Multimodal analysis of instructional materials and vocabulary learning in EFL and CLIL instruction

  1. Mario Arribas García
Supervised by:
  1. Rosa María Jiménez Catalán Director
  2. Almudena Fernández Fontecha Director

Defence university: Universidad de La Rioja

Year of defence: 2022

  1. María del Pilar Agustín Llach Chair
  2. Francisco Gallardo del Puerto Secretary
  3. María Moreno Jaén Committee member
  1. Filologías Modernas
Doctoral Programme:
  1. Programa de Doctorado en Filología Inglesa por la Universidad de La Rioja

Type: Thesis


Grounded in a conceptualization of bilingual and multilingual education as flexible processes that host a variety of experiences and contexts (Dewaele et al., 2003; Grosjean, 2008), the present doctoral dissertation explores the effect of the instructional approach, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) on L2 vocabulary learning in secondary education. Research has found that CLIL helps learners to attain higher cognitive levels and to foster their autonomy in the learning process (Cenoz, et al., 2013). This type of instruction incidentally increases students’ motivation towards learning new contents and boosts their language ability. Recent studies indicate a trend that point at the positive effect that CLIL has, compared to EFL, on productive (Lahuerta, 2016; Martínez Agudo, 2020) and receptive skills (Ruiz de Zarobe and Zenotz, 2017; Foltyn, 2019), as well as on lexical competence (Jiménez Catalán and Fernández Fontecha, 2015; Jiménez Catalán and Agustín Llach, 2017). Nonetheless, these differences are not always significant. Two studies are conducted to address this main objective. The first study has focused on an analysis of instructional materials in an EFL subject and a CLIL science subject. Quantitative and qualitative research has been conducted in the identification of types, tokens, word families and presence of multimodality (visual and linguistic modes) in the instructional materials. In the second we made use of an adapted version of the Vocabulary Knowledge Scale test (VKS) (Wesche & Paribakht, 1996) to investigate aspects of depth of vocabulary knowledge in a single group of 25 Spanish students in secondary education exposed to English via the EFL subject and a CLIL science subject, whose materials were analysed in the first study. The selection of one group of students was made in order to avoid possible cross-group comparability issues, such as extra exposure to the foreign language via CLIL instruction. The evidence gathered from the first study along with the information obtained via interviews to teachers, among others, has contributed to the interpretation of some findings of the second study. Both studies were conducted in a high school of La Rioja which implemented a bilingual or CLIL programme (Bilingual Section) in secondary education. Results indicate that, regarding multimodality, the teaching materials used in the CLIL subject contain a lower number of types and tokens, although a higher type-token ratio, which implies a higher lexical density. In other words, EFL materials include more word repetitions as a learning strategy. As far as images are concerned, EFL textbooks contain a higher number of images, but mainly with a decorative function, whereas images in CLIL materials include more complex semantic relations which can contribute to improve the vocabulary knowledge. As regards vocabulary, findings show that both types of instruction are effective although the vocabulary learnt in the CLIL context takes place at a deeper level than just a mere definition, due to learners being able to produce more varied semantic relations in CLIL than in EFL, in the aspects measured in the VKS test.