Cognitive Discourse Functions: A Bridge between Content, Literacy and Language for Teaching and Assessment in CLIL

Tom Morton.

In: CLIL Journal of Innovation and Research in Plurilingual and Pluricultural Education.

Year of publication: 2020

As Bilingual Education programmes which adopt a CLIL approach grow, there is an ever-increasing need for conceptual and practical frameworks to help teachers integrate content, literacy and language in teaching and assessment. This article proposes that the construct ‘Cognitive Discourse Function’ or CDF (Dalton-Puffer, 2013) has clear potential for achieving a deeper integration of content, literacy and language than what is common in current practice. Cognitive discourse functions refer to how cognitive processes involved in learning academic content (such as describing, defining, explaining or evaluating) are realised in recurring linguistic patterns in the classroom. As the article argues, these linguistic patterns create a ‘bridge’ to link content, literacy and language and thus avoid the artificial separation of content and language that still pervades much CLIL practice. Reporting on a research study which examined 6th year primary CLIL students’ production of one CDF (definitions) in a Spanish bilingual programme, the article suggests guidelines for how CDFs can inform CLIL practice at the levels of curriculum development, materials design, classroom teaching and assessment.