Students’ and Teachers’ Perceptions of English in CLIL Lessons at an Austrian HTL for Business Informatics and Medical and Health Informatics

Master's Thesis, 2015
98 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Content

1. Introduction
The future of CLIL
Educational Environment
Purposes and Significance of the Study
Research Questions

2. Literature Review
CLIL: Definition and Characteristics
Teaching in English vs. CLIL
Successful learning
The 4Cs Pedagogic Framework
Features of CLIL
CLIL teachers skills
Willingness to communicate (WTC)

3. Perceptions on the English language within CLIL in other studies
Teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the effects of CLIL
Lecturer and student perceptions on CLIL at a Spanish university
CLIL in junior vocational secondary education
Learners' anxiety and Motivation towards EMI lectures
Learners’ perceptions of their experiences of learning subject content through a foreign language
Student perceptions on how content based instruction supports learner development in a foreign language context
Content and language integrated learning: perceptions of teachers and students in a Hong Kong secondary school
An Exploration of the Effects of College English Teacher Misbehaviors on Students’ Willingness to Communicate in English Classes

4. Methodology
Development of the Questionnaires
Questionnaire for students
Questionnaire for teachers
1st Path for CLIL teachers
2nd Path for nonCLIL teachers
Data Collection
Data Analysis

5. Results
Students versus teachers
Speaking English outside the school
Behavior in the classroom
Feelings of students and teachers
Work outside of the class
Students’ work outside of the class
Teachers’ work outside of the class
Motivation of students
Perception scales
Descriptive values of the perception scales
Students’ and teachers’ confidence and proficiency
Correlation between the perception scales
Correlations between students’ motivation, proficiency, and confidence
Improvement for the CLIL lessons
Support for improvement
Free comments
Comments of the students
Teachers should (from the point of view of students)
Comments of the teachers

6. Discussion

7. Reflection and Action Plan

8. Limitations

9. List of Tables

10. List of Figures

11. List of Abbreviations

12. References

13. Appendix

Students’ questionnaire

Teachers’ questionnaire

Students’ raw findings

Teachers’ raw findings

1. Introduction

CLIL has been promoted for solving problems of traditional language learning, student motivation and overcrowded curriculum, but the driving forces for implementing CLIL programs are different in each country.

There is great accordance within the European Union that existing language barriers need to be broken down to enhance the European integration (Marsh, 2002). Therefore, it is important that most of the students have a communicative proficiency in languages other than their mother tongue. This communicative proficiency can be reached in language teaching by many ways. One method is content and language integrated learning (CLIL).

Steve Darn (2006a) from the Izmir University of Economics describes the advantages and the future of CLIL as follows:

“CLIL helps to:

Introduce the wider cultural context

Prepare for internationalization

Access International Certification and enhance the school profile

Improve overall and specific language competence

Prepare for future studies and / or working life

Develop multilingual interests and attitudes

Diversify methods & forms of classroom teaching and learning

Increase learner motivation.”

The future of CLIL

Learning a language and learning content through a language are two different processes. To implement CLIL the used traditional concepts of the language classroom and the role of the language teacher will no longer work.

The opponents of language teaching by subject teachers are in many cases the language teachers. Especially in Austria, subject teachers teach in the English language but do not feel responsible for proper English grammar or pronunciation. Students often want this would happen, but the school administration does not support it. The attendance at English language courses is in most cases depending on the initiative of the individual teacher.

Most of the current CLIL programs in Austrian schools are experimental. In the last time, the Austrian pedagogical universities started a slow-moving process of courses for CLIL teachers.

The often-missed teacher-training programs for CLIL teachers causes that the majority of subject teachers working with CLIL are only rudimentary trained to do their job right.

Steve Darn (2006a) wrote:

“Until CLIL training for subject teachers and materials issues are resolved, the immediate future remains with parallel rather than integrated content and language learning. However, the need for language teaching reform in the face of Europeanisation may make CLIL a common feature of many European education systems in the future.”

