Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning: Insights from Swedish High Schools

Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning: Insights from Swedish High Schools

by Liss Kerstin Sylvén

NOOK Book(eBook)

$42.99 $50.00 Save 14% Current price is $42.99, Original price is $50. You Save 14%.

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now
LEND ME® See Details


This book provides a rich and unique longitudinal account of content and language integrated learning (CLIL). The chapters report on the findings from a large-scale, three-year research project undertaken at senior high school level in Sweden. The ecological perspective, with quantitative and qualitative methods, gives voice to both learners and teachers, as well as being an excellent critical example of how such longitudinal research might be carried out. Through emic and etic approaches, the book provides insights into language learning outcomes, both with regard to the target language English and the majority language Swedish; learner motivation among CLIL and non-CLIL students; effects of extramural exposure to English; issues in relation to assessment in CLIL and much more. As a whole, the book offers an unprecedented overview of learner outcomes and detailed insights into the comparison of CLIL and non-CLIL education. While it is embedded in the Swedish context, the nature of this study means that it has strong implications on an international basis.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781788922432
Publisher: Channel View Publications
Publication date: 01/18/2019
Series: Bilingual Education & Bilingualism
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Liss Kerstin Sylvén is Professor of Language Education at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has been working in the field for over 20 years and her specific interests lie in CLIL, extramural English and language learning motivation and individual differences. She is the co-author (with Pia Sundqvist) of Extramural English in Teaching and Learning (2016, Palgrave Macmillan).

Liss Kerstin Sylvén ( is Associate Professor of Language Education at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden). She obtained her PhD in English Linguistics, and her research interests include content and language integrated learning (CLIL), L2 vocabulary acquisition, language learning motivation, individual differences, and extramural English language learning. She has co-authored Extramural English in Teaching and Learning. From Theory and Research to Practice (2016) and published in journals such as The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, The Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Education, Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching and ReCALL.

Read an Excerpt


CLIL, CLISS and the Swedish Context: An Overview

Liss Kerstin Sylvén

1 Introduction

Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) offers an immersive second or foreign language (L2/FL) context, using the L2/FL as the medium of instruction in one or several non-language subjects, while also studying the L2/FL as a subject in its own right. The acronym CLIL was introduced in the late 1990s (Nikula, 1997) as a distinctly European version of L2 teaching and learning, based on the Canadian immersion method (Swain & Lapkin, 1981), even though the use of a language other than the students' first language (L1) to convey content instruction had been implemented in schools around Europe long before then (Sylvén, 2013). CLIL has been widely studied in Europe, Asia and Latin America during the last decade (Dalton-Puffer, 2011; Li, 2002; Lim & Low, 2009; Lorenzo et al., 2005; Maljers et al., 2007; Tsui & Tollefson, 2007). Today, CLIL is not limited to the European context, but is becoming increasingly popular in other regions such as Australia, New Zealand, Asia and South America (Banegas, 2011; Cross, 2016; Lin & Man, 2010; Smala, 2012).

This volume focuses on CLIL, and in particular CLIL in Swedish schools investigated in the large-scale longitudinal research project Content and Language Integration in Swedish Schools (CLISS). In the Swedish context, the setting of the work presented here, a typical example of CLIL would be a Swedish teacher using L2/FL English to teach history to Swedish students in a Swedish school following the Swedish curriculum.

This introductory chapter starts with a summary description of the Swedish education system, followed by an account of the role of English in this context. After that, CLIL is presented along with our understanding of the term, and an overview of previous research, with a particular focus on the Swedish context, is provided. The chapter concludes with a description of the CLISS project and a brief introduction to the overall structure and plan of the volume.

2 The Swedish Education System

Sweden is a country with approximately 10 million inhabitants. While Swedish is the major official language, spoken by approximately 80% of the population (Parkvall, 2016), there are five officially recognized minority languages: Finnish, Meänkieli (i.e. Tornedal Finnish), Sami, Romani Chib and Yiddish. In addition, a large number of other languages are represented, such as Arabic (spoken by some 155,000), Kurdish (84,000) and Polish (76,000). Since the mid-1960s, the influx of immigrants has been substantial, and approximately 16% of the population are of nonSwedish background (

In Sweden, 5–51/2 years of study at university are required in order to qualify as a teacher at senior high school level. In addition to the educational core (pedagogy and didactics) and practice periods in schools, two subjects are studied. All in all, approximately 76% of all senior high school teachers are appropriately qualified, leaving some 24% without the required level of education (Swedish National Agency for Education, 1). To date, no CLIL teacher education is available at pre-service level, and only a handful of in-service courses are offered.

