of "scaffolding" is rooted in sociocultural learning theory that emphasises the importance of social interaction and meaning construction in the learning process (Lantolf and Thorne, 2006). The term was originally coined by Bruner who defined it as a process "that enables the child or novice to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal which would be beyond his unassisted effort" (Wood et al., 1976: 90). He identified six scaffolding strategies, such as generating interest in and simplification of the task, directing the students' focus and marking critical features of the task, keeping the students motivated and modelling solutions (ibid., 98). In Vygotskian terms, it has thus beenargued, the teacher needs to design materials and tasks that support the learners through a range of linguistic and non-linguistic cues that aid meaning construction (Walqui, 2008: 169). Suggested means include the selection and adaptation of texts (deGraaff et al., 2007: 612) as well as the use of sensory materials such as visualisations or videos (Walqui, 2008: 173). Furthermore, activities usually associated with testing such as cloze, multiple choice or matching exercises can be used to support cognitive processing of both linguistic and non-linguistic material (Wildhage and Otten, 2003: 31; deGraaff, 2007: 609). To encourage interaction with the material, students can be asked to draw concept maps (Coonan, 207: 640). Drawing on schema theory the inclusion of pre-/ while-/ post-reading (or -listening) tasks has been recommended to activate learners' background knowledge and to assist them in making sense of the new experiences (Nunan, 1995: 70; Gibbons, 2002: 79ff.; Walqui, 2008: 173).
As these examples show, CLIL pedagogy emphasises the students' need to engage and interact with the material in order to construct their knowledge of the world (Coyle, 2007). This ties in well with CALL methodology which has also been argued to support constructivist approaches to learning (Levy and Stockwell, 2006: 116). Following this interpretation the computer cannot only be seen as a tool that provides resources for CLIL (Gimeno et al., 2010), but also as a mediator that supports mental processing through multimedia interaction (Haddon et al., 1995: 22; Levy and Stockwell, 2006: 117). Thus it is no surprise that calls for the integration of CLIL and CALL activities have been made (Fontecha, 2008) and the material documented here presents one attempt to do so.
As with many international students (Lowes and Peters, 2004), experience has shown that the students enrolled on the Social & Cultural Studies module often struggle to make sense of the information presented in lectures and the reading of authentic academic texts. This, coupled with their unfamiliarity with the critical discourse expected in Western HE seminars, can lead to a reluctance to take part in seminar discussions, which then in turn means that they miss opportunities to construct knowledge and to practise language skills. The web-unit is therefore designed as a scaffold to prepare students for a seminar discussion by assisting them in reviewing the lecture and guiding them through the seminar readings. The following outlines the pedagogic rationale of the web-unit's elements in more detail.