Subject Name: Foundations of Bilingual Education
Study: Máster Universitario en Educación Bilingüe
ECTS Credits: 6
Year and four month period: First year, first four month period
Type of subject: Compulsory


The aim of this subject is providing students with a sound background knowledge of the foundations of bilingual education. Unit 1 analyzes definitions of bilingualism, terms related to it and its measurement. It also accounts for the evolution of societal bilingualism overtime. Similarly, unit 2 presents the issue of second language acquisition/learning in education, the establishment of bilingual education policies, and the development of bilingualism and biliteracy. It also revises the origins and the effectiveness of bilingual education and its varieties.

Units 3, 4 and 5 make learners become familiar with the cognitive aspects of bilingualism. After a preliminary study of the language functions in the brain, and the similarities and differences between the acquisition of first and foreign languages, they explore the main language acquisition/learning theories applied to bilingual education, and examine the concepts of interlanguage and error analysis related to the development of bilingual competence in language learners.

Units 6 and 7 revise the sociolinguistic foundations of bilingualism and their application to the bilingual education contexts. Once some introductory aspects are introduced related to communication in intercultural contexts, they discuss the different classifications of bilingual education, and present the principles and theories of verbal and non-verbal communication, and the theory of Systemic Functional Linguistics.

Finally, units 8-11 offer an overview of the implementation of bilingual education programmes in diverse world regions. The review starts with North America (Canada and the United States) with the tradition of Content-Based Instruction. It continues with the cases of some Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador). Thereupon it concentrates on the bilingual education in Europe and its CLIL typical practices (the Netherlands, Belgium and Finland) moving on to some cases in the Spanish education system at both monolingual and plurilingual communities (Madrid, Andalusia, the Basque Country and Catalonia).

Basic Competences

  • BC6. Achieve and understand the knowledge that provides a base and an opportunity to be original in the development and implementation of the ideas, often in a research context.
  • BC7. That the students are able to apply the knowledge acquired and their ability to solve the problems in new or not very well known environments among wider contexts (or multidisciplinary) related to their field of study.
  • BC8. That the students are able to integrate knowledge and face the complexity of judging from an information, that being incomplete or limited, includes reflections about the social and ethic responsibilities linked to the application of their knowledge and judgements.
  • BC9. That the students know how to communicate their conclusions and knowledge and reasons that support them to specialized and non-specialized audiences in a clear and unequivocal way.
  • BC10. That the students have the abilities to learn that allow them to continue studying in such a way that will be self-directed or self-sufficient.

General Competences

  • GC1. Know the specific problems of teaching in a foreign language both linguistically and culturally, in an environment of bilingual education.
  • GC2. Develop skills to promote an atmosphere that ease learning and interaction among students.
  • GC4. Know the legislation and regulations regarding the organization and organization of bilingual centers
  • GC8. Be competent users of L2 in all the skills necessary for teaching.

Specific Competences

  • SC7. Add new teaching strategies and new information technologies to bilingual education for the design of new learning environments in the classroom.
  • SC11. Develop and implement teaching methodologies adapted to the diversity of students in a bilingual environment.
  • SC12. Be able to foster the application of different techniques and procedures to develop the students’ abilities.
  • SC13. Know and apply the advantages of the communicative approach and task-based learning for linguistic interaction in two languages
  • SC14. Integrate training in audiovisual and multimedia communication in the teaching and learning process.

Transversal Competences

  • TC1. Analyze reflexively and criticize the most important issues of today's society for a coherent decision-making.
  • TC2. Identify new technologies as teaching tools for communication exchange in the development of processes of investigation and group learning.
  • TC3. Apply the knowledge and skills acquired by the studies to real cases and in an environment of workgroups in companies or organizations.
  • TC4. Acquire the ability to work independently, promoting the organization and encouraging independent learning.

