February 2023 – Volume 26, Number 4
Laura V. Fielden Burns
University of Extremadura, Spain
Juan de Dios Martínez Agudo
University of Extremadura, Spain
This research investigated six established areas for quality (Ortega-Martín et al., 2018) in the implementation of CLIL programmes in a Spanish monolingual autonomous community from the perspective of its teachers, in particular focusing on possible differences of opinion between content and English language teachers, an understudied area. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 36 teachers at four secondary schools in urban Extremadura so as to assess the perceptions of the execution and the effectiveness of current CLIL education programmes, identifying specifically their potential challenges. Significant differences between content teachers and English teachers’ perceptions in six areas under study are examined, from programme management to academic results. Data results indicate that although programmes are viewed quite positively by both groups of teachers, some important areas of difference exist, including the amount of time the L2 is used in a content class and the language skills that are worked in a CLIL environment. To address this gap, suggestions are made to establish more widely accepted standards for CLIL programme objectives.
Keywords: CLIL, teacher perceptions, content teachers, language teachers, secondary, L2 use in CLIL
Enthusiasm for CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) type programmes, where content courses are undertaken in a foreign language, has accrued a so-called bandwagon effect (Cenoz et al., 2014), where the quantity of programmes has ballooned so quickly that empirical research cannot keep up (Graham et al., 2018). Doing content in a foreign language is a growing global trend across multiple continents, for example, in South America (Banegas, 2021; 2012), in Asia (Adamson, 2015), in North America, where it is often termed dual-track language or immersion (Gross, 2016; Genessee & Lindholm-Leary, 2013), in parts of Africa (Mathole, 2016), and clearly in Europe where the term CLIL was coined (Cenoz et al., 2014). The creation of the phrase was meant to distinguish the European language learning context from the North American immersion programmes and indeed differences between them show the complexities of the variation of interpretations possible. Despite this, or because of it, Cenoz et al., (2014) advocate using CLIL as an “umbrella” term, one “that incorporates a wide variety of programme alternatives and learning opportunities” (p. 255) where a foreign language is used to teach academic content, a definition we favour in this paper in general. Here “CLIL” refers to academic programmes in schools where some percentage of a curricular subject is given in a foreign language, in the case here, in English. Any use of the term bilingual in this paper is used generically to refer to the same CLIL programmes.
The aforementioned variations of the interpretations of doing CLIL point to real differences in its implementation, such as between hard (or strong) and soft (or weak) CLIL (Ikeda, 2013), where hard CLIL, the norm in Spain, is more content than language focused and soft CLIL is the opposite. The implementation of CLIL and its evolution in Spain could be understood to be a success story. CLIL programmes have proliferated in the peninsula since the British Council and the Spanish Ministry of Education first began a collaboration in 1996, growing more than 360% from 2010 to 2016 (Menárguez, 2018). This growth is reflective of the overall trend in the European Union towards multilingual education (Pladevall-Ballester & Vallbona, 2016), as a result of the plurilingual policies promoted by the Council of Europe since the 1990s. Indeed, Spain has been highlighted as being at the forefront of bilingual education in Europe (Coyle et al., 2010, p. viii), “rapidly becoming one of the European leaders in CLIL practice and research.” CLIL programmes may be considered the latest permutation of communicative language teaching, “the communicative approach revisited” (Pérez-Vidal, 2013), given their focus on interaction, meaning and active learning.
As these programmes have become institutionalized across the peninsula questions have risen on how to assure the quality of learning in both content and language (Bruton, 2015; 2013; 2011; Fernández et al., 2019). Practitioners and academics now look for paths to progress beyond the initial survival of this innovative model to enhance and expand it. One way to do this is to examine key stakeholders’ views about how CLIL programmes are going, and where they should be fine-tuned (Marsh et al., 2015; Dewaele, 2019) since those responsible for the execution of the programmes themselves, language and content teachers, have expressed confusion, frustration and even reticence with respect to their roles in CLIL programmes (Banegas, 2012; Otto & Estrada, 2019; Pavón & Rubio, 2010). The focus of the present study is therefore to investigate the perceptions of content and language teachers in secondary-level CLIL programmes in the region of Extremadura in six key areas (Ortega-Martín et al., 2018). Comparing these two groups, who represent the core of the CLIL approach in theory (Content and Language), is an understudied area of research, which points to its unique contribution to the field.
Background: Teacher Beliefs about CLIL Programmes
Stakeholder perceptions or beliefs on how programmes are “playing out” in real time (Marsh et al., 2015, p. 6), is an area, though seemingly well-tread, still in need of further research and scholarly recognition (Dewaele, 2019). Studies in beliefs, also called perceptions, in educational research have proliferated over the last hundred years (Fives & Gregoire Gill, 2015) as research has become more interdisciplinary and the inclusion of psycho-social factors has become standard–in particular in foreign language learning and teaching where affective and motivational factors are considered (Kalaja et al., 2016; Hüttner et al., 2013; Dörnyei, 2020). Beliefs can be defined as opinions or preconceived ideas, which can be both conditioned by the environment or more trait-like, and can influence the product and process of language learning (Martínez Agudo, 2014). Beliefs are important in shedding light onto motivation (Dörnyei, 2020; Dörnyei & Ushioda 2009), a key area for CLIL research (Banegas, 2012) and also onto teachers’ classroom behaviour, since beliefs impact teaching practices (Gierlinger, 2017; Pourhosein & Banou, 2017; Gabillon, 2012). Perceptions about the execution and success of teaching in CLIL programmes is important, since the definition of a “successful” CLIL programme rests on such beliefs concerning what is essential and non-essential in CLIL, beliefs that often are at odds with policy decisions regarding CLIL implementation (Hüttner et al., 2013).
