The new Curriculum emphasises that assessment should “take place in interaction between the teacher and pupils” (FNBE 2014/2016: p. 49) and recognises that “each teacher is a language instructor” (p. 135). One clear change from the previous version relates to the shift of focus from assessment of learning outcomes to guiding and promoting learning. Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), which has a dual focus on both language and content, offers an interesting context to explore how school communities tackle these changes in assessment guidelines and how they assess language and content together. This made us wonder, what do these changes mean for CLIL assessment?
Because of the changes and since there is little research on CLIL assessment (but see Wewer, 2014), the three of us wanted to explore it in the classroom. Thanks to ReCLaS funding for research activities, we were able to develop our ideas into an action plan with the eventual aim to write a conceptual paper defining classroom assessment in CLIL.
As the first step, we decided to find out what is going on in different CLIL classrooms and ask CLIL teachers what they think assessment is and how and why they use it. For this purpose, but also to establish contacts with CLIL teachers, we visited two schools in Turku. The idea was not so much to make a research visit involving data collection, but to get ideas that would get us going and develop our thinking.
During our visit, we had a chance to go to two schools that have CLIL teaching in different languages. To kick off the trip, we went to Vähä-Heikkilä School, which offers CLIL in French. After having a discussion with our wonderful host Satu Koistinen and other staff members, we went to observe a first grade Mathematics lesson and a sixth grade History lesson. We were impressed by how willing and ready the pupils were to use French, whether it was in daily routines, role plays, or in dealing with pretty challenging subject-specific concepts related to Gustav Vasa.
After enjoying a lunch at Vähä-Heikkilä, we spent the afternoon at Puolala School, where the repertoire of CLIL languages includes English, German, and Russian. The school’s strong emphasis on language education is reflected in the impressive number of 28 weekly language lessons that has to juggle in timetable. We had a chance to visit three classes: 3rd grade Drama in German, 5th grade lesson combining the English language and Art taught by and EFL teacher, and 6th grade Geography lesson on global warming. It was really interesting to see such diversity in CLIL teaching, not only in terms of different languages and language use contexts and genres, but also in terms of activities and the physical organisation of classrooms. To wrap up the day, we heard from our host Hanna Laakio and other teachers how the school has responded to the recent curriculum change, and what benefits and challenges such a large number of staff working on CLIL brings at the local level of curricular work. One thing that was raised in the discussion was the need for increased documentation of assessment.
Turku seemed to be empowered by good cooperation and collaboratively constructed guidelines. It would be worthwhile to expand this kind of networking to a nation-wide discussion where, in spite of local differences in assessment, the teachers could share best practices and ideas on assessment.
Overall, the trip was simultaneously a relaxed and a thought-intensive experience that showed that teachers do consider assessment to be an important part of the CLIL classroom and it is definitely worth exploring more. Once again, many thanks to our kind hosts for letting us in their classrooms!
Dmitri, Kristiina & Teppo
FNBE 2014 = Finnish National Core Curriculum for Basic Education (2014). English version 2016. Helsinki: Finnish National Board of Education. Publications 2016: 5.
Wewer, T. (2014). Assessment of young learners’ English proficiency in bilingual content instruction CLIL. University of Turku. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from