The Change Laboratory in CLIL settings: Foregrounding the Voices of East Asian Students

Author: James Reid (Akita International University, Japan)
Speaker: James Reid
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


I propose that the Change Laboratory is an underutilized intervention research methodology that can be used to foreground the voices, needs and rights of East Asian students taking English Medium Instruction classes predicated on the Western Socratic learning habitus. In particular, I relate the Change Laboratory methodology to a specific type of EMI pedagogy known as CLIL, Content Language Integrated Learning. What separates CLIL courses from content- based language learning and other forms of EMI, is the planned integration of the ‘4Cs’ of content, cognition, communication and culture into teaching and learning practice (Coyle et al.,
2010). CLIL pedagogy aims to motivate and empower students in learner-centered classrooms. However, student voices have not often been foregrounded in research. The Change laboratory (Virkkunen and Newnham, 2013) is an intervention research methodology that can empower students with regard to course design. It applies a “Vygotskyan developmental approach in real-world, collective, organizational settings” (Bligh and Flood, 2015) and is therefore in accordance with CLIL pedagogy underpinned by the constructivist ideas of Bruner, Vygotsky and Piaget. There is much potential for the Change Laboratory to be used in course design as it focuses on how “institutional forms actually unfold locally” (Bligh and Flood, 2015) and has the ability to “develop the transformative agency of marginalized voices in higher education” (Bligh and Flood, 2015). Thus, I argue that Change Laboratory interventions can reduce linguistic imperialism, or perceptions thereof, in English Medium Instruction or CLIL settings in East Asia. They can help investigate the perception of cultural habitus – Confucian and Socratic – that may affect learning dispositions and in doing so redesign courses that better fit the needs of learners.


Bligh, B., and Flood, M. (2015) The Change Laboratory in Higher Education: research- intervention using activity theory. In Theory and method in higher education research (pp. 141-168). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Coyle, D., Hood, P. and Marsh, D. (2010) CLIL: Content and Language Integrated
Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge.
Virkkunen, J. and Newnham, D. S. (2013) The change laboratory. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam.
Keywords: Change Laboratory, Activity Theory, CLIL, Intervention Research