Language-related episodes and pair dynamics in primary school CLIL learners: A comparison between proficiency-matched and student-selected pairs


language-related episodes (LRE)
pair dynamics
pair formation
collaborative task
content and language integrated learning (CLIL)

How to Cite

Basterrechea, M., & Gallardo-del-Puerto, F. (2020). Language-related episodes and pair dynamics in primary school CLIL learners: A comparison between proficiency-matched and student-selected pairs. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 10(3), 423–447.

Number of views: 859

Number of downloads: 695


A considerable body of research within the interaction framework (Long, 1996) has centred on the language-related episodes (LREs) which occur when learners topicalize a specific linguistic item while they are engaged in meaning-focused tasks. Several studies have shown that the production of LREs may be influenced by the proficiency level of the learners (Kim & McDonough, 2008; Leeser, 2004). Sociocultural theory (Lantolf & Appel, 1994) has also explored collaborative work and the effect that pairing learners with the same proficiency levels or different patterns of interaction (Storch, 2002) has on the production of LREs (e.g., Mozaffari, 2017; Storch & Aldosari 2013), but little research has compared the effect of the pair formation method (student-selected vs. proficiency-matched) on young learners’ production of LREs and pair dynamics. This study compares young CLIL learners (aged 10-12) in student-selected and proficiency-matched pairs in task-based interaction. Results indicate that learners produce more meaning-based than form-based LREs, regardless of their pair formation method. The percentage of meaning-based LREs which are resolved accurately is much higher in proficiency-matched dyads than in student-selected ones. As for the patterns of interaction (Storch, 2002), the dynamics of proficiency-matched dyads are of a more collaborative nature than those of self-selected pairs.


Grant FFI2016-74950-P (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, National Research Agency and European Regional Development Fund (AEI/FEDER/EU))

Grant IT904-16 (Basque Government)


Adams, R. (2006). L2 tasks and orientation to form: A role for modality? ITL - International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 152, 7-34.

Adams, R., & Ross-Feldman, L. (2008). Does writing influence learner attention to form? In D. Belcher & A. Hirvela (Eds.), The oral/literate connection: Perspectives on L2 speaking/writing connections (pp. 243-267). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Allan, D. (2004). Oxford Placement Test. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Azkarai, A., & García Mayo, M. P. (2012). Does gender influence task performance in EFL? Interactive tasks and language-related episodes. In E. Alcón & P. Safont (Eds.), Discourse and language learning across L2 instructional settings (pp. 249-278). Amsterdam: Rodopi

Basterrechea, M., & García Mayo, M. P. (2013). Language-related episodes (LREs) during ollaborative tasks: A comparison of CLIL and EFL learners. In K. McDonough & A. Mackey (Eds.), Second language interaction in diverse educational contexts (pp. 25-43). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Basterrechea, M., & Leeser, M. (2019). Language-related episodes and learner proficiency during collaborative dialogue in CLIL. Language Awareness, 28(2), 97-113.

Benson, C., Pavitt, J., & Jenkins, M. (2005). The use of dictogloss to encourage discussion of language use. Edinburgh Working Papers, 14, 1-17.

Butler, Y. G., & Zeng, W. (2015). Young learners’ interactional development in task-based paired-assessment in their first and foreign languages: A case of English learners in China. Education, 43, 292-321.

Cambridge University Press. (2008). Key English test. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Donato, R. (1998). Beyond group: A psycholinguistic rationale for collective activity in second-language learning (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Delaware, Newark, USA.

Gallardo-del-Puerto, F., & Basterrechea, M. (in press). The role of proficiency and pair formation method in language-related episodes: A study of young CLIL learners’ interaction. Language Teaching Research.

García Mayo, M. P. (2002a). The effectiveness of two form-focused tasks in advanced EFL pedagogy. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 12, 156-175.

García Mayo, M. P. (2002b). Interaction in advanced EFL pedagogy: A comparison of form-focused activities. International Journal of Educational Research, 37, 323-341.

García Mayo, M. P., & Azkarai, A. (2016). EFL task-based interaction: Does task modality impact language-related episodes? In M. Sato & S. Ballinger (Eds.), Peer interaction in second language learning (pp. 241-266). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

García Mayo, M. P., & Imaz Aguirre, A. (2019). Task modality and pair formation method: Their impact on patterns of interaction and LREs among EFL primary school children. System, 80, 165-175.

