Escuela Universitaria Cardenal Cisneros

My report on… XXXIX Aedean Conference

Posted on



Hi everybody!

I’m back to comment on the 39th Aedean Conference held at the Universidad de Deusto, in Bilbao (Basque Country). I was delighted to attend this conference in such a beautiful place. And to top things off, the weather was absolutely fantastic.  The Conference ran from 11th to 13th November and, as always, I participated in the Language Teaching and Acquisition Section, coordinated by Prof. Francisco Gallardo del Puerto (Universidad de Cantabria).

My participation revolved around students’ perceptions and concerns on the use of CLIL in Teacher Education Degrees. This study saw the participation of forty-three  4th year students from our bilingual Primary and Infant Teacher Education degrees. Information was gathered using a questionnaire and focus-groups. Our main aim was to find an answer to the question: “Do students consider that taking the bilingual itinerary adds value to their training?” The main findings were quite revealing: 100% of the participants stated that they would choose the bilingual itinerary if given the opportunity. They also perceived that they had learned more contents, competences and didactic strategies solely due to following this itinerary.

Apart from this, the students’ comments reinforce some conclusions drawn from a previous study, with students from previous academic years. These findings, presented at Franklin Institute (2014), lead us to think that the implementation of CLIL may enhance students’ growth mindset (Dweck). If this is the case, CLIL will not only help attain better language proficiency in an additional language and good-quality teaching-learning methods, techniques and strategies, but will also have an influence on how students envision their own learning capacity.


An infographic on Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset. Source:

There were some common aspects among the variety of topics presented in the sessions:

– interest in knowing how L1 positively or negatively influences L2 and to what extent this impacts and interferes with L3, L4, ETC.

I was not at all surprised, as this was a topic of interest when I was studying my degree (a long time ago now), and is still a matter of controversy. Why do elements which are similar in L1 become problematic when using L2? This issue has now expanded to a new scenario: speakers of three or more languages, as shown in the studies by Gutiérrez-Mangado & Martínez Adrián and Llinàs-Grau & Puig Mayenco. There is an interest in discovering whether learning one language helps the acquisition of specific language structures in other languages. However, to my surprise, Cummins was not mentioned at all. “Is the Interdependence Hypothesis out of fashion now?” I wondered.

– some talks aimed to describe the effect of task repetition in language acquisition.

I found this quite intriguing. It seems that some teachers have discovered that, if students are exposed to the same task time after time, the language used in the task tends to be more correct and the use of L1 is reduced. Also, it appears that when students are familiar with the content and procedure, they can focus on language. This suggests that they need to organise things first, and then they can pay attention to meaning.

It is evident that there is a cognitive component here. However, the word ‘cognition’ was barely used when dealing with these types of studies. It is necessary to make a stronger link between language and cognition. It is essential to have a look at the Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) of participants, and their ability to use High Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) to discover whether cognitive demands and cognitive level are influencing these results.

–  CLIL as a context and as a pedagogical approach

As I put forward in my last post about AEDEAN Conferences, I was quite frustrated with the fact that schools were being labeled as CLIL whenever an additional language was used to teach content. My concern arose from a lack of distinction between schools embracing a methodological shift and those simply continuing a traditional approach. I mentioned this in my presentation to highlight that CLIL is not  just a context, but rather a pedagogical approach which has certain tenets. I insist on the need to distinguish bi-, tri-,and plurilingual contexts from CLIL contexts which are confirmed to be implementing a methodological change fostering the 4 Cs . That’s my view.

I also had the opportunity to talk to several speakers about this, and they told me I was right in indicating that CLIL should imply a methodological adaptation to a bilingual context. However, this was very difficult to prove in a ‘real’ study, as teachers were not willing to give information about their teaching practices. This leads me to the next point.

– Researchers admit having difficulties when obtaining information from schools

Even though this was not part of any of the sessions, the discussion came up when one person in the audience talked about his experience. Researchers have the feeling that teachers don’t want to cooperate with them, and therefore, it is virtually impossible to obtain information from real practical experience. In my view, this is completely true, but I can understand the teachers’ points of view, as they are bogged down by timetables, lots of paperwork, families and a myriad of children with different learning needs. Therefore, our point of view as researchers should be: what can I do for them in the short run? If we want this collaboration to happen, we must think about how we can help them to work better, and how they can collaborate with our universities. See for example how Celaya and Panelli, participating in this conference, mentioned how they had changed their questionnaires because teachers had spotted several difficulties in the original model. Personally, I’ve had school teachers talking in my lessons, and these have been rewarding not only for them, but also for me and my students. A different kind of relationship, beyond “just giving information or data”, must be established for the benefit of both parties.