David Marsh (29.8.2014), one of the fathers of CLIL, said at the “ThinkCLIL 2014 Conference in Venice, Italy”:

“Think CLIL 2014 enables us to celebrate 20 years of innovative practices which are contributing to a re-shaping of languages in education from early learning through to adult education. Since 1994 we have witnessed profound global shifts in attitudes towards how education needs to be transformed so that it is fit-for-purpose in the 21st century. CLIL plays an increasingly active role in achieving positive educational change at a deeper and more significant level than initially envisaged in the 1990s. Alongside changes in the positioning of languages and social cohesion, there are two emergent phenomena, which are also driving global interest and uptake of integrated language learning. One is the impact of bi-literacy on the minds, brains and well-being of young people. The other is on the needs and expectations of these individuals resulting from early and extensive use of advanced technologies. This presentation blends understanding of the impact of each on the transversals of human health and well-being through CLIL practice.”

Oliver Meyer (30.8.2014) was a little bit more critical when he presented his mind at the above-mentioned conference:

“CLIL has been a tremendous success story, especially with regards to the development of the students’ foreign language skills. However, there is now growing evidence that embracing the CLIL approach does not automatically lead to successful teaching and learning. A number of studies indicate that this is especially true for subject specific on task performance development of cognitive academic language proficiency. The Graz Group has developed a new framework to address those shortcomings. Based on a revised conceptual understanding of the role of language that places meaning and content in the center of its interest, this framework uses latest research into the relationship between subject specific literacies, instructed strategy use and task performance to demonstrate that placing literacies at the heart of CLIL will allow us to not only conceptualize progress on the knowledge path but also enable teachers to modify their instructional approaches in order to improve subject specific task performance in their CLIL students.”


CLIL is an approach that integrates the teaching of subject content with the teaching of a non-native language.

Learning other languages is very important in our global society. The knowledge of different languages helps learners to develop skills also in their first language. It helps them to develop skills to communicate about science, arts and technologies to people around the world.

In a CLIL classroom, the subject content and language skills are taught together.

CLIL teachers are in most cases subject teachers, sometimes language teachers or classroom assistants. These different teachers also have different goals. The methodology for CLIL lessons assumes a high willingness for cooperation, but many teachers do not cooperate with each other. At best, language teachers want to learn more about subject content and subject teachers want to learn the language skills needed to teach their subjects.

Educational Environment

The new curricula for the Austrian upper secondary vocational colleges (technical as well as economic) require the usage of the English language in content subjects. Within all subjects and teachers there must be at least 72 lessons per year taught in English. Every school may decide how these lessons are organized in respect to the mentioned minimum. Figure 3 shows the Austrian school system. The position marked with number 13 (VET college) shows the upper secondary vocational colleges.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Austrian school system (Weiß S. & Tritscher-Archan S., 2011)

The Austrian „Schulorganisationsgesetz“ (Verordnung über die Lehrpläne für Höhere technische und gewerbliche Lehranstalten, 2011) says in § 6 Abs. 1:

IId. Bestimmungen bezüglich integriertes Fremdsprachenlernen (Content and Language Integrated Learning - CLIL)

„Als fremdsprachlicher Schwerpunkt sind in einzelnen Pflichtgegenständen (vorzugsweise in fachtheoretischen Pflichtgegenständen, aber auch in allgemein bildenden und fachpraktischen Pflichtgegenständen, ausgenommen jedoch die Pflichtgegenstände „Religion“, „Deutsch“ und „Englisch“) ab dem III. Jahrgang mindestens 72 Unterrichtsstunden pro Jahrgang in Abstimmung mit dem Pflichtgegenstand Englisch in englischer Sprache zu unterrichten. Die Festlegung der Pflichtgegenstände und des Stundenausmaßes in den einzelnen Pflichtgegenständen und Jahrgängen hat durch schulautonome Lehrplanbestimmungen zu erfolgen. Unberührt bleibt die Möglichkeit der Anordnung von Englisch als Arbeitssprache gemäß § 16 Abs. 3 des Schulunterrichtsgesetzes.“

At the college (HTL) in G., the teachers sign an agreement at the beginning of each school year how many lessons they will use for CLIL activities at least. This agreement has to be approved by the school supervisory board (consisting of three representatives of the teachers, students, and parents, respectively). The usage must cover not only the presentation of the teacher but also the active participation of the students. This participation may include discussions, presentations, group work and similar tasks.

