"Currently mostCLIL initiativesrely onstandardnationalsystems ofassessmentbecause thereare usually nospecific testsor syllabusesto cater for aCLILapproach."
foreign language acquisition through continuousexposure to FL 'comprehensible input'. A CLILcontext is ideally suited to providing this kind ofinput.This approach to teaching a foreign language, byusing it as a medium, has been hailed by many ashighly effective (Cook, 1992; Dornyei, 1995;Johnson and Swain, 1997; Peltzer-Karpf and Zangl,1997;Nuffield Foundation, 2000; Baker, 2001;Bialystok, 2002). These researchers claim that theapproach results in improved metalinguistic skills,better mental flexibility, better fluency andinteractive skills, better strategic skills and a betterrange of vocabulary. However, although there hasbeen corroboration of these claims, there is littleevidence of work with CLIL teachers themselves toinvestigate their views of the nature of these skillsand their ways of assessing them.The benefits of CLIL teaching are not entirelyseparate from mainstream FL teaching, particularlywhere the latter is carried out with a high level oftarget language use. A CLIL approach can thus helpto improve general FL skills, including: the ability tomaster language collocations (Ellis, 2001; Nation,2001);and initiative and independence (identified aslacking by OFSTED, Dobson, 1998). The ongoingneed for pupils in a CLIL context to use the foreignlanguage frequently also helps to provide manyopportunities to practise (Naiman
1978;Dornyei, 1995) and should help to counteract thehigh level of 'forgetting' language items noted byMitchell and Dickson (1997). There are, too, moregeneral leaming benefits to be derived from a CLILapproach. Greene
(1999) outline a range offunctional strategic skills in a general learningcontext where there is a 'move from an automatic toa deliberate level of analysis and action' (p. 145).These skills include seeking connections betweenideas, taking multiple perspectives and takingresponsibility for leaming, all of which have beenidentified as key skills developed in a CLIL context(Baker, 2001). A secondary school needs to preparestudents for life beyond school in today'semployment market, where it is necessary to 'multiskill and to use skills in a variety of contexts'(Brown, 2000; see also Handy, 1995 and 1999). Thismulti-skilling is also one of the demands made on theCLIL learner.
CLIL and assessment
There is, however, some problem with CLIL andassessment. Currently most CLIL initiatives rely onstandard national systems of assessment becausethere are usually no specific tests or syllabuses tocater for a CLIL approach. Here the concem is not somuch the assessment of the subjects taught throughthe foreign language (although this can beproblematic too), but rather the improved languageskills acquired by the leamer. Writers and researchershave commented on this difficulty. Cook (1992)remarks on the lack of an adequate syllabus formulti-competent L2 leamers. Umbel
(1992) callfor new kinds of tests for bilingual pupils: 'Asyllabus that does not take the particular nature of L2users into account will be inadequate ... Newinstruments will have to be devised ... in order toassess total lexical knowledge in bilingual children'
1019). Rea-Dickens and Gardner (2000) challengecurrent assessment procedures for bilingual(immigrant) pupils: 'should we expeet significantlydifferent pattems of assessment in contexts wherepupils are working with a language of instmction thatis a second or
third language to them, and ... should[there] be a separately identifiable literature(research and praxis) from that currently availablefor language education?'
239). Even in the area ofcommunicative and strategic competence, which arekey benefits of a CLIL approach, there is a lack ofappropriate measurement. Read (2000) suggests that'the assessment of communication strategies, and ofstrategic competence generally, is an underdevelopedarea of study' (p. 71).There is then a general vagueness about how CLILassessment might be robustly constructed. Marsh,Maljaers and Hartiala (2001), in their overview ofCLIL praetice in European schools, provide apositive gloss on assessment (within what they terman 'environmental dimension') by citinginternational qualifications (the InternationalBaccalaureate, Alliance Franpaise and Goethe-Institut), but without referring to the real tensionsthat may exist between a system able to reflect newskills aequired and one which is compatible withnational qualifieations. In Grenfell's (2002) editedcollection of analyses and reports on different CLILinitiatives, where there is some mention ofdifficulties in assessment (Coonan, 2002: 110; Perez-Vidal, 2002: 126;
2002: 85), there is no realanalysis of
to evaluate the qualitatively differentlanguage skills which can result from a CLILlearning experience. The difficulties identifiedmerely point to the problem of deciding whether toassess content or language. There is recognition ofthe need for change (Wolff 2002: 85) but fewconcrete suggestions as to how this might beoperationalised. Coonan (2002: 110) mentions theCouncil of Europe Framework of Reference (dealtwith in more detail below) suggesting that this is'suitable for the specific characteristics of CLILleaming' but does not specify what thesecharacteristics are, nor how the new Couneil ofEurope suggestions will cater for them.One way forward in thinking about assessment inCLIL or bilingual contexts is a more detailedconsideration of the particular language skillsacquired in these eontexts, and in the projectundertaken this was a main focus with informationbeing gleaned from the teachers involved in this kindof teaching, followed up by eonsideration ofassessment systems.
THE RESEARCH PROJECT:SCHOOLS AND CONTEXTS
A small-scale research project was carried out in twoschools currently using a bilingual or CLIL approach(the Vienna Bilingual Schooling First Middle Sehool(VBS) and the Bolitho School in Penzance) during
Language Leaming Journal