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Defining content and language

integrated learning for languages

education in Australia
Russell Cross

While there is much that Australia has
done well with respect to languages
education, many problems still persist
in terms of mainstream provision of
quality languages programs, attaining
real outcomes and gains in language
learning, and in relation to retention of
students studying languages through to
the senior years of school. The success of
new approaches focused on integrating
language with the mainstream curriculum
across schools in Europe suggests
new possibilities for dealing with the
challenges of languages in the Australian
schooling context. This paper considers
key aspects of the Content and Language
Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach as
developed in Europe over the past two
decades to help clarify and establish
a shared professional conversation for
advancing the approach amongst teachers
of languages in Australia interested in
its possibilities. The paper includes core
ideas underpinning the CLIL framework,
an awareness of its benefits as well as
challenges, and guidance about first
steps on implementing CLIL based on
trials in the Victorian context, together
with how effectiveness of such a
program might be determined.
CLIL, content and language integrated
learning, languages pedagogy, languages
curriculum, languages policy, bilingual
language learning

Content and Language Integrated Learning,
or CLIL, has been established as a
mainstream option for languages teaching
and learning throughout Europe since the
term was first used some 20 years ago
(Marsh, 1994). Traction has been especially
strong in the last 10 years since the
European Commissions 2004 Action Plan,
Promoting language learning and linguistic
diversity, recognised that CLIL had a major
contribution to make to the Unions language
learning goals (European Commission,
2003, p. 8). These goals include Europes
one plus two strategy, which encourages
proficiency in at least three languages: each
citizens national language, as well as two
others from the wider EU community (often
including English as the common lingua
franca). In Italy, for example, the Ministry
of Education has now mandated CLIL as
the teaching approach for all non-language
subjects in the final year of secondary
school, regardless of whether students
are undertaking an academic or vocational
pathway (LAssociazione Professionale dei
Docenti Italiani, 2014).
In the last three to five years, interest in
CLIL has begun to expand rapidly beyond
Europe, including to settings as diverse
as Japan (Sasajima, Ikeda, Hemmi, &
Reilly, 2011), Singapore (Hanington, Devi
Pillai, & Kwah, 2013), and the Middle East
(Riddlebarger, 2013). Likewise, Australia
has also begun to explore the possibilities
of CLIL within local settings, and how the
approach might offer new solutions to
longstanding problems that have troubled

languages education in mainstream

Australian schools (e.g. Victorian DEECD,
2014; see also Fielding & Harbon, this issue).
These challenges for languages in Australia
include quality program development and
teaching, sufficient time for worthwhile
gains in language use, and student retention
through to advanced levels of study in the
senior secondary years (Turner, 2013).
With the growing expansion of CLIL into
contexts beyond and for which it was
originally developed comes uncertainties
about how the approach might be most
successfully exported into new education
settings and jurisdictions. As the global
transfer of education policy and curriculum
has taught us, what works well in one
context does not always guarantee the
same results elsewhere (Carnoy & Rhoten,
2002; Lingard, 2010). The eventual outcomes
can be disastrous; with the effect being very
different from what was originally intended,
including lower gains in achievement as well
as in target language development (Valds,
1997; Walter, 2008).
For CLIL to have a genuine chance of takeup in the Australian context, the imperative
for its immediate future is first to better
clarify and establish a shared professional
understanding of what CLIL is, and what
it is not. Given the longstanding problems
that have affected languages education
in Australia (see Lo Bianco, 2009; and
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and
Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2009, for
example), there is an understandable desire
to find an approach, model, or idea that
offers a solution to improved languages




