A pluriliteracies approach to content and language integrated learning – mapping learner progressions in knowledge construction and meaning-making

Oliver Meyer*, Do Coyle, Ana Halbach, Kevin Schuck, Teresa Ting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past decades content and language integrated learning (CLIL) research has predominantly focused on the language proficiency of CLIL learners. The results are very promising and show that working language skills in learners, especially reading and listening skills, can be improved through a CLIL programme. Studies focusing on subject learners are still few but they indicate that learners maintain or under certain conditions can improve their subject learning when compared to learners learning in L1. However, more recent studies have raised challenging questions concerning academic language competence which indicate that CLIL instruction may not be reaching its full potential. Unravelling the integrated approach and the inherent interrelationship of using language for progressing knowledge construction and meaning-making needs to be addressed, drawing together linguistic and pedagogic theoretical underpinnings. This article posits that CLIL can pragmatically address the growing educational malaise of functional illiteracy. We reason that progression along the knowledge pathway towards deeper subject understanding requires a greater command of secondary discourse, and mastery of subject-specific literacies. In traditional classrooms, content teachers do not usually focus on the quality of learners’ disciplinary literacy and discourse. In language classrooms, subject-specific literacies are considered irrelevant. We suggest that if ‘literacy’ were at the centre of the learning agenda, regardless of subject disciplines, a fundamental shift towards deeper learning would occur. Therefore, the article addresses two fundamental issues: (i) the role of subject-specific or disciplinary literacies in CLIL and (ii) the iteration of a model building on the existing 4Cs framework, which maps literacy and language progression in CLIL contexts and serves as a guide for evolving classroom practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-57
Number of pages17
JournalLanguage, Culture and Curriculum
Issue number1
Early online date11 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

We would like to express our thanks to all the experts including the teachers who have contributed their thinking to the development of the pluriliteracies model. The Graz Group is indebted to the Language, Culture and Curriculum 53 European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) for their funding of our project ‘Literacies through Content and Language Integrated Learning: effective learning across subjects and languages’ as part of the 2012–2015 programme (http://www.ecml.at/F7/tabid/969/Default.aspx) and for enabling the Graz Group to work together and with the wider professional and academic community.


  • academic language
  • content and language integrated learning
  • integration
  • literacies
  • mapping learner progression
  • pluriliteracies
  • subject-specific literacies


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