ERG SES C 06, Assessment and Education
State-mandated testing is frequent in educational systems of Europe as well as in the rest of the world, and the tests often have great impact on various parts of the educational systems (Broadfoot & Black, 2004). Impacts described in research are for example that teachers narrow, adjust or, in a minority of cases, broaden the content matter taught (Au, 2007). Research has also showed that state-mandated testing affect teachers differently, depending on institutional, social and individual aspects, such as the teachers’ previous approaches to teaching and their status in the school organization (Cimbricz, 2002).
Whereas the above cited studies of impacts have focused on what effects the tests have on teaching and student learning, the objective of this study is to investigate how the construction of the state-mandated tests is related to teachers’ knowledge. This is investigated in the case of introduction of state-mandated tests in Swedish science courses in year 2009.
Introducing state-mandated tests confronts teachers with a situation that they are unused to, and may not know how to handle. They need, in Dewey’s terms (1938, pp. 104–114), to engage in inquiry in order to construct the problem of how to deal with the differences of their ordinary way of teaching and the construction of the school subject in the state-mandated tests. The aim of the teachers’ inquiry work is to construct new knowledge, in the sense that knowledge is a tool used for making situations intelligible, in order to enable continued acting (Wickman & Östman, 2002, p. 603). Knowledge can in this perspective also be described as ability to make discourse intelligible, or ability to act within a discourse (Wickman & Östman, 2002, pp. 604–605).
For a teacher, construction of new knowledge, in other words discourse change or learning, makes the present practice appear in a different way. This discourse change makes it possible for teachers to reflect upon their own teaching practice (Schön, 1987, p. 4; Wickman, 2012, p. 131), and makes choices in their practice visible (Wickman, 2012, pp. 130–131). Increased ability to act within various discourses on teaching can thus be said to increase teachers’ ability to make well-grounded decisions in their practice.
Based on the above view of knowledge, teacher knowledge is in this study investigated in terms of what discourses on scientific investigations in science education that teachers show ability to act within. The focus on scientific investigations is chosen since the construction of this part of the Swedish state-mandated tests expresses a discourse that has been shown to be new for many teachers, where learning skills related to investigative work, such as planning own investigations, is a main aim of the activity (Lundqvist & Lidar, 2013).
As a second step, this study also investigates the ways in which teachers position themselves in relation to perceived constructions of scientific investigations in the state-mandated tests. This is described in terms of subject positioning, a concept that builds upon the idea that individuals only can constitute themselves (as subjects) in relation to normative frameworks that they form a part of (Öhman, 2008), where the framework in focus in this study is the construction of scientific investigations prescribed by the state-mandated tests.
To summarize, the aim of this study is to investigate how the construction of the state-mandated tests is related to teachers’ knowledge, something that is operationalized in the research questions:
- Which discourses on scientific investigations in science education are expressed in teachers’ descriptions of scientific investigations?
- Which subject positions related to the construction of scientific investigations in the state-mandated tests are expressed in teachers’ descriptions of their practice?
Almqvist, J., & Lundqvist, E. (2013). De nationella provens innehåll: vilken scientific litercy mäts i NO-proven? In E. Lundqvist, R. Säljö, & L. Östman (Eds.), Scientific literacy: teori och praktik (pp. 101–118). Malmö: Gleerups. Andersson, J., Östman, L., & Öhman, M. (2013). I am sailing—towards a transactional analysis of “body techniques.” Sport, Education and Society, 2013, 1–19. doi:10.1080/13573322.2013.802684 Au, W. (2007). High-Stakes Testing and Curricular Control: A Qualitative Metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258–267. doi:10.2307/30137912 Broadfoot, P., & Black, P. (2004). Redefining assessment? The first ten years of assessment in education. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 11(1), 7–26. doi:10.1080/0969594042000208976 Cimbricz, S. (2002). State-Mandated Testing and Teachers’ Beliefs and Practice. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10, 2. Dewey, J. (1938). Logic: the theory of inquiry. New York: Henry Holt and Co. Lidar, M., Karlberg, M., Lundqvist, E., & Almqvist, J. (2012). Manner of teaching and teaching traditions in Science Education: What do teachers emphasize? Retrieved from http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:560244 Lundqvist, E., & Lidar, M. (2013). Nationella prov i NO och lärares val av undervisningsinnehåll. Utbildning & Demokrati, 22(3), 85–106. Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: [toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions] (1. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Wickman, P.-O. (2012). How Can Conceptual Schemes Change Teaching? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 7(1), 129–136. Wickman, P.-O., & Östman, L. (2002). Learning as Discourse Change: A Sociocultural Mechanism. Science Education, 86(5), 601–23. Öhman, M. (2008). Att analysera socialisationens riktning ur ett maktperspektiv. Utbildning & Demokrati, 17(3), 69–88.
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