Motivation in CLIL: Research in Secondary Education in the Galician Context

by Noelia M. Galán-Rodríguez (Author)
©2020 Thesis 316 Pages


Even though content and language integrated learning (CLIL) has been implemented in the Spanish educational system for some years now, it seems there is no consensus on whether this methodology is fulfilling its objectives. Although its practices in Spain have been studied in terms of assessment, language learning and content, research on students‘ and teachers‘ motivation in CLIL has been scarce. Taking into consideration that teaching and learning are social practices, it seems necessary to consider the affective factors such as motivation and perceptions which may come into play in CLIL practices. This book studies the perceptions and motivation regarding CLIL in three groups of CLIL physics and chemistry students and their CLIL teacher in a plurilingual high school located in Galicia.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Abstract
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1 Introduction to the Study
  • 1.1. State of the Art
  • 1.2. Why Study Motivation in CLIL?
  • 1.3. Structure
  • 1.4. Aims of the Study
  • Chapter 2 CLIL as a Worldwide Phenomenon
  • 2.1. CLIL throughout History
  • 2.2. Defining CLIL
  • 2.3. The Aftermath of CLIL
  • 2.4. CLIL in Secondary Education
  • Chapter 3 Spain and Galicia: Bilingual Entities
  • 3.1. Sociolinguistic Background
  • 3.2. Second and Foreign Languages in Mandatory Education
  • 3.3. CLIL Sections and Research in Galicia
  • 3.4. Current Challenges in CLIL in Galicia
  • Chapter 4 Motivation, Cognition and CLIL
  • 4.1. Theoretical Approaches to Motivation
  • 4.2. Cognition and Language Awareness
  • 4.3. Affective Factors in CLIL
  • 4.4. CLIL Perceptions: Teachers’ and Students’ Insights
  • Chapter 5 Methodology
  • 5.1. Background Context
  • 5.2. Conceptualising the Methodology
  • 5.3. Research Methods
  • 5.4. Research Tools & Data Gathering
  • 5.4.1. Students’ Questionnaires
  • 5.4.2. Teacher’s Interview
  • 5.4.3. Systematic Classroom Observation
  • Chapter 6 Data Analysis
  • 6.1. Students’ Questionnaire
  • 6.1.1. Actors
  • 6.1.2. Feelings
  • 6.1.3. Activities
  • 6.1.4. Goals
  • 6.2 Teacher’s Interview
  • 6.3. Systematic Classroom Observation
  • Chapter 7 Research Questions and Proposed Guidelines
  • 7.1. Research Questions
  • 7.2. Proposed Guidelines
  • Chapter 8 Conclusions
  • 8.1. Summary of the Results
  • 8.2. Limitations of the Study
  • 8.3. Pedagogical Implications
  • 8.4. Further Research
  • References
  • Appendix
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables

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Chapter 1 Introduction to the Study

It is widely known that the idea of foreign language proficiency in Spain has been met with reticence at best and derision at worst. Despite the language-based initiatives which have been taken since the middle of the 20th century in Spain, the public’s opinion about the levels of foreign language proficiency (mostly English) points to a perceived low level in the foreign language. It has been brought to attention that the traditional methodologies such as the popular Grammar-Translation method used in the last century could have set a precedent on how foreign language is still being taught nowadays.

Even though a new emphasis on the communicative competence has been brought about in foreign language (from now on FL) classes in the form of educational laws (Decree 86/2015, Plurilingual Decree 79/2011) due to the rising importance of speaking a foreign language in a globalised world be it for recreational or professional reasons, it has come to attention that the FL classroom is not the only convenient school-based environment to improve foreign language. In fact, non-linguistic subjects have adapted their language of instruction to a foreign language in what is widely known as the Content and Language Integrated Learning methodology (from now on CLIL).

Although the implementation of this type of methodology is not a recent phenomenon (see Chapter 2.1), CLIL has been born out of the need to cover a different foreign language reality with content and language intertwined as the main pillars of the learning process. These two concepts have proved to be the key elements in which CLIL stands, though these should not be understood as separate entities in the educational process but joined elements in the learning practice; thus, CLIL is often defined as a “dual-focused educational approach” (Marsh, Mehisto, Wolff & Frigols Martín, 2011, p. 11). This emphasis on duality in CLIL differs from other previous methods in which content and language were used such as CBI (Content Based Instruction) where content is a mere tool to reach the ultimate goal, that is, language learning (Dale & Tanner, 2012).