School is mandatory from the age of seven in Sweden. The present-day reality, however, is that most children attend preschool starting at the age of one. In 2015, 83% of all one- to five-year-olds (and 94% of the four-and five-year-olds) in Sweden attended preschool (Skolverket, 2016). At the age of six, all children are offered the opportunity to attend preschool class before entering the compulsory school system. Statistics from 2015 show that 97% of all six-year-olds opted for preschool class (Swedish National Agency for Education, 2). School is then compulsory from Year 1 through Year 9. School Years 10 through 12 – senior high (upper secondary) school – are the years focused on in the CLISS project. They are not mandatory, but 98% of all students go on to senior high school after Year 9. However, statistics show that only 65% of those registered for senior high school finish their studies within the stipulated three years (Swedish National Agency for Education, 3).

Senior high school in Sweden thus consists of three years of school study. There are 18 national programs to choose from, 12 of which are vocational programs (for instance, the building and construction program, the hotel and tourism program and the vehicle and transport program), and six are preparatory for higher education (for instance, the natural sciences program, the social sciences program and the economics program). In addition, there are five introductory programs for students not yet qualified for national programs. The CLISS project focuses on the preparatory programs for higher education, namely natural and social sciences, and economics. Common to all the programs preparatory for higher education are the nine subjects of English, history, mathematics, natural sciences (biology, physics and chemistry), religion, social sciences, sports and health, and Swedish or Swedish as a second language. Even though all these subjects are mandatory in all these programs, they are studied to various degrees, and for some of them the syllabi differ depending on the program.

Of special interest to the CLISS project is the subject of English. It is studied from an early age in Swedish schools and, although not compulsory until Grade 3, it is often introduced in Grade 1 or as early as preschool or preschool class. All in all, Swedish students study English for 480 hours throughout the compulsory school system (Swedish National Agency for Education, 4). In the preparatory programs for higher education, English can be studied for a total of 300 credits, divided into three courses: English 5, 6 and 7. The number of hours allotted to each credit is decided by the individual school. While most students in these programs study English 5 and 6, English 7 is optional and thus is not taken by all students. English is one of the subjects covered by the National Tests (see, the other two subjects being Swedish (L1 or L2) and mathematics.

As should be clear from the above, English plays an important role in the Swedish school system. But it does so in Swedish society as well, which is the focus of the next section.

3 English in Sweden

English abounds in Swedish society. English is heard on TV and in movie theatres, as all shows and films are subtitled rather than dubbed. Music with English lyrics makes up the majority of the top charts; English words and phrases are used in advertising to an ever-increasing degree. The use of English as the medium of instruction in higher education is widespread, with many of the larger universities offering courses from Master's level and upwards in English as well as individual courses at lower levels. A great deal of the literature used in higher education is in English.

Sweden hosts a number of international companies, such as ABB, AB Volvo and Ericsson. In these and many other companies, English is the corporate language.

The influx of English during the last several decades has sparked a discussion as to whether English should be considered a second language, rather than a foreign one, in Sweden (Hyltenstam, 2004; Josephson, 2004; Norén, 2006). The jury is still out, but on an individual level English can certainly be considered as an L2. For young people, who communicate in English when connecting with international friends on the internet, or who study all or part of their education through English and see English as a natural part of their future career, English may well be seen as an L2. However, our view is that, in general, English should still be considered a foreign language, simply because Swedish remains sufficient and adequate for anybody to function in most aspects of Swedish society – and also because the overall competence in English, at all registers and levels of formality, is hardly sufficient for it to be considered a second language in the conventional sense of the term.

In sum, English is a very important language making its presence felt at many levels of Swedish society. Consequently, in contrast to many other languages, it is also seen as vital to know by the majority of students (Erickson, 2012; Sundqvist, 2009). The somewhat special status of English in Sweden needs to be taken into account when investigating L2 English proficiency and progress among Swedish students. In the CLISS project this was done by, among other things, collecting data on students' extramural exposure to English and how such exposure correlates with some of the results obtained (see Chapter 9).

