GUIDEWAY: Research on the English-Medium Bachelor’s Degree in Primary Education. The Guided way towards the integrated learning of curricular content and the development of discourse competence

GUIDEWAY: Recerca sobre el Grau d’Educació Primària en anglès. Guiatge per a l’aprenentatge integrat de continguts acadèmics i el desenvolupament de la competència discursiva

  • Principal investigator of this project: Cristina Escobar Urmeneta
  • Entitat finançadora: Agència de Gestió d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca
  • Entitats participants: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
  • Referència de la concessió: 2014 ARMIF 00009
  • Quantia de la subvenció: 10.500€
  • Duració: de 15/07/2014 fins a 30/06/2016


The challenge that Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) poses to primary education requires professionals trained to act as teachers in these types of context;, that is to say, teachers fully involved in the school’s pedagogic and linguistic project, with communicative competence in English and both general and specific professional competences in CLIL teaching. To address these multiple needs, in 2012 the UAB’s Faculty of Educational Sciences set in motion a pilot plan for teacher training, which adopts the approached called Integration of Content and Language in Higher Education (abbreviated as ICLHE in English and ICLES in Catalan). The result is the Degree of Primary Education in English, or EMI-PEBD.

Project GUIDEWAY (Ref. 2014 ARMIF 00009) was set up with the twin goals of improving the quality of teachings in English within EMI-PEBD and evaluating the results of that pilot programme. More specifically, the objectives of GUIDEWAY are:

  1. To design an ILCHE-based pedagogical strategy for the guidance or support of integrated development of academic discursive competence in English, so future teachers can attain in an integrated way the double goal of professionalization and communication.
  2. To monitor the deployment of the aforementioned mechanism.
  3. To evaluate the results of the pilot programme as a whole and, more specifically, to evaluate the effects of the support strategy now in process of design and experimentation.

GUIDEWAY research deals with objectives 1 and 2 through methodologies of a qualitative leaning, while objective 3 is tackled through quantitative designs. The stages of development planned for the project are:

  • Stage 0. Design and pre-piloting of the GUIDEWAY guidance mechanism.
  • Stage 1. Implementation of the GUIDEWAY guidance strategy in the course of a semester, and evaluation of the results through a pre-experimental pre-test/treatment/post-test design.
  • Stage 2. Comparative analysis of academic performance among students doing the degree with English as their language of instruction (EMI-PEBD) and students taking the degree in their native Catalan (Non-EMI PEBD).
  • Stage 3. Comparative analysis of the linguistic competence in Catalan of EMI-PEBD versus Non-EMI PEBD students.
  • Throughout the process: Monitoring of the deployment process of EMI-PEBD.


Most significant research results thus far

Project GUIDEWAY has focused its research on the UAB’s Degree in Primary Education – Teaching in English (EMI-PEBD). EMI-PEBD aims at training teachers with the capacity to ‘practice teaching in Catalan and English, within a Catalan school context’. GUIDEWAY has produced three types of results, closely interrelated and derived from: a) actions related to innovation in the training of primary school teachers; b) studies performed on the deployment of the degree; and c) the coining of Catalan terminology and acronyms for terms widely used in the international literature about university-level teaching in English.


Two documents have been created with the objective of orienting and providing support to the teachers of content subjects who teach in English in EMI-PEBD, as well as a glossary (Dr. Ctistina Escobar Urmeneta, coordinator)

  • The Handbook of Linguistic Uses for University Degrees Taught in English, which, based on research about multilingual education and up-to-date theoretical currents about integrated teaching in the university milieu, is intended to help teachers manage language in a context in which the main reason for offering teaching in English is to facilitate the learning of this language.
  • The GUIDEWAY Planning Template:, a document that helps teachers to plan the demands they place on their students in an integrated way, sharing with the students the goals and discursive-linguistic assessment criteria combined with those based on content, and offering students support and guidance on comprehension, production and interaction activities.
  • Catalan-English Terminological Glossary, which compiles the Catalan translation of terminology and acronyms referring to concepts originally developed in English.


