Investigating CLIL effects on learners’ academic performance in a Chinese tertiary education programme

  • Cibo ZHOU

Student thesis: EdD Thesis


Given the advantage of packaging foreign language enrichment measures into content teaching, the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach is regarded by some Chinese researchers as a potential alternative to the current mainstream EFL approach at the tertiary level widely seen as ineffective. However, a majority of the CLIL research in China remains centred on introducing the CLIL concept and evaluating feasibility from theoretical perspectives, while little empirical research has been documented. Thus, the present study investigated the effects of CLIL on learners’ academic performance and language proficiency in a Chinese tertiary educational context, attempting to provide “hard evidence” on CLIL achievements in Chinese education.

In this study, based on the elucidation of the umbrella term of CLIL, a critical review of previous empirical studies and methodological instruments, and the theoretical reinterpretation of the 4Cs framework, a two-phase mixed-methods quasi-experiment was designed and conducted with both quantitative and qualitative methods. The quantitative methods, including pre- and post-tests of linguistic and content performance, were administered to scrutinize the statistical relationship between CLIL exposure and learners’ attainment in language and content. The key findings were verified through a qualitative method of interviews in the second phase. The triangulated data were expected to provide more reliable and dependable evidence of the effectiveness of CLIL in Chinese educational contexts.

By investigating the temporal changes of learners’ academic performance for one semester, the study led to findings that present a compelling, theory-driven explanation for how and why CLIL education impacted Chinese university learners’ academic performance, accompanied by the theoretical, empirical and pedagogical implications for policymakers and practitioners to enhance target learners’ academic learning.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Nottingham
SupervisorAnwei Feng (Supervisor)


  • CLIL
  • academic performance
  • tertiary edcuation
  • China

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