education take-up and outcomes, and

the success of CLIL in Europe in the last
20 years does offer some hope. CLIL in
Europe has been extremely successful,
replicating the outcomes of Canadian
immersion schooling, which is an approach
that develops genuine communicative
competence in two languages, as well as
heightened levels of student engagement
(Alberta Education, 2010; Coyle, Hood, &
Marsh, 2010; Mehisto, Marsh, & Frigols,
2008). In the last 20 years, immersion
enrolments in Canada have increased by
28% to 324,000 students, while those
learning French through the regular public
school curriculum declined by 24% over
the same period (Statistics Canada, 2013).
In comparison, the 2006-2012 language
enrolment data for P-12 government
schools in Victoria, the Australian state
with the largest proportion of students
learning a language (Liddicoat, Scarino,
Curnow, Kohler, Scrimgeour, & Morgan,
2007), show that numbers for French have
fallen by 14%, Italian by 33%, and German
by 41%, for example (Victorian DEECD,
2012). A key difference between CLIL and
immersion is that the former has been able
to be expanded across the diverse range of
education systems and language learning
contexts within the EUsomething that
has remained a challenge with immersion
approaches, which have evolved within very
specific social, cultural, historical conditions
in the Canadian context.
CLILs flexibilitythe idea that there is
neither one CLIL approach nor one theory of
CLIL (Coyle, 2008, p. 101)is perhaps one of
the most attractive qualities of the approach,
and provides potential for CLIL to offer a
robust framework suitable for the diverse
Australian contexts for language learning
across different states, jurisdictions, and
schools. But such possibility necessitates all
the more the need for clarity around CLILs
core ideas to advance the professional space
constructively, as well as to support CLIL
scholarship and research in relation to the
particular needs of the Australian learning
contexts and education systems. This is
not dissimilar from past discussions within
Babel on other key pedagogic developments
within our field, including those around
the place of communicative languages
teaching (e.g. Beale, 2002; Mangubhai,
Dashwood, & Howard, 2000; Venning, 2002),
and a recognition of the need to rely less
on prescriptive methods for instruction,
than approach-based frameworks that
instead provide broader guidance based
on the contextual demands of varied sites
for teaching and learning. This article sets
out the main ideas underpinning CLIL for
teachers who might consider using the
approach within their own local classroom
contexts. The Australian languages teaching
community can learn from the European
CLIL experience, reviewing its twenty
years of trialing of what works most
effectively for integrating language and
learning content to bring about successful
outcomes for learners.


Put simply, content and language integrated
learning refers to a pedagogy with a
dual focus on developing outcomes in
both language (e.g. French) and content
(e.g., science) learning, simultaneously
(Coyle, Hood, & Marsh, 2010). Although a
descendent of the Canadian immersion
approach (Perez-Canado, 2011, p. 316), a
critical difference between immersion and
CLIL as developed in the European Union
in the mid-1990s is the flexibility CLIL
provides as a pedagogy applicable to a range
of varied educational settings and conditions
(e.g. individual or team-teaching approaches;
timetabled as a single-class or as part
of a whole-school curriculum; etc.). The
emphasis lies less on the need to create
systemic or structural conditions necessary
to immerse students in the target language
than on using pedagogical approaches
that capitalise on existing opportunities to
enhance language learning retention and
outcomes. As Mehisto, Marsh, and Frigols
(2008, p.27) explain: Although CLIL ...
does involve a new approach and a certain
degree of change, it can easily fit into the
parameters established by the national
or regional curriculum. [It is an] approach
that seeks to enrich the [existing] learning
In this way, Coyle (2013) argues that CLIL is
increasingly being recognised as a change
agent (p. 244) for language education
programs, with a capacity to reshape
traditionally monolingual-centric approaches
into genuine bilingual experiences for
learners. Such an approach is significant
for languages education since strong
models of bilingual education (Baker, 2011;
see Fielding & Harbon, this issue, for a
more detailed account of strong and
weak programs)such as CLIL, as well as
immersionprovide the optimum conditions
for second language development. That is,
strong programs provide opportunities to
encounter comprehensible and meaningful
language with the expectation that students
engage with, respond to, and use that
language for themselves within purposeful,
well-scaffolded communicative experiences
(Lantolf & Thorne, 2007; Lightbown &
Spada, 2013). De Graaff, Koopman, Anikina,
& Westhoff (2007) expand this idea further
by linking major developments in the last
30 years of language education research
that support the move towards CLIL-based
1. Communicative language teaching:
language is acquired most successfully
when it is learned for communication
purposes in meaningful and significant
social situations (Brumfit & Johnson,
2. Content-based language teaching:
the integration of content and second
language instruction provides a
substantive and functional basis
and exposure for language teaching


