What is content-based instruction (CBI) and what are the advantages of teaching using this method?

Learning doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, the most effective classes are the most memorable; this is why we aim to make our lessons something students look forward to.

Creating fun lessons is all about the content taught, and the way in which that content is portrayed. Requesting that students simply remember a list of words and definitions with nothing to relate them to isn’t just boring it’s also highly ineffective.

In order to combat this boredom and make learning more efficient, we employ a teaching method known as Content-Based Instruction (CBI), or Content-Based Learning/Content-Based Language Teaching (CBLT).

Introduction to Content-Based Instruction (CBI)

Content-Based Instruction (CBI) employs a teach through content approach with lessons that focus on the language surrounding a common subject matter.

In a similar fashion to how children learn, CBI helps students develop linguistic abilities that are directly tied to a situation or scenario they’re likely to encounter in day-to-day life.

In this scenario the language is used a tool for developing knowledge about the topic. This technique allows students to immediately put into practice what they’ve just learnt, which greatly improves memory rention, even for those who typically have difficulty remembering information from a book or lecture.

The practical, hands on method of learning provided by CBI lessons naturally creates a comfortable environment in which students are encouraged to interact, those who get involved find additional reward and as a result want to engage more.

We encourage and nurture this behavior, because when it comes to success, developing good social skills can be just as important as intelligence.

“Experts agree Content-based instruction, also known as content-based learning, is a ‘significant’ and effective teaching technique… “
Content-based instruction

Benefits of CBI

Content-based instruction has become increasingly popular in recent years. Many schools and institutions now employ the technique, so you’ll no-doubt see the term being used in conjunction with learning a foreign language, and with good reason, studies have shown many benefits from the CBI approach.

The effectiveness of taking a CBI approach to teaching is indisputable. Studies as far back as that conducted by Brinton, Snow, & Wesche in 1989 [1] have shown the significance of CBI, and the increasing number of language lessons that employ the technique would certainly agree.

“Content Based Information (CBI) is a powerful innovation in acquiring & enhancing a language. In its best form, language lessons are blended with stimulating content. (Prof. Y. Subhi, British Council.) “

What Do CBI Classes Consist Of?

Content-based instruction classes begin by first selecting a concept, technique, or scenario from a particular subject. These topics may include everything from a science experiment to a popular move, film or pop-star, and are often arranged in a series of related lessons that build upon the previous in a logical succession.

Classes start with preparation where students are handed all the learning materials and language terminology that will be used.

Minimizing the amount of information a student is simply required to remember and instead shifting focus toward learning in relation to a specific situation, helps the memory better retain the info.

They are given a small research task or exercise, together with the information required to fulfill the requirement.

Once the research is complete students then share and exchange the new information they have discovered. Finally a presentation ir made, or report submitted with the aim of demonstrating what they’ve just learnt.

CBTL CBI Content Based Learning

Why We Use Content-Based Instruction

Content-Based Language Teaching (CBLT) is arguably the best teaching method to learn English as a second language. Learning from textbooks has it merits, but studying vocabulary that will be used daily, both formally and informally, can really aid progression.

Based in the multi-cultured metropolis of Bangkok, Thailand, many of our students are already exposed to a second language on a daily basis. Therefore all our lessons include a certain amount of language study, and for this we find CBI favorable in several ways.

Organic Learning

The organic process of situational learning utilized by CBI eliminates the feeling of being put on the spot in front of the class; a regular occurrence in traditional lessons where teachers ask questions and students are expected to answer.

Authentic Exposure to Second Language

CBI gives authentic exposure to the language whilst still paying special attention to more academic and business orientated vocabulary that is often absent from everyday conversations.

Memory Retention

CBI helps aid memory retention as the language is learned through real-world situations. The more informal approach also helps to reduce the anxieties of study, and in turn builds the confidence required to answer questions without the fear of being incorrect.

Improved Performance for Better Grades

With increased confidence comes increased performance, and with increased performance comes a change in attitude toward study; no longer will students dread the thought of attending class or doing homework, instead they’ll start to look forward to school days and soon stop hating them.

Organization & Time Management

The structure of the class teaches the importance of preparation, and the more effectively students utilize time to get ready, the more they’ll be rewarded. As grades improve, class becomes more enjoyable, and work seemingly becomes easier, the students quickly learn the benefits of organization and time management. [2]

By utilizing CBI to develop English language competency, students can see accelerated learning rates not only in language classes but in all areas of study and life. As fluency improves so too does confidence, and with more confidence not only will study become easier, results are also likely to get better.

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