Especially in HTLs, the language education is traditionally not a very important subject. By the use of CLIL, it may become more common in schools. I agree with Sophie Ioannou Georgiou (2012) that the students will benefit only if the teacher can teach in good English language. However, this is inconsistent with the missing language training for the subject teachers.

Ellen Cray (2012) argued that the spoken language in some second language teaching contexts remains subject to discussion. It should be time for teachers to recognize the importance of the conversational language. If the teacher places value on grammar he/she is unlikely to encourage students to learn to speak and talk using the variety of the language. Informal spoken language is efficient and is embedded in the unique context. Michelle Quigley (29.8.2014) from the "Globally Speaking Language School" in Rome, Italy, took up the cudgels on behalf of the “non-native” speakers as CLIL teachers when she wrote:

“Many teachers embarking on CLIL worry about the classroom reality of interacting with their students through another language. This presentation will discuss the advantages for students of having competent, non-native, speakers as models of successful language users and will underline the importance of CLIL teachers viewing their nonnative-speaker status as a strength rather than a weakness.”

She argued CLIL teachers should “ … construct a positive image of themselves as non-native speakers successfully achieving their communicative goals and to understand their importance as role models to students”. CLIL provides the English language not as a school subject but as “a communicative tool which provides access to the knowledge, freedom and prosperity which global citizenship promises”. Moreover, it has been claimed that reference to the terms “native” or “native-like” are simply inappropriate. Most of the English-speaking people the students will meet during their life are “non-natives”. Hence, it is important to be able to communicate properly with other “non-natives” than to “natives”.

The language used in situations of the daily, real life is different to the language used in books, papers, and scientific work. Like Ellen Cray (2012) explained in her abstract: “that informal spoken language has a number of syntactic and lexical features”. In the classroom, this language is not used yet.

I agree with Ellen Cray (2012) that the used language should be the language that fits the topic and relevant documents used in these fields.

In Austrian schools, there are often native English speakers temporarily employed as language assistants. In my experience, these assistants are very important for the students but also for the teachers. No native speaker is perfect using his/her language but may show the “native language usage”.

Milroy & Milroy (2012) wrote: “that English spoken in everyday situations by proficient speakers has been labeled as ‘incomplete’ and has even been said to be ‘wrong’”.

In the article “How to Teach Formal and Informal Language” Alex Case (2012) discussed the difference of the formal and informal language in the classroom. He writes: “The first thing students need to be able to do is to identify the two kinds of language.” He likes when the students correct very informal sentences to a more formal form to teach them to recognize the difference.

A similar topic in the context of informal language is the use of politically correct language. In his article “Politically correct language in the EFL classroom” Alex Case (2011) discussed the problem that “students will find easier to understand” to use the not politically correct forms. The informal forms of the English language is in most cases easier to understand and easier to use for the students. Nevertheless, they should also learn formal and correct forms of the English language. However, for the first steps it should be tolerated to use some informal and perhaps be “incorrect” sentences and phrases. In Austria, for example, we have a big altercation about political correct language use especially in the case of gender correct writing in the last time.

Purposes and Significance of the Study

The topic of the thesis is affected by my interest in the concept of CLIL and my work experience as a teacher and international IT consultant and trainer. The main aspect of the thesis is to investigate the differences in teachers and students perceptions. In the CLIL classroom, the role of the teacher is twofold. They have to teach content and assist students in the learning of an additional language at the same time. Do the teachers as well as the students enjoy this situation? Research shows that the process of integrating these two aspects is not self-evident (Gajo, 2007).