Eight studies examining the EMI-PEBD from different angles have been undertaken. From these studies we can conclude that:

  • EMI-PEBD attracts quality students (those with the highest cut-off marks), with a higher level of English than the rest of the UAB but still lower than desirable.
  • The choice of this degree on the students’ part responds to diverse factors, such as the desire to gain access to cultural and intercultural experiences which would not be available without this language, and the willingness to belong to a global community.
  • Regarding the teaching staff, the meaning of ‘teaching in English’ is still controversial and materializes very differently in actual classroom practice, mainly as a result of ideologically confronted approaches to multilingual education.
  • The CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) approach applied during an academic semester achieves positive results in terms of the learning of English, without entailing negative effects for academic results or Catalan linguistic competence. However, this result needs to be confirmed through further studies.
  • An integrated approach cannot be guaranteed, though, in a generalized way, for reasons such as the self-delegitimization of teachers as ‘people expert in the disciplinary discourse’ or the lack of adequate training on how to implement this approach.
  • Academic results of EMI-PEBD students are similar to the results of those who take the degree in Catalan (Non-EMI PEBD).
  • Though it is not a conclusive result, the level of Catalan of the EMI-PEBD group is not inferior to that of the Non-EMI PEBD group.
  • The Departments responsible for hiring the teaching staff need tools to evaluate the linguistic and didactic qualifications of EMI-PEBD teachers. The official evaluation questionnaires do not include any item related to teaching in English. As a whole, this means that it is not possible to fully guarantee that the teaching staff attached to EMI-PEBD is sufficiently qualified to teach in English in a degree one of whose main goals is to improve the language level of its students.
  • Students value very positively those subjects dealing with specific didactics which incorporate CLIL strategies oriented towards primary teaching.
  • EMI-PEBD has become an environment that strongly favours innovative educational experiences related to multilingual education, either as ‘home’ experiences or through participation in exchange study or teaching practice abroad programmes.
  • The language change proved itself to be a chance to rethink teaching practice itself and to generate multidisciplinary teaching teams able to exchange ideas and discuss in concert different pedagogical options.

Publications resulting from these studies will be made available through the results sections of this website.


Proposals for the improvement of teacher education

  • The degrees in English teaching represent a potentially valuable strategy for teacher training, but they are insufficient as they stand. It is necessary to improve the training of future teachers, and therefore study plans for preschool and primary education at different universities should be revised in order to provide foreign languages with a greater prominence than they currently enjoy.
  • The CLIL approach (teaching in English with adjustments to facilitate the learning of the L2) has revealed itself to be a potentially viable instrument to achieve this purpose, even in short teaching periods (e.g., a single academic semester). That is to say, the results suggest that it would be potentially useful to offer, for instance, some modalities of the teacher education degrees in Catalan in which all subjects of a semester, or 50% of them during two semesters, were taught in English.
  • The Catalan government’s education authorities, jointly with the universities of the country, should urgently design protocols for the assignation of linguistically and didactically qualified teacher to the degrees in English.
  • Teaching staff need guidance on those ways of implementing ‘teaching in English’ that are effective in the promotion of L2 learning and at the same time respectful of the students’ linguistic rights (see Manual d’usos lingüistics).
  • In order to define the type of pedagogical qualification required from instructors in the degrees taught in English, it will be necessary to distinguish between EMI degrees (teaching in English as a lingua franca, which facilitates the incorporation of foreign students in Catalan university classrooms) and ICLHE degrees (where teaching in English is aimed at helping local students develop receptive, productive and interactive advanced competences in that language; see the Guideway Template). Degrees in teaching clearly belong to the latter group.
  • It is necessary to organize teacher education activities for the staff who will teach in English through two types of action: training in DUA teaching (e.g. the MOOC that the UAB offers at Coursera) and training in ICLHE teaching. It is not known if any Catalan university is currently offering this second type of course.
  • The quality of teaching in English must be evaluated. Therefore, universities should include at least one item on teaching in English in their teacher evaluation systems.
  • At the moment, the EMI teacher-education degrees do not entail a specific access test measuring the level of English, with the result that students whose language level is insufficient are admitted to the programmes. Making access to programmes contingent on passing language level tests would not be necessary if the Faculties of Education could find ways to use the accepted international standards as part of their assessment system (e.g., B2 accreditation at the end of first year, and/or C1 at the end of third year). This would enable the programme to a) grant access to good students even if they had not received quality language instruction in compulsory schooling, and b) guarantee proper linguistic progress.
  • The linguistic training of future teachers is a necessary but not sufficient requirement. A degree claiming to train teachers to teach in English in primary education must train teachers in the CLIL methodology, and must itself follow an ICLHE methodology.
  • University degrees in English must guarantee an appropriate level of professional-linguistic competence in Catalan. It is necessary, therefore, that the degrees in teaching in English explicitly incorporate initiatives for guaranteeing the acquisition of the terminology and the professional discourse in the co-official languages at use in Catalonia, namely Catalan and Spanish.