(Cummins & Swain, 1986; Echevarria et

al., 2000; Genesee, 1987).
3. Task-based language teaching: exposure,
use and motivation in functional and
relevant activities are prerequisites for
successful language learning (Bygate
et al., 2001; Ellis, 2003; Willis, 1996) (de
Graaff et al, 2007, pp. 606-607).
Such a move effectively mirrors what
Mehisto et al. (2008, p. 101) have asserted is
CLILs winning game plan: the achievement
of content-based learning outcomes
integrated with language goals that facilitate
understanding of that content, while also
developing overall general learning skills for
learners as independent problem-solvers.
When implemented properly, CLIL programs
should be able to achieve:
Year level-appropriate levels of academic
achievement in subjects taught through
the CLIL language
Year level-appropriate functional
proficiency in listening, speaking, reading
and writing in the CLIL language
Age-appropriate levels of first-language
competence in listening, speaking,
reading and writing
An understanding and appreciation of
the cultures associated with the CLIL
language and the students first language
The cognitive and social skills and habits
required for success in an ever-changing
world (Mehisto et al., 2008, pp. 11-12).
The emphasis on Year level-appropriateness
is crucial, since the success of the approach
depends on purposeful interaction and
engagement provided by the content
as much as it does on simply understanding
language for its own sake (Coyle et al.,
2010). It is the attempts to make meaning,
and to be meaningful, when teachers and
learners work together to construct and
reconstruct content-based knowledge and
understanding through the language, that
provides the catalyst for language and
content growth (Cross, 2012).

Across Australian education systems there
is considerable variability in the terms used
to describe approaches and programs that
have a curriculum-based focus. It is helpful
to be explicit about where and how CLIL
might sit alongside these.
First, CLIL is best understood as an
umbrella (Marsh, 2002, p. 56) term for
a flexible pedagogical approach to dual
focused (content/language) instruction;
that is, CLIL as a descriptor for the type
of teaching approach used. CLIL-based
programs can take a variety of forms (e.g.
units of work within standard languages
programs, standalone subject options within
larger school programs), or CLIL can be
the pedagogical basis for regular bilingual
programs (i.e. where the whole school
curriculum is organised for instruction in the
medium of another language, using CLIL


pedagogy). As explained above, a key point

of distinction between CLIL and similar
content-related pedagogies is the explicit
dual focus in CLIL on developing both new
content and language, rather than a focus on
content while teaching through the medium
of another language, or using content to
simply frame language around particular
themes or topics that might only be an
incidental to the teaching of language.
Bilingual is useful as a broader program
level descriptor i.e. how instruction is
organised, rather than how instruction
is actually delivered (pedagogy) for a
school-level approach that aims to provide
extensive opportunities for students to
become familiar with a second language
and the culture(s) of its native speakers.
In New South Wales, for example, there
is an expectation that bilingual schools
offer at least 7.5 hours (about 33%) of the
curriculum through the medium of the target
language (Fielding & Harbon, this issue;
NSW DEC, 2014). Bilingual programs can be
delivered by different types of pedagogies,
including (but not necessarily) CLIL.
Within the international literature,
immersion refers to a well-defined form
of bilingual program in which a significant
portion (or even all) of the mainstream
curriculum is taught through the target
language on a continuum from partial (at
least 50%) to full immersion (100% of
class time) (Baker, 2011). As a school-level
approach, immersion programs typically
focus on the teaching of curriculum content
via the medium target language, with
separate curriculum elements devoted
to specifically language/focus on form
development (e.g. Italian Language Arts).
However, alternative approaches to delivery
adopt an integrated focus on both language
and curriculum throughout the curriculum
as a whole (i.e. immersion programs using
CLIL pedagogy).



