Cognitive content engagement in content-based language teaching

Wai Yu Stella KONG, Philip HOARE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports a study of aspects of pedagogy that can bring about students’ cognitive engagement with academic content and, thus, use of the academic language in content-based language lessons in three middle schools in Xi’an, China. Two criteria – academic content level and depth of processing – were used to determine cognitive content engagement by students. A detailed analysis of three lessons taught by the same teacher is presented in this article. These are selected to highlight the differences between teaching that facilitated engagement and the use of the academic language and teaching that failed to do so. The analysis shows that engagement seemed to occur when the teacher focused the content on challenging technical academic knowledge and helped students explore this content in depth. She focused on relationships between meanings rather than facts in isolation and demanded the processing of knowledge in different ways, which created the space for the use of academic language. She structured her lessons in a cyclical manner and exploited the feedback moves in the predominantly initiation–response–feedback (IRF) classroom interaction pattern to facilitate deep processing. She also had clear content and language learning objectives. Copyright © 2011 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-324
JournalLanguage Teaching Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


Kong, S., & Hoare, P. (2011). Cognitive content engagement in content-based language teaching. Language Teaching Research, 15(3), 307-324.


  • Cognitive content engagement
  • Content-based language teaching (CBLT)
  • Content-language pedagogy


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