The (most) common questions about assessment in CLIL

March 5, 2018


Tests in a CLIL setting

So, in your CLIL lessons you:

  • keep an eye on the language output of students
  • make sure students are engaged with the tasks you prepared for them
  • motivate students to speak English all the time.

So far so good right? Indeed! But you are not done yet. Because once students are done with their work, you will have to look at what they have done and check if it meets your standards. In other words: assessment in CLIL.

The most common questions

During many workshops I hosted the questions I received about assessment in CLIL were quite different. In this blog post I want to cover the most common questions encountered during these workshops. So let’s start!

Assess or evaluate?

The first topic that leads to confusion is the difference between assessment or evaluation. (Or even feedback, for that matter, but I won’t discuss that here). So, what is the difference between the two?

An evaluation is the (subjective) means to look back at a certain event or happening, of which the value is concidered to be something worthy of checking.

An assessment is the (objective) way of measuring a predefined set of knowledge, amongst other things.

In other words: in this post I will primarily be looking at: What role does CLIL play in the tests I create for my students?

Assess language or content?

This is probably the question generating the most ‘buzz’. I have had quite a few interesting disucssions on this topic, as teachers tend to think differently on this topic.

Which is fine.

As long as everyone does the same.

It would be unfair if one teacher corrects language mistakes in a history test and reflects these mistakes in a grade, when another history teacher does not.

However, generally speaking, most teachers I spoke with feel they should provide feedback on language in class and clarify the mistakes on tests, but not reflect this in a grade.

Alternatively, you could do a project every once in a while, where part of the grade is determined by a presentation or another language output activity. This will allow for an assessment on language.

Formative or summative?

Just to clarify: formative assessment is a more diagnostic way of assessment. This might include providing feedback to students if they are on the right track.

Summative assessment is focused more on the achievement of students at a specific point in time.  Quite often resulting in a grade. As such, tests are always summative.

So, if tests are summative, what about language?

As mentioned: language might not be part of the assessment in tests. However, language can (and maybe: should) play a role in formative assessment throughout the topic/paragraph/chapter you are discussing.

But that takes so much time…

Teachers find time to be a challenge in most countries. Formative assessment tends to be limited to the occasional checking of homework or asking students to explain certain problems. That is fine, but using tools like Kahoot, Socrative or Quizizz, formative assessment can actually be a fun and interesting way of checking what you still have to focus on during the last lessons for a test.


In a CLIL lesson, assessment happens a lot. This can be either formative assessment on both content and language, as well as summative assessment on content (or language, if you choose to). There is not really a right or wrong here, but I would challenge you to discuss this with your colleagues and see what they think about it and together come up with a way to make assessment important in your CLIL lessons.

Do you have other questions? Post them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!


Want to know more about assessment in CLIL? Read all about it in “Putting CLIL into practice” by Phil Ball, Keith Kelly and John Clegg.


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}