As discussed above, the real potential
of CLIL lies in the flexibility it offers as
an approach to produce the optimum
conditions for languages learning across a
wide range of teaching contexts. Hood &
Tobutt (2009), for example, have identified
at least four models of CLIL within the UK
context. These include:
Surface cross-curricular linking [using the
regular language class to teach contentrelated language relevant to what is
being taught in other curriculum areas]
Integrating language while building on
semi-familiar content
Integrating language and new content
Immersion [as understood in the CLIL UK
context] (Hood & Tobutt, 2009, p. 105)
Because of this flexibility, it is essential that
practice is informed by a robust theoretical
basis; that is, a clear system of key principles
and building blocks for guiding instructional


decisions as they relate to the demands

of different contexts. It is not so much
what teachers do that mattersas if to
suggest that a prescriptive set of techniques
could achieve the outcomes of CLILthan
understanding how and why language and
content integration can be approached in a
range of different ways, given a variety of
different settings for integrated practice, to
produce desired outcomes.
The core theory underpinning CLIL
comprises four key building blocks (Coyle,
2006b, p. 9), known as the 4Cs Framework:
Content: The subject matter, theme, and
topic forming the basis for the program,
defined by domain or discipline according
to knowledge, concepts, and skills (e.g.
science, ICT, arts).
Communication: The language to create
and communicate meaning about the
knowledge, concepts, and skills being
learned (e.g. stating facts about the sun,
giving instructions on using software,
describing emotions in response to music).
Cognition: The ways that we think and
make sense of knowledge, experience, and
the world around us (e.g. remembering,
understanding, evaluating, critiquing,
reflecting, creating).
Culture: The ways that we interact and
engage with knowledge, experience, and
the world around us: socially (e.g. social
conventions for expressing oneself in the
target language), pedagogically (e.g.
classroom conventions for learning and
classroom interaction), and/or according to
discipline (e.g. scientific conventions for
preparing reports to disseminate knowledge).
Further, in contrast to conventional
methodologies of language teaching
that rely heavily on specific conditions
for successful implementation (e.g. see
Baker, 2011, for a list of core and variable

features of immersion), CLIL is informed

by a set of relational (and therefore more
contextually sensitive and flexible) principles
for pedagogy designed to work across
different educational contexts. With the
aim of incorporating all aspects of the 4Cs
framework, the principles support the
understanding that learning is based on
the construction of new knowledge/skills
rather than mere acquisition; that there is
a need for explicit attention to the role and
development of cognitive skills to facilitate
quality student-centered, participatory
learning experiences; that interaction and
context are central for reconstructing
meaning and understanding; and that the
relationship between language and culture
is complex, inseparable and central to the
development of intercultural understanding
(Coyle, 2008).
The excerpt below describes one teachers
CLIL approach in a Year 2 Spanish/science
class. As already explained, this is only
one way of approaching CLIL, but it does
highlight the interrelated focus on content,
culture, cognition, and communication,
along with the pedagogical principles that
guided this teachers integrated approach
to practice. It also highlights the strategic
role of English. While never used by the
teacher herself to deliver instruction, it is
allowed between students (and accepted
in student-to-teacher responses, depending
on the task) as a translanguaging strategy
commonly used within CLIL classrooms
(Creese & Blackledge, 2010; Cross, 2012;
Lasagabaster, 2013):
In the initial lesson for the topic, the
teacher read an illustrated story which
she had translated from English into
Spanish. All of the Year 2 classes
were using this story as the means
of activating students knowledge
about causes and their relationship
to effects. However, as the teacher

Figure 1. Coyles (2006b, p. 14) 4Cs CLIL Framework.





pointed out during the follow-up

interview, this had not worked well
in Spanish for two reasons. First,
the students had limited exposure
to the language, and she needed
to focus on a small number of key
vocabulary items rather than overall
comprehension of the story. Second,
the cause and effect sequences in the
story were more social than physical,
whereas the following lessons
focussed on scientific concepts of
cause and effect such as friction,
weight with force of gravity, and air
pressure. The social nature of the
story did, however, enable the teacher
to draw the students attention to
some intercultural aspects of the
behaviour of Spanish speakers in
the situations compared to their
expectations based on Australian
cultural assumptions.
The three lessons involving student
experiments followed a similar
pattern, with the teacher preparing
a lesson plan based on a model
adapted from Coyle et al. (2010) and
Dale and Tanner (2012). Each lesson
began with a warm-up activity to
activate students Spanish vocabulary
with the teacher using games to
revise previously learned words and
new ones needed for the particular
experiment. To guide students
understanding of the particular cause
and effect concept, the teacher
demonstrated the experiment, and
then asked a student to demonstrate
it with her, each time explaining in
Spanish what they had to do and
asking questions of the class to
ensure they had understood the
process and were able to explain it
in Spanish. To consolidate the cause
and effect comparative structures,
the teacher wrote examples on the
whiteboard with gaps for students
to complete using their own data
and conclusions. The teacher also
used prepared flash cards with
words in Spanish to [scaffold and
elicit] examples from the students
own findings about the results of
each experiment, and placed these
on the magnetic whiteboard so
they could complete their individual
charts. Students worked in pairs or
small groups to support each other
during each of the experiments, but
wrote their own results in Spanish
on pre-prepared charts. At the end of
each lesson, the teacher summarised
what had been done, focussing
on the language of predicting and
hypothesising related to each cause
and effect experiment and the
materials used.
The language focus for this topic
centred on lexis for the materials used
in each experiment, and syntax for
comparatives. The hands on nature
of the teachers approach meant