Previous research in CLIL teachers’ beliefs has spanned a variety of considerations and continents, including perceptions of CLIL in general in Columbia (McDougald, 2015), affective factors and motivation in Spain (Lasagabaster, & Doiz, 2017; Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2009), beliefs about roles of languages and learning in Austria (Gierlinger, 2017), methodology and assessment in Spain (Barrios & Milla Lara, 2020), or CLIL materials and resources in the European Union (Morton, 2013). Examining the beliefs of CLIL teachers is important precisely because there exists a good deal of confusion about CLIL itself and what language learning means in a CLIL environment (Cenoz et al., 2014), and the specific roles of CLIL teachers (Otto & Estrada, 2019; Banegas, 2012). There is a need to clarify who is responsible for language teaching and how that responsibility plays out in class in terms of skill work and activity focus, as well as assessment.
The debate on what constitutes CLIL, exactly, rages on, but one can say that at the least it includes language and content coexisting in some dynamic that, theoretically speaking, tends to be called integration. However, the integration of content and language has been questioned. In this respect, Bruton (2015, p. 122) suggested that ‘the two-in-one seems illusory in CLIL classes’ as the oft idealised integration seems to be elusive in practice. How this integration takes place is a vital question for CLIL programmes, as Otto and Estrada (2019) found when they interviewed CLIL content teachers (n=27) in Madrid, Spain in two semi-structured focus group sessions. The content teachers worked in a variety of fields (covering the sciences, as well as music and history) and all had a minimum certification level of C1 in English. The group included novices in the CLIL programme as well as veterans with more than a decade of experience. CLIL content teachers in the study envisioned their role as distinct from that of language teachers, and were uncomfortable with having too much responsibility for correcting language mistakes:
I am afraid if I devote too much time to check and fix English mistakes, I will end up being a teacher of English. However, my students sometimes don’t know how to express content in my subject (Otto & Estrada, 2019, p. 34).
Content teachers in fact felt that more teacher training was still needed, in particular to address these concerns about language aspects and their exact roles, so as to better integrate content and language.
This view should not surprise us, since research generally indicates that content teachers see themselves primarily as speciality teachers (Gierlinger, 2017; Hüttner et al., 2013), with language being incidental or occurring on a secondary place after content acquisition, a view that may result in a “lack of connection between content and language” (Lyster, 2017, p. 8) and even gaps in proficiency (Lyster, 2017). Gierlinger (2017) observed a similar phenomenon in a year-long case study of two secondary CLIL teachers in Austria which resulted in 562 minutes of interview data and 781 video minutes of class observation. The author found that CLIL content teachers held very defined beliefs about the markedly different roles content and language teachers should play, where language specific instruction was not considered to be part of the content teachers’ roles. One teacher said:
I just say, okay, I’m not your language teacher, I am in this sense, I will not check on anyone’s language knowledge in the classical sense. I will tell the students that I am not a trained language teacher, and I’ll make, when speaking, also my own mistakes…” (Gierlinger, 2017, pp. 105-106).
A related concern that often arises when discussing L2 use in class is proficiency, usually focusing on the teacher and whether or not his or her language level is up to the task, but also including discussions about student proficiency and how this affects both content and language acquisition. This is one of the “threats” to CLIL programmes’ successful operation that Escobar and Evnitskaya (2013, p. 160) point to: the belief that “teachers may be insufficiently prepared to teach CLIL programmes, usually because of inadequate L2 language skills” but also in terms of CLIL pedagogy. This issue has caused considerable vacillation and led to some far-fetched suggestions, for example that language teachers become versed in content rather than relying on content teachers with supposedly insufficient language skills (Bowler, 2007). Otto and Estrada (2019) for example also found that “an additional difficulty that teachers have dealing with the weight of English in CLIL is that they are also afraid that in some situations their language level might not be good enough” (Bowler, 2007, p. 35), despite the high level of English of the teachers in the study. The content teachers were particularly concerned about students’ production in the L2 as possibly insufficient, and how to assess their work in the L2, with specific doubts on how much to correct students’ language errors, and when to correct.
In another study, Milla Lara and Casas (2018) examined secondary teachers’ beliefs (n=101) where 64% were content teachers and 30% were English teachers, all with B2 or C1 English certifications and with some experience in previous CLIL programmes. They used both qualitative (semi-structured, one-hour interviews) and quantitative (survey) instruments to query teachers’ beliefs in four provinces in Andalusia, Spain. From the prominent results, the authors note that all teachers saw a need for more training in CLIL pedagogy and language skills. However, language teachers or teachers with higher linguistic proficiency (C1 or C2) tended to rate their CLIL programmes more favourably than content teachers or English teachers with A1 to B2 levels. They observed that overall content and language teachers in Andalusia were generally positive on their students’ overall L2 competence in CLIL classes, but less positive about their students’ specific acquisition of L2 productive skills (oral and written), or cultural aspects.