4 Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)

When CLIL started to appear in various European countries it was, in many cases, based on the immersion method introduced in Canada in the mid-1960s (Swain & Lapkin, 1981). However, there were additional reasons for the use of an L2/FL as a language of instruction in educational contexts. A case in point is Germany, where bilingual education was introduced in the regions bordering France in the early 1960s, as a result of the French-German treaty and as a means to reconcile the French and the Germans after WWII (Zydatiss, 2007). In Sweden, however, the first experiments using English as the medium of instruction (later to be referred to as CLIL) in the 1970s were clearly inspired by the very good results reported from immersion in Canada (Aseskog, 1982).

Whatever the initial reason for implementing CLIL, the aim has always been to improve learners' proficiency in the language of instruction. In our globalized world, knowing languages other than one's L1 is a necessity, and in CLIL, exposure to the target language, in most cases English, is increased by combining its use with the simultaneous learning of specific subject knowledge (Council of Europe, 1995). In other words, CLIL extends the time the learner is exposed to the language in comparison with what is possible in regular language arts class. In addition, 'real' and 'authentic' language is used to convey content in non-language school subjects. The terms real and authentic are written within quotation marks as, of course, content in language arts class is also real and authentic, but in that case the main goal is to learn the language itself. In non-language subjects, the explicit goal is to learn subject content which thus, in a CLIL situation, needs to be learned and understood even though conveyed through a language other than the students' L1. Therefore, motivation to grasp the content is perceived as high, and understanding the language through which it is communicated is crucial (Sylvén, 2017).

There is an ongoing debate as to whether CLIL is a method in its own right (see, for example, Tedick & Cammarata, 2012) or whether it should rather be viewed as an umbrella term covering all sorts of educational practices where a language other than the students' L1 is used to convey subject content (see, for example, Cenoz et al., 2014). We adhere to the latter view, acknowledging the lack of a defining framework and context-driven implementations of CLIL in Europe and elsewhere, and noting the many common denominators of, for instance, immersion, content-based instruction and task-based learning and teaching.

4.1 CLIL in Sweden

As already hinted, the first case of CLIL in Sweden, inspired by the Canadian immersion method, was the use of English as the medium of instruction in the subject of electrical engineering at high school level (Aseskog, 1982). This turned out to be a successful attempt to increase L2 English learning motivation among engineering students, soon to be followed by several other examples. In the mid-1990s there was an explosion of schools around the country implementing CLIL in one way or another. Thus, at the time of writing this volume, CLIL has been implemented in Sweden for more than 30 years, yet research into its use and effects has been conspicuously scarce. In the late 1990s, the first PhD thesis devoted to CLIL was published, concluding that CLIL students' proficiency in English had not increased more than that of their non-CLIL peers, and that their content knowledge seemed to have suffered from the use of English as the language of instruction (Washburn, 1997). The second PhD thesis appeared in 2004, showing that the L2 English superiority of the CLIL students could be explained by external factors, such as exposure to English outside of school, rather than by CLIL per se (Sylvén, 2004). Four years later, another PhD study, concerned with the CLIL classroom and its effects on learners' L1, showed that while non-CLIL classrooms were interactive, involving teachers and students, CLIL classrooms were more quiet and monologic, with the teacher working more from a script which was difficult to adapt and the students more reluctant to make their voices heard (Lim Falk, 2008). It was further shown that using English as the medium of instruction had detrimental effects on students' use of Swedish subject-related terminology. In a similar vein, Alvtörn (2000) found that CLIL students were less accurate in their use of written Swedish than their non-CLIL peers.

With a slightly different focus, Kjellén Simes (2008) focused on English-medium instruction in the International Baccalaureate program. The study looked into students' development of low-frequency vocabulary and motivated tense shift in their L2 English writing, finding positive effects over time, not least among motivated but less proficient students. Terlevic Johansson (2011) investigated CLIL where German was used as the target language. Unlike most studies into CLIL in English, Terlevic Johansson found that the students involved gained in German vocabulary proficiency, also using a more varied repertoire of communicative strategies.

More recently, both Olsson (2016) and Kontio (2016), at least in part, devoted their respective PhD theses to CLIL. Olsson compared the effects of extramural English (EE; see Chapter 9) and CLIL on students' productive L2 English proficiency, finding that EE seems to have a greater effect among younger learners than among older ones, and that CLIL students used more academic vocabulary from the very start of CLIL. In other words, they were more proficient than their non-CLIL peers even before embarking on their CLIL experience. Even though CLIL students were still ahead of their non-CLIL peers after three years of CLIL, the gap between the two groups did not widen. Kontio's (2016) study took place in a rarely studied CLIL context, namely a vocational high school program. His findings showed that, in many CLIL situations, the students played around with language to a great extent, making jokes and translanguaging or code-switching, in order to make themselves understood and to understand what was communicated to them. It was concluded that, in the relaxed atmosphere of the CLIL lessons, these students produced larger amounts of L2 English than in English class (Kontio & Sylvén, 2015).

