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Helena ReierstamSenior lecturer

About me

My research interests include assessment, multilingualism, language development across the curriculum, academic literacy, content and language integrated learning (CLIL), language policy in curricula and international comparative education. I have many years of experience from teaching and school development at various school levels in Sweden and a couple of years in the USA. I have worked as a director of education at the Swedish National Agency for Education where I have been responsible for the national tests in English as a foreign language and modern languages.  I have also been involved in the development of national frameworks for all the national tests. At Stockholm University I have been part of special interest groups around examinations, student retention, language across the curriculum for vocational teachers and I have given lectures on assessment at the Centre for the Advancement of University Teaching.



My research evolves around assessment of subject matter knowledge in multilingual teaching contexts. In my dissertation from 2020, I compare teachers’ experiences of assessment in the natural and the social sciences among second language learners, both in high schools where English is used as a medium of instruction (CLIL/EMI) and schools with newly arrived migrant students. In teaching contexts where students have not yet acquired the advanced language skills that are required in the curricula, issues arise when students are assessed on their subject content knowledge: Is it the students’ language skills that are insufficient, their understanding of subject content that falls short, or maybe a combination of both?  The conclusion is that questions of validity concerning access before assessment (if students have been given the opportunity to learn necessary language) and the consequences/usefulness of assessment outcomes need to be addressed if the assessment is to be considered fair, valid and comparable.

Based on my two studies, language policy as expressed in national curricula come to the fore: Should Swedish always be the target language in assessment, what about English, or a mix of the students’ strongest languages, sometimes referred to as translanguaging? What are the consequences of differing policies?



At Stockholm University I teach courses in didactics, assessment for student teachers and vocational teachers. I also teach a course in Communication, leadership and health and lecture at the International master program in International and Comparative Education. I supervise student theses and I am part of the in-service training for student teachers.


Research groups and network

ICER, International and Comparative Education Research group, IPD, Stockholm University,

NUEX, Network for teaching and examinations, Stockholm University.

FRAM, The didactics of foreign languages, national research school.

CLISS, Content and language integrated learning in Swedish schools, University of Gothenburg.



Reierstam, H. (October 14, 2021). Teaching and assessment in linguistically diverse settings. Merging interests for equity in education. Teachers Matter, Linnéuniversity, Växjö, Sweden.

Reierstam, H & Hellstén, M. (September 6, 2021). Comparability in Learner Assessment: a Prescriptive for Diversity. Virtual presentation at ECER (The European Conference on Educational Research), Geneva, Switzerland (online).

Reierstam, H. (September, 24, 2020). Fairness and Comparability in Assessment. Teachers' experiences in multilingual secondary education. Presentation at the ICER Colloquium, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.

Reierstam, H. (October 3, 2019). Assessment in CLIL. Chapter presentation at book release. The CLISS-symposium. University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Reierstam, H. (March 7, 2019). Subject content teachers’ perceptions of language: a comparative study of assessment in CLIL and migrant education. Paper presented at Nordic Educational Research Association, NERA, Uppsala, Sweden.

Reierstam, H. (December 13, 2018). Subject content teachers' perceptions of language: a comparative study of assessment in CLIL and migrant education. Paper presented at Tokyo Training Program, Education for Sustainable Development, Tokyo University, Japan.

Reierstam, H. (December 1, 2018). Assessing content or language? A comparative study of science teachers' assessment practices in CLIL context and among migrant students in Swedish upper secondary education. Paper presented at East-Asian Association for Science Education, EASE, Hualien, Taiwan.

Reierstam, H. (October 30, 2018). Språkets roll vid bedömning av ämneskunskap bland andraspråksinlärare. Ämneslärares bedömningspraktiker bland nyanlända och i CLIL, skillnader och likheter. Paper presented at Lärarnas forskningskonferens, Tumba, Sweden.

Reierstam, H. (April 21, 2016). Bedöma språk och/eller innehåll? Normer i teori och praktik. Paper presented at the national symposium, ASLA, (Association Suédoise de Lingustique Appliqué) Uppsala, Sweden.

Reierstam, H. (April 8, 2016). Bedöma språk och/eller innehåll? Hur då? Lecture at Centre for Professional Development and Internalisation in Schools, (Fortbildningsavdelningen) Uppsala University.

Reierstam, H. (October 13, 2015). Plenary speaker at Conference for French Teachers, Skolporten, Stockholm, Sweden.

Reierstam, H. (March , 2015). Bedöma språk eller innehåll? En jämförande studie av bedömningspraktik i tre svenska gymnasieskolor med internationell CLIL-profil. Paper presented at Uppdrag språk, LMS (Lärarna i moderna språk) conference.

Reierstam, H. (October 28, 2014). Bedöma språk eller innehåll? En jämförande studie av skriftlig bedömningspraktik i tre svenska gymnasieskolor med internationell CLIL-profil. Paper presented at Lärarnas forskningskonferens (Teachers’ Research Conference), Stockholm, Sweden.

Reierstam, H. (May 13, 2014). Assessing Language or Content. A comparative study of assessment practices in two Swedish upper secondary CLIL schools. Paper presented at AILA-Europe/AFinLA: The 6th Junior Research meeting in Applied Linguistics, Jyväskylä, Finland.

