What do Empirical Studies say about CLIL?


Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) is a form of teaching that has gained a huge popularity across the international educational institutions.  This new model of bilingual education is premised on the instruction that employs a foreign or second language for teaching schools subjects and introducing the content (Quazizi, 2016). Over the last decade, there has been a substantial amount of research into CLIL in the world. Most of them were conducted in Europe, where CLIL takes its origin in 1990’s (Cinganotto, 2016). However, there is also a number of studies made in Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Taiwan, Kazakhstan and other countries. The empirical studies mostly focus on revealing the impact of CLIL on students’ academic performance as well as their language proficiency level. In this blog, I want to share the results of the studies to show you what they say about CLIL.

Lasagabaster and Sierra (2009) conducted a research with the aim to explore whether students taught through CLIL have more positive attitudes towards English than those studied in EFL class. 287 secondary students were enrolled in the study and given questionnaires. The results displayed that CLIL allows learners to keep a positive view of learning languages and makes the learning process much easier than in EFL classes. Moreover, the findings have indicated that in terms of increasing and maintaining students’ motivation towards learning a foreign language, CLIL is a very useful method. These results concur with the findings of Quazizi (2016), whose participants, involved in a CLIL programme, demonstrated not only increased English language proficiency with making no grammatical and lexicon errors, but also the motivation “to use new innovative techniques of learning such as “collective learning” displayed in practicing and adopting new forms of grammar namely “dialogical grammar” (Quazizi, 2016, p. 127).

Similar results were reported in the study by Asomoza (2015). It was conducted in Mexico and included 11 participants from CLIL class. The findings of this qualitative study revealed that CLIL was effective in providing a favourable environment for practicing language and using it in various contexts, enhancing students’ language proficiency and academic vocabulary, and increasing their TOEFL score in certain skills. Last but not least, Surmont et al. (2016) worked with two groups of the first year monolingual pupils of the secondary school in order to identify whether CLIL affect students’ academic achievement. The first group was taught mathematics through the CLIL method, whereas the second group received instruction in their native language. After data analysis, it was revealed that over time the first group achieved considerable progress and outperformed their peers from the second group. The CLIL group reported the development of their speaking, listening, writing and thinking abilities.

When discussing beneficial aspects of CLIL, however, I cannot fail to mention that not all the studies report significantly positive outcomes of the approach. For instance, Agustín-Llach (2015) conducted a longitudinal research study with two groups of students following them within a period of three years. The main goal of the study was to identify the development of students’ English lexical profile. 129 young EFL learners were divided into 2 groups, one received CLIL instruction, the second group was taught through a traditional instructional method. The results of this study revealed no significant difference between students of both groups in terms of developed lexicon and word frequency. The researchers, therefore, could not confirm their data with a growing advantage of CLIL, which in fact they had expected to have after such a long period of time.

To sum up, it can be seen that in general, the implementation of the CLIL approach showed positive outcomes except for a few studies. Most of them reported the improvement of students’ vocabulary and foreign language proficiency, the opportunity to use and practice the target language in different contexts, increased proper motivation and positive view of learning. No wonder why CLIL has been gaining a huge popularity over last years.

But what about Kazakhstan? Are there some studies on CLIL? What do they say?


Photo credit: https://www.fluentu.com/blog/educator/clil-method-of-teaching/


Agustín-Llach, M.P. (2015). Age and type of instruction (CLIC vs. traditional EFL) in lexical development. International Journal of English Studies, 16(1), 75–96.

Asomoza, A. N. (2015). Students’ perceptions of the impact of CLIL in a Mexican BA program. PROFILE Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, 17(2), 111-124. http://dx.doi.org/10.15446/profile.v17n2.47065.

Cinganotto, L. (2016). CLIL in Italy: A general overview. Latin American Journal of Content and Language Integrated Learning, 9(2), 374-400. doi:10.5294/laclil.2016.9.2.6

Lasagabaster, D., & Sierra, J.M. (2009). Language attitudes in CLIL and traditional EFL classes. International CLIL Research Journal, 1(2), 4-17.

Ouazizi K. (2016). The Effects of CLIL Education on the Subject Matter (Mathematics) and the Target Language (English). LACLIL, 9(1), 110-137. doi:10.5294/laclil.2016.9.1.5

Surmont, J., Struys, E., Van Den Noort, M., & Van De Craen, P. (2016). The effects of CLIL on mathematical content learning: A longitudinal study. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 6(2), 2319-337. doi: 10.14746/ssllt.2016.6.2.7


3 thoughts on “What do Empirical Studies say about CLIL?

  1. What I notice in these studies is that they all focus on language proficiency, but what about content? Isn’t content knowledge one of the goals of CLIL? I suspect that the benefits in this area are not as evident.

    To be honest, I am very sceptical of CLIL as a good way of teaching in mainstream schools. It may be effective in highly exclusive environments (with specially trained teachers, students with higher English proficiency, large amount of resources, and collaborative culture). While it is quite suitable for schools like NIS or Daryn, I think it’s not likely to succeed in most schools in Kazakhstan.


  2. Dear, @asselshmidt, thank you for insightful blog on the international studies exploring the high importance of CLIL for language proficiency.
    Due to the novelty of the approach in the Kazakhstani education system, there are only a few studies exploring the role of the program within the Kazakhstani context. In fact, the CLIL program is now being introduced as a part of the trilingual policy. NIS schools became the model of multilingual education in Kazakhstan which are specialized to form a national mechanism to teach some specific subjects in combination with a native and a foreign language within the CLIL approach. And in general, the existing local research studies (Bekenova, 2016; Shegenova, 2016; Zharkynbekova, Aimoldina, Akynova, Abaidilda, & Kuzar, 2014) put forward the positive attitudes of students and teachers towards the CLIL technology despite of several challenges (curriculum, teaching materials, teacher trainings) that need to be addressed.


  3. From my count, this is post #3 due Nov 9. It is a wonderful discussion of CLIL and I am glad to see your peers engaging in the comment section. 5/5 -> late -> 3/5


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