 Members of the GUIDEWAY project

  • Cristina Escobar Urmeneta (IP) (UAB) (Dept. Didàctica de la Llengua i la Literatura i de les Ciències Socials, Àrea de Didàctica de la Llengua i de la Literatura)
  • Isabel Álvarez Cánovas (UAB) (Dept. Pedagogia Sistemàtica i Social, Àrea de Teoria i d’Història de l’Educació)
  • Laura Arnau Sabatés (UAB) (Dept. Pedagogia Sistemàtica i Social, Àrea de Teoria i d’Història de l’Educació)
  • Josep Coral Mateu (UAB – Departament d’Ensenyament) (Dept. Didàctica de l’Expressió Musical, Plàstica i Corporal, Àrea de Didàctica de l’Expressió Corporal)
  • Anna Cros Alavedra (UAB) (Dept. Didàctica de la Llengua i la Literatura i de les Ciències Socials, Àrea de Didàctica de la Llengua i de la Literatura)
  • Ainhoa Flecha Fernández-Sanmamed (UAB) (Dept. Sociologia, Àrea de Sociologia)
  • Georgeta Ion (UAB) (Dept. Pedagogia Aplicada, Àrea de Didàctica i d’Organització Educativa)
  • Emilee Moore (UAB – UIC) (Dept. Didàctica de la Llengua i la Literatura i de les Ciències Socials, Àrea de Didàctica de la Llengua i de la Literatura)
  • Patricia Olmos Rueda (UAB) (Dept. Pedagogia Aplicada, Àrea de Didàctica i d’Organització Educativa)
  • Berta Rapesta Montmany (CEIP Els Quatre Vents, Canovelles)


  • Ingrid Agud Morell (UAB) (Dept. Pedagogia Sistemàtica i Social – Àrea de Teoria i d’Història de l’Educació)
  • Joan Borràs-Comes (UAB – UPF) (Dept. Didàctica de la Llengua i la Literatura i de les Ciències Socials, Àrea de Didàctica de la Llengua i de la Literatura)
  • Natalia Evnitskaya (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)
  • Ruben Jiménez Galán (UAB) (Dept. Didàctica de la Llengua i la Literatura i de les Ciències Socials, Àrea de Didàctica de la Llengua i de la Literatura)
  • Helga Martínez-Ciprés (UAB) (Dept. Didàctica de la Llengua i la Literatura i de les Ciències Socials, Àrea de Didàctica de la Llengua i de la Literatura)
  • Antonio Sánchez-Sola (UAB) (Dept. Didàctica de la Llengua i la Literatura i de les Ciències Socials, Àrea de Didàctica de la Llengua i de la Literatura)
  • Sandra Saura Mas (UAB) (Departament de Biologia Animal, de Biologia Vegetal i d’Ecologia, Àrea d’Ecologia)
  • Sonia Sierra (UAB) (Departament de Filologia Espanyola)
  • Berta Torras Vila (UAB) (Dept. Didàctica de la Llengua i la Literatura i de les Ciències Socials, Àrea de Didàctica de la Llengua i de la Literatura)


More information about MIF programme in this link: