Language Acquisition to stimulate Cognitive Development: theory and practice


Project Summary

This project «Language Acquisition to stimulate Cognitive Development: theory and practice» was born out of initiatives between several European Regions. One region in the United Kingdom was already working with a region in Spain in the field of language teaching and learning. The coordinators wished to take their cooperation one step further, to optimise both European and regional resources, by increasing the opportunities for professional exchange and identifying good practice of collaborative inter-regional work. The UK had also worked on projects over many years with a Federation of schools in Portugal who are themselves beginning to explore the CLIL approach and learning new ways to ensure that non-Portuguese speaking pupils can access the curriculum.

At the same time, advisers working in Spanish Embassy Education Departments in the UK and Poland had been working together to promote the teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language with particular emphasis on the setting up of Bilingual Sections where the CLIL approach is being developed. These advisers had gained their experience and expertise in implementing the CLIL approach to the teaching of English in Spanish schools. The fledgling work in the UK on developing the CLIL approach through Spanish chimed with the experiences in Poland.

Whilst the worry in the UK is about the dwindling of numbers studying Foreign Languages, the experience of UK teachers in supporting English as an Additional Language (EAL) pupils, especially in the large urban areas, provides a wealth of experience and knowledge in the practice of making language learning accessible to all. These contexts in the four European regions have thus come together. By cooperating, we will gain further insights into a common issue and produce a stronger product as a result of drawing on each other’s experiences and expertise. However, we will go further and take the initiative in producing something new; to add to the body of knowledge around the focus of language acquisition in the four contexts and to synthesize the learning from the different traditions. Each partner will have an important role to play. The local and regional education authorities will lead the way with the schools designing and implementing the joint activities and the university leading the training on language acquisition, analysing the data and identifying key issues for further research and debate.

Key Objectives


To develop an understanding of the theoretical justification and the practical outcomes used within the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approaches to enhance language acquisition and the synergy with the English as an Additional Language (EAL) approach in the UK, to be shared in articles in research journals.


To implement a plan for an innovative CLIL model (including classroom management, activities and the organisation of each school) in order to optimise CLIL’s ability to stimulate cognitive development, learning from the EAL knowledge of UK teachers as Spain, Portugal and Poland develop the expertise to support speakers of many different languages in their classrooms; the data arising from these activities will inform a research paper.


To implement the model in the UK, Poland, Portugal and Spain in primary schools in each region which are committed to testing out the approach across one Key Stage/Cycle. These trials will be showcased through the Multiplier Events in each region.


To learn from each other’s experiences, sharing best practice in CLIL and applying some of the elements of the EAL expertise within this project and disseminating the new learning through the production of a Tool Kit containing tried and tested activities, classroom materials, research tools, organisational and curriculum models, articles, project outcomes and Multiplier Events in each region. These will all be shared freely on the project website.


To evaluate the partial results in order to disseminate the outcomes locally, nationally and across the EU.


To use the project to raise awareness of the importance of the European Dimension in the curriculum and inter-regional cooperation to raise standards in schools.


The project will lead to new learning around language acquisition which will inform future debate and actions. The trialling of different models and the showcasing of these to a large audience will inspire teachers and leaders to trial some in their own context, with the support of the participants in this project. School leaders will see a way forward from the key issues they face with promoting language acquisition among newly arrived pupils and in ensuring that all pupils have access to excellent L2 learning.


Longer term, it will provide a variety of models to improve the teaching and learning of languages, not only in the project regions but also, through the publications, Multiplier Events, Tool Kit on the new website, across the entire international family.