The different perceptions of language and content teachers in a CLIL setting has led to much deb ate on the need for greater interdepartmental collaboration, considered by some scholars and teachers to be essential to successful CLIL programmes (Coyle et al., 2009; Pastor, 2011; Lova & Bolarín, 2015). Pavón and Méndez (2017) for example surveyed secondary language and CLIL teachers (n=24) in Andalusia, who were involved in the Plan to Promote Plurilingualism developed by the regional government. Their ages ranged from 30-45, all teachers had taken CLIL training courses so that they were familiar with the approach and all came from schools with an average experience of 5 years in their CLIL programmes. The survey instrument, a 25-item open-ended questionnaire, designed by the authors, investigated their opinions about aspects of language learning and CLIL education. Three of the four emergent themes extracted by the authors from the teachers’ comments involved the importance of coordination, either: 1. Between the L2 teacher and content teacher, 2.Between content teachers themselves, or 3. Between L2 teachers and L1 language teachers.
This aspect was further discussed in the qualitative study conducted in Spain by Salvador-García and Chiva-Bartoll (2017). The teachers interviewed were CLIL secondary physical education teachers, 4 male and 4 female, with between 3-5 years CLIL teaching experience in urban areas. The authors discuss the five principal areas of concern that arose from the interviews including the curricular effects of teaching in an L2, workload, and motivation. Overall, teachers felt that student motivation was improved through CLIL and that there was no real negative effect in content acquisition in physical education in CLIL. They were concerned about the increased teacher workload in CLIL, in part because coordination was necessary. They identified two important categories: the increase in time needed for planning and the unacknowledged additional work that accrued when teaching in English. They also noted that this extra work went underappreciated, although all agreed doing CLIL was motivating to themselves.
Finally, a statistically significant gap was observed between content and language teachers’ beliefs about their CLIL programmes in the larger study for which the present investigation was only a part (Ortega-Martín et al., 2018) in Spain. In that study, content teachers (n=158) and language teachers (n=121) in eight Spanish regions (Andalucía, Extremadura, Madrid, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Galicia, Canarias and Navarra) were queried on their opinions on six key areas of CLIL programmes, using a self-report survey. This survey was developed in a pre-study phase that included the opinions of 30 experts in the field on what should be examined to determine the quality in CLIL programmes. In that larger inquiry, there was a statistical difference between the opinions of content and English teachers for 13 variables, where content teachers consistently marked items less positively than their English teaching colleagues, including items concerning:
– Budget allocation for materials acquisition for programme
– Knowledge of L2
– Knowledge of specific pedagogy (CLIL) for CLIL teaching
– Organisation of activities related to CLIL programme
– Following a well-founded methodology
– Appropriate materials, adapted to CLIL teaching
– Teachers’ knowledge of what their colleagues have planned.
(Ortega-Martín et al., p. 147)
These findings point to how content and language teachers’ perceptions differ, in particular in important areas that are tied to the core of CLIL: teaching language (highlighted in grey). The differences between content and language teachers on these 13 variables range from the concept of using foreign language to teach content, the role and place of language itself in their classes, how they should coordinate around these different roles, and even their overall views of CLIL programmes, where one finds indications that content teachers may hold more negative beliefs than language teachers in general. It is important to remember here that in Spain the predominant version of CLIL is hard/strong (Ikeda, 2013), which means that CLIL teaching largely is the instruction of subjects through a foreign language by non-native content teachers and whose primary objective is the teaching of the content, not the language. This content-orientated focus in Spain begs the question of why content teachers feel less positively about the very programmes they are the centre of and what this means for the subjects they teach. To investigate this further, the differences between content and language teachers’ perceptions is examined here, an area that has received little attention in particular, while covering a research gap on CLIL teachers’ beliefs in general (Lasagabaster & Doiz, 2017; Gierlinger, 2017) in an understudied region in Spain, a country where CLIL is particularly prevalent (Coyle et al., 2010).
This study has two principal objectives. Firstly, teachers’ perceptions of 6 areas of their CLIL programmes are examined to determine if there are differences between content and English teachers. A second objective is to investigate areas where statistical differences are observed and compare them with the qualitative results obtained through written comments from the same groups, to triangulate the data. The following research questions are then formulated:
RQ1: What differences can be observed between English and content teachers’ perceptions of their bilingual programmes?
RQ2: Are these differences also salient themes in the qualitative data arising from written comments by the same teachers?
The results will offer perspective on the execution of such programmes by its principal teaching stakeholders, including views onto its effectiveness at a micro (classroom) and macro (administrative) level, focusing in particular on how these perspectives may be different.
Context and Participants: CLIL in the region of Extremadura
Extremadura is interesting since it is a monolingual area that has greatly increased its implementation but where CLIL has remained under-researched (Manzano, 2015). CLIL programmes have steadily been on the rise in Extremadura since their implementation in 2004. There were 289 CLIL sections operating in Extremadura in the 2019-2020 academic year, with 117 at the secondary level (Educarex, n.d.). It is noteworthy that the number of sections is again increasing after a three-year plateau at 274 sections from 2014-2017. The great majority of these programmes are in English, with 10 of the 289 sections offering Portuguese, French or a mixed programme (Educarex, n.d.).For the present study, 1 high school from the city of Cáceres (C) and 3 from Badajoz (B) are represented, which constitutes a limited and predominately urban sample. In general, experience in CLIL programmes was the main criterion for the sample selection since all the participating schools, in particular two of them, were pioneering schools in bilingual education in Extremadura.
