Assessment and Reporting Practices in Victorian Secondary Schools: Exploring field and habitus

Year: 2019

Author: Barnes, Melissa, Finefter-Rosenbluh, Ilana, Brown, Trent

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

With assessment playing an essential role in improving education (Kippers, Wolterinck, Schildkamp, Poortman, & Vischer, 2018: OECD, 2008; Penney, Brooker, Hay, & Gillespie, 2009), there has been increased attention on assessment practices, particularly in light of the tensions between assessment forlearning and assessment oflearning (Coombs, DeLuca, LaPointe-McEwan, Chalas, 2018; Deneen, Fulmer, Brown, Tan, Leong, & Tay, 2019; Hume & Coll, 2009; Kippers et al., 2018). The role of assessment in secondary classrooms in Australia, in particular, can be a site of struggle for many teachers as they negotiate their beliefs about assessment within an education field that increasingly promotes and values a culture of testing (Deneed, et al., 2019). With high-stakes assessments and reporting regimes in upper secondary schools (Cumming & Maxwell, 2004), secondary teachers in Years 7-10 must negotiate their sense of autonomy to practice and implement new forms of assessment in light of a culture of testing and accountability. Given recent policy developments worldwide that focus on data-informed teaching that include both assessment forlearning and large-scale assessment oflearning approaches, teachers have varied understandings and approaches to assessment (Coombs, et al., 2018).

Drawing on the concept of policy enactment (Ball, Maguire, & Braun, 2012) and Bourdieu’s thinking tools of field and habitus, this study examines secondary teachers’ beliefs on assessment and reporting practices. By investigating how teachers negotiate assessment and reporting guidelines, as shaped by both their habitus and the collective/institutional habitus of their schools, this study explores teachers’ understanding, negotiation, resistance and acceptance of varying assessment approaches. A preliminary thematic analysis of the collected data from a Qualtrics survey, with 101 secondary teacher respondents and semi-structured interviews with 10 teachers, suggests that while there is an increasing push for more accountability and structure to assessment and reporting practices in Victoria, there are tensions between institutional and individual approaches to assessment practices that reflect the tensions between teacher autonomy and external accountability. The findings suggest that a number of the participating teachers actively resist a neoliberal approach to ‘institutionalised’ assessments as they position classroom teachers as incapable of designing meaningful, valid, and reliable assessment tasks for their students. Additionally, the findings reveal that while the participants opine that most Victorian teachers know how to design assessments, particularly when it comes to designing tests that assess knowledgerather than skills, they have limited understanding of how to interpret this assessment data and promote skill development.