The Role of Motivation in Content-specific Learning in CLIL: Core vs Non-core Subjects

Fabiana Rosi, Gioacchino Amato, Alessandra Zappoli


The paper investigates the effects of CLIL on the acquisition of content-specific competence in Italian high-school students. Two educational contexts are examined: Chemistry classes (CLIL and non-CLIL) in a science-oriented high school and Physics classes (CLIL and non-CLIL) in a humanities-oriented high school. The two subjects share many epistemological features but have a different status (core vs non-core subject) for students in the two educational contexts. Two types of content-specific competence are measured: receptive disciplinary knowledge (M1) and productive argumentation skill (M2). Findings show that CLIL students do not underperform non-CLIL peers in both disciplines, rather CLIL students of the non-core subject outperform the control group, especially for M2. Furthermore, a Multiple Factor Analysis illustrates that M1 and M2 results can be predicted by considering the individual variability of students’ motivation toward the discipline, CLIL, and Foreign Language Learning. The motivation toward the subject emerges as the trigger factor for CLIL benefit but plays an unexpected role: it is inversely proportional to content-specific learning. Implications for CLIL studies and educational policy are discussed.

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Copyright (c) 2023 Fabiana Rosi, Gioacchino Amato, Alessandra Zappoli

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email:

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