I am not a teacher of the English language, but for technical topics using the English language in some lessons. Like most Austrian teachers, I only studied to use the English language and not to teach the English language or teach in the English language. Nevertheless, we have to teach now our subjects by means of the English language. This course at Mercy College in New York represents the attempt to improve my skills for the CLIL lessons. In addition, I participated in an English language course in Malta this summer and attended a CLIL conference in Venice, Italy, from 28th to 30th august 2014.

To learn how English lessons work, I spent some time observing English lessons of my English language teaching colleague, too.

Hence, the present study is not an action research in the narrower sense. One reason is that there is no control group because all classes (all students) have to participate in CLIL lessons. The second reason is that there are different teachers with different knowledge and skills of the English language and different teaching styles for CLIL.

The students are in different situations when speaking the English language:

Learning the English language in the classroom

Using the English language in non-English lessons by reading technical books or papers

Discussing different topics in the English language during non-English lessons

Speaking English outside of school in daily life situations

Like Ellen Cray (2012) I think that the language used in technical CLIL lessons should address the everyday spoken English, notably the language used in technical and scientific environments.

This paper seeks to define the perceptions and feelings on CLIL with the students as well as with the teachers. Important success factors of CLIL programs will be discussed, as well as research results relating to its impact. Finally, concerns about CLIL will be addressed, and the way forward for the approach will be discussed.

Could the CLIL approach be an effective tool for motivating students to expand their foreign language learning to continue after the age of 14? Many arguments have been put forward to promote the CLIL approach as outlined above, but there has been little research into both students and teachers’ perceptions.

Research Questions

The present study compares teachers and students perceptions on CLIL in IT and common subjects’ lessons at an upper secondary technical and vocational college in Austria. According to Westhoff (2002), effective didactical CLIL education is based on “the scale of five” like Wim Thijssen and Luc. Ubaghs mentioned. In the present study, these five scales were specified into the following seven scales according to the work of W. Thijssen and L. Ubaghs (2011): students’ proficiency, students’ confidence, teachers’ confidence, teachers’ didactics, teachers’ corrective feedback, students’ efficacy, and students’ group work. These seven scales are used to compare and discuss the results of this study inter alia with the results of W. Thijssen and L. Ubaghs.

The main research question and subsidiary questions are:

Are the perceptions on English language in CLIL lessons similar to students and content teachers?

1. Do correlations exist, according to students and teachers perceptions on CLIL?
2. Which benefits, challenges or problems of CLIL do students, and content teachers observe?
3. What may improve the efficacy of CLIL from the point of view of the students as well as of the teachers?

2. Literature Review

CLIL: Definition and Characteristics

The basis of CLIL is the methodological principles of the research on "language immersion". The European Commission (Commission of the European Communities, 24.07.2003) has identified this kind of approach as very important:

"It can provide effective opportunities for pupils to use their new language skills now, rather than learn them now for use later. It opens doors on languages for a broader range of learners, nurturing self-confidence in young learners and those who have not responded well to formal language instruction in general education. It provides exposure to the language without requiring extra time in the curriculum, which can be of particular interest in vocational settings." The European Commission has therefore decided to promote the training of teachers to " … enhancing the language competences in general, in order to promote the teaching of non-linguistic subjects in foreign languages" ("COUNCIL RESOLUTION of 21 November 2008 on a European strategy for multilingualism," 2008).

Teaching in English vs. CLIL

The main difference between English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is that EMI means teaching of a subject using the medium of the English language. EMI covers no explicit language learning goals while CLIL covers both subject and language learning.

Applied linguists often discussed EMI in relation to CLIL with “situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual - focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language” (Marsh, D. et al., 1994).

“Although academics continue to debate where and how to situate EMI among language methodologies in general, and indeed whether it even qualifies to be part of the realm of language teaching methodology, there is the idea of visualizing a continuum with language instruction goals on one end and content communication goals on the other, where EMI would certainly find itself on the content -heavy side of things” (Lyster & Ballinger, 2011).

