Disruptive pedagogy? Challenging assessment for learning to (re)place students at the centre

Year: 2021

Author: Arnold, Julie

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Assessment for learning (AfL) has in the last 20 years become important policy and practice in schooling systems across the globe. It is at heart a disruptive pedagogy, in the sense that it aims to shift the traditional classroom power dynamic from teacher-centred to shared with students.  Its core practices aim to promote teacher clarity about learning goals and shared understanding of the criteria for success, a dialogic classroom climate, and a commitment to the needs of all learners. Current research about AfL includes measuring the efficacy of selected practices or, when the focus is on how the processes of AfL are enacted, foregrounding the role and experience of teachers. Less prominent is literature examining student experience, which is problematic, given AfL’s generally agreed aim of orienting learners as evidence seekers, interpreters, and decision-makers. This critical scoping review examines 75 empirical studies that have focused on secondary school students’ experience of AfL to examine what dimensions and qualities of student experience are presented in the findings. Student experience is defined in this study by drawing on early educational philosophy; here, student experience of AfL is the practical reality of how AfL plays out for students, usually from their point of view. The results reveal student experience as complex and sometimes contradictory. Together, the studies highlight unrealised potential for AfL to enable students, especially students with diverse learning needs, to be powerful agents of learning at the centre of classroom culture. Six interrelated dimensions are proposed to support a discussion of the extent to which AfL research is fulfilling its principled commitments to understanding how students learn and championing the achievements of all learners.This paper sits within the Accessible Assessment Australian Research Council linkage project, a sequential-phase mixed-methods waitlist design to test whether accessible summative assessment design, together with a two stage pedagogical intervention targeting inclusive practice and AfL pedagogies, enhances Grade 10 English student outcomes in three partner schools in Queensland.