Exploring students’ and teachers’ perceptions about engaging in a new law programme taught in English in an Italian university
Robinson, Isabel Alice Walbaum
This case study investigates teachers’ and students’ perceptions about engaging with the disciplinary and linguistic demands of a new Italian law programme, launched for the first time in academic year 2006-2007, taught entirely in English in an Italian university. The study examines students’ and teachers’ perceptions as they engage with teaching and learning law in English. This is a timely international higher education case study, given present policy initiatives in the European Union (EU) towards upgrading language education in the region, and in parallel, raising Europeans’ language mastery and skills from monolingual to plurilingual status by promoting and improving the conditions for the learning of at least two additional foreign languages other than the mother tongue for all citizens. The case study is far-reaching in that the present need for cutting-edge methodology in the EU calls for renewed ways of articulating the curriculum to teach subjects and foreign languages. This study compares two new but very different pedagogical models, English as medium of instruction (EMI), the design adopted for teaching law in English at the Italian law programme, and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), a rival methodology which consists in the ‘integration’ of language and learning subjects within a single curriculum. Based on the data submitted, the study questions the assumption that teaching a subject in a foreign language at university automatically results in language learning. Given the nature and degree of complexity of the subjects taught in the courses researched, in satisfying the university requirements for high quality teaching and learning to achieve ‘high quality’ learning for all, there are certain conditions which impact the learning process (e.g., teaching approaches and styles, level and use of English by teachers and students, intercultural preparedness of students to work together). The study confidently predicts that without these pre-set design conditions, the type of teaching and learning methodology implemented in the programme examined, generalizable to other programmes, is destined to perpetuate poor quality delivery and unfulfilled educational goals.