Table 1. Participating Schools and Teachers
|Schools||Total students||Start of CLIL programme||English teachers||Content teachers|
Responses from both English language and content-in-English teachers (n=18; n=18) are examined from these 4 schools. In the descriptive biographical data to follow here, we note that not all respondents answered all the questions. In terms of the teacher population, there were a majority of female English teachers (n= 15 out of 18) and female content teachers (n=14 out of 18), which tends to be the trend in education, where women made up 71.9% of preschool-secondary teachers in the latest study by the Spanish Ministry of Education (2020). It is not surprising that the English language teachers, who hold degrees in English philology, had high levels of reported language competence (C1-C2). Among the content teachers who responded about their levels, these were also quite high as they reported having levels from B2 to C1. Also, in both groups of teachers there were a high level of respondents who indicated that they had CLIL training (26 out of 36 total responses) at the intermediate (n=9) or high-intermediate levels (n=5) for content teachers, and low (n=1), intermediate (n=3), high-intermediate (n=4) and advanced levels (n=4) for the English teachers. More content teachers (n=11 responses out of 18) than English teachers (n=5 responses out of 18) indicated that they had completed a master’s or some other tertiary level course related to CLIL in the past. Finally, in terms of the specific areas of expertise of content teachers, those responding indicated that their subjects were diverse, including: social sciences (n=5), physical education (n=2), physics and chemistry (n=1), maths (n=2), technology (n=4), natural sciences (n=1) and music (n=1). When asked how much of each class the content teachers gave in English, 20% of the 18 (n=4) marked 0-20%, most or 50% (n=8) marked 21-40%, and some or 16% (n=3), marked 60-80% or (n=3) 81-100%.
Data Collection Instruments and Procedures
Both qualitative and quantitative data was used in this study, since triangulation of data is necessary to identify “blind spots” (Curdt-Christiansen, 2020, p. 32) that might go unnoticed, in particular in affective research in applied linguistics.
The instruments used for quantitative data were Likert-scale questionnaires (Ortega-Martín et al., 2018) developed for this purpose, which contained 6 blocks of items on the following thematic areas, covering a breadth of matters relevant to quality CLIL programmes, from management to academic results:
Area 1: Management team
Area 2: Teacher coordination
Area 3: The culture of bilingualism at schools
Area 4: Human and material resources
Area 5: CLIL planning, implementation and monitoring
Area 6: Academic results
There were slight variations in the survey because they were tailored to each group, though only common items (renumbered) are examined for statistical analysis here. The 5-option response scale was summative, meaning that “the difference between any two adjacent answer options is identical: the difference between ‘strongly agree’ and ‘agree’ is identical with the difference between ‘disagree’ and ‘strongly disagree’” (Rasinger, 2013, p. 66). For reasons of space here, a detailed account of the design, piloting and validation of all the research instruments can be found in Ortega-Martín et al. (2018).
Data was analysed using SPSS (version 22.0) to compare group means per area and per item. In order to look for possible differences between the two groups of teachers, a two-factor ANOVA test was applied. This test was used to compare the means of two or more groups to determine if there were statistically significant differences between them, and in this case the means for differences between the responses of each group to the items as well as a difference overall, at the group level, was examined. Another way to determine this was to use the P-value: if this value was less than the significance level (5%) one could accept the alternate hypothesis that there were statistically significant differences. Considering that two-factor ANOVA determined only if a statistically significant difference existed, not where the differences actually were, when the alternate hypothesis was accepted, i.e., that there were significant differences present, it was necessary to apply a post-hoc test which indicated where the means differ. The most common post-hoc test is the Tukey/Kramer test, which compares multiple means and which was used here to examine which individual items were significant between the two groups of teachers in the present study.
Qualitative data was obtained through two types of write-in sections on the survey. One type was a prompt that read: Additional comments or observations? which came at the end of each thematic block on the survey. The second type came at the end of the entire survey itself, where the following questions were listed: 1. In your opinion, what are the strengths or strong points of the programme? 2. In your opinion, what are the weaknesses or areas in need of improvement in the programme? In both of these, teachers could respond as they saw fit, where some respondents answered with a few words, and others with complete sentences. This resulted in varying degrees of detail. These comments were then matched with respective thematic areas according to their content.
To match comments, they were examined in terms of their relationship with areas showing significant difference between the two groups of teachers in the quantitative data, as a way to triangulate this data further. The written comments were entered into a database. Data was analysed firstly by establishing key words related with the items that showed statistical difference (RQ1) in the quantitative data, for example in Area 1: budgets, resources, etc. The authors did a first search for these words in the database to establish which comments were directly related to those items that were significantly different in the quantitative data. Then a second search was undertaken for words that were not identical to the terms of established topics but which were related, for example: money, books, allocation, etc. Finally, all the written comments were reread to find any that may be related, directly or indirectly, with the topics at hand although they did not present key words used in the previous two rounds of analysis. For example, comments on group size came up at this point, which the authors considered indirectly related to resources and funding. Both quantitative and qualitative results will be presented and discussed together in the following section.
Findings and Discussion
Overall View: Area Level Differences between Content and English Teachers
At first glance, the results from the two groups were mildly to quite positive for their CLIL programmes overall, with response averages ranging in general from 3.9 to 4.4 on a 5-point scale of agreement, as can be seen in the following graph (Figure 1). Note that for this and the rest of the figures, the English teachers are listed in dark grey, while content teachers are in lighter grey.
