To be or not to be? Enseñanza bilingüe en Educación Infantil

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La implantación de los programas bilingües en España se ha centrado generalmente en la etapa de la educación primaria. Sin embargo, muchos docentes reclamaban que la inmersión se adelantara a la educación infantil, cuando los niños y niñas están más receptivos al aprendizaje de lenguas adicionales y están comenzando a desarrollar sus destrezas lectoescritoras. El pasado 28 de octubre la Consejería de Educación de la Comunidad de Madrid anunció su intención de implantar la enseñanza bilingüe en centros públicos de educación infantil en la etapa de 3 a 6 años. En este post os cuento cómo se presentó el proyecto, mi opinión sobre esta iniciativa y más. Let’s go!

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Learning about international educational assessment

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Hi there!
Today I’ll be covering the topic of international educational assessment. The reason is that I’m completing a MOOC on this issue, and have considered this info can be of your interest, apart from being part of the assignment of the course :).
Let’s start!
PISA is probably the best known educational assessment study. Its name is not honouring the famous place in Italy, but it is an acronym standing for Programme for International Student Assessment. Spain participates every three years in this comparative study. It is focused on measuring 15-year-old students’ competences in relation to reading comprehension, mathematics and Science. Next study will be carried out in 2015.

TIMSs stands for Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. It measures learning progression in terms of Mathematics and Science. It is not only interested in learning outcomes, as it also gathers information about curriculum contents and implementations, methodologies used, resources and more.

PIRLS Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. It is intended to be used with children aged 9-years as this is a crucial stage in their reading development. Decoding is now fully automatised and students can enjoy reading. One interesting detail about the study is that it comprises both literary and informative tests.

From the myriad of tests left, I have chosen two I didn’t know which are focused on measuring students’ linguistic competence in a foreign language. The first one is the European Survey of Language Competences, which offers very useful information regarding the percentage of students reaching basic and independent user levels, according to the European Framework, in L2 and L3.

Finally, the ETLS is a computer-based survey on the teaching and learning of English as an additional language. It is not just focused on language competences but also in language use and attitudes, among other variables. It will be launched in 2017.

Once I’ve described the most relevant tests in my field, it is time to reflect on the use of these tools. Are they used for formative assessment? Do political stakeholders use correctly the information produced in the reports following these tests? Does the inclusion of these tests lead to a washback effect? If we are supporting a change in school practices, gearing towards more active and participative methodologies, shouldn’t we design assessment tools accordingly? Over to you…

My tweet for this module: Sabías que el estudio ESCL proporciona info sobre competencias en L2 y L3 en Europa? #preguntasPISA

Image taken from

New book on Content and Language Integrated Learning

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Much has been written about bilingual education, but there is still much to say about multilingual contexts… One example of this is this book, which has just been published (January 2011). This volume has been edited by Yolanda Ruiz Zarobe, Juan Manuel Sierra and Francisco Gallardo del Puerto,  and contains interesting contributions on the multilingual educational context. It can be accessed here or using Google Books

CLIL-ing in me softly. Defining CLIL.

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It is interesting how specialists all over the world are trying to define CLIL. The first definition was written by the European Commission and tried to consider it as an “umbrella term”. In 2002 David Marsh provided the (probably) most quoted description:

CLIL refers to situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content, and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language.

Little by little the “umbrella” seems to be described more accurately, as teachers become more familiar with CLIL in practice. In other words, practice is shaping the concept of CLIL , and it is helping to determine what can be considered CLIL and what it is not, by any means, teaching through a foreign language.

An example of this is the distinction between soft and hard CLIL I’ve come across thanks to the work of Keith Kelly and Phil Ball. Soft CLIL stands for teaching content through the medium of a foreign language but with predominantly linguistic objectives. Teachers involved in soft CLIL will put language issues in front of their syllabus, and use content to give a framework for them. In my opinion, this is a more EFL version of CLIL, as most EFL teaching in the last decades has been topic-based but language oriented. Different methodological techniques may apply, though.

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On the other hand, hard CLIL stands for teaching content through the medium of foreign language with content objectives at the front. That is, language is relevant as much as it is needed to progress in the learning of content, but THERE IS, and MUST BE, language awareness, more specifically at the level of discourse and functional language.

After seven years working on researching and studying bilingual education, I am more inclined to consider the definition of hard CLIL much closer to my idea of what integrating content and language is. If we really want to use any foreign language as a communicative tool in the classroom, content cannot be enslaved to language. Quite the contrary, the real integration appears when we are able to determine which language we need to help our students to access that content, to work with it, analyse it, assimilate it,  and create with it. That’s my view.

Further reading on the definition of CLIL  What is CLIL? by Phil Ball (onestopenglish)

CLIL Pyramid by Oliver Meyer

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You can now download the article “Towards quality CLIL:  Succesful planning and teaching strategies” by prof. Oliver Meyer. Click here

CLIL 2010 Course

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2010 Course

Uncovering CLIL Quality by CLIL Practitioners
Evidencing CLIL Quality by CLIL Researchers

30 September – 2 October 2010
Eichstatt, Germany

Organized by Universities of Eichstatt (Germany) and Jyväskylä
(Finland), in conjunction with CCN (Lifelong Learning Programme).


EUR 190

The fee is inclusive of participation and refreshments, lunches, reception, dinner and materials. The same fee applies to all participants.

Please note that accommodation reservations are handled separately.

Our research work on bilingual education (I)

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A group of teachers of the University of Alcalá (Madrid), coordinated by Prof. Ana Halbach (PhD), started to follow the implementation of a bilingual project in state-run schools in the Madrid Region. This happened in 2004. Along these 6 years we have been looking at this challenge from the perspective of teachers. What does it mean for a teacher to participate in a bilingual project? Which are their main needs? What are their expectations? How do they value this experience? Many are the questions that we wanted to answer, and we had the chance to share this time with them, and try to collaborate as much as possible to solve their problems and doubts.

The first study, centred on finding out teachers’ prior expectations and needs to the implementation of the project, is described and explained here.

Soon, more on our research work. Hope it is useful!