that the macro skills focus was on

listening and responding orally and in
writing, by completing set sentences
where the basic elements were
provided and students wrote one or
two words per gap to complete their
own sentences.



As a final product, students worked in

pairs to produce a poster illustrating
each of the experiments and writing
a short paragraph of three to four
sentences to record what they had
discovered during this topic.
Through the content of this inquiry
unit, the teacher was able to develop
the students thinking skills by asking
them to predict what might happen
with each experiment and to provide
a possible explanation of this. During
the experiments, she circulated
around groups of students, talking to
them in Spanish and helping them
to formulate their conclusions in
a mixture of English and Spanish.
Scaffolding was provided both
orally and in writing, with students
encouraged to use the outline of
the sentences on the whiteboard
to describe the result of each
experiment where they used different
materials or processes. (Cross, 2013,
pp. 66-67).


Although the focus is integration, CLIL is
content driven (Coyle et al., 2010). The first
step in planning any program, then, lies with
identifying which curriculum areas offer the
greatest likelihood of establishing a program
given the dynamics of the particular school.
For example, if the languages specialist is
already experienced in another area (e.g.
mathematics), there is a natural connection
for advancing a CLIL strategy further. In
other cases, it might make more sense for
the languages teacher to collaborate with
others (e.g. primary generalist teachers) to
identify which units of work, or extensions
to existing units of work, they might
take responsibility for to establish a CLIL
program. For language teacher specialists
without much experience of teaching
into other curriculum areas, scheduling
opportunities to plan, shadow, or teamteach with those already teaching those
units of work can be a useful way to build
knowledge, skills, and confidence across
new content areas. Indeed, the flexibility
that CLIL offers means it is often taught by
teachers who have method specialisms in
both languages and another content teacher,
but also allows for co-teacher configurations
in which languages specialists work in
collaboration with other colleagues, such as
primary generalist teachers (Cross, 2013).
A CLIL approach can be implemented
across the full range of conventional
subject areas, including art, economics and
business studies, geography, history, ICT,
mathematics, music, drama, science, and


physical education (Dale & Tanner, 2012).

Furthermore, Genesee (1994) contends
the content of integrated second language
instruction need not be academic; it can
include any topic, theme, or non-language
issue of interest or importance to the
learners (p. 3). What matters most is
choosing subject matter that offers the
greatest flexibility for teachers to work with
to develop a program specifically for their
students (e.g. a good working partnership
with a particular member of staff within
the chosen content area; experience or
confidence in teaching a particular domain;
an existing well-established unit of work
that would generate strong interest in the
program (Cross, 2013)). The Irish Modern
Languages in Primary Schools Initiative
(2014) offers several suggestions to consider
in making choices of subject areas for CLIL,
especially with beginners. These include
subject areas requiring:
A lot of seeing, watching, observing
(documents, photographs, objects, film,
teacher and others)
A lot of experiencing, handling, doing (i.e.
performing real tasks with objects, realia)
A lot of listening (teacher and others,
tape, film)
A rich visual environment, including
written language (including both new and
known language)
Aural language which is both rich and
accessible to beginners in context
(including both new and known language)
The possibility of producing language in
the modern language [both orally and
through writing] (
In terms of learners, many European
CLIL programs do not commence until
students have already developed literacy in
their first language (Dalton-Puffer & Smit,
2013). However, the immersion experience
confirms that the early introduction of
additional languages as an alternate medium
of instruction has no long-term detrimental
effects on students first language
development. Although students sometimes
lag behind monolingual learners initially
(Fortune & Tedick, 2003), research confirms
students in early immersion programs from
the start of schooling soon catch up with,
and often outperform, monolinguals in
assessment of metalinguistic awareness
and first language competence (Bialystok,
Peets, & Moreno, 2014; Turnbull, Hart &
Lapkin, 2003; Fortune, 2012).
However, an advantage that older CLIL
learners have over those in the primary
years is that their cognitive skills are
often better developed, and students can
transfer their metacognitive skills to the
CLIL classroom to facilitate more effective
learning (i.e. study skills, inferencing,
memory, etc.) (Lightbown & Spada, 2013).
Not surprisingly, the introduction of complex
curriculum content can have a negative
impact on learners but, as noted below, this
is sometimes less to do with the approach