Figure 1. Overall view: Teachers’ Response Means Per Area
When comparing the teachers’ overall means on the entire survey, no statistical differences were observed between the two groups of teachers. However, a difference in variation (SD: Standard Deviation) was seen in two areas, Area 5: CLIL planning, implementation and monitoring (SD= 0.50), and Area 6: Academic results (SD= 0.44). These two areas share in common that they can be considered to be at the micro-level of the programme, given that both focus on the class itself (participation, course components, student participation, academic results in skill work).
Focused View: Item Level Differences between Content and English teachers in Each Area
Area 1.The details of the groups’ differences were further examined by looking at each block at the item level. In this section, we wlll focus on the most noteworthy differences between content and English teachers’ item responses in terms of statistically significant differences, organising the results by area.
Figure 2. Teachers’ Response Means Area 1
Area 1 examined teachers’ opinions about their centre’s management of the CLIL programme and significant differences are found at both the group and item levels (P=0.01 for items and P=0.03 for groups). A post-hoc test (Tukey/Kramer test) shows the most variation for items 7 (The management team dedicates a budget for the acquisition of materials for the programme) and 8, (The management team provides spaces for training actions for the bilingual programme) on budgets (SD= 0.68) and teacher training (SD=0.69), respectively. Area 1 one also contains the lowest marked item for either group in the questionnaire as a whole, in Item 7 (Mean=2.61), which discusses budgets for CLIL materials, and which is also one of the only two negatively marked items (below 3) among all the responses to the questionnaire. In this case, the crunch of budgetary constrictions is more keenly felt by English language teachers (Mean=2.61). This is interesting, since one might expect this sort of lower response to be observed in particular by content teachers who more frequently lament having to create materials (Salvador-Garcia & Chiva-Bartoll, 2017), resulting in a heavier teaching workload (Pavón & Méndez, 2017). However, that group’s response was almost a point higher, at a mean of 3.58, though a content teacher noted in the Observations comments: Maybe the extra work by the teachers should be incentivised, which might signal both work overload and budget issues. Budget concerns were reflected directly in one written comment from an English teacher to the Weaknesses/need to improve prompt, who noted: No money allocated for the bilingual section.
Other comments made in the written section referenced issues indirectly related to budgets and funding, though perhaps not necessarily associated with materials or training, including human resources such as native-speaking language assistants. One English teacher wrote that a programme weakness was Diminishing resources in particular in terms of human resources, the language assistants have endured severe cutbacks, for example. Other comments indirectly related were about the need for incentives or further compensation for CLIL teachers, or having overwhelming group sizes. The size of the classes is included here since groups tend to get larger as school budgets shrink. Two English teachers (1. There are too many students especially in baccalaureate, which makes interaction difficult; 2. We need smaller groups of students) made comments to this effect when discussing programme weaknesses, while one content teacher commented in this respect that: We need smaller groups. Finally, one content teacher noted as a programme weakness A need to reduce content teaching hours which may be related to budgets or work overload in general but is somewhat ambiguous.
In terms of in-service training and the need for more training in CLIL pedagogy or linguistic areas, which is in question in Item 8, English teachers also see this more negatively, which is similar to data reported in Milla Lara & Casas (2018). Finally, it is noteworthy also that the English teachers’ responses are more volatile (SD= 0.72).
Figure 3. Teachers’ Response Means Area 2
Area 2. This area looks at issues involved in coordination in the programme, which is considered good practice in CLIL (Coyle et al., 2009), and statistical differences were also found here, with P values at 0.00 for item differences and 0.00 for group differences. Here the items with the most variation are Items 5 (Well-founded teaching practices for bilingual teaching are promoted, SD= 0.55) and 6 (The person responsible for coordination has previous experience in bilingual teaching, SD=0.31). These items involve well-founded teaching practices and the coordinators’ previous experience with CLIL. It is noteworthy also that content teachers showed a less positive response to these two items, and also had more volatility in their responses (SD= 0.40). This may point toward a simple disconnect on what these teachers know about their colleagues’ backgrounds or a perception that they do not have as much experience as they should. As seen in the background section of the teachers in the study, content teachers reported having more experience with CLIL training, in particular holding master’s or speciality certifications in CLIL, so one may assume they are knowledgeable about what it means to have CLIL experience, as well as a solid theoretical foundation, which was in question in Item 6.
These results may signal the greater logistical challenges of integrating content instruction in an L2, which has arisen in other studies on teachers’ perceptions (Pavón & Méndez, 2017). The quantitative data here is supported by one content teacher’s written comment in general Observations that: There should be greater coordination between bilingual programme teachers. Two English teachers also referenced coordination in their general observations, one in reference to the difficulty in scheduling coordination: 1. For scheduling purposes coordination meetings were cancelled among the different bilingual areas and that makes coordination difficult and another in terms of a general need to improve: We need to improve coordination between content and English areas. Coordination has been discussed as one of the most important implications for school staff when a bilingual programme is undertaken (Laorden & Peñafiel, 2010) and a topic of acute importance to CLIL programmes’ success, as Coyle et al., (2009) indicate, perhaps due to the fact that teacher roles in CLIL are not always clear and good coordination helps educators determine the balance of those roles.