In addition, Austrian institutions, especially pedagogical universities, are beginning to offer training courses on teaching in English to faculty (both locally and internationally) who intend to use EMI (Madhavan D. & McDonald J., 16.6.2014). Jenkins (2-5 April 2014), in a recent public debate, commented “on the irony of teachers who have never taught in a second language instructing other teachers how to do so”. Furthermore, she argued, “that general intercultural training for all involved teachers would be more desirable in moving towards further internationalization, as opposed to focusing on specific language imbalances”.

Successful learning

Attitude towards bilingual education is a very important affective variable to consider in the CLIL classroom. It refers to an individual’s reaction to anything associated with the immediate context in which the language is taught (Masgoret & Gardner). Attitude is strongly linked to motivation that can be defined as the driving force in any situation. The study of motivation has been a prominent area for research in psychology and education for many years. This interest may reflect the widespread perception of classroom teachers who tend to regard student motivation as the most important factor in educational success in general (Dörneyi, 2001).

Probably the majority of CLIL students have a very positive attitude towards CLIL, at least at the very beginning of the courses. In most cases, they are highly motivated because they know how important it is to have a very good command of English as L2 for their future career. The perspective of studying subjects in a foreign language may be even more motivating. Most of the students dream about having a very well paid job somewhere abroad. They are aware of the fact that a good content knowledge in a foreign language can be only an advantage in their future life.

According to Coyle (2013) effective learning is usually measured by testing how far the desired learning outcomes of any program have been achieved using specific criteria. Large-scale comparisons have led to exercises such as Pisa Tests (OECD, 2007) influencing policy and practice on a global stage. In the UK, terms such as successful schools and successful leaders can be found in policy guidance and professional literature. These terms suggest that there is an agreement about what constitutes successful learning with little account taken of contextual variables and where empirical evidence such as test results is used to support such claims. There are studies addressing the relative value attached to what is measurable in learning (Black & Wiliam, 2009; Broadfoot, 2008). Instead, Coyle investigates successful learning in CLIL settings through analyzing what makes learners want to learn and how they perceived the value of the processes and outcomes of learning.

Despite its fundamental role in the learning process and an extensive literature base, there remain differences of the opinion about the nature of motivation and the necessary conditions for it to influence learning. It is clear that linking motivation and achievement is much more complex and dynamic than can be explained through attitudes to work, and ensuring test results. Evidence emphasizes the importance of pedagogic approaches to language learning that impact on learner attitudes and motivation (Lasagabaster & Huguet A., 2007; Pae, 2008).

Dörnyei (2007) noted:

“Long-term, sustained learning such as the acquisition of an L2 cannot take place unless the educational context provides, in addition to cognitively adequate instructional practice, sufficient inspiration and enjoyment to build up continuing motivation in the learners. Boring but systematic teaching can be effective in producing, for example, good test results but rarely does it inspire life-long commitment to the subject matter.”

Moreover, according to Garcia (2009) learning which involves languages other than one’s first, is closely related to learner identity and how an individual “understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space and how the person understands possibilities for the future” (Norton, 2000). Bringing the learner’s identity and sense of self together with language learning experiences, Dörnyei and Ushioda’s recent work (2011) proposed a complex dynamic systems model combining motivation, cognition and affect. They suggested that the way individuals feel about themselves and others and the ways in which they appraise their achievements in a specific L2 learning context will have a significant impact on their learning. This resonates with research into learner’s ‘investment’ where learning takes place in and through alternative languages (Cummins, 2001; Pavelenko, 2002) and which concludes that the learner’s identity and the classroom environment together are crucial determinants of motivation.

