To what extent can CLIL learners’ oral competence outcomes be explained by contextual differences? Updated empirical evidence from Spain
Based on the association between differences in learning contexts and differences in linguistic outcomes as supported by second language acquisition (SLA) research, this study examines the differential effects of particular contextually dependent variables on Spanish learners’ English oral communication skills in two different instructional settings (Content and Language Integrated Learning [CLIL] and English as a Foreign Language [EFL]). Given the scarcity of research into the impact of CLIL programmes on learners’ oral competence, and bearing in mind that CLIL implementation is context-dependent, discriminant analyses are performed with contextual variables such as parents’ socio-economic status (SES), social setting and type of school to determine whether CLIL is truly responsible for the differences observed or whether such intervening variables account for the variance. Results indicate that the experimental group (CLIL) outperforms the control group (EFL) in both oral skills, especially in speaking; such improvements being much more noticeable with time and experience, which reveals that time is a decisive variable in CLIL programmes. Of the contextual variables considered, results from discriminant analyses provide evidence that CLIL learners’ oral competence outcomes can be mostly attributed to both parents’ SES and type of school and, to a lesser extent, to the geographical location of schools.