Even though the learning aims of CLIL are to do with content and language mastery, these two elements are represented or used differently in the classes and subjects where this methodology takes place. This has led to a wide interpretation of what CLIL stands for and how this methodology should be implemented; hence, CLIL is often referred as an ‘umbrella term’ whose implementation is to be defined by multiple factors, both contextual and individual. This heterogeneity has resulted in a whole range of CLIL scenarios and realities which have been ←19 | 20→and still are accounted in academic literature and research. For these reasons, CLIL has been an object of study in both national and international contexts; both have been considered in this study and proposal.

1.1. State of the Art

Even though the use of a foreign or second language as the language of instruction is not a recent phenomenon (e.g. Latin as the language of instruction in schools and universities), CLIL is said to have its modern origins in America, most specifically in: (1) Canada and its immersion programmes in French (an official language) for English-native speaking children; and (2) the CBT methodology used to teach English to immigrant children in the US in the 1980’s (Martínez, 2011, p. 94). Furthermore, the German-French grammar schools in Europe as well as what was termed ‘bilingual education’ in both continents set the basis for CLIL in Europe (Dalton-Puffer, 2007).

CLIL around Europe has been extensively studied in the last couple of decades “from North (Finland) to South (Italy), and from East (Bulgaria) to West (Spain)” (Pérez-Cañado, 2012, p. 319). As CLIL sections have been born out of the sociocultural and linguistic needs of the EU (Eurydice, 2006; 2012; 2017), it is not surprising much research has been done on their effectiveness and practice. It has been pointed out by the Eurydice reports (2006; 2012; 2017) that most European countries have had some kind of CLIL provision with different forms of implementation and outcomes. Among those countries with an extended CLIL tradition, Finland and Austria appear as two of the most popular. This is partly due to their extended L2 teaching tradition, their CLIL ‘success’ and their educational context. Furthermore, the extensive research done on these countries is also related to important CLIL researchers in these areas: Marsh (Finland) and Dalton-Puffer (Austria).


At the beginning of the 1990’s the term Mainstream Bilingual Education (MBE) was used in Finland in order to refer to what would become CLIL (Marsh, 2013, p. 63). According to Jäppinen (2005, p. 149), Finland is one of the CLIL pioneers in mainstream education with 8 % of primary education and 15 % of secondary education schools in 1996 using a foreign language as the language of instruction. With regards to the Finnish context at the time, Marsh (2013) writes that:

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Finland was experiencing a major economic crisis due to a debt-based economy boom in the 1980s, leading to a banking crisis in 1990, and severe austerity measures introduced during 1990–1993. The situation was a microcosm of the European sovereign debt crisis of 2008 onwards. Internationalisation strategies were rapidly deployed and Finland invested heavily in education and innovation. Partial teaching in English was one of the outcomes. (p. 63)

The focus on bilingual education was supported by Marsh in the coinage of the term CLIL (1994); in addition to this, Marsh worked and created the theoretical framework such as in Profiling European CLIL Classrooms (Marsh, Maljers & Hartiala, 2001) and The European Dimension: Actions, Trends & Foresight Potential (Marsh, 2002). This provided a common research background in regard to the CLIL dimensions along with initial feedback on the CLIL practice in Europe. Along with Marsh, Pérez-Cañado (2012, p. 320) points out other Finnish authors who have contributed to CLIL research addressing recurrent questions in CLIL such as L1 and L2 development, participants’ attitudes and subject learning.

Among these, Pérez-Cañado (2012) refers to Bergroth’s research (2006) on the effects of CLIL with Swedish as the language of instruction (L2) and English as an L3. The results were positive: CLIL immersion students outperformed their non-CLIL counterparts in all three languages (Finnish, Swedish and English) and their content learning has not been threatened by the use of the L2 (2006, pp. 132–133). In regard to L2 development, Järvinen (2005) is also mentioned in Pérez-Cañado (2012, p. 321) as a researcher on L2 syntax (subordination and relativization) where he found out “significant differences in favour of the bilingual group in the acquisition of relativization, as it produced significantly longer, more complex, and more accurate sentences” (2012, p. 321).

Related to cognitive issues in the CLIL classroom, Jäppinen (2005) stands out in the Finnish context with her study on the thinking and learning processes of mathematics and science in CLIL sections. The study was carried out on two groups: a CLIL (335 learners) and a non-CLIL (334 learners) group. The final results were that, even though learning in CLIL environments seemed to more demanding than non CLIL settings at the beginning, “Finnish CLIL environments support thinking and content learning, in particular, in situations where the learner has to compare different concepts and meaning schemes with each other” (2005, p. 163).

