Teachers' formative assessment practices in a high-stakes setting: Insider accounts.

Year: 2012

Author: Dargusch, Jo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper addresses the issue of teachers' formative assessment practices in Senior Schooling. Specifically, it examines teachers' formative assessment in the context of school-based, externally moderated, standards-referenced assessment in Queensland. Of particular interest is how formative assessment occurs in relation to the emphasis that is given in Year 12 to certification and credentialing.  Senior Schooling teachers in Queensland work in a distinctive assessment context for student certification, different from other systems around the country, and indeed, around the world. It is built on the understanding that defined assessment standards are the measure of student achievement, and that there is a key connection between defined standards and learning improvement.

This paper reports on a study that presented teachers' accounts of their formative assessment practices in Senior English classrooms in Queensland. Data sets included semi-structured interviews and formative assessment artefacts provided by the teachers.  The data were coded according to thematic codes raised both in the data itself, and through a critical review of literature and assessment policy.

The study provided several key insights into teachers' formative assessment practices in this setting. For these teachers, improved summative assessment grades are the evidence of improvement from formative assessment. They make no clear demarcation between formative assessment and pedagogy.  The data showed that these teachers occupy the central role in formative assessment, as the primary source of evaluative feedback. While the defined standards, and alternative, teacher-generated standards are used in interactions between the teachers and their Senior students to build some evaluative expertise, students continue to be dependent on teachers' feedback to improve their assessment pieces completed for summative assessment purposes.