Unit 1. Bilingualism

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Definitions and related terms
  • Measurement of individual bilingualism
  • Factors involved in individual bilingualism & their consequence on bilinguals´ classification
  • Development of individual bilingualism
  • Bibliographical references

Unit 2. Bilingual education

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Bilingual education in perspective
  • Varieties of bilingual education: Advantages & problems
  • Language development in bilingual education
  • Bibliographical references

Unit 3. Introduction to the psycholinguistic foundations of bilingualism

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Languages, brains and bilingual education
  • The acquisition of the mother tongue (L1)
  • Similarities, differences & factors affecting the L1 and the L2/FL acquisition/learning
  • The development of literacy
  • Bibliographical references

Unit 4. Psycholinguistic theories & application to bilingual education I

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Different classifications & multiple terms
  • Behaviourism
  • Innatism
  • The monitor´s model
  • Cognitivism
  • Bibliographical references

Unit 5. Psycholinguistic theories & application to bilingual education II

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Interactionism
  • Environmentalism
  • Psycholinguistic theories for the content curriculum & language development in bilingual education
  • Interlanguage
  • Bibliographical references

Unit 6. Sociolinguistic foundations of bilingualism & application to bilingual education I

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Language & society in synchronic Sociolinguistics
  • Language change in diachronic Sociolinguistics
  • Languages in society & language policies
  • Intercultural communication & competence

Unit 7. Sociolinguistic foundations of bilingualism & application to bilingual education II

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Communication: Definitions, elements, models & acts
  • Features of verbal communication
  • Features of non-verbal communication
  • Pragmatics: Principles, theories & interaction models
  • Communicative competence
  • Bibliographical references

Unit 8. Bilingualism & bilingual education in practice I: The case of North America

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Historical overview of bilingualism in North America
  • The present situation of bilingualism & bilingual education in Canada
  • The present situation of bilingualism and bilingual education in the United States
  • The North American model of Content-Based Instruction
  • Bibliographical references

Unit 9. Bilingualism & bilingual education in practice II: The case of Europe

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Linguistic diversity in Europe & in European schools
  • European actions to foster plurilingualism & bi-/plurilingual education     
  • CLIL European actions
  • CLIL in plurilingual education programmes
  • Bibliographical references
  • Unit 10. Bilingualism & bilingual education in practice III: The case of Spain

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Spanish education laws for the learning of and in foreign languages
  • CLIL implementations in Spain
  • Bi-/plurilingual education models in monolingual & bi-/plurilingual communities
  • Bibliographical references

Unit 11. Bilingualism & bilingual education in practice IV: The case of Latin America

  • Introduction & objectives
  • Linguistic diversity in Latin America
  • Plurilingual and multilingual trends
  • Bilingual education in the diverse sub-regions
  • Current trends in bilingual education in Latin America
  • Bibliographical references

The different tasks and activities programmed during the semester have been developed with the goal of adapting the learning process to the different capabilities, necessities and interests of the students.

The activities included in the subject are:

  • Assignments.In your weekly program you will see the different kind of tasks designed for the course such as practice cases, research, critical thinking and, also, you will find information about how to complete them and when to send them to your teacher.
  • Participation in events. During the course you will be participating in different events. Some of those events are attendance to online classes, forums, self-evaluation tests.
Download program

These activities are combined with the following aspects:

  • Personal Study
  • Tutoring. The tutoring class can be implemented through different tools and means. During the course of the subject, the teacher-tutor plans the individual tutoring on specific days for the resolution of academic-oriented doubts through “Consultation sessions”. Supplementing these sessions, students have also available the “Ask your teacher” forum through which they can formulate questions and check the corresponding answers on general aspects of the subject.  Due to the very nature of the media used, there are no fixed schedules for the students.
  • Mandatory on-site final exam

The hours dedicated to each activity are detailed as follows:

Attendance to virtual classes 15 hours 100%
Master lessons 6 hours 0
Basic material study 50 hours 0
Additional resources readings 25 hours 0
Task and practice cases and self-evaluation test 29 hours 0
Tutoring 16 hours 30%
Collaborative work, forums, debates, etc. 7 hours 0
Attendance to the exam 2 hours 100%
Total 150 hours -

You can personalize your study plan choosing the type of activity that best matches your profile. The tutor will advise you and help you elaborate your study plan. S/he will always be available to guide throughout the course.

Basic bibliography

The section Basic Bibliography is essential for the course. If any document (reading, article,…) is not available in the virtual classroom, you will have to find it by other means: UNIR bookshop, virtual library…

Additional bibliography

  • British Council (2015). English in Latin America: An examination of policy and priorities in seven countries. Retrieved from:
  • Dörnyei, Z. & Ryan, S. (2015). The psychology of the language learner revisited. New York: Routledge
  • Escobar, A. M. (2013). Bilingualism in Latin America. In T.K. Bhatia & W.C. Ritchie, The handbook of bilingualism and multilingualism. London,: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • García, O. (2013). Bilingual education in the 21st century. A global perspective. Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Mackey, W.F. (2013). Bilingualism and multilingualism in North America. In T.K. Bhatia & W.C. Ritchie, The handbook of bilingualism and multilingualism (pp. 707-724.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Skinner, B. F. (2014). Verbal Behavior Paperback. USA: Echo Point Books & Media.

The evaluation system is based on the following numerical chart:

0 - 4, 9 Suspenso (SS)
5,0 - 6,9 Aprobado (AP)
7,0 - 8,9 Notable (NT)
9,0 - 10 Sobresaliente (SB)

The grade is made up of two components:

On-site final exam (60%). At the end of the semester, you need to assist a mandatory on-site final exam. You need to pass the final exam so the grade obtained from the assignments (continuous assessment) is summed up to the final grade of the subject. 

Continuous assessment (40%): this type of assessment will be measured through the different assignments you need to complete during the course:

    • Active participation and involvement in forums, online classes.
    • Tasks. The completion of the different activities the students need to send through our virtual classroom such as research, critical thinking, practice cases.
    • Self-evaluation tests. At the end of each unit, students will find a short quiz which will help the students to check the knowledge acquired during the course.

Remember that you can check the points (value) of each assignment in the weekly program.

Take into account that the sum of the grades of the assignments included in the continuous assessment is 6 points. You can do as many as you want to until a maximum grade of 4 points (which is the maximum grade you will be obtaining in the continuous assessment)In the weekly program, you can find the grade of each assignment.

Assessment method
SCORE min - max
Participation in forums, classes, etc. 0% - 10%
Task, practice cases and activities 10% - 40%
Self-evaluation test 0% - 10%
On-site final exam 60% - 60%

Alexandra Santamaría Urbieta

Education: PhD on Translation. MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Spanish as a Foreign Language. Degree on Translation and Interpreting.

Professional experience: Currently: Associate Professor at UNIR, Universidad de Alcalá and Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. 

Lines of research: Bilingual education, CLIL, English-Mediated Instruction, Innovation, Translation. 


Studying online means you can organize your study as you wish, as long as you meet the due dates of the different assignments (activities, tasks and tests). In order to help you, we propose the following steps:

  1. From our online platform you will have access to each of the subjects you are enrolled. Apart from this, the virtual classroom of Lo que necesitas saber antes de empezar (All you need to know before starting). In this section, you have available all the documents on how to use the different tools included in the virtual classroom, how a subject is organized and you will also have the possibility to organize your study plan with the tutor.
  2. Do not forget to check the weekly program. You will see which part of the content of the course you have to work on every week.
  3. After knowing your work for the week, go to Temas in your virtual classroom. There, you will have access to the study material (theory and practice) from the unit you need to study throughout the week.
  4. Start by reading the Key ideas of each unit, there you will find the specific study material and it will help you understand the most important points of the unit. Afterwards, check out the sections Specially Recommended and More Information where you will find more resources in order to deepen on the topic of the unit. .
  5. Devote some time to the practical cases and tasks in the subject (assignments and test). Remember that in your weekly program you find all the information related to the schedule for each assignment and the maximum grade you can obtain in each of them.
  6. We strongly recommend you to participate in the Events of the course (online classes, forums….). To know the precise schedule of the events, you need to check the communications tools in the virtual platform. Your teacher and tutor will inform you on the updates of the course.

In the virtual classroom of Lo que necesitas saber antes de empezar (All you need to know before starting) you will always find available information on the structure of the units and information on their sections

Remember that in Lo que necesitas saber antes de empezar (All you need to know before starting) you can check how the different tools of the virtual classroom work: email, forum, online classes, sending the tasks, etc.

Please, take into account the following tips…

  • Whatever you study plan is, go often to the virtual classroom so that you are always up to date about the course and you are in contact with your teacher and your tutor.
  • Remember you are not alone: send an email to your tutor if you have any doubt. If you attend the online classes, you can also ask your teacher about the contents of the unit. Also, you can always write your doubts and questions about  the contents in the Forum of each subject (Ask the teacher).
  • Be active and participate!  Whenever it is possible, attend the online classes and take part in the forums. The exchange of information, opinions, ideas and resources enrich us and the course.
  • And, remember, you are studying online: your effort and perseverance are the key element to obtain good results. Don’t leave everything to the last minute!!!