The Educational Method of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)

An Overview

Essay, 2019

16 Pages, Grade: A


An Overview of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)

E. Agathokleous 2019

CLIL is an innovative approach in which content and language are integrated with the goal to provide more exposure to the foreign language and to enrich the areas of language use thus enhancing language learning through the content of various school subjects (Goris, Denessen &Verhoeven, 2019). David Marsh, a university professor mainly focused on multilingualism and bilingual education, was the first to use the term CLIL (Hanesová, 2015) and according to Mehisto, Marsh and Frigols, “CLIL is a dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language”. (2008). In this approach lessons for subjects like chemistry, history or geography are redesigned and taught in the language target leading to a better acquisition of the target language (Graddol, 2006). The Akkadians first used an approach with a similar notion 5000 years ago when they conquered the Sumerians and used the Sumerian language as the language of instruction (Hanesová 2015). This way they acquired the Sumerian language faster and more effectively becoming able to communicate with the Sumerians in a more effective way (Hanesova, 2015). LAC (Language Across Curriculum) was an idea that preceded CLIL, possibly the predecessor of CLIL, and was implemented by a group of teachers that wanted to get better results out of language teaching than the results they got using traditional teaching approaches. LAC was used on the teaching of all students even those who only had lessons in their native language and it was planned to be implemented during long periods of time (Lin, 2016). In the 1960’s Canada was the first country to apply immersion programs, using the L2 as the language for instruction in face of the need for bilingual citizens proficient in both English and French (Naves, 2009). This programs started from very young ages, applied at kindergarten levels and aimed not only to provide children with proficiency in French language but also at educating them about the French culture to help them develop appreciation and understanding of the French culture (Hanesová, 2015). These immersion programmes soon spread to Europe and the US after their benefits were known (Hanesova, 2015). Today CLIL is considered as a beneficial way to teach both language and content and has come to be widely used in many European countries, for students of a wide age range up to working individuals. Such methods which enhance multilingualism are mostly needed in circumstances of contact between people of different linguistic backgrounds involving two or more different languages like border areas, trading areas and other places where language diversity is present, places where people need to be proficient in more than one language in order for communication to be possible. The goal of educating trilingual individuals in the modern day globalized societies has also led to the incorporation of more than one foreign language in teaching (Marsh, 2002). Even if CLIL as an idea is quite old it has been gaining more popularity and attention from European policy makers as well as researchers in recent years due to the need of integration of individual societies into the multicultural environments of today.

The European Union has received CLIL as an approach that would benefit the Union’s goal on educating multilingual citizens and enhancing communication among them. CLIL has been supported and promoted as a means to accommodate the need for plurilinguals through the 1995 resolutions of the Council which stressed the need to improve language learning through new methods and various ways through the education systems in the European Union (The 1995 Resolution of the Council). Teaching in two languages was considered an important tool which needed to be implemented in order to promote and facilitate language learning not only for young learners but also people working in technical or other areas (The 1995 Resolution of the Council). The document also emphasized the need for training teachers in order for them to be able to apply teaching in a foreign language and offer motivation and support to those willing to enforce this technique in their teaching thus promoting foreign language learning (The 1995 Resolution of the Council). In a globalized market and in a European Union where 23 different languages are spoken, where the market is globalized and where employers require people able to communicate in more languages than just their own and work with people of a variety of cultural backgrounds the need for plurilinguals is obvious and leads to the need of methods that will work toward that goal, by bringing people in contact with other languages and other cultures from early age and through a life time of education (Puffer, 2011). CLIL was viewed as a valuable tool that would promote Europe’s multilingualism goals while at the same time educating learners about world cultures, history and science (Vez, 2009). European Union’s policies targeted the promotion of CLIL throughout the Union as an approach that would benefit its citizens in various aspects and provide them with more opportunities (Vez, 2009). Public awareness about the benefits of CLIL was of importance so that people would see how students’ progress would now be associated with their advancement in the European society, their professional careers as well as their increased mobility and opportunities as citizens of the European Union (Vez, 2009). The European Union set out to promote CLIL and develop it further as to be applicable in a number of countries with desired results (Vez, 2009). What’s more, Europe recognized the need for teachers who would be ready and able to implement CLIL and realized the need to educate them for this purpose (Vez, 2009). Among European Union’s considerations was the need for evaluation of the effectiveness of CLIL regarding educational levels, target language and also its proper enforcement thus acknowledging the need for data and evidence gathering (Vez, 2009). Europe has not stopped promoting CLIL as an innovative way of language learning. The 2003 Action Plan of the European Commission (European Commision, 2003) includes CLIL as an approach that works towards improving the quality of language teaching. European initiatives promoting CLIL include the European Label for innovative projects in language teaching and learning and the Leonardo and Socrates programmes (European Commission, 2003). EU has been funding a variety of projects that include foreign language learning like Europe 25, a newspaper about European matters written entirely using foreign languages, teaching drama in a foreign language, language learning through film education, and learning about the environment in a foreign language. (European Commission, 2003).

