Assessment reform in Irish post-primary schools: requiring teachers to be responsible for assessment

Year: 2019

Author: MacPhail, Ann

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation provides a context for the remaining three papers in the symposium by outlining recent discussions in Ireland around teachers being responsible for assessing their own students’ work, and the subsequent impact such a perspective is having (or not) on the delivery and assessment of physical education in Ireland. The intention is to contribute to assessment considerations, while acknowledging the nuances of the Irish education context, and the positioning of physical education within such nuances. The presentation draws attention to the limited Irish assessment-related research being conducted in both primary and post-primary contexts in Ireland. Suggestions related to studying (pre-service) teachers’ and students’ exposure to assessment in order to understand how we could alter the balance of assessment purposes and uses in Irish schools are shared.

Berry and Adamson’s edited text (2011) explores assessment reform initiatives in a number of countries and suggest that, “the nature of assessment that is prevalent in a particular system at a particular time reflects particular priorities, with some functions strongly emphasized and others neglected. Assessment is therefore a contested political terrain, encompassing a broad range of viewpoints, practices and values and characterized by power struggles, tensions and compromises”. The story evolves as one of government policy intent on promoting a teacher-led, learning-oriented assessment practice that has been actively resisted by the Irish post-primary teacher unions through their insistence that a centralised, externally-conducted assessment at this early stage of post-primary education is preferable to classroom-based, teacher-led assessments.

Acknowledging that a lack of trust between those involved in assessment reform and those with the responsibility for its enactment may be a constraining factor (Carless 2009), it is imperative that work be conducted to identify, from the perspective of all stakeholders, the apparent issues and problems in the phenomenon of classroom-based assessment and how these can best be resolved.

Berry, R., & Adamson, B. (Eds.). (2011). Assessment reform in education. Policy practice. London: Springer.

Carless, D. (2009). Trust, distrust and their impact on assessment reform.Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education,34(1), 79-89.