Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Chapter Five: Prospective CLIL and Non-CLIL Students' Interest in English (Classes): A Quasi-Experimental Study on German Sixth-Graders

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Chapter Five: Prospective CLIL and Non-CLIL Students' Interest in English (Classes): A Quasi-Experimental Study on German Sixth-Graders

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Despite a surge in CLIL programmes and rapid growth in research efforts, upon closer investigation one finds that "the single most widely consensual affirmation with respect to CLIL in the specialized literature is the dire need for further research" (Coyle, Hood & Marsh 2010, p. 149; see also Wolff 2009, p. 565; Pérez-Cañado 2012, p. 316; see the latter for a comprehensive overview of "CLIL research in Europe"). Moreover, the research that has been conducted so far is mostly of a theoretical, qualitative-exploratory or case-study nature, leading to a paucity of representative and empirically valid (longitudinal) studies on the effectiveness of CLIL (Costa & D'Angelo 2011, p. 3) and thus a lack of evidence for the central and widespread assumptions about its benefits and superiority (Vollmer 2010, pp 5Of). In addition to this, "the unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of evaluations of bilingual programs are so methodologically flawed in their design that their results offer more noise than signal (Genesee 1998)". Even though he made this claim in reference to research on Canadian Immersion programmes, Bruton (2011a; 2011b) voices similarly serious concerns as Genesee about biased studies and conclusions, alluding to a honeymoon period in CLIL research: Numerous studies have shown that learners in CLIL and non-CLIL groups are substantially different when the former commence their CLIL programmes (e.g. Fehling 2008; Bredenbröker 2000; Burmeister 1994; for an overview on (mostly) Spanish research results see Bruton 2011b). As crosssectional studies with only one measurement necessitate that the groups to be compared (i.e. CLIL and non-CLIL) be largely similar, this entails that, more often than not, the basic requirement for cross-sectional research is not met in CLIL/non-CLIL settings, which calls for alternative study designs. This includes longitudinal research with multiple measurements, which is desperately needed to complement existing studies with an estimate of the size of a priori differences and on-going changes to avoid unsubstantiated conclusions. Yet in the vast majority of studies, such aspects are not considered in the design of the study, but merely mentioned as a potential threat to the reliability of the findings in the discussion section of respective publications.

To address these and other related issues in the German context, the author of this chapter conducted a longitudinal quasi-experimental study with a total number of 1,300 CLIL and non-CLIL students in 49 classes in North Rhine Westphalia. The project "DENOCS" (Development of North RhineWestphalian CLIL Students) is meant to examine the development of students in CLIL programmes and, at the same time, provide an estimate of priorly existing differences with respect to language proficiency, affective, motivational and attitudinal learner characteristics, extramural exposure to English and other aspects that might influence students' foreign language learning. The chapter at hand reports findings from the first measurement before CLIL instruction began and after students had completed their preparatory phase with two additional lessons of English per week in years 5 and 6.

After a succinct theoretical account of the construct of interest, a comprehensive overview of research results and a brief description of the German educational system/research context will follow. The ensuing empirical part will provide a detailed description of the DENOCS study, a thorough analysis, interpretation and discussion of the data collected. The overall aim of this article is to shed light on the question if CLIL and nonCLIL students' subjectand language-related interest differ a priori, which would render cross-sectional comparisons between these two groups (partly) invalid and lead to inaccurate estimates of the effects of CLIL programmes.

At this stage, it needs to be stressed that the referential framework of this article is the German education system. …

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