– Culture: towards transculturality

The 4th C, Culture, has been the main topic of several of my posts on this blog. As you know, simply put, I consider that an English teacher should not limit his/her lessons to show how English people or American people live, their traditions, beliefs and celebrations. I believe that if English has become an International Language (EIL), it is also a tool to access any culture. In that sense, one of the speakers, Karen Jacob, mentioned the need to adopt the term “Transcultural” to denote how you can learn from and interact with different cultures. In her words, it gives a sense of “multidirectional movement”. In this context, Clavel-Arroitia and Pennock-Speck presented an interesting study involving telecollaboration between two high-schools located in Spain and Poland.


I hope this quick review is both informative and interesting. I’d love to read your comments.


Me in beautiful and sunny Bilbao 🙂

I’d like to thank James Crichlow and Carolina Benito for revising the original version of this post. Thanks for all your suggestions!

4th Day at the Bilingual Campus

Posted on Updated on

We finished our Bilingual Campus with a day on Culture (or Community or Citizenship, depending on the authors :)). We started the morning sessions with Edward Marks, from Building English Language School (Madrid), who gave a talk entitled “Art, Culture and Language Learning”. His motto for this session was: Your classroom is a canvas; your classroom is your world. And during the session he presented English as a ‘land’ full with possibilities, as this image show.

English is full with possibilities
English is full with possibilities

His was a very practical, dynamic and interactive session full with ideas to make the most of a work of art using TPR, Theatre, Music and Science as the main elements. Participants enjoyed putting his ideas into practice, and considered that his crosscurricular perspective of teaching was really interesting. Even though he admitted that his teaching conditions are very different from the ones a Primary teacher may have, as he is running a Language School, he also highlighted the idea of the teacher as an active ‘player’ in class which helps students think and speak as much as possible.

Edward Marks
Edward Marks

The second morning session was run by prof. Josue Llull, one of my colleagues, and the wisest person I have ever known 🙂 He works in the field of Social Sciences, and this time he concentrated on Heritage Education. In his talk he emphasized how important heritage is, and how heritage is linked to affection and respect. For this reason, heritage education should be included in Infant and Primary Education. He believes that teachers can introduce activities and projects working on Heritage Education in their classrooms, but that they can also benefit from the many resources which are available on the Internet. In fact, he presented some nice ideas from the Kids’ Council of the National Trust in England , and an experience he has conducted with University Students using a blog. Finally, he invited us to use his blog to find out more ideas and practical resources.

Josué Llull
Josué Llull

After Josue’s session, it was time for the farewell party. Josue and Matthew thanked all the people involved in the organisation of the event, our Student Helpers, Rebeca and Alberto, the Campus Secretary, Rocío, our Assistant teachers, James and Ana, and of course! they thanked all people participating for their enthusiasm and active role during the sessions. Then, they shared out the Course Certificates (Congrats to all of you!), and the American BBQ party was started (we joined Americans in their 4th July celebrations!).

American BBQ
American BBQ

We hope this was a nice experience for everybody, and see you next time, hopefully in the 4th Edition of our Bilingual Campus!

3rd day at the Bilingual Campus – Communication

Posted on Updated on

Our 3rd day at the Bilingual Campus was devoted to Communication. We started the morning sessions with Sheena Mitchell (Macmillan ELT Trainer) who presented a workshop entitled “Skills for CLIL”. Sheena went through four main skills she believes CLIL teachers should have and CLIL students should acquire and develop; these are a) activating prior knowledge; b) go for more cognitive language; c) work on more academic and subject-specific language; and finally d) metacognition (learning to learn). To put these areas into practice we worked with several techniques and resources, such as the KWL charts, mindmaps, etc.