In addition to these PhD theses, there have been some minor studies on CLIL published in Sweden. However, apart from Terlevic Johansson (2011) whose focus was CLIL in German, and Kjellén Simes (2008) where the very specific type of English-medium instruction found in the International Baccalaureate program was the target of investigation, there is as yet no convincing evidence for the improvement of target language proficiency in CLIL contexts. And, as is the case elsewhere (Dalton-Puffer, 2011), English is used as the medium of instruction in the vast majority of cases in Sweden (see, for example, Yoxsimer Paulsrud, 2014).

There are several hypotheses as to why the results obtained in Sweden differ from some obtained elsewhere. First of all, the lack of framework or policies surrounding CLIL makes for completely idiosyncratic implementations at the individual CLIL schools (cf. the description of the three schools involved in the CLISS project as a case in point; see below). This, in turn, makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to make relevant comparisons. Thus, there may certainly be schools where the implementation of CLIL is a success from a number of perspectives, just as there are schools where virtually no benefits can be seen. Secondly, as a consequence of the non-existence of policies, there is no teacher education specifically targeting CLIL teachers. Needless to say, non-language teachers should not be expected to be able to include language aspects in their teaching of subject content unless specifically trained for the task. Thirdly, CLIL is normally implemented in senior high schools in Sweden, whereas in many other countries (e.g. Spain) much younger children are involved. It may be that at such a relatively late stage, CLIL instruction is too little and comes too late in order for it to have an effect. Fourthly, as touched on above, in Sweden exposure to English outside of school is enormous (see Chapter 9, this volume). Such exposure, in addition to the early start of English as a mandatory subject in school, makes Swedish children and adolescents highly proficient in English, scoring at the top level in international comparative studies (e.g. European Commission/SurveyLang, 2012; Skolverket, 2012). These factors are further discussed in an international perspective in Sylvén (2013).


Excerpted from "Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Liss Kerstin Sylvén and the authors of individual chapters.
Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Volume and to Section 1 – The Context

Chapter 1. Liss Kerstin Sylvén: CLIL, CLISS and the Swedish Context – An Overview

Chapter 2. Bethanne Paulsrud: Mapping CLIL in Sweden

Chapter 3. Britt-Marie Apelgren: The CLISS Student – Some Background Factors of the Participating Students in the CLISS Project

Introduction to Section II – Assessment and Motivation

Chapter 4. Helena Reierstam and Liss Kerstin Sylvén: Assessment in CLIL

Chapter 5. Amy S. Thompson and Liss Kerstin Sylvén: CLIL and Motivation Revisited: A Longitudinal Perspective

Introduction to Section III – English

Chapter 6. Liss Kerstin Sylvén and Sölve Ohlander: English Receptive Vocabulary

Chapter 7. Eva Olsson and Liss Kerstin Sylvén: English Productive Proficiency

Chapter 8. Liss Kerstin Sylvén and Sölve Ohlander: English Reading Comprehension

Chapter 9. Liss Kerstin Sylvén: Extramural English

Introduction to Section IV – Swedish

Chapter 10. Per Holmberg: The Development of Academic Vocabulary in Swedish

Chapter 11. Maria Lim Falk: The Development of Linguistic Correctness in CLIL and Non-CLIL Students’ Writing in the L1 at Upper Secondary School

Chapter 12. Sofie Johansson and Elisabeth Ohlsson: Visualizing Vocabulary, an Investigation of Student Assignments in CLIL and Non-CLIL Contexts

Introduction to Section V – Students and Teachers

Chapter 13. Inger Lindberg and Sofie Johansson: The Development of Swedish Receptive Vocabulary in CLIL: A Multilingual Perspective

Chapter 14. Tore Otterup: Multilingual Students in a CLIL-School – Possibilities and Perspectives

Chapter 15. Bethanne Paulsrud: Just a Little Plus: The CLIL Student Perspective

Chapter 16. Ylva Sandberg: Teaching and Learning Content Through Two Languages: The Biology and History Teacher Perspective

Liss Kerstin Sylvén: Epilogue

Customer Reviews