As research into CLIL showed an increased learner’s motivation in CLIL settings exists (Coyle, 2011; Dooley & Eastman D. ed., 2008; Lasagabaster, 2011; Lorenzo, Casal S., & Moore P., 2010; Seikkula-Leino). However, must caution when generalizing from these studies (Bruton, 2011). Specific variables such as learner’s characteristics, teaching styles, age, composition of the class and pedagogic approaches must be taken into account as well as contextual conditions impacting on ways in which CLIL is operationalized in different regions and countries. Hence, three aspects of learner’s motivation are consistently identified across different studies: the importance of the classroom environment (i.e. the pedagogies which are enacted); learner’s engagement (e.g. investment, challenge and interest); and the development of learner’s identity (values, attitudes and sense of self).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2: Process model for interpreting motivation in CLIL classes (Coyle, 2013)

The 4Cs Pedagogic Framework

In addition to content, like mentioned above, the language defines CLIL. Although in some definitions the term “ foreign language” is used to refer to the target language of the CLIL classroom, the language in which content is taught is not always the learners’ foreign language. In addition, phrases such as “a language other than learners’ mother tongue” and “second language” are used interchangeably to refer to the languages used in different CLIL settings. Coyle et al. (2010) defined CLIL as “a dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language”. They explained that the use of the phrase “additional language” is intentional as it may mean learners’ foreign language, but it may also be a second language or some form of heritage language. Similarly to Coyle et al. (2010), Dalton-Puffer, Nikula and Smit (2010) combined the terms “additional language” and “content” to describe the nature of CLIL.

The integrative nature of CLIL provides an opportunity for taking not only a dual-focused but also a multiple-focused approach. For example, the interrelationships of content, communication, culture and cognition are summarized in the 4Cs framework for CLIL (Coyle, 2007). Sudhoff (Sudhoff, 2010) suggested combining foreign language learning, content subject learning, and intercultural learning. Mehisto (2008) mentioned the CLIL tried and explained how language, content, and learning skills are the three fundamental parts of CLIL. However, content and language are the two central elements that all the researchers consider as the main aspect of the CLIL approach.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3: 4Cs Framework (Coyle, 2007)

Recently the 4Cs framework of Coyle (2007) (Figure 5) has become one of the central models of the CLIL approach. It shows the relationship between content (subject matter), communication (language), cognition (learning and thinking), and culture (developing intercultural understanding).

The idea behind this concept is the understanding that CLIL is not just a combination of language and content. The model conceptualizes integration on different levels. Coyle (2007) explained that it heeded of integrating content and language learning in specific contexts emphasizing the symbiotic relationship that exists between the elements. She summarized the essence of the framework as follows:

… it is through progression in knowledge, skills and understanding of the content, engagement in associated cognitive processing, interaction in the communicative context, the development of appropriate language knowledge and skills as well as experiencing a deepening intercultural awareness that effective CLIL takes place. (Coyle, 2007) p. 550

Features of CLIL

Umberto Lesca (2012) specified the following features of CLIL as the most effective features to achieve CLIL aims:

1. Multiple focus approach

A high degree of integration should be pursued between language and content classes and among different subjects.

2. Safe and enriching learning environment

CLIL teachers should encourage students to experiment with language and content providing guided access to authentic materials and learning environments.

3. Authenticity

Connections between learning and students’ lives should be made regularly in CLIL activities as well as connections with other speakers of the CLIL language. Current materials from media or other sources should be used as often as possible.

4. Active learning

Students have a central role in CLIL lessons: their activities should be based on a peer cooperative work and they should help set content, language and learning skills outcomes. Finally, they should communicate more than the teacher who acts as a facilitator.

5. Scaffolding

One of the teacher’s roles is to support student’s language needs building on their existing knowledge, repackaging information in user-friendly ways and responding to different learning styles.


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Students’ and Teachers’ Perceptions of English in CLIL Lessons at an Austrian HTL for Business Informatics and Medical and Health Informatics
Master of Science in Teaching English
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CLIL, Teaching English, Austrian vocational college, HTL, Content and Language integrated Learning
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DI MSc Peter Anzenberger (Author), 2015, Students’ and Teachers’ Perceptions of English in CLIL Lessons at an Austrian HTL for Business Informatics and Medical and Health Informatics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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