Building a toolkit for Biology in French, a second language

Learning or teaching a new subject in a different language will almost certainly present challenges. If only a reference tool existed… Well, teachers at John Abbott College and Champlain College-Lennoxville are in fact creating a pedagogical toolkit specifically designed for Biology in French as a second language for both students and teachers.

With the support of a grant from Entente Canada-Québec (ECQ), John Abbott College teachers Dr Simon Daoust and Dr Christian Levesque (Biology), Mme Maria Popica (French), and Champlain College-Lennoxville Biology teacher Mme Pier-Anne Bélanger are working together to research and develop the best practices for learning and teaching Biology in French, as a second language.

The project is straightforward and in line with Law 14 (Bill 96), where students are going to have to come to English speaking CEGEPs, like John Abbott, and take more courses in French or of French. As science educators, especially as biologists, we’re sensitive to this. We want to develop and work with the French department and specialists in French, second language education, to develop a good pedagogical strategy of best practices for it to move forward and to do this really well.

Dr Simon Daoust, John Abbott College Biology teacher, project lead

Dr Simon Daoust, Mme Maria Popica and Dr Christian Levesque, teachers at John Abbott College, come together with Mme Pier-Anne Bélanger of Champlain College-Lennonxville (not pictured) to create a pedagogical toolkit for teaching Biology in French as a second language in CEGEPs.

The project titled “Formations professionnelles et conception de ressources didactiques visant à améliorer l’enseignement de la biologie en français langue seconde” (Professional training and development of teaching resources to improve the teaching of Biology in French as a second language), encompasses four stages for the project team:

  1. Receive training in teaching and assessment methods in French as a second language.
  2. Adapt these approaches to Biology education.
  3. Create teaching materials specifically adapted to the teaching of Biology in French as a second language (for teachers and students).
  4. Transfer of knowledge through presentations and publications of the ideas and methodologies to other CEGEPs.

The primary hope is to form students that are multilingual in their disciplines so that when they leave John Abbott, it opens more university options, and it opens more professions. Speaking multiple languages within the sciences opens the world. If we do this properly, our students will have more opportunities and will open their horizons even more.

Dr Simon Daoust, John Abbott College Biology teacher, project lead

Biology is a scientific discipline rich in technical vocabulary and theories. Student success depends greatly on the ability to understand the material in the language the course is offered. Given this fact, the project hopes to equip Biology teachers with the material they need to provide their students with all the keys to success.

This year-long project is well underway and is expected to be completed and implemented by summer 2024. The tool kit will also be available to other CEGEPs.

About Entente Canada-Québec

Entente Canada-Québec pour l’enseignement dans la langue de la minorité et des langues secondes supports projects aimed at improving the quality of education for minority-language students and improving second-language learning conditions.

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