Number one for English language teachers

Assessment

There was much discussion on the topic of assessment. Colleagues stressed that CLiL means that both the content and the language are taught and that is why both should be evaluated at the same time. Another colleague suggested an alternative way of doing assessment is a mark for content and a separate mark for language. In response to this last suggestion it's important to add the question which was posed 'Can you actually separate the two out? (I think not).' This colleague then goes on to say that where a student is 'excellent at say Geography, but who is not a good language learner and is therefore unable to express themselves in English ... They are NOT being tested on their knowledge of Geography as the questions are in a language they aren't good at and the answers are required in a language they are unable to express themselves in'.

Anchor Point:1Teach to the test

Quote: 'Teachers will do whatever is needed for the public assessment.'

While this may be true for EFL, it is only true in terms of the language of the curriculum. UCLES don't test CAE candidates on their knowledge of acid rain, though the topic may appear in CAE textbooks. They use this topic as a context for, say, discursive essay writing.

Anchor Point:2Content or language?

Quote: 'When teachers write the assessment they have a dilemma … do they focus on the content or the language?'

In the UK, more and more teachers are focusing on the language of their subjects specifically to support EAL learners, and to assess EAL learners. This is an example where the language plays a clear role in content assessment. Geri Smyth's book 'helping bilingual pupils to access the curriculum' by Geri Smyth (David Fulton Publishers 2003) gives nice examples of where and how this can work in practice. The question for ELTs is likely to be 'what should the content be'? This opens up a can of worms which demands cross department discussion and agreement about what is taught in different but consecutive parts of the curriculum to make decisions about what is taught by whom, when and where. Sadly, this may never happen anywhere on a national scale in our lifetime. But it also raises some interesting issues for the language teacher generally, one which has them looking at 'language' more globally, rather than just a 'foreign language'. It has language teachers teaching 'content skills', it sees language teaching as trouble shooting as issues occur in the content classrooms.

Anchor Point:3Accuracy and very young learners

A colleague in Italy suggests not to assess accuracy during CLIL activities with very young learners but only fluency and interaction: '... we mainly assess the content by using different assessment activities (drama, PPT, posters, half sentences, fill in the gap, multiple choices) and we also do an assessment activity in mother tongue (sometimes a bad result in an English test doesn't mean that the child didn't learn the content but it could mean that he wasn't able to understand the language). We assess the language skills through observation during the activities and worksheets that are used during the "normal" English lessons.'

Anchor Point:4Risks of CLIL assessment

Other colleagues stress fundamental questions regarding CLIL assessment: 'what is being assessed, by whom - and why? And how can kids who are weak in the FL not feel at a disadvantage ... or are we implying they are, and that's life? Which brings one to educational responsibility.'  And one colleague was left feeling that we only succeeded in 'skirting the issue of assessment without really looking at it in any meaningful way.'

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