Integrating and assessing content and language in the transition from primary to secondary bilingual education (2015-2018)

Ana Llinares, Rachel Whittaker, Anne McCabe, Tom Morton, Natalia Evnitskaya, Nashwa Nashaat, Elisa Hidalgo, Thomas Somers

The purpose of this project is to investigate the effects of studying in either a high or low exposure track in bilingual schools on the development of learners’ academic language competence as they complete the transition from primary to secondary education.


The main objective of the Trans-CLIL is to investigate the differential effect of studying in either a high or low exposure track on the development of students’ linguistic competence for expressing academic content in English (and) Spanish.
In attainment of the main objective, the project addresses the following sub-objectives:

  1. To identify similarities and differences in teachers’ pedagogic approach in teaching high- and low exposure track groups, with a specific focus on practices associated with assessment for learning to enhance students’ attainment.
  2. To obtain students’, parents’ and teachers’ perceptions regarding the pupils’ experiences and performance in the high and low exposure tracks, particularly to see how socio-cultural factors impact on the formation of pupils’ identities as they complete the transition from primary to secondary.
  3. To longitudinally assess students’ linguistic competence to express content knowledge on two content topics studied in 1º ESO, one on a subject taught in English to both groups (programa and sección) and a second one on a subject taught in English in sección and in Spanish in programa.


Building on the team’s previous work, this project will have implications for CLIL research, practice and policy. In particular, it will point to ways in which bilingual education programmes can ensure social inclusion, so that all learners are equipped to meet the challenges of a knowledge-based multilingual society.
The Trans-CLIL project aims to move CLIL research forward by addressing three current needs:

  1. the need to move beyond a focus on general language learning outcomes in CLIL and incorporate functional models of language which more accurately represent and assess the ways in which learners express cognitively-challenging academic content knowledge in subject-specific registers and genres;
  2. the need to incorporate into CLIL practice an assessment for learning approach which will support learners at all levels of ability and promote greater inclusivity;
  3. the need to further understand how broader socio-economic and sociocultural factors impact on students’ attainment, experiences and identities.


This project addresses these three needs by:

  1. adapting tools already developed by the UAM-CLIL research group in past projects for the analysis of how learners integrate content and a second language in their spoken and written production;
  2. developing instruments for assessment and monitoring of students which integrate content and language learning objectives;
  3. developing observation and interview instruments to capture participants’ perceptions and classroom activities.

The project, then, incorporates a focus on both product and process, that is, by examining not only content and learning outcomes, but also the pedagogical approaches the students are exposed to, with a focus on the extent to which teachers’ practices incorporate components of assessment for learning, as this formative assessment approach has been found in research to be crucial for enhancing school pupils’ achievements.

Relation to previous and current UAM-CLIL involved projects

The Trans-CLIL project builds on the outcomes of previous and ongoing research carried out by the UAM-CLIL research group:

  • It extends the use of the SFL framework to an explicit focus on assessment methods which integrate language and content, the need for which was indicated in the research group’s monograph The Roles of Language in CLIL (Llinares, Morton & Whittaker 2012).
  • It incorporates work carried out on Assessment for Learning (AfL) in CLIL contexts by team members Pascual and Basse, such work being innovative as there has been little research attention paid to AfL in CLIL.
  • The projects’ focus on integration ties in with research being carried at the European level in the ConCLIL project (led by affiliate UAM-CLIL member Tarja Nikula at the Univeristy of Jyväskülä) in which the UAM-CLIL research group participates.
  • The projects’ focus on integration also links up with the ongoing work on Cognitive Discourse Functions carried out by affiliate UAM-CLIL member Christiane Dalton-Puffer at the University of Vienna.