Is scaffolding more important in a CLIL lesson compared to regular lessons?

January 11, 2021


Last week I shared the statement: “Scaffolding is more important in CLIL lessons compared to non-CLIL lessons Agree/Disagree and why?” The result? More than 40 people responded! A little overwhelming I have to say!

Estimated time to read this article: 4 minutes

When I went through all of the responses I quickly noticed not everyone agree.

Quite a few people mentioned they thought scaffolding was better suited for CLIL lessons. Others did not agree because scaffolding was part of good teaching ,hence it should play a part in any lesson.

To be honest, I was a little surprised by the different answers. There seems to be a lot of different ideas regarding this question!

Is scaffolding more important in CLIL lessons?

Obviously there  is no right or wrong here. Or to phrase that differently: I am in no position to state something to be true, as many people who responded might have really good arguments for their response.

Yet I do want to share my take on this statement, just to allow for a bit more of a detailed response to this statement.

For starters: I think scaffolding is all about temporary support to guide students to the next step in their learning process

This means I provide some structures or learning frames to guide students along the way, removing this support whenever I feel they are ready for it.

Much like scaffolds used in construction, right? It would be weird to leave them when the building is finished.

Use this ‘definition’, the question is: do CLIL students need this more or less than ‘regular’ students?

Again, this depends on what you are scaffolding.

Key Take Away

Scaffolding is about temporary support to guide students to the next step in their learning process

This depends on the type of scaffold you apply

If you are scaffolding learning, it does not matter if it is a CLIL lesson or not. Learning is part of every lesson and as such, can be used in any language.

When I had to teach in Dutch again after switching schools a couple of years ago, I used the same scaffolding activities in my lessons I had used previously in my CLIL lessons…

…and the students performed really well and liked the structure I provided.

This proved to me that scaffolding is not CLIL only (as many of you pointed out in the comments as well)


If you are scaffolding language, the answer is slightly different in my opinion.

Whenever I would ask a student to present homework or explain something, I would provide sentence starts to lower the language barrier for that student.

I would argue this is the type of scaffolding often used in CLIL-only context.

Key Take Away

You can define two types of scaffolds: Learning and Language

But there is still a lot of overlap

Of course there are difficult words in a non-CLIL lesson.

I would even argue CLIL can play a role in L1 lessons, but that is a different discussion altogether.

My point is: scaffolding language might be something that is more important in a CLIL lesson, because of possible language barriers students might encounter.

By making the distinction between scaffolding learning and scaffolding language, it becomes a bit clearer what is CLIL-only and what is not.

However, I do agree with one of the comments whole heartily: Scaffolding is just part of good teaching, so it applies to any context.

What do you think? Share below in the comments.

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