23 SES 01 A, Policies of Standardization in Education
This paper focuses on elementary students’ experiences of assessment against the backdrop of the extensive practice of national testing in the sixth grade of Swedish schools. The aim of the paper is to investigate students’ identity formation as an effect of changes in the education system toward a stronger state interest in knowledge measurement in a decentralized and competitive school system. We consider the following research questions: What are students’ experiences of national tests in science? What are the implications of these experiences for the ways students are shaped and shape themselves in school?
The study bridges the sociology of education and assessment research, allowing for a broader conversation about the consequences of the extensive discourse of assessment for both individuals and society.
In Sweden the now extensive practice of national testing is one in a series of reforms aiming to tighten the impact of learning goals formulated by the state. The reform is regarded as an expression both of the state’s increasing interest in managing and controlling schools and of a need for unambiguous information about schools’ effectiveness from actors on a national school market (Lundahl, 2005). Both the state and parents choosing schools for their children ask for simple measures of schools’ quality (Lindblad, 2000). Further, one fundamental aspect of the system is that by providing information about learning outcomes, students themselves can develop their own learning. Yet we know little about the ways students, the subjects of governance, experience and share their experiences of national tests.
A central idea is that reforms are interpreted and enacted rather than implemented, and therefore it is useful to listen to the actors’ experiences (Ball et al., 2012). Theoretically, this research builds on a vision of educational reform as something that, on one hand, frames and shapes the terms of the school’s stakeholders and their ability to shape their identities. On the other hand, the actors’ stories or translations of those reforms reflect how reform is enacted in practice and how its results can be understood (Ball, 2006; Ball et al., 2012).
Research on assessment from a student perspective is unusual, especially when it involves young learners (Forsberg & Lindberg, 2010). Most evaluation research focuses on student achievement and on school results rather than on students’ experiences, the core of this project. However, some European studies are relevant to this paper’s discussion. Kasanen and Räty (2002) showed that self-assessment of students in first grade affects their perceptions of themselves at school and that they compete with one another, comparing their own results with those of classmates. In a study of students in grades three and six, Kärkkäinen et al. (2008) found that students develop a perception about their own abilities and their malleability quite early. The students’ results and experiences of success or failure, in conjunction with comparing their results with those of others, contribute to early and stable perceptions of themselves over time and to pessimism in terms of possible change. In addition, two studies have shown that students hold varying perceptions about assessment’s function but a common perception that assessment is done for others rather than for themselves (Törnvall, 2002; Ross et al., 2002).
References Ball, S. J. (2006). Performativities and fabrications in the education economy: Towards the performative society. In H. Lauder, P. Brown, J-A. Dillabough & A. H. Halsey (Eds.), Education, globalization & social change (pp. 692–701). New York: Oxford University Press. Ball, S. J., Maguire, M. & Braun, A. (2012). How schools do policy: Policy enactment in secondary schools. London: Routledge. Forsberg, E. & Lindberg, V. (2010). Svensk forskning om bedömning—en kartläggning. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet. Kasanen, K. & Räty, H. (2002). ”You have to be honest in your assessment”: Teaching and learning self-assessment. Social psychology of education 5, s. 313–328. Kärkkäinen, R., Räty, H. & Kasanen, K. (2008). Children’s notions of the malleability of their academic competencies. Social psychology of education 11, s. 445–458. Lindblad, S. (2000). Verklighetens omätbara aspekter. Pedagogiska magasinet, 4. Lundahl, L. (2005). A matter of self-governance and control. The reconstruction of Swedish education policy: 1980–2003. European Education, 1(37), 10–25. Polkinghorne, D. (1995). Narrative configuration in qualitative analysis. In J. A. Hatch & R. Wisniewski (Eds.), Life history and narrative (p.5–23) London: Falmer Press. Ross, J. A., Rolheiser, C. & Hogaboam-Gray, A. (2002). Influences on students’ cognition about evaluation. Assessment in Education, Principles, Policy & Practice, 9(1), 81–95. Törnvall, M. (2001). Uppfattningar och upplevelser av bedömning i grundskolan. Malmö: Högskolan, Lärarutbildningen. (licentiatavhandling).
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