Figure 4. Teachers’ Response Means Area 3
Area 3. This block concerns connections made both inside (school environment and interdepartmental work) and outside the school with other institutions and within contexts of independent learning outside the class to take students beyond their CLIL programmes. For Area 3, statistically significant differences were observed at the item level (P= 0.00). The difference in responses occurred in items that are very similar, Item 3 (There is frequent contact with official organizations to foster bilingual teaching, SD=0.31) and Item 4 (There are contacts with universities or other institutions to foster bilingual teaching, SD=0.36). Interestingly, the second item on university contact is the second-lowest marked item (Mean=2.79) on the entire questionnaire for these two groups, and is one of only two negative responses given on the questionnaire, since it is below 3 on the agreement scale. In this case, both groups show volatility in their responses, though English teachers slightly more so.
Here it is the English teachers who show a more negative opinion of these contacts, since their responses are significantly lower than their content teaching counterparts, although neither group is exactly positive in terms of their agreement: neither group mean reaches a 4. In terms of qualitative data, two English teachers referenced the need for more contacts in their written comments. In one case an English teacher listed as a programme weakness: Participation in European projects and another wrote in the General observations that: Participation in European projects should be facilitated by the local government. This was also brought up in writing in terms of local or national contacts. One English teacher remarked as a general observation that: The university stopped working with high schools and I don’t know whyThese comments point to a perceived need for more institutional connections between secondary school CLIL programs, within international contexts, and between secondary school CLIL programmes and higher education.
Figure 5. Teachers’ Response Means Area 4
Area 4. Significant differences were observed in Area 4 at both the item (P=0.00) and group (P=0.00) levels, and variation was seen in items 6 (I promote autonomous learning outside the centre) (SD=0.41) and Item 8 (There are adequate curricular materials for bilingual teaching, SD= 0.55). In both cases here, the content teachers view these issues more negatively than English teachers, and in their cases the responses are below a 4. Item 6 looks at independent learning outside of the programme, and its salience here may show that CLIL practice is viewed as being more academic than practical, available only at school. In terms of Item 8, teaching materials, examined as well in Area 1 (Management team), this was also echoed in the written comments, where two content teachers wrote that programme weaknesses included: Having to make your own (new) materials. One English teacher mentioned this in the written comments, referencing in particular the lack of materials as a budget problem: In maths the teachers have their own materials. In technology and social sciences they use English textbooks. There is no designated budget for our bilingual section.
These comments clearly shore up the lower means seen by both groups of teachers in the quantitative section in Areas 1 and 3 which we already discussed, and here one sees that content teachers remark directly on the need to create their own resources, which has been a complaint from teachers in previous studies (Salvador-Garcia, C. & Chiva-Bartoll, 2017; Morton, 2013). There is also a subtle difference in the responses here and from Area 1. When asked about the budget for CLIL materials in Area 1 (Management Team), an area dedicated to items discussing management in general, English teachers responded more negatively, and made one similar written comment. When simply asked about the existence of adequate teaching materials in Area 3 (The culture of bilingualism), content teachers answered more negatively, and had more written comments. This may indicate that funding is not necessarily the only issue when it comes to having adequate materials for CLIL programmes.
Figure 6. Teachers’ Response Means Area 5
Area 5. This area examined how CLIL classes were executed, in terms of L2 use, student participation and didactics. Statistically significant differences were observed between groups means (P= 0.00), with variation observed for Item 3 (The foreign language is used most of the time in my subject, SD=1.153), Item 9 (Students actively participate in written activities (reading and writing) in the L2, SD= 0.72) and Item 10 (Cultural elements are dealt with within my subject, SD=0.79). The items showing a difference of perspective between content and English language teachers in Area 5 focus on the use of L2 in content classes, student participation in written activities and cultural components. The difference in responses here is more marked, with a difference of a point or more between the two groups on these items. In all cases the content teachers’ view is more negative than English teachers, and they also show slightly more volatility in their responses. Item 3 on L2 use in class (highlighted in yellow in the graph above) shows a difference of 1.63 points between the two groups, where the content teachers’ answer is only on the cusp of neutral (and leaning towards a more negative response if one considers anything at 4 and above definitively positive). In the biographical section of the survey, content teachers were asked how much of their classes were taught in the L2 and 4 (n=4) of the 18, or 22%, indicated English was used 0-20% of the time, so that the reported L2 use in class is quite low. Eight other content teachers (n=8), or 50%, marked that their English use in class was between 21-40%, which, if combined, could mean that up to 66% (n=12) of the participating content teachers were below 30% in terms of using the L2 in class. Concerns with L2 use in content classes arose in the written comments in two ways. Firstly, in terms of the amount of L2 used in class, this is of concern to English teachers, where the focus was, interestingly, on the teachers’ proficiency rather than on the students’ ability. One English teacher connected this concern for language proficiency to L2 class input noting that a programme weakness was: Need for teachers (with higher language proficiency) who are willing to speak 100% of the time in English with students.
Secondly, it was also the English teachers who focused on perceived language deficiencies in content teachers, or the need for more linguistically adept content teachers. In terms of the comments on perceived language deficiencies, interestingly, here it marked an inconsistency in English teachers’ responses in the qualitative and quantitative data. In this area on the quantitative instrument English teachers marked the item Content teachers know the L2 quite favourably at 4.74, while content teachers had a significantly more negative view of their own abilities (Mean=3.71). However, the English teachers were the only ones who made language proficiency an issue in their written comments on programme weaknesses, whilst only one content teacher remarked on this, and did so as a programme strength: The solid training had by teachers involved in the programme. The more negative English teachers made the following comments in reference to content teachers’ language training, though it is not clear if they were referring to their own content teachers or in general to the need for additional content teachers with adequate language skills:
-There are few teachers with sufficient language training which means we can’t increase the number of subjects we offer in English.
