We recently returned from the 18th World Congress of Applied Linguistics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During this congress the CLIL Research Network organised the symposium “Individual Factors in CLIL Teachers and Learners.” The symposium has been very successful: Interesting research was presented, ideas and suggestions for the next CLIL ReN term (2017 – 2020) were exchanged. In this article we present to you a report written by Russell Cross, some pictures and the powerpoint presentations to give an impression of the symposium.

Ana, Dominik, Tessa, Rick, Shigeru, Russell, Elisa

AILA 2017 CLIL ReN Symposium Individual Factors in CLIL Teachers and Learners – a report by Russell Cross

If a conference just meters from the tropical beaches of Rio de Janeiro, you had better hope the program is exceptional if you expect delegates to stay engaged through to the end … and the 18th AILA World Congress delivered such a program!

The AILA CLIL Research Network were pleased to contribute to program through a symposium on “Individual Factors in CLIL Teachers and Learners.” Following the call for proposals from ReN members last year, the symposium brought together a series of presentations sharing a focus on how the interplay between CLIL and individual differences might help us to understand issues in the field better, and continuing moving CLIL research and practice forward.

After an introduction by the ReN convenors Rick de Graaff and Russell Cross to highlight how individual factors had emerged as a topic that was significant for the group, the first two presentations reported on progress from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid TransCLIL project. The first, by Thomas Somers and Ana Llinares, considered how being in either a low-exposure or high-exposure secondary CLIL program affected motivation, and its relationship with attitude and extra-mural exposure. The follow-on paper, by Elisa Hidalgo-McCabe and María Fernández-Agüero, extended this to consider contextual and sociocultural factors that influenced students’ choices and experiences within these programs.

Dominik Rumlich shifted the focus to the potential of a less familiar construct to interrogate individual differences within CLIL contexts—‘academic self-concept’ (ASC)—and empirical evidence of how it helps better understand the impact of individual differences, self-concept, and proficiency levels within CLIL contexts in Germany English language programs at upper primary and lower secondary levels. Self-concept also emerged as a theme in the fourth paper presented by Tessa Mearns, Do Coyle, and Rick de Graaff, with students’ sense of their “Ideal L2 Self”—as well as self-esteem—being key considerations in understanding the role of motivation within CLIL settings in their research undertaken in the Netherlands.

Finally, Shigeru Sasajima focused on teachers in his work, and individual differences in their own interpretations and understandings of CLIL as the approach becomes increasingly popular in Japan. This included implications of those findings for CLIL teacher professional learning and knowledge, as well as how it impacts learners given such significant variability in how individual teachers approach CLIL.

The series concluded by discussion led by Rick and Russell based on key insights raised by the papers, with input from the audience about ways to build on these findings and collectively keep moving the CLIL research agenda forward. Social justice concerns and how these relate to individual differences—and opportunities—for learners within CLIL programs was one especially prominent theme, which might also help inform CLIL ReN planning for our next three-year cycle.

For those unable to make it this year, we look forward to the opportunity to meet at AILA 2020, in Groningen, The Netherlands … put it in your diaries, now!

The Programme

(A click on the title will lead to the powerpoint presentation.)

CLIL can vary in each teacher and learner (Shigeru Sasajima)


CLIL can vary in each teacher and learner (Shigeru Sasajima)


Individual factors influencing CLIL student choices in the transition from primary to secondary (Elisa Hidalgo-McCabe & María Fernández-Agüero)


Chicken or egg? Motivation for or from bilingual education in the Netherlands (Tessa Mearns, Do Coyle & Rick de Graaff)


Underresearched, but highly relevant in language learning: EFL self-concept as an individual factor in CLIL environments (Dominik Rumlich & Julia Reckermann)


CLIL students’ motivation towards learning academic subjects in English (Thomas Somers & Ana Llinares)


Rick de Graaff & Russell Cross: plenary discussion


Dutch night at AILA2017, on behalf of AILA2020 that will be hosted in Groningen, the Netherlands