Making questions with Sheena
Making questions with Sheena

From her session, I highlighted two main ideas. The first one is that CALP is a very important issue in the CLIL classroom, and it is very important to integrate it. We cannot teach the lesson as if our students were native English speakers and then stop the lesson to revise a language point, which may be disconnected from what they are doing. It is extremely important to support input and output so that students can develop their CALP while learning the content.

The second important thing I took from Sheena’s session is questions. It is very important to make the appropriate questions and I’m not just thinking about the teacher as the question-maker, students should learn to make appropriate questions. I loved how Sheena connected this idea to thinking skills, and talked about skinny questions and fat questions, based on Dale and Tanner’s proposal.

From a more practical point of view, she brought some interesting resources in the class. We learned how to use hulla hoops to make ven diagrams, how to make the most of wordwalls and eva foam :). Also, she shared how to make youtube work without having those disturbing ads around. Just by typing the word “quiet” after www. in the browser, these will disappear.

The second session of the day was conducted by my colleague, Matthew Johnson. His session was focused on Scaffolding input and output. What I loved most of Matthew’s session is that he not only talked about main issues concerning CLIL but put them into practice while explaining them. This is something I miss much in seminars. Many experts talk about how student-centred teaching-learning is very important, but they do it using a teacher-centred, lecture-based session!

Matthew's session
Matthew’s session

Matthew talked about the concept of scaffolding, how teachers may conceptualise it in very different ways, and how we can implement it in class. To do so, participants’ voices were heard and considered. After this, we reflected on why texts may be considered difficult in the CLIL classroom and we discovered that the difficult thing is really the task, not the text. Then, Matthew gave a wide range of ideas to work with texts in the classroom, activating schemata, and enhancing students’ comprehension. The session was so active and interesting that participants didn’t want to stop (even if it was lunch time!)

CLIL teachers scaffolding
CLIL teachers scaffolding
CLIL teachers scaffolding a text
CLIL teachers scaffolding a text
CLIL teachers creating a poster
CLIL teachers creating a poster
CLIL teachers enjoying presentations
CLIL teachers enjoying presentations

In the afternoon, participants had the chance to meet Joseph Parkin (Edelvives Phonics Trainer) presenting a talk on Pronunciation, and they also participated in an interactive Theatre play entitled “A tribute to Catherine of Aragon and the Fallen at Flodden Fleid”, conducted by Soirée Creations.

And today… let’s go for CULTURE!

2nd day at the Bilingual Campus: Cognition

Posted on Updated on

Tuesday, 2nd July was devoted to Cognition at the Bilingual Campus. The morning sessions started with Majda Knezic (Edelvives Training Coordinator) who presented a talk entitled ” Cooperative Learning in the Thinking Classroom”.  In her contribution she highlighted the usefulness of implementing cooperative learning in the CLIL classrooms as an opportunity “to produce knowledge rather than merely reproduce it”. To do so, she talked about the difference between cooperative learning and group work (Cooperative learning is not just taking students to work in groups!), and on the characteristics of good cooperative learning. Also, she tackled with the sometimes difficult question of assessing cooperative work by saying that “the group as well as each individual should be assessed”.

Cooperative Learning in CLIL
Cooperative Learning in CLIL
Majda's session
Majda’s session
Cooperative learning
Cooperative learning
Majda's session 1
Majda’s session 1

Morning sessions include a short break at midday so that our participants can have a coffee, tea or orange juice, and enjoy the wonderful views from the balcony of our brand new CRAE (the Educational Resources Centre)

Breakfast with a view
Breakfast with a view

The second morning session was held by Viridiana Barban, Director of National Center for Teaching Thinking in Spain (NCTT). In her talk, “Teaching Thinking – Why and How?”, Viridiana focused on the need to “infuse” thinking work in our classes. She talked about TBL, understood as Thinking-Based Learning, and how this can be developed in a series of layers, from pure knowledge to metacognition. In her view, we should go deeper in using thinking skills, as many of us are using activities which just let the students explore their thinking in a very superficial level. For example, just by making students comparing two objects, we are not fostering the thinking skills appropriately, the students need to reflect on why are they comparing, the variables implied, which differences or similarities are more relevant, etc. In other words, they should reflect on how they have cope with that ‘thinking task’.