-The low number of content teachers with language training.
-The need for teachers with higher language proficiency
If the comments here reference their own content teachers in the CLIL programme and a deficiency in their skills, on the one hand, this may indicate social desirability bias for this particular item in the context of the quantitative questionnaire, for which data triangulation is essential, since the written comments deviate from their quantitative responses on the survey. If these teachers are qualified to teach in the L2, which seems to be the case here given their levels, why are they not perceived to be linguistically competent? This preoccupation around the linguistic readiness of content teachers also arose in previous studies (Escobar & Evnitskaya, 2013; Milla Lara & Casas, 2018; Otto & Estrada, 2019). Such a response is of particular concern when considering that the use of the L2 in a content class is the crux of the issue at hand in CLIL teaching, using the foreign language to access, process and interact with the content.
When considering student participation in skills work, items showing differences between the two groups were focused on writing and culture. The difference on Item 9, which discusses student participation in written activities, is interesting, since one might consider that in content courses more than language courses, reading is a more traditional academic activity given its passive nature and programme tends to rely heavily on textbooks to steer the curriculum. Reading and writing together make up the base for a quite traditional academic approach, though writing is a productive skill that is often considered more difficult, which may be affecting responses here. Finally, it makes sense to some degree that cultural content (Item 10) is more positively viewed by English teachers as being included in their classes since the language syllabus is more likely to include cultural components. This was also included as a strength of the programme by an English teacher in the written comments: It encourages students’ interest in other cultures. They feel more confident when they go abroad. The inclusion of cultural aspects in CLIL classes has been highlighted in other studies as deficient (Oprescu, 2015; Pérez et al., 2017). Although culture, or self and other awareness/citizenship (Coyle et al., 2010) is one of the pillar Four C’s of CLIL, it may be missing, or invisible, in the actual content classrooms conducted in a foreign language.
Figure 7. Teachers’ Response Means Area 6
There are statistically significant differences between the group means for area 6 (P=0.00). The items in this area with noted variation are Item 6 (Students express themselves well in oral presentations (speaking), SD=0.53), Item 8 (Students understand well the aspects of the subject treated orally in English (listening), SD=0.59) and Item 11 (Students express themselves well in oral interaction activities, SD=0.65). The three items which were more salient in this last area are associated with students’ language skills development, in this case speaking (interaction and presentations) and listening. Two of the English teachers echoed this in their written comments on the strengths of the programme: 1. The students’ ability to communicate in other disciplines in the L2 and the improvement of oral skills (listening, speaking and vocabulary) and 2. The importance that is given to oral communication. One English teacher also connected this skill to their planning in their Observations: The area where I do most of my planning is for carrying out oral activities. A fourth English teacher remarked that a strength of the programme was communication (which seems to reference speaking and listening): Students acquire the habit of using the foreign language to communicate and stop fearing it.
Interestingly, in all cases the content teachers have a more negative perception of these items than their English counterparts, of almost a point’s difference or, as in item 8, more than a point, and their responses are also more dispersed. The fact that these skills, and not writing or reading development, are those that reveal a difference between the two groups of teachers in an area on CLIL academic results is interesting since they principally target the skills central to CLIL theory, which tends to emphasize interaction and communicative skills as a general rule (Pérez-Vidal, 2013). This was also indirectly present, in terms of participation, in the written comment by a content teacher on the programme’s weaknesses: At the level that I teach my bilingual subject, students are not very participative.
It is noteworthy that only communicative skills like listening and speaking were commented upon in the written sections, and then only by English teachers. Content teachers did not talk about any of these traditional language skills. It may be that English teachers feel more qualified to make a judgement about students’ linguistic skills, which might speak to their perceived roles in CLIL programmes (Otto & Estrada, 2019) or it may be that content teachers do not see or are unable to gauge progress in these skills.
To sum up the results and discussion here, in terms of the first research question on the differences between content and language teachers’ perceptions, in all six areas statistical differences were noted, and English teacher responses were more positive than content teachers’ in all areas except Areas 1 (Management team) and 3 (The culture of bilingualism). It is worth emphasizing that in the quantitative data content teachers, at the heart of a CLIL classroom operation, are those that view typical CLIL skills (speaking, interaction) most negatively, and also negatively view the amount of L2 that is used in CLIL classes, which was also at least partially reflected in their report of how much L2 they use in class. In terms of the second research question on how these differences were reflected in the qualitative data, all areas of difference were mentioned to some degree in the written comments, in particular by the English teachers. They tended to comment more often and more forcefully about language proficiency concerns, which is related to the use of L2 in the classroom, and class sizes, related indirectly to funding, but directly to learning quality. Content teachers commented more on time considerations (also related to material creation) and compensation for extra workloads caused by participating in CLIL.
This paper examined perceptions on six areas pertaining to the quality of CLIL programmes in Extremadura, Spain, from two key stakeholder groups: English and content teachers. In questionnaires of this sort, where stakeholders comment on their own programmes, positive feedback might be expected. Indeed, many, if not most, of the answers from the quantitative and qualitative data here can be considered positive. Some of the negative points could have been anticipated: budget and resource allocations need consistent attention, and in the complex mechanics of a public education system like Spain’s, inevitably some needs may be invisible. Overlooking these would be remiss for any CLIL programme concerned with its future.