House, S., & Scott, K. (2009). Sparks 1: Teacher’s book. London: Richmond. Retrieved from

Kim, Y., & McDonough, K. (2008). The effect of interlocutor proficiency on the collaborative dialogue between Korean as a second language learners. Language Teaching Research, 12, 211-234.

Kowal, M., & Swain, M. (1994). Using collaborative language production tasks to promote students’ language awareness. Language Awareness, 3(2), 73-93.

Kowal, M., & Swain, M. (1997). From semantic to syntactic processing: How can we promote metalinguistic awareness in the French immersion classroom? In R. Johnson & M. Swain (Eds.), Immersion education: International perspectives (pp. 284-309). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lantolf, J. P., & Appel, G. (1994). Vygotskian approaches to second language research. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Leeser, M. (2004). Learner proficiency and focus on form during collaborative dialogue. Language Teaching Research, 8, 55-81.

Long, M. H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In W. C. Ritchie & T. K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of language acquisition: Vol. 2. Second language acquisition (pp. 413-468). New York: Academic Press.

Loewen, S., & Sato, M. (2018). Interaction and instructed second language acquisition. Language Teaching, 51(3), 258-329.

Mackey, A. (1994). Targeting morpho-syntax in children’s ESL: An empirical study of the useof interactive goal-based tasks. Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, 10, 67-88.

MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES project: Tools for analyzing talk (3rd ed.). Mahwah, MJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.

Malmqvist, A. (2005). How does group discussion in reconstruction tasks affect written language output? Language Awareness, 14(2-3), 128-141.

Mozaffari, S. H. (2017). Comparing student-selected and teacher-assigned pairs on collaborative writing. Language Teaching Research, 21(4), 496-516.

Nelson, G. L., & Murphy, J. M. (1993). Peer response groups: Do L2 writers use peer comments in revising their drafts? TESOL Quarterly, 27, 135-141.

Niu, R. (2009). Effect of task-inherent production modes on EFL learners’ focus on form. Language Awareness, 18, 384-402.

Payant, C. (2018). Effects of L3 learner proficiency and task types on language mediation: A sociocultural perspective. In M. Ahmadian & M. P. García Mayo (Eds.), Recent perspectives on task-based language learning and teaching (pp. 99-120). Boston: De Gruyter.

Payant, C., & Kim, Y. K. (2017). Impact of task modality on collaborative dialogue among plurilingual learners: A classroom-based study. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 22, 614-627.

Philp, J., Walter, S., & Basturkmen, H. (2010). Peer interaction in the foreign language classroom: What factors foster a focus on form? Language Awareness, 19, 261-279.

Ross-Feldman, L. (2007). Interaction in the L2 classroom: Does gender influence learning opportunities? In A. Mackey (Ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition: A collection of empirical studies (pp. 52-77). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Russell, M. (2010). The formation of effective work groups within a FE classroom. Research in Post-compulsory Education, 20, 286-305.

Storch, N. (2002). Patterns of interaction in ESL pair work. Language Learning, 52, 119-158.

Storch, N. (2007). Investigating the merits of pair work on a text editing task in ESL classes. Language Teaching Research, 11(2), 143-159.

Storch, N., & Aldosari, A. (2013). Pairing learners in pair work activity. Language Teaching Research, 17, 31-48.

Swain, M. (1998). Focus on form through conscious reflection. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition (pp. 64-81). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Swain, M. (2000). The output hypothesis and beyond: Mediating acquisition through collaborative dialogue. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning (pp. 97-114). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (1998). Interaction and second language learning: Two adolescent French immersion students working together. Modern Language Journal, 82, 320-337.

Watanabe, Y., & Swain, M. (2007). Effects of proficiency differences and patterns of pair interaction on second language learning: Collaborative dialogue between adult ESL learners. Language Teaching Research, 11, 121-142.

Williams, J. (1999). Learner-generated attention to form. Language Learning, 51, 303-346.

Williams, J. (2001). The effectiveness of spontaneous attention to form. System, 29, 325-340.

Wood, D., Bruner, J., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 17, 89-100.