itself, and more to do with instances where

the pedagogy might not be being applied
effectively, or where the content has not
been scaffolded appropriately (Wood,
Bruner, & Ross, 1976), which would make
learning in any language difficult. If done
well, teachers can identify appropriate ways
to select, introduce, and scaffold students
understanding of the content to avoid
these problems, while facilitating greater
language and content skill development in
the process.
Regardless of whether CLIL programs
start at the primary or secondary level,
evidence from early CLIL trials in the
Victorian context suggest the need to begin
programs with opt-in groups first (Cross,
2013), where students elect to participate.
This approach has been common with many
(although not all) models of CLIL in Europe
(Maljers, Marsh, & Wolff, 2007). Working
with students who also show some initial
commitment to the approach enables a
quality program to evolve gradually while
the teaching team makes changes and
adjustments during the early phases.
This does mean, however, that there is a
need to provide information to the school
community and stakeholders (including
parents and feeder schools) about the CLIL
program through newsletters, information
nights, taster classes, etc. to generate
interest and awareness, and to bring the
community on board.
Significantly, the early Victorian CLIL
trials have also identified a difference


between support and commitment for

establishing a successful CLIL program
(Cross, 2013). CLIL does not necessarily
depend on having to secure whole school
buy inthat is, a commitment in terms
of restructuring timetables, impacting
staff hiring decisions, etc.but teachers
do need executive level support, including
trust and confidence from their senior
leadership team to allow teachers to work
with the approach. Other forms of external
support available include professional
teachers networks (e.g. AFMLTA and its
state affiliates, as well as single language
subject associations), universities, other
languages teachers (both within and across
schools), and departmental initiatives (e.g.


As with research on other models of additive
bilingual education, the impact of CLIL
includes beneficial linguistic, academic, and
social outcomes (Baker, 2011).
The authenticity of the content that
drives the CLIL learning experience has
been shown to increase levels of student
engagement (Coyle et al., 2010; Mehisto et
al., 2008). Moreover, and consistent with
studies on the interrelationship between
first and second language development
(Cummins, 1979), students learning
languages through additive bilingual
programs also often do as well, or better, in

assessment of their first language skills than

those learning their first language through
monolingual (first language only) programs
(Alberta Ministry of Education, 2010; Baker,
2011). With respect to academic outcomes,
CLIL students focus on age-correspondent/
Year level-equivalent content in the same
way as those in a parallel monolingual
curriculum, with a focus on the same
knowledge, skills, and concepts rather than
dumbed-down units of work (Coyle et al.,
2010). Despite studying curriculum content
through a second language, CLIL students
still typically do at least as well on tests of
that content as those learning the same
material in their first language (DaltonPuffer, 2008). Finally, CLIL also promotes
higher levels of intercultural sensitivity and
competence, including a more positive
attitude towards the cultures of others
(Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2009; Rodrguez &
Puyal, 2012; Sudhoff, 2010).
Although it seems counter-intuitive that
learning through a language other than
ones first language could have such positive
outcomes, Muoz (2002, p.36) offers the
following explanation:
Learners benefit from higher quality
teaching and from input that is
meaningful and understandable.
CLIL may strengthen learners ability to
process input, which prepares them for
higher-level thinking skills, and enhances
cognitive development.
In CLIL, literacy development takes place
in the first language, which is cognitively


beneficial for the child. Later, literacy skills

will transfer to the additional languages.
In CLIL the learners affective filter
may be lower than in other situations,
for learning takes place in a relatively
anxiety-free environment.
Learners motivation to learn content
through the CLIL language may foster
and sustain motivation towards learning
the language itself.


