Gerhard Bach
CLIL – where will the journey take us? A glance at the literature

Mindmap naturwissenschaftliches Experiment
© Salomé Monasterio

where we are now

There can be no doubt that CLIL has become established throughout Europe; perhaps to a greater or lesser extent in individual countries, but nonetheless with a convincing degree of diversity in terms of the individual variants. So it is now time to think briefly about where we are now, and what the next step is. 

Who are the people involved in CLIL?

“We” refers both to “CLIL practitioners”, that is to say the teachers in the various training and continuing education institutions who face the daily challenges of teaching lessons geared to both content and language, and to “CLIL trainers” who (further) develop the methods and tools needed for successful lesson work and convey them to their teachers. And then there are also the “CLIL advisers” whose work along the fine line between practice and theory leads to new findings in an exchange with practitioners. Everyone involved is an expert to an equal extent – not only within their narrower sphere of activity but also beyond, in neighbouring areas where “content” and “language” overlap. All of them are equally interested in establishing how far CLIL has progressed so far, and in the development potential that this method of teaching demonstrably offers. It is therefore well worthwhile taking a look beyond the horizons of one’s own sphere of activity, as well as being willing to pick up on new ideas and put them to the test in practice. 

a glance at the literature can provide useful orientation

After a good twenty years of CLIL, any observer will naturally wonder whether there is anything new to discover, and how the knowledge and experience that have already been gained, along with the findings of academic research, can be rethought in methodological terms. When considering such questions, it can be helpful to glance at the literature on CLIL didactics and methodology and the current areas of focus that can be identified. It makes sense in this context not only to review the classic CLIL literature but also to peruse the latest publications about methodology and handouts for practical use so as to be able to establish where the much-discussed CLIL added value is currently generated and where CLIL still offers potential for further development.
When reviewing the available material, it is striking that CLIL handbooks – be they about fundamental questions or actual lesson design – are still to be found almost solely in English. Even if the quality of the material does make it worthwhile for CLIL professionals from non-English-speaking countries to take the trouble to engage with it, this is nonetheless a more arduous route, yet apart from a few exceptions there is little literature available in other languages – however desirable this would be from a European multilingual policy perspective. One of these exceptions that merits praise in the area of CLILiG (Content and Language Integrated Learning in German) is presented below. 

classic CLIL literature

Let us first take a brief look back at the classic CLIL literature that paved the way for current approaches to CLIL in practice and still provides a clear conceptual differentiation of those factors that play a primary part in successful CLIL teaching. These include (listed by year of publication) fundamental works by 
  • Mehisto, Frigols and Marsh, Uncovering CLIL (2008) and
  • Coyle, Hood and Marsh, CLIL (2010).
In both, there is still evidence of a clear desire to take a practical view of the unique feature of CLIL – its so-called added value – using it either as a step-by-step model or as a cyclical or spiral model, yet in all cases as a curricular model with a network character. Do Coyle’s “4 Cs” model has proven to be one popular approach, in which the four factors for successful CLIL teaching – Content/Context, Communication, Cognition, Culture – form an interactive network that can also be regarded as a framework for designing individual CLIL modules. However, Peeter Mehisto’s CLIL matrix, which is an expansion of the “4Cs” model, has also shown itself (especially for those new to CLIL) to be a useful methodological framework when it comes to thoroughly planning, implementing and evaluating CLIL lessons – a form of teaching that is based on interaction. Interaction in this context is meant not only in the sense of linguistic consolidation and flexibility, but also as an action-oriented process in which a “subject” (geography, nature, art etc.) is dealt with linguistically. 

CLIL favourites in Practice 

At the point of intersection between conceptualization and implementation, a whole series of publications can be found that were clearly written by practitioners for practitioners. What all of them have in common is that their introductory sections incorporate the CLIL classic literature when assessing where CLIL currently stands and what the added value of CLIL-specific practices is. Here once again are a number of examples (listed by year of publication) that have generated practical impetus: 
  • Kay Bentley’s The TKT Course CLIL Module (2010) offers a very concise presentation of the four elements of successful teaching – CLIL principles, lesson planning and implementation, and lesson evaluation. Each section comes with “spoken” examples and uses a variety of activities to encourage the reader to use the handbook interactively.
  • Dale and Tanner, CLIL Activities: a Resource  for Subject and Language Teachers (2012) is similar in structure to the aforementioned work, though the added value factor of integrating language and content is stressed even more strongly. Strategies for activating learners and dealing cognitively with new learning content are presented on the basis of numerous lesson examples. Dale and Tanner also provide scope for possible ways of evaluating learning success; in addition, they give valuable tips about feedback strategies.

