In the final article of this series, Kay Bentley looks at how we can best support learners both before and during tests.
All testing should be fair and not disadvantage learners. This statement is particularly true for learners in CLIL programmes who may have the subject knowledge and understand curricular concepts in their L1 but who cannot yet communicate it effectively in the CLIL language.
To ensure fairness, teachers can use accommodation strategies or ‘accommodations’ (McKay, 2006). These are forms of support used during tests to give learners an opportunity to perform at their best. They are designed to avoid feelings of frustration and inadequacy, especially at the start of CLIL programmes.
The reasons for using them may be because of complex language presented in questions, in texts or in the descriptions of test tasks. For example, learners may be able to do the mathematical calculations to solve a problem but cannot understand the description of the problem because the language is impenetrable for them.
If it is possible and appropriate, teachers should plan for support before testing occurs as they have to consider if support is to be carried out before or during the test. The aim is to facilitate processing of testing materials.
Examples of accommodation strategies include:
Before the test
- simplifying instructions and questions
- simplifying language in problems
- simplifying text
- inserting visuals, diagrams or further examples
- translating some instructions and questions
- deciding which learners need more support to understand questions
During the test
- allowing extra time e.g. EAL (English as an Additional Language). Learners can have 25% extra time in external exams during their first year of studying English
- providing bilingual dictionaries, glossaries and subject-related word banks
- reading instructions aloud
- paraphrasing instructions
- giving encouragement
- allowing learners to ask questions and record them
However, some of these accommodation strategies may not be possible in certain contexts. If learners are doing summative external tests, many of these cannot be used. In some contexts, any speaking during a test would be considered inappropriate. It is also important that learners realize that, as with all scaffolding, these accommodations are temporary.
In TKT: CLIL, knowledge of accommodation strategies, when they are appropriate and why they are used are tested in Part 2 of the test.
McKay, P. (2006) Assessing Young Language Learners Cambridge: CUP