CLIL can have the exact opposite effect
of the recognised benefits discussed
earlier, including disengaging learners due
to the heavy focus on curriculum content,
the lack of oral interaction due to the
difficulty in understanding and using the
target language, and a negative impact on
learners self-concept/esteem (SeikkulaLeino, 2007; Bruton, 2011). Moreover,
despite the large body of research that
supports the outcomes of CLIL in terms of
its positive linguistic, cognitive, and social/
cultural benefits, there are concerns that
most of this evidence has been based on
student cohorts that have opted into CLIL
programs, which already show a positive
predisposition towards this way of learning
languages (Dalton-Puffer & Smit, 2013, p.
549). Brutons (2011, p.524) critique of the
approach is that the truth is many of the
potential pitfalls which CLIL might encounter
are actually avoided by selecting for these
programs students who will be academically
motivated to succeed in the [foreign
language], as in other subjects.
What this suggests, however, is not that
CLIL is necessarily problematic in itself
there is a great deal of solid evidence that
the conditions promoted by content and
language integration are highly conducive
to learning both successfullybut that the
stakes are very high in ensuring teachers
properly understand and can effectively
use the pedagogy, and in ways that engage
with each student cohorts (and indeed each
students) specific needs.
More important, then, are issues related
to implementing CLIL. Cross (2013)
documents a number of challenges within
local Australian settings as they relate to the
Victorian context, but given commonalities
across the profession in other Australian
states they carry caveats that are worth
considering across other jurisdictions. One
critical point included the need for languages
teachers to become CLIL advocates
within the school community through an
educative role working with colleagues,
parents, and school leadership to an extent
that might have been much broader than
their traditional role as language teacher.
This also included collaborating with other
schools and networks to promote CLIL
programs to feeder primary schools, or to
establish new CLIL pathways as options
within their feeder secondary schools.
Further issues significant to teachers more
widely included the emotional demands


of teaching through CLIL given it can

be overwhelming for both teachers and
students; school-based decisions about
whether CLIL should be offered as an
elective stream or simply adopted as the
standard approach for all students in a
particular cohort; and ensuring the focus
was not only on having students understand
the content being taught, but were actively
engaging in target language production
activities throughout the unit of work (Cross,
Many of these challenges are in some ways
similar to wider issues documented in the
CLIL literature elsewhere (e.g. Georgiou,
2012). However, in most cases, each
problem is also very specific to the context
and demands of each particular setting.
For implementation to be successful, it is
less a matter of the CLIL framework itself
not being suitable than identifying where
specific problems lie, and developing
strategies to then address how they might
be best managed given that context.
To date, the majority of commercial
resources for CLIL have been published
in Europe, primarily for English language
instruction, where English is the additional
language (see,
for example). While this is not ideal for
Australian teachers of other languages,
the materials are often of high quality and
well designed (see, for example www.
As such, commercially available materials
provide useful templates and guidelines
for teachers to develop other language
adaptations to suit local needs and contexts.
Likewise, although curricular frameworks
also differ, many core ideas, topic areas,
and learning outcomes intersect at various
points allowing for internationally-produced
materials to be re-purposed to fit local
curriculum demands.
As interest in CLIL grows in Australia,
repositories for storing and sharing material
have become the focus of several recent
projects, including the Modern Language
Teachers Association of Victorias (MLTAV), a Victorian
DEECD portal for teacher-produced CLIL
material (
Results.aspx?s=CLIL); and a national CLIL
Languages Learning space in development
between Education Services Australia
and the Melbourne Graduate School of
Education (see