New online approaches – that can also be fun

All of the handbooks that have been presented so far are traditional products that reflect Goethe’s famous aphorism: “For what one has in black and white, one can carry home in comfort”.  Some make additional materials available on online portals. The two publications listed below follow only this more modern path – they are available solely online (or at least were at the time of this publication): 
  • Playing CLIL: (2015) is the result of an EU-funded project on the subject of “drama pedagogy for bilingual teaching”; six partner institutions from Germany, Great Britain, Romania and Spain developed a method of putting CLIL to the test in a “playful” manner (= pCLIL). According to the project, the focus is on three objectives: (1) to strengthen language and content-based learning success, (2) to develop social and communicative skills and (3) to reach a wider target group through the “pCLIL” approach. A broad spectrum of teaching resources has been compiled and broken down according to area of application (type of school, age group) and thematic focus. So far, the collection is available only online, and only in English (with short summaries in German, Romanian and Spanish). A print version is currently being prepared. What can this collection of games, available only in English, contribute to CLILiG? As compared to the handbooks mentioned above, the limitations here are fairly minor, as most of the games can be applied in other languages after just a few modifications – in line with the idea that “there are no (language) boundaries in play”.
Anyone interested in getting hold of a German-language handbook written by practitioners for practitioners will have to search for a long time, but will in the end find what they are looking for, namely at the Goethe-Institut itself: 
  • Wolff and Quartapelle, CLIL in German, “Where are we now?” and “What is the next step?” Available only online, this handbook describes the framework conditions of and for CLIL, and explores questions relating to lesson organization, performance assessment and the development of materials, offering practical suggestions. One chapter is also devoted to the training and continuing education of CLIL teachers. Although it was written with the specific requirements of the Italian school system in mind, it can be unreservedly transferred to the systems of other countries. What is more, the online content relating to CLIL that is offered by branches of the Goethe-Institut – be they in Munich, Italy or Athens – is being constantly expanded.
  • As far as the Greek CLIL market is concerned, it is worth mentioning the CLIL Guidebook (2016) published by CLIL4U. Much like the aforementioned publication, it has the character of a handbook and is highly recommended as an introduction; it is available not only in an English version, but also in several other languages, including Greek. 

Where will the journey take us?

I would like to make particular mention of one publication that is as yet too new to the market to be described as a classic, but is likely to become one: 
  • Bell, Kelly & Clegg, Putting CLIL into Practice (2016). This book does what the title declares: it builds upon the CLIL foundation of the “4 Cs” (Coyle) – which is regarded as well-founded – and puts this into the context of various CLIL scenarios. Thus the starting point is always the lesson itself: reference is made to theories and principles wherever this is relevant to the planning and implementation of CLIL. Another aspect that should ensure that the book becomes a future classic in CLIL didactics is the chapter on “Assessment” – where the learners appraise and evaluate their learning success, and by extension the success of the teaching. The authors explain how to assess which contexts using which instruments. This kind of context-based assessment is extremely helpful for planning and evaluating CLIL in practice. This book also reflects the dual strategy pursued by publishers – it is available in a printed version and as an e-book, with additional materials provided by the publishing house online. This is a trend that is followed by almost all publishers these days; it is certainly worth looking beyond the printed version and also at the non-publisher-based CLIL portals – not least those offered by the Goethe-Institut.

Im Text vorgestellte Literatur

TextBell, Phil; Kelly, Keith; Clegg, John (2016): Putting CLIL into Practice. Oxford: OUP.
Bentley, Kay (2010). The TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) Course CLIL Module. Canbridge: CUP.
CLIL Guidebook (2016). (Autoren: Sandra Attard Montalto, Lindsay Walter, Maria Theodorou,
Kleoniki Chrysanthou). 
Coyle, Do;  Hood, Philip; Marsh, David (2010): CLIL. Cambridge: CUP.
Dale, Liz; Tanner, Rosie (2012). CLIL Activities: a Resource for Subject and Language Teachers. Cambridge: CUP.
Mehisto, Peeter; Frigols, Maria J.; Marsh, David (2008)Uncovering CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning and Multilingual Education. London: Macmillan.
Playing CLIL: Content and language integrated learning inspired by drama pedagogy. (2015) 
Wolff, Dieter; Quartapelle, Franca (2011): CLIL in deutscher Sprache. Goethe-Institut Mailand.


about the author

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bach Foto: Privat, Gerhard Bach Gerhard Bach is professor emeritus of TESOL-methodology at the University of Bremen, Germany. There he directed the Institute for Foreign Language Learning and Multilingualism (Inform) and its international research branch and doctoral program (Langscape) until his retirement in 2008. He now works as an Independent Research Consultant focussing on career planning, academic publishing, and referrals. His numerous books and articles in scientific journals relate to research interests in the culture curriculum, CLIL-methodology, theories of task-based learning, student-centred classroom approaches, the pedagogy of multiliteracies, and empirical research methodologies. Gerhard Bach has been involved in the publication of two academic series on language learning and multi­lingual education: (1) since 2002 as co-editor of Mehr­sprachig­keit in Schule und Unterricht (MSU), and (2) from 2004 until 2012 as managing editor of Kolloquium Fremd­sprachen­unterricht (KFU), both published by Peter Lang.