English oral skills in CLIL and nonCLIL learners: An attempt to control for exposure

2013

Abstract  It has been recently advocated that the purported language benefits of CLIL instruction may not be such because certain variables have not been sufficiently controlled for in research (Bruton, 2011). It is true that study designs have not always been able to rule out the effect of out-of-school (and even amount-of-school) exposure. Most conducted research has focused on CLIL vs. non-CLIL peer comparisons where CLIL students have received more exposure than non-CLIL ones precisely due to their participation in CLIL programmes. There are a few studies, however, that have tried to control for school exposure by comparing CLIL learners to non-CLIL ones who are some school grades ahead. The present study on English oral skills attempts to better control for the variable exposure in CLIL research by presenting the results of an investigation where (ii) out-of-school exposure is nonexistent and (ii) CLIL learners (n=19) are not only compared to nonCLIL students two grades ahead (n=12) but also to exposure-matched peers (n=17). Participants (aged 15 and 17) were asked to narrate a story in English and their productions were holistically assessed for pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, fluency and content. Besides, the amount and density of learners’ productions as well as their compensation strategies were analysed. Results indicated that CLIL learners’ productions, though shorter in length, were richer and denser than their peer and 2-year-ahead nonCLIL counterparts’ narrations. Additionally, the peer comparison yielded significant differences in favour of CLIL learners in the holistic assessment of content, vocabulary, grammar and fluency, as well as revealing CLIL learners’ lesser reliance on both the native language and the interviewer’s help. These findings hint at the benefits of CLIL on oral production skills. Bruton, (2011) Is CLIL so beneficial, or just selective? Re-evaluating some of the research. System. 39: 523-532.


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