Reierstam, H. (April 24, 2014). Assessing Language or Content. A comparative study of assessment practices in three Swedish upper secondary CLIL schools. Paper presented at Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, Belgium.

Reierstam, H. (April 9, 2014). Bedöma språk eller innehåll? En jämförande studie av skriftlig bedömningspraktik i tre svenska gymnasieskolor med internationell CLIL-profil. Paper presented at Nationell ämnesdidaktisk konferens, NÄD, Göteborg, Sweden.



Reierstam, H. (2021). Bedöma språk eller innehåll? Språkets roll vid bedömning i språk- och ämnesintegrerad undervisning. I Bardel, C., Erickson, G., Granfeldt, J. & Rosén C. (red) Forskarskolan FRAM – lärare forskar i de främmande språkens didaktik. Stockholm University Press. (s.219-243)

Reierstam H & Hellstén, M. (2021). Linguistic diversity and comparability in educational assessment. In: Hernandez-Serrano M. J. (ed) Teacher Education in the 21st Century – Emerging Skills for a Changing World. IntechOpen.

Reierstam, H. (2020). Assessment in Multilingual Schools. A comparative mixed method study of teachers' assessment beliefs and practices among language learners - CLIL and migrant students. (Doctoral thesis). Stockholm: Stockholm University.

Reierstam, H & Sylvén, L K (2019). Assessment in CLIL. In Sylvén L. K. (ed) Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning. Insights from Swedish Highschools. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Reierstam, H. (2015). Assessing Language or Content? A comparative study of the assessment practices in three Swedish upper secondary CLIL schools. (Licentiate thesis). Gothenburg: University of Gothenburg.



Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Assessment in Multilingual Schools

    2020. Helena Reierstam.

    Thesis (Doc)

    This thesis presents the results from two research projects on teachers’ assessment beliefs and practices in multilingual education. Study I involved teachers of biology, history or English as a foreign language (EFL) in Swedish upper secondary Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) schools, grades 10-12, where English is used as the medium of instruction. In Study II teachers from schools with newly-arrived migrant students (NAS) grades 7 to 12 in the natural and social sciences participated. In both contexts, students are learning the language of instruction at the same time as they are expected to develop subject area knowledge why issues in relation to the role of language in assessment come to the fore. The aim is to contribute to the knowledge of an underexplored research area on subject matter assessment in multilingual schools and draw attention to the consequences varying language policies and pedagogies may have on fairness in access opportunities and validity in assessment outcomes.

    In this thesis teachers’ language beliefs and practices as expressed in interviews, questionnaires and assessment samples were compared and analyzed in relation to the cognitive and linguistic requirements of language functions in syllabi and the assessment tasks. Whereas Study I was mainly qualitative in nature, involving 12 teachers, a mixed method approach was adopted in Study II where 196 teachers participated in a survey and 13 in follow-up interviews. The responses in the survey were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Thematic content analysis was used for the interview data, the assessment samples and open-ended survey questions.

    The findings from the two studies indicate that although teachers state that language is not part of the assessment, they maintain that students need to use language to show proof of critical thinking and more advanced analytical skills. All teachers regardless of discipline shared the weight attached to covering course content as expressed in syllabi which points at a shared accountability culture. One of the main concerns expressed by the teachers is how to construct assignments where language does not represent a hindrance to show content knowledge. Teachers in both studies claimed to focus mainly on subject concepts, not general academic language, and the assessment beliefs and practices seemed to be closely related to the character of the subject. The non-parametric tests of association revealed that teachers with a dual language and subject content certification displayed significantly higher results in relation to all activities involving a visible language pedagogy, e.g. looking at useful sentence structures and providing model texts. Oral follow-up was used by all teachers to remedy poor written results. Although the use of the students’ strongest language is advocated in guidelines for the instruction of NAS, most teachers in Study II referred to a monolingual Swedish language norm. 

    In a society where the educational discourse has become characterized by diversity, inequality and segregation, these two studies underline the need for a shared language policy and pedagogy across subjects and school contexts. They also suggest that an organization and teacher profession with an explicit responsibility for academic language is needed to provide equal access to subject content and validity and comparability in assessment in multilingual schools.

    Read more about Assessment in Multilingual Schools
  • Linguistic Diversity and Comparability in Educational Assessment

    2021. Helena Reierstam, Meeri Hellsten. Teacher Education in the 21st Century, 110-113


    This chapter reports on recent mixed method research investigating the comparability between assessment in relation to linguistic and cultural diversity. It takes as its premise that assessment is an integral part of instruction that becomes a main component for attaining of equal opportunities. Therefore, assessment plays a key role in terms of the wider consequences at both individual and societal levels. One of the central functions of assessment is its measure of quality assurance and comparability for grading to such an extent that it is readily employed to indicate evidence of student achievement of standards and quality. This may sometimes present issues in terms of learner diversity. We focus on the challenges facing teaching in linguistically diverse learning settings in which a foreign language may be used as an alternative to instruction. Here we draw on a recent study from two separate multilingual learning contexts in Sweden. We shed light on the generic questions arising from such disjuncture in these linguistically diverse educational sites as evidence on a call for much needed scholarly attention on the quality aspect in assessment.

    Read more about Linguistic Diversity and Comparability in Educational Assessment

Show all publications by Helena Reierstam at Stockholm University