4 full-time PhD positions Assessing Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL): Linguistic, cognitive and educational perspectives

General job description

The Institute for Language and Communication (IL&C) and the Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY) at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL; Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium), in collaboration with the research group on Multilingualism (Pluri-LL) of the University of Namur (Belgium), are seeking four highly motivated PhD candidates within the framework of the research project “Assessing Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL): Linguistic, cognitive and educational perspectives”.

The central aim of the research project is to investigate CLIL education in French-speaking Belgium from a multidisciplinary perspective. CLIL is a didactic method, comparable to immersion education, in which school subjects are taught in a different target language than the mainstream school language. The project will focus on primary and secondary school CLIL education in Dutch and English and examine by which cognitive (memory, attention,…) and socio-affective (motivational, attitudinal,…) factors the potential linguistic differences (with respect to pronunciation, lexis and grammar) between pupils in CLIL education and their pairs in non-CLIL school environments, can be accounted for. The methodological approach will combine corpus-based longitudinal and cross-sectional analyses, together with experimental research designs.


Prof. Philippe Hiligsmann – Spokesman (UCL / IL&C / Valibel): philippe.hiligsmann@uclouvain.be

Prof. Benoît Galand (UCL / IPSY / Girsef): benoit.galand@uclouvain.be

Prof. Laurence Mettewie (UNamur / Pluri-LL): Laurence.mettewie@unamur.be

Prof. Fanny Meunier (UCL / IL&C / CECL): fanny.meunier@uclouvain.be

Prof. Arnaud Szmalec (UCL / IPSY / IoNS): arnaud.szmalec@uclouvain.be

Prof. Kristel Van Goethem (F.R.S.-FNRS / UCL / IL&C / Valibel): kristel.vangoethem@uclouvain.be

PhD projects

Each selected candidate will be engaged in a 4-year full-time PhD project (2-year renewable contract), with focus on one (or more) of the following research lines:

-          Linguistic research goals:

  • Examine the relationship between the learning environment and the acquisition of spoken skills and oral proficiency in Dutch and English (i.e. the perception and production of target language vowels and/or word stress) by using qualitative classroom observations, spontaneous speech production and quantitative experimental methods.
  • Analyze the relationship between the learning environment and the acquisition of lexical and grammatical proficiency in Dutch and English, by using both corpus-based and experimental methods. Focus will be on:

overall phraseology

specific lexico-grammatical constructions (i.e. expression of intensification).

-          Cognitive research goals:

  • Analyze the cognitive demands of CLIL, by experimental research designs
  • Gain understanding of how bilingual education affects overall cognitive functioning (with a focus on executive control) in CLIL learners and increase scientific knowledge about the cognitive basis of bilingualism in general
  • Investigate how the cognitive profile of CLIL learners relates to their linguistic profile and how this relation is moderated by individual socio-affective variables and learning environment

-          Socio-affective research goals:

Explore the dynamic relationships between the socio-affective variables (social interactions in the classroom, background, motivation, attitudes) on the one hand, and language acquisition and cognitive functioning on the other hand.

The candidates will obtain a PhD degree in linguistics or psychology, depending on the area of research. Each PhD candidate will work on the joined supervision of some of the promoters of the project, depending on the PhD topic addressed. In addition, a postdoctoral researcher will be involved in the daily supervision of the projects.


-          Master in linguistics or modern languages, with honours, for the PhDs in the linguistic / socio-affective domains

-          Master in psychology / psycholinguistics / logopaedics / educational sciences, with honours, for the PhDs in the cognitive / socio-affective domains

-          For the PhDs in the linguistic domains, native or near-native proficiency in French, English and/or Dutch is required;
for the PhDs in the cognitive / socio-affective domains, knowledge of the three languages is an asset

-          High level of academic English, both written and spoken

-          Good knowledge of statistics or commitment to acquire it

-          Familiarity with corpus linguistic methods and/or experimental research designs

-          Dynamic and motivated

-          Capacity to work both independently and as part of a team

We offer a motivating research environment with many opportunities for in-house, national and international collaborations and with access to state-of-the-art research equipment. The salary is according to standard Belgian regulations: +/- 1800 EUR net/month.

Start of grant: October 1st, 2014

Deadline: Interested candidates should send a CV, motivation letter including research interests (in English, French or Dutch) and contact information (email) of two potential references to Philippe.hiligsmann@uclouvain.be before June 30th 2014. Review of applications will continue until the positions are filled.

Additional information:

Do not hesitate to contact the promoters to obtain more information on the linguistic (Prof. Ph. Hiligsmann, Prof. F. Meunier, Prof. K. Van Goethem), cognitive (Prof. A. Szmalec) and socio-affective (Prof. L. Mettewie, Prof. B. Galand) research lines.

More information on the research institutes and centers can be found on the following websites:

-          Institute for Language and Communication (IL&C): http://www.uclouvain.be/ilc.html

-          Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY): http://www.uclouvain.be/ipsy.html

-          Valibel: http://www.uclouvain.be/valibel

-          CECL: http://www.uclouvain.be/en-cecl.html

-          Girsef: http://www.uclouvain.be/girsef.html

-          IoNS: https://www.uclouvain.be/ions.html

-          Pluri-LL: http://www.unamur.be/lettres/pluri-ll




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