Yet, some areas of more negative response here should make us pause, especially since the majority of these negative views come from the content teachers who are at the heart of CLIL work. The teachers of content classes show, in the least, concern, if not negativity, on how little they use the L2, a view reiterated in the qualitative and sociodemographic data, where possibly up to 66% of the participating content teachers were using the L2 under 30% of the class time. It is a perceived weakness of the programme itself in the written comments, in particular by the English teachers, who seem to relate this paucity to content teachers’ language proficiency, either in general or in terms of the content teachers in their specific context. If we consider the latter, content teachers in this study had adequate levels of English proficiency as well as intermediate to high levels of CLIL pedagogical training. How much, and how well the L2 is used in CLIL classes is not a new matter (Pavón & Ramos, 2018; Lasagabaster, 2013; Lin, 2015), but perhaps it merits revisiting. Without consistent, high quantities of exposure to the L2, the whole matter of CLIL as a communicative model for language learning seems to be for naught.
Another area of concern here were the perceptions of students’ progress by skills, in particular oral skills. Oral skills were the lowest marked for content teachers on the survey, where they revealed uncertainty on the fulfilment of that language objective in their classes. CLIL programmes by their very nature should have the benefit of improving just these competencies, those focused on interaction in the FL with others. If this is not one of the principal expectations one should hold for CLIL classrooms, what is the ultimate goal of non-linguistic content being taught in a foreign language? It might be that qualified content teachers ask themselves the same questions, as they significantly rated their programmes more negatively than their English teaching colleagues, in this study and in others (Milla Lara & Casas, 2018; Ortega-Martín et al, 2018). It might be they need more support, or different kinds of support, than is being offered (generally language training and CLIL pedagogical training). Should more attention not be paid to this gap?
The exponential growth of CLIL programmes has mostly been greeted with enthusiasm as the next stop for communicative language teaching. While one might concede that some aspect of blind faith was necessary to begin an ambitious project of this magnitude (in some cases turning the majority of a nation’s public schools into foreign language learning laboratories), stock-taking (Cenoz et al., 2014; Pérez-Cañado, 2016) is still needed. The gap between content and language teachers’ views observed in this study may be further evidence of the confusion about what language and content integration means in their practical application, and what this in turn means for the roles content and language teachers play separately and together in coordination. This gap also underlines the continued importance of investigating teachers’ beliefs, since these are the base of future language policy (Hüttner, et al., 2013) and because stakeholders’ beliefs are central to teaching practices that make up the actions of such policies (Gierlinger, 2017; Pourhosein & Banou, 2017; Gabillon, 2012).
Perhaps a discussion not on what CLIL is, but what it should be, is due. It seems obvious that CLIL classrooms should not represent just some or some type of language exposure, but rather a high percentage of quality language exposure, and not one that is simply academically functional, but also communicatively rich. What is more, if content and language are to be truly integrated, interactive skills should be of upmost priority and they cannot be relegated to the side in favour of more traditionally academic and passive skills. Interactive oral competence then needs to take precedence as the primary active language skill for communicative learning in CLIL environments. Finally, and echoing Milla Lara and Casas (2018), what to do with the cultural component of CLIL classes merits discussion, since it seems to be largely missing or invisible, though cultural considerations are basic to many cross-curricular competences.
Addressing these gaps would be salubrious to CLIL educators in two ways. It would push content teachers, and thus their students, to use the foreign language in more dynamic ways, which could improve such lagging skills like oral competence, moving CLIL programmes to succeed in being, as a whole, environments of more active foreign language practice. On the other hand, it could reveal that content teachers are experiencing other issues in their classrooms that provoke their more negative views, which could then be appropriately addressed. Either of these scenarios is beneficial in the long term for CLIL programmes and their stakeholders.
Study limitations include sample size, which, while manageable for statistical analysis, would have benefitted from larger numbers. Finally, geographical limitations should be considered. Although the two main provinces of the region were represented (Cáceres and Badajoz), the majority of the schools surveyed were from the latter.
Future avenues for investigation should explore the gap between content and language teachers in other areas of the region of Extremadura, in particular in rural areas, which are not represented here. The language deficiency perception should also be further investigated, as well as the relationship between actual competence and perceived competence in language skills, and how such perceptions affect CLIL teachers in the classroom. Finally, empirical research into how much oral skill use, in particular interactive use, can be observed, rather than reported, in CLIL settings would also be helpful.
About the authors
Laura V. Fielden Burns is an Assistant Professor at the University of Extremadura, Spain, where she enjoys working in particular with the bilingual undergraduate degree in Education at the Teacher’s Training College. Her research interests include metaphor in L2 learners, CLIL/EMI education, motivation and technology in language learning. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-6283-7610
Juan de Dios Martínez Agudo is an Associate Professor of TESOL and Teacher Education at the University of Extremadura, Spain. His research interests lie at the interface of SLA research, L2 pedagogy and L2 teacher education, with a particular focus on EFL teacher learning and thinking, classroom discourse analysis (teacher talk), and cognitive and affective aspects of L2 teaching and learning. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-0865-5808
Our appreciation goes out to Ana María Parra for her expertise on the statistical analysis.
This study was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and the British Council [Project Title: Estudio sobre el impacto de los proyectos bilingües en el proceso de enseñanza y aprendizaje de los centros públicos en España. Las políticas bilingües y su aplicación y repercusión en los centros]. (2015-2017).
To Cite this Article
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