Affective factors such as motivation have recently become a matter of research in the CLIL classrooms: Seikkula (2007) points out in her study of CLIL and non CLIL students (217 pupils) that, while CLIL pupils were strongly motivated towards CLIL learning and achievement in Finnish was not negatively affected, ←21 | 22→CLIL students had a low self-concept of their own foreign language skills (2007, p. 339). In order to combat this, positive feedback on the teacher’s side is encouraged (2007, p. 339). In fact, in recent years, assessment issues in Finnish CLIL settings have been dealt with and some research has been done such as Wewer’s (2013) where the results showed that:

[1]; assessment and feedback in CLIL needs to be reorganised [2] pupils and parents wish to be informed of the progress in the additional language in reference to the learning objectives. This implies that CLIL teachers should arrange more functional language use situations for pupils in which they can exhibit their language skills, and teachers should practice more systematic observation and data gathering of the progress made in language development [3] it is very important for pupils to get constructive and direct feedback on their emerging (academic) learner language in order to encourage them to use the TL. (pp. 84–85)

Regarding CLIL teachers, their attitudes and their practices, some research has been produced, such as Roiha (2014), who studied the teacher’s perception of students with special needs in the CLIL classroom and “how to support pupils with special needs in CLIL education by means of differentiation” (2014, p. 1).

However, other prolific CLIL context such as the Austrian and Spanish CLIL environment (Llinares & Dalton-Puffer, 2015), have been studied. Furthermore, Austrian CLIL (Dalton-Puffer & Nikula, 2006) was also researched in terms of the directives used by both teachers and students in these two countries, concluding that the specific conditions of classroom discourse affect the CLIL language environment.


The multilingual Austrian sociolinguistic setting is defined by German, a dominant national language, but also by the constitutional rights of minority languages which are national languages across the Austrian borders (Czech, Hungarian, Slovenian and Croatian) (Dalton-Puffer, 2007, p. 45). In regard to foreign language teaching initiatives, the political climate of the 1990s was favourable due to Austria’s accession to the EU; this led to different FLT initiatives: (1) early foreign language learning in grade 1 and 2 of elementary education; (2) fully-fledged bilingual school programmes at some locations; and (3) Fremdsprache als Arbeitssprache (FsAA- Foreign Language as a Working Language) (2007, p. 46).

In regard to CLIL implementation in Austria, Dalton-Puffer (2007, p. 46) defines it as a grassroots movement with English as the dominant language of instruction, and points out the non-restrictive nature of the formal provisions regarding the use of foreign languages –hence, providing the opportunity to ←22 | 23→experiment with different variants of CLIL (2007, p. 47). Furthermore, the CLIL teachers’ profile needs to be accounted for: they are usually in the middle of their career and with extensive experience but motivated enough to look for a new challenge, and whose gratification “is almost exclusively symbolic […] deriving largely from meeting a professional challenge successfully. There are no financial rewards, no reduced teaching hours and sometimes not even extra funds for additional teaching materials” (2007, p. 47).

Concerning the research carried on in Austria on CLIL, most has been done in the shape of practitioners’ action research and with emphasis on the teaching of content subjects through English, the language of instruction (2007, p. 48). The fact that many of the research practices have followed the CAR methodology could be due to a “lack of nationwide statistical information on the matter” (2007, p. 47). This makes it difficult to create generalisations about the CLIL phenomenon in Austria. In regard to Austrian research on CLIL, Pérez-Cañado (2012) points out that it has focused mainly on lexical proficiency and narrative competence, but she also highlights some common flaws in some studies (Ackerl, 2007; Hüttner & Rieder-Bünemann, 2007, 2010; Seregély, 2008) such as the lack of statistical operations and not guaranteeing homogeneity of experimental and control cohorts (2012, p. 325).

Even though it is difficult to draw lines on Austrian CLIL research due to the variety of specific action research studies, four main areas were defined by Dalton-Puffer, Faistauer & Vetter (2011, p. 196) taking into consideration the CLIL research done in Austria from 2004 and 2009:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (August)
CLIL motivation perceptions plurilingualism FL
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 316 pp., 37 fig. b/w, 49 tables.

Biographical notes

Noelia M. Galán-Rodríguez (Author)

Noelia Mª Galán-Rodríguez studied English language and literature at the University of A Coruña. She holds a PhD from the University of A Coruña, the University of Santiago de Compostela, and the University of Vigo. She teaches at UNED and for the Xunta de Galicia as a high-school teacher. Her research interests are FL learning, plurilingualism, classroom dynamics and cognitive and affective factors.


Title: Motivation in CLIL: Research in Secondary Education in the Galician Context
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