Content and language integrated learning has captured the attention of both teachers and researchers. Recent discussions have maintained that CLIL offers opportunities to improve the process of language learning since CLIL contexts offer more opportunities for language exposure and language use. While research interests have predominantly focused on the comparison between CLIL and EFL students’ competence, there seems to be a need to explore the methodological approaches that best trigger the learning of language and content in CLIL settings. The aim of this paper is to analyse how CLIL lessons using different approaches influence students’ perception of learning as well as learning outcomes. The present study was carried out in two different multilingual classrooms in the Valencian Community. Participants were a total of fifty primary-school students from year six, 25 in a CLIL classroom where the teacher followed a teacher directed teaching approach and 25 students in another classroom where the teacher followed a task-based approach. 20 CLIL sessions of Science were observed, 10 sessions in each multilingual classroom. Data on students’ perceptions on learning were collected by means of students learning diaries and semi-structured interviews. Moreover, to examine students’ learning outcomes, in both approaches, students’ writing were analysed using Jacob’s et al. (1987) taxonomy, which included the following dimensions: content, organization, vocabulary, language use and mechanics.
Findings from the study show that students’ perception of learning is higher in those CLIL sessions where the teacher follows the traditional approach of presentation, practise and production. However, learning outcomes, measured in students’ written production, show that students under the task-based approach outperformed those students following a traditional methodology in content, vocabulary, and textual organization, but not in grammar, spelling and mechanism. In addition, our results show that traditional methodology triggers explicit learning, since students report learning a specific language, while TBLT triggers content learning and implicit language learning.
Our findings suggest some pedagogical implications to be considered in CLIL settings. First, it seems that different methodological approaches trigger different learning outcomes. Since CLIL aims to foster the learning of content and language, there seems to be a need to draw attention to language and content. In this sense combining activities with a focus on explicit and implicit learning may benefit students when they engage in task performance in CLIL contexts. Secondly, teacher training should focus on observing the use of strategies that draw attention to language and content and how to incorporate them in teachers’ practices. Finally, further research is a need to examine the effect of teachers’ strategies on language and content on learning outcomes.
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