As an approach CLIL can vary in terms of target group, learner’s age and timeframes and these variations mostly depend on the environment in which the target language is to be taught. CLIL can be specifically designed and applied in not only the education of young learners but learners of all ages and it can be enforced with a range from a few hours to a large percentage of the teaching module (Coyle, 2006). The implementation of the approach is not fixed but sustained of a wide variety of subjects and ways of teaching them (Coyle, 2006). Although the European Union has been promoting CLIL, it hasn’t provided a rigid frame for its implementation and each country is responsible of an efficient planning and an effective execution (Zarobe, 2013). It has been found that among socially and culturally different contexts, the CLIL approach changes according to parameters like people’s views about the target language and the target language’s prestige in those contexts (Zarobe, 2013). In the design of a CLIL model and to assure that the certain model will be effective, all factors that affect quality CLIL implementation must be taken into account to ensure the desirable outcome (McDougald, 2015). As Coyle states in his “Planning tools for Teachers”, no standard model for CLIL exists, but several variations which are always based on content and language integration. The model adapted varies according to the teaching goals and the learning focus of every circumstance (Coyle, 2005). However, Coyle provides a framework sustained of four principles – the four Cs – that can be used as guidelines for planning CLIL curriculum (Coyle, 2005). These guidelines refer to content in offering students’ knowledge and academic advancement on a topic, communication in order for interactive learning and use of the target language towards this learning, cognition in provoking thought and developing students understanding and critical thinking and culture to promote multicultural understanding and collaboration as well as the need for multilingualism (Coyle, 2005).

One type of implementing CLIL is the teaching of a specific topic in the target language, which leads to the acquisition of knowledge on the certain topic while at the same time improving target language skills, for example teaching history in the target language of Spanish (Coyle, 2005). The modular model adapted in schools involves the teaching of a subject, previously taught in L1, in the target language for one to two hours a week which is the time allocated to the teaching of the certain subject on the weekly schedule. This model requires either close subject-teacher and language-teacher collaboration or a single teacher qualified on the subject and able to teach in the target language (Coyle, 2005). The soft model of CLIL refers to a language led lesson incorporated in the weekly schedule for one hour a week while in hard CLIL language is the means to teach content and not the lesson’s focus (Ball, 2018) Another type of CLIL implementation involves projects on a wide variety of topics, like for example technological progress and its affect on the environment, carried out in the target language again with the collaboration of language and subject teachers (Coyle, 2005). CLIL can also have a more cultural character, being implemented in the examination and the comparison of various cultures in a language focused way providing this way learner’s with both cultural and language learning (Coyle, 2005). In a similar way CLIL can be implemented in the examination of a subject/issue in the target language analyzing it in a wider perspective through all its themes and applications and for various cultures and languages of the world (Coyle, 2005). A similar division is made by Marsh and Hartiala who distinguish between CLIL types according to each one’s main focus and targets (2001). In their attempt to outline common CLIL types they present five dimensions each with a distinct focus and targeted toward different skills. CLIL acquires a cultural dimension when the aim is the development of intercultural knowledge and understanding (Marsh and Hartiala 2001). The environment dimension mainly focuses on cultivating integration and international skills while the language dimension focuses on the improvement of language skills, the need for plurilingualism and oral skills for communicational purposes (Marsh and Hartiala, 2001). The content dimension is about content and terminology learning through the medium of L2 and preparation for further study while the learning dimension complements students’ individual learning style and increases learners’ motivation (Marsh and Hartiala, 2001).

CLIL was accepted as a way that would provide a more interesting, innovating way of learning through association of language to various topics, in a more natural context and with various benefits for the learners including the enhancement of both language and cognitive skills, but also the benefits of cultural awareness and development, societal integration and awareness on current and global issues depending on the aims and objectives of each implementation project. As a method CLIL is a rather communicational focused one targeting the needs of the multicultural environments of today’s societies since it enhances acquisition rates and improves communication (Naves, 2009). CLIL provides a more natural way to learn language, placing it in a thematic context and allows learners to use it extensively in that context, promoting content learning and raising students’ motivation while enhancing both their linguistic as well as their academic skills (Griva & Chostelidou, 2017)

CLIL students benefit from exposure to language in various topics and acquisition of related language as well as the enhancement of their skills in using language while at the same time practice and develop critical thinking and expanding their thought on various aspects (Griva & Kasvikis, 2014). Research shows that the more time spent in contact with the foreign language, the more the students learn and are able to use the language in a variety of situations with different requirements leading to a more advanced linguistic competence (Coyle, 2006). Content acquisition is also favored in that CLIL students achieve better results in subjects like Mathematics and Science than when the subject is taught in L1 due to teachers more aware of the challenges in students’ understanding (Jäppinen, 2005) . Merino’s and Lasagabaster’s research showed that CLIL learners perform better in L2 than non CLIL students especially regarding speaking and writing skills while their advancement in L1 is not affected and at the same time students also develop a more positive attitude towards the learned languages and the idea of multilingualism (2018). Research has proved that subjects like math can be better understood when taught in a foreign language due to the teacher’s effort to better explain concepts when using a foreign language to do so (Marsh, Maljers & Hartiala, 2001). CLIL also reinforces content learning through group work which is also vital for developing the ability to learn, to take initiatives and to build confidence, things not achieved when using traditional language teaching techniques (Marsh, Maljers & Hartiala, 2001). As a technique CLIL is also new to teachers who are now in a position of preparing for implementing it. This also provides teachers with the opportunity to enhance their own development, try new things and discover new more creative ways to teach language which benefit students even more (Coyle, 2006). Through CLIL the target of teaching content is acquired while at the same time there are significant parallel benefits for the students like the advancement of their communication abilities using the foreign language, their cultural awareness and understanding for a variety of cultures other than their own while at the same time they become increasingly motivated and more engaged in the learning process.


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The Educational Method of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
An Overview
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educational, method, content, language, integrated, learning, clil, overview
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Elena Agathokleous (Author), 2019, The Educational Method of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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