During the afternoon, prof. Matthew Johnson, a colleague of mine, was in charge of Brain Games, a session where participants had to show their logical skills at the same time they were having fun with English in a natural context. After that, we all travelled to Ireland for a while, as we visited Whelans Irish Pub in Alcalá de Henares, our town, where our Language Assistants, James and Ana, had prepared a wonderful “Pub Quiz”. All teams performed wonderfully, and the session ended up with an Irish traditional music concert which had been prepared for us by a group of young musicians. We were proud to see our LA, James, play the violin and the piano in the concert.

James and Ana - Pub Quiz
James and Ana – Pub Quiz
Concert at the Pub
Concert at the Pub

Let’s see what comes from the third day at the Campus.

BEDA Prize

Posted on Updated on

The federation of Spanish Catholic Schools in Madrid, together with Macmillan, and Cambridge ESOL celebrated its Bilingual English Development and Assessment (BEDA) Annual Contest last week. The contest accepted articles dealing with educational experiences carried out in Bilingual educational centres of any level. My contribution, entitled “Identified CLIL in every day practice: an experience with teacher trainees”, was awarded with a BEDA PRIZE. I’m really thankful for this recognition to my work and effort.

Due to the nature of this experience, this prize is has not only be awarded to a specific activity, but also to the teaching-learning model we are implementing in our teacher training degrees at the Centro Universitario Cardenal Cisneros (former Escuela Universitaria). It is our belief that good CLIL teaching-learning should start from training University lecturers appropriately. This naturally takes time, money and effort, but no good-quality teaching can be guaranteed if lecturers have not been trained to find their way to CLIL. Another key component of our Bilingual Project is that we are pioneers in implementing CLIL as our methodological approach. Students are not only told about CLIL (as the awarded experience explains), but also are helped to identify CLIL components, and later to work with them. This helps them find their way to CLIL from practice. As Benjamin Franklin said:

Tell me, and I will forget
Show me, and I will remember
Involve me, and I will learn.

You can access the full version of the awarded experience here.

CALP in the classroom. Academic vocabulary

Posted on Updated on

Source: Boaz Yiftach I am now involved in the fascinating task of enhancing my students’ Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. Although it is supposed that students at tertiary education have been exposed to this type of languagefor many years, it comes as a surprise that they return written assignments using poor and basic vocabulary. It is time to expand their vocabulary and help them build up appropriate discourse.

At the moment I’m using two strategies. One is to provide students with Academic Phrases (sometimes related to Oral Language, sometimes related to Written Language) in small cards. Students are asked to laminate and compile them. This is proving successful in some cases, specially for the written assigments (not so much for the oral ones).
Another resource I’m using is a web my colleague prof. Ana Halbach suggested:
It can be very useful to spot academic language used in text and to raise students’ awareness on the use of vocabulary and structures.

Finally, I’m also researching on didactic materials for Infant Education. I was curious to know if they are developing CALP in any way. Many bilingual teachers have told me that the vocabulary included in textbooks for this level is not useful for their “classroom life”, and does not help to develop cognitive skills. I find this a really interesting and intriguing topic.
What about you?
Are you CALP-aware in your lessons? Do you work on CALP? What has proved successful to you?

Source of image: <a href=”Image: Boaz Yiftach /

“>Boaz Yiftach /

BoW! Bilingual Open Workshops at the Escuela Universitaria Cardenal Cisneros

Posted on Updated on

BoW is a new initiative of the Bilingual Project at the Escuela Universitaria Cardenal Cisneros (Alcalá de Henares, Madrid). It is Bilingual, because Workshops will deal on aspects related to bilingual education and CLIL in infant and primary level.

It is Open because in-service and pre-service teachers, as well as Teacher Training Students are welcome.

It is a Workshop because we want to look at the practical side of education by providing resources, tools and materials, and FOOD FOR THOUGH to reflect on our practice and improve it!

We open our BoW Workshops on 17th November 2011 (from 17.30 to 19.30) with a talk given by Alexandra Basile, who was collaborating with us in our I Bilingual Campus. The Workshop will be centred on literacy and storytelling and has been entitled: BRING STORIES ALIVE IN THE BILINGUAL CLASSROOM.

If you are interested in attending this session, you can register at the reception desk (EU Cardenal Cisneros) or, if you are unable to register onsite, you may contact us using our e-mail: