Maria del Pilar Jiminez-Villarejo

University of Navarra, Spain

Pilar Gerns is a German and Spanish postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS), a centre for interdisciplinary research at the University of Navarra, Spain. As a research member of the group Public Discourse, she is investigating different topics related to language and discourse analysis. She holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Navarra, a BA in English Studies from the UNED, a MA with honours in Teaching Social Science and Foreign Languages in Secondary School from the University of Santiago de Compostela and a PhD cum laude from the Univ. of Navarra.

She conducted a postdoctoral research stay under the supervision of Prof. Maria Ellison at the University of Porto and forms part of the CETAPS group. As part of it, she offered two accredited courses on bilingual education (CLIL) to secondary school teachers and she is conducting a field project with different bilingual schools, co-financed by the European COST agency (CA21114 CLILNetLE), is a European research and innovation network through which different experts examine some of the current challenges related to the issue of disciplinary literacy in bilingual/CLIL education.

CLIL in secondary education and teacher education

Pilar Gerns developed her thesis on the concept of cognitive discourse functions (CDFs) (Dalton-Puffer, 2013) in secondary science writing, the results of which were presented in different conferences and publications. Currently, she is working as a member of the group Public Discourse at the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) at the University of Navarra, investigating different topics related to language and discourse analysis. She is also a lecturer at the master’s degree in teaching social science and foreign languages in secondary education.


  • Action CA21114 – COST Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM): Cognitive Discourse Functions as a starting point for developing subject-specific literacies. E-COST-GRANT-CA21114-3dbe748d
  • CA21114 – CLIL Network for Languages in Education: Towards bi- and multilingual disciplinary literacies (CLILNetLE).
  • “La escuela de mis sueños” – Una perspectiva crítica de los sistemas escolares y propuestas educativas de mejora. (03.2023 -07.2023). Funding from the ILLF—Innovative Teaching and Learning Formats.
  • ENEBE (EVALUACIÓN NACIONAL DE LA ENSEÑANZA BILINGÜE EN ESPAÑA). Asociación de la Enseñanza Bilingüe en España.
  • Erasmus + programme: KNowledgE alliance for Social Innovation in Shrinking villages (KiNESIS). Ref. 621651-EPP-1-2020-1-IT-EPPKA2-KA. Period: 01/01/2021 -06.2024.
  • Erasmus + programme: Covid, Migrants and Minorities in Teacher Education: A Fake News Observatory to promote critical thinking and digital literacy in times of crisis (CoMMiTTEd). Ref. 2020-1-DE01-KA226-HE-005742. Period: 01/03/2021 – 28/02/2023.

Postdoctoral research study in Porto  

Since January 2023, Pilar Gerns  has been carrying out a postdoctoral research study under the supervision of Professor Maria Ellison.

During the first months, she got permission to visit different secondary schools and analyse how bilingual teaching (CLIL) is being carried out at the classroom level and to examine CLIL teachers’ use of CDFs in classroom interaction. To do so, she relied on classroom observations, recordings, and interviews with teachers.

After several months of analysing the situation of CLIL/bilingual education in school in Porto, it was agreed to create a course to train teachers in bilingual education. In view of the need, a course on this matter was created. This initiative was supported by the Recovery and Resilience Plan/ Plano de recuperação e Resiliência português (RRP) of Portugal and by a Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) from the European network CA21114 COST ACTION. The objective was to carry out a small exploratory study focused on the concept of cognitive functions of discourse (CDF) (Dalton-Puffer, 2013), which presents a good starting point to address language and ways of thinking specific to each discipline (their disciplinary literacies).

This research action has consisted of providing different teachers in Porto with training on CLIL, Cognitive Functions of Discourse (CDF) and disciplinary literacy. The fundamental pillars of CLIL teaching were explained to them and they were familiarized with the CDF framework by showing them concrete examples. Afterwards, they had to develop a teaching unit for CLIL, which included the CDFs.

In October 2023, Pilar Gerns will begin to analyse the impact that the training course has had on the teachers’ teaching practice. This will be evaluated through post-course interviews and classroom observations.

This action aimed, on the one hand, to support the implementation of CLIL in Portugal, which, compared to other countries, is still in its infancy and requires more guidance. On the other hand, it is hoped that by raising teachers’ awareness of the concepts of CDF and disciplinary literacy by analysing them together, they could begin to understand and use them in their CLIL teaching and provide valuable knowledge when defining and exploring the linguistic characteristics of their disciplines.

Pilar Gerns also formed part of the Organizing Committee of the third international WORKING CLIL colloquium (Moving CLIL forward: Towards sustainable educational practices), which was held at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Porto on July 13 and 14, 2023.

Research stays

  • Postdoctoral research stay with Prof. Maria Ellison at the University of Porto, Faculty of Arts and Humanities. (09/01/2023 – 08/01/2024).
  • Postdoctoral Erasmus + research stay with Prof. Tarja Nikula at the University of Jyväskylä, Centre for Applied Language Studies (CALS). (29/09/2022 – 13/10/2022).
  • Postdoctoral Erasmus + research stay with Prof. Silvia Melo-Pfeifer at the University of Hamburg, Faculty of Education. (08/05/2022 -23/05/2022).

Doctoral research stay with Prof. Dalton-Puffer at the University of Vienna, Department of English and American Studies. (01/07/2018 – 15/07/2018).


  • Gerns, P. (2023). Qualitative insights and a first evaluation tool for teaching with cognitive discourse function: “comparing” in the CLIL science classroom. Porta Linguarum An International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching and Learning, (40), 161–179.




  • Breeze, R., & Gerns Jiménez-Villarejo, P. (2019). Building literacies in secondary school history: The specific contribution of academic writing support. EuroAmerican Journal of Applied Linguistics and Languages, 6(1), 21–36.



  • Araújo e Sá, M. H. (coord.), Gerwers, F. (coord.), Gintsburg, S. (coord.), Spotti, M. (coord.), Ambrósio, S., Breeze, R., Brinkmann, L., Dedecek Gertz, H., De Ruiter, J. J.. Garde, E., Gerns, P., Gonçalves, M., Lucas, M., Martins, F., McMonagle, S., Melo-Pfeifer, S., Oliveira, L. S., Senos, S., Simões, A. R., Teixeira, M., Torres, R. (2023). Covid, Migrants and Minorities in Teacher Education: A Fake News Observatory to Promote Critical Thinking and Digital Literacy in Times of Crisis.


  • R., & Gerns, P. (2018). Developing Creativity in Content & Language Integrated Learning. Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Navarra. ISBN: 978-84-8081-609-0.



Working CLIL