26.08.2011

Discourse-pragmatic insights into CLIL and EFL classrooms


Collaborating scholar: Tarja Nikula


The purpose of this research is to come to an understanding of the ways in which English is used in two educational contexts: content-based (CLIL) classrooms where it is the medium of instruction and English as a foreign language (EFL) classrooms where it is the object of study. Theoretically, the research is mainly informed by pragmatics, with important insights from discourse analysis and sociocultural research on language learning.

The current findings suggest that the teachers and students seem to orient to English and operate with it in quite different ways in EFL and CLIL settings. For example, the discursive practices in the two contexts are differently placed on the pragmatic dimension of detachment vs. involvement, CLIL discourse tending towards the latter.

Furthermore, the role of English as an object and tool of study, apart from being institutionally defined, is also discoursally constructed with important implications for students’ and teachers’ interactional rights and obligations. This is reflected, for example, in the way the initiation-response-follow-up (IRF) sequences are deployed in the two settings. For more detailed information, see:

  • Nikula, Tarja. 2005. English as an object and tool of study in classrooms: Interactional effects and pragmatic implications. Linguistics and Education, 16 (1), 27-58.
  • Nikula, Tarja. 2007. The IRF pattern and space for interaction: Observations on EFL and CLIL classrooms. In Christiane Dalton-Puffer and Ute Smit (eds) Empirical Perspectives on CLIL Classroom Discourse / CLIL: empirische Untersuchungen zum Unterrichtsdiskurs. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 179–204