Students’ perceptions of classroom assessment for learning practices in a cultural context of performativity

Year: 2016

Author: Willis, Jill, Adie, Lenore

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Within educational cultures of performativity, teachers have been challenged to enact assessment for learning (AfL) strategies in the spirit intended. The philosophy of AfL positions students as central to learning, with teachers purposefully employing strategies that support students to come to know themselves as learners and take ownership of their learning. In cultural contexts of performativity, students can be labelled as failures and demotivated from trying any further. The tension between performance accountabilities and the inclusion of assessment for learning strategies can relegate AfL to a time-consuming optional extra. Such practices interfere with students having the opportunity to understand themselves as learners and so regulate their own learning. Students’ historic gendered and discipline ways of knowing affect what they value in their learning. In performative cultures, students may come to privilege certain knowledges and ways of learning above other forms. But there has been limited research conducted into student role in assessment processes. This research reports on a project conducted in one school within a culture of high performativity, but in which the teachers were purposefully introducing new AfL strategies in their classrooms to recontextualise their assessment practices. These highly experienced teachers developed their AfL expertise, by focusing on improving their responses to student learning needs in the moment, within the complexity of their classrooms. This involved consciously refining their noticing of classroom incidents to recognise patterns that led to critical reflection and action to enhance student learning. We report on an aspect of this project in which students were asked through survey, focus groups, and through their art work to comment on the impact that the school assessment strategies, and in particular the new AfL strategies, had on their learning.A sociocultural framework was used to analyse the patterns of relationships between various cultural tools and actors, and how each shapes meanings that are formed. How practices are spoken about, and understood, histories that give meaning to objects, resources, and participants can all be considered as influencing adoption of some practices and rejection of others. In a sociocultural theory of learning, assessment is understood within the relations between disparate elements such as social context, cultural tools, histories and the human participants. To fully understand how AfL can support learning, we acknowledge students as experts of their own learning, and consider how teachers and researchers can draw on student perspectives to support the sense making.