Finally, an important consideration is how
CLIL outcomes can be assessed and
evidenced if it is adopted. CLIL has many
parallels with other language learning
approaches and orientations, but with
further explicit attention on the development
of content knowledge and skills, as well
as the cognitive processes and cultural
competence that relate to these (Coyle
et al., 2010). Since content has as much
significance as language, the question


is not whether to focus on content or

language in relation to assessment, but
whether and how they should be considered
The decision should depend on the needs
of the context and targeted goals at that
point in the students learning. There may be
times when it is more appropriate to assess
students content knowledge in their first
language to enable them to demonstrate
their full level of understanding, which may
precede their level of additional language
production/expression. On other occasions,
the focus might be on the language itself,
and students competence in particular
situations, rather than within the curriculum
domain. Ideally, however, the majority of
assessment will consider both language
and content together, reflecting a consistent
integrated approach throughout the full
teaching, learning, and assessment cycle
(Llinares, Morton, & Whittaker, 2012).
CLIL, like other contemporary pedagogies,
also has a strong focus on formative
assessment to ensure ongoing opportunities
to check students understanding of both
language and content as they move from
not only one lesson to the next, but also
within each stage of the lesson. One
especially useful formative assessment
strategy is performance assessment
(Cambridge English, 2010), in which
students demonstrate their understanding
of the language and content (e.g. explaining
the different types of sources from which
they collected the information; drawing a
flow chart of the process involved in solving
a problem):
Teachers observe and assess learners
performance using specific criteria.
Performance assessment can involve
individuals, pairs or groups of learners.
As CLIL promotes task-based
learning, it is appropriate that learners
have opportunities to be assessed by
showing what they know and what
they can do. Performance assessment
can also be used to evaluate
development of communicative and
cognitive skills as well as attitude
towards learning. For example,
teachers can look for evidence of
justifying opinions (communication),
reasoning (cognitive skills) and
co-operative turn-taking (attitude).
(Cambridge English, 2010, p. 7)
Another commonly used strategy within
CLIL is portfolio-based assessment (Mehisto
et al., 2008). Portfolios are collections of
students work that provide evidence of their
developing understanding and competence
over a period of time (e.g. a term or annual
portfolio). Mehisto et al. (2008) advocate for
the use of portfolios not only because they
provide a summative collection of evidence
at the end of a medium to long-term
learning period, but that they also support
ongoing learning over the course of the
term/year by building students awareness
of their own strengths and weaknesses,
facilitating conversations with other peers


and their teacher about the quality their

outcomes and work that is being produced,
and by assisting to establish future learning
targets as students progress towards the
end of the unit.

For more than 50 years, the Canadian
immersion experience has demonstrated
that when students are provided with
genuine opportunities for meaningful
engagement with language in, through,
and across the curriculum, it leads to
worthwhile outcomes in both first and
second language development, increased
levels of interpersonal and intercultural
understanding, and students overall sense
of achievement and engagement in learning.
These are the contributions we would hope
any quality language education program
might be making towards our students total
educational experience throughout school.
Yet challenges replicating the conditions
necessary to expand the immersion model
within local Australian school systems have
meant that its mainstream viability has
always remained elusive. While there are
some very high quality programs and smallscale initiatives, for the majority of students
this will never be an opportunity that they can
access for learning a new language at school.
CLIL offers the potential for change, and new
tools to approach old challenges differently.
As a pedagogic innovation that builds on
the immersion model but with a new level
of contextual responsiveness and flexibility,
the building blocks that underpin CLIL have
allowed teachers across Europe to approach
language/content integration in ways that
have suited a broad and very diverse range
of education systems and settings.


The evidence from Europe suggests the

same possibilities might also be true for
the expansion of CLIL in the Australian
context. Such potential, however, depends
on proceeding with an informed, shared,
and collective professional understanding of
the approach to consider how CLIL might be
applied most effectively in local classroom
settings. Similarly, and no less importantly,
is the willingness to also consider how CLIL
itself might further continue to evolve to meet
new demands and challenges that comes
with this global expansion and up-take.
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Russell Cross is senior lecturer in

language and literacy education at
the Melbourne Graduate School
of Education of The University of
Melbourne. His research focuses
on the social, cultural, and political
knowledge base of teachers work, and
he currently leads Melbourne Graduate
School of Educations research/teaching
programs in Content and Language
Integrated Learning (CLIL).