Article 25 - Thinking and Content Learning of Mathematics and Science

25 - Thinking and Content Learning of Mathematics and Science as Cognitional Development in Content and Language Integrated Learning
(CLIL): Teaching Through a Foreign Language in Finland.

Jaeppinen A K (2005) 
Language and Education (article)

ERIC link

I've been looking for the articles listed in the previous one in number 24 which refer to contexts of success in CLIL in a number of dimensions. This is one of them which according to the abstract  presents research which shows that studying through L2 does not affect cognitive development of learners.

NB - these notes are mine, and any paraphrasing is my own responsibility. Please pick up on anything you read here with me as although I try and interpret the article closely I may not representing the intended ideas of the author.
I enjoyed reading this piece because it taught me something fresh about learning and about describing learning achievement in terms which make sense when talking about learning in a foreign language. I now have the word cognitional in my vocabulary and I think I know what it means, at least in terms of how it is used in this paper.
I learned that English is a more common CLIL language in Finland even than Swedish, and that there is immersion Swedish and CLIL Swedish, that they are different (I’m glad to hear that) and that they are undertaken by different groups in Finnish society (CLIL being open to all, and some immersion Swedish being ‘restricted to a cultural or linguistic minority’ p.149).
Quote – ‘Cognitional’ is used here to refer to both thinking and content learning and to separate it from the established term ‘cognitive’ that covers according to the Encyclopedia Britannica ‘every metal process that can be described as an experience of knowing as distinguished from an experience of feeling or of willing’. p.151
Quote - ‘Cognitional development is assumed to manifest itself in understanding, using and applying concepts and conceptual structures of the contents taught through a foreign language in mathematics and science. Different conceptual structures when concepts are related to each other are here called meaning schemes.’ p.151
There are descriptions of differences between mother tongue and CLIL learning. The focuses are given here in short: 1) a large zone of proximal development; 2) specific socio-culture-psychological factors; 3) special discovery learning related settings; 4) informal and natural language learning and development.
1) means CLIL learners need extra explanations and help (in terms of special gesticulation, movement, features of spoken language, supportive materials). I think this bit is at the heart of what interests me most, designing CLIL materials
2) means that the use of a foreign language for learning leads to a very personal learner interpretation of other societies and cultures and a wider view of learning.
3) means learner makes use of connections between mother tongue and foreign language for meaning making.
4) means learners learn and acquire language in much the same way as they did with mother tongue.
Question at the heart of the study:
‘How can we study the effect of foreign language usage on CLIL learners’ thinking and content learning processes, that is, on their cognitional development?’ p.152
Jaeppinen lists a number of cognitions for describing achievement
Critical discovery learning areas (my paraphrasing):
1) awareness of concepts
2) awareness of meaning schemes
3) ability to exploit information
4) ability to solve problems
5) ability to exploit the flow of information
10 Thinking categories:
1) classifying
2) realizing the constancy of properties
3) realizing the similarity of a change
4) realizing the compensation or equivalence of a change
5) realizing the reciprocity or reversibility of a change
6) noticing and charting alternatives for action
7) thinking ahead the progress of a process
8) changing possibilities into hypotheses
9) becoming conscious of one’s own thought processes
10) thinking beyond conventional limits
12 Finnish mainstream comp schools
669 learners 7 to 15
presents four measurements
M1 starting level
Cognitional development, M2 autumn 2002, M3 spring 2003, M4, autumn 2003
Experimental group of 335 learners were taught through English, French, or Swedish, and control group of 334 learners taught through Finnish.
Maths and Science
Results showed
Age group 1
p. 157 No difference in cognitional developments in Maths in age group 1
‘some very abstract topics may not be very well suited for young CLIL learners’ p. 157
Age group 2
‘Teaching through a foreign language seemed to support or even promote the mathematical thinking and learning processes of the learners in this age group.’ p. 159
‘The findings suggest that teaching through a foreign language in science gives support to or even promotes the cognitional development of the CLIL learners in this age group.’ p.160
Age group 3
both groups were very equal, no statistical differences p. 160
According to this study, the Finnish CLIL environments in public mainstream L1 education have succeeded, in general, in offering favourable conditions for thinking and content learning in mathematics and science. In most cases, the cognitional development in the CLIL environments resembled the development in teaching through the mother tongue.’p.161-162
‘The positive outcomes from Finnish CLIL environments mean that teaching through a foreign language supports CLIL learners’ thinking and content learning’. p.162
Tthe Author's contact email is given -
It would be interesting to take a look at some test items!