Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

CLIL in Teaching Physical Education: Views of the Teachers in the Spanish Context

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

CLIL in Teaching Physical Education: Views of the Teachers in the Spanish Context

Article excerpt


The term Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) was launched in Europe as a result of the growing interest in an active pursuit of improved foreign language teaching methods. This methodology is much welcomed at a time when the countries of the European Union are increasingly becoming integrated and, indeed, as nations around the world become globally connected. Since it was launched in the 1990s, the European Commission and the Council of Europe have funded many initiatives in support of CLIL because it responded to a need in Europe for enhancing second-language education and bilingualism (Marsh, 2002). In the Physical Education (PE) field it is easy to encounter examples of its application in countries such as Italy, Greece or Spain among others (Salvador et al., 2017) and even similar studies which use PE to teach a second language have been developed in the USA (Lieberman et al., 2010; Nguyen & Watanabe, 2013; Santillan, Jacobs & Wright; 2015; Sato & Hodge; 2016; Sato, Walton & Kim, 2017), even though these do not use CLIL methodology. Specifically, the focus setting of the current paper is the Spanish context, although some of the results presented may be interesting for the rest of countries using CLIL and/or those interested in using it or a similar method in the future.

There is little question that providing students with enhanced opportunities in school to acquire competence in additional languages will better prepare them for globalization. There are a variety of definitions and interpretations of CLIL (Cenoz et al., 2014; Mehisto et al., 2008), but Coyle et al., (2010: 1) present a succinct definition that refers to its specific features: 'Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language'. According to this definition, CLIL can include a wide range of educational practices provided that these practices are conducted through the medium of an additional language. Particularly, it is important to recognize that in the European context, CLIL has mainly attracted practitioners of a number of specific subjects in the field of English as a foreign language.

How does CLIL affect the subject matter?

CLIL has been gaining importance in recent years due to its introduction in many educational settings to enhance language learning. However, it is necessary to know whether the essence of each specific area is subjected to so substantial modifications that jeopardize its idiosyncrasy. With regard to this topic, previous research reports uncertain impact related to the implementation of CLIL in different subjects. On the one hand, in addition to benefit foreign language skills (Köller et al., 2012; Nold et al. 2008), several authors affirm that CLIL can transform the dynamics of the lessons towards a more student-centered, constructivist and motivational learning, since it allows the use of real language to access information and to understand and reformulate acquired knowledge (Pérez-Cañado, 2011). Besides, from the teacher's viewpoint, Pérez-Cañado (2011) states that CLIL also increases generic competence acquisition and does not water down contents, but increases their learning.

On the other hand, from the perspective of cognitive load theory (Sweller et al., 1994), it might be argued that students' working memory is overloaded by simultaneously processing new content and the foreign language. In this vein, it is very likely that CLIL students will often be struggling, with limited foreign language knowledge, lexically dense texts, and limited background knowledge of the subject matter (Bruton, 2015). Moreover, research conducted in actual CLIL classes also shows that it is difficult to achieve a strict balance of language and content (Mehisto et al., 2008; Salvador et al., 2016).

Effects of CLIL on PE

In order to contribute to a better understanding of the issue in the PE arena we should, therefore, inquire whether the goals of PE curriculum are achieved differently from the way they are achieved in L1, when the contents are taught through a CLIL approach (Coral and Lleixa, 2014). …

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