22 SES 08 A, Assessment and Learning: Diverse Perspectives
Assessment for Learning (AfL) is part of everyday practice for teachers, students and peers that seeks, interprets and responds to information from dialogue, demonstration and observation in ways that enhance learning (Klenowski, 2009). The overall aim of AfL is for students to become autonomous, self-regulating learners who “judge performance relative to goals, generate internal feedback about amounts and rates of progress towards goals, and adjust further action based on that feedback” (Butler & Winne, 1995, p.258). Influenced by socio-cultural perspectives on learning, and developments in the fields of student self-regulation the importance of learner autonomy and agency is to the fore (Boekaerts & Corno, 2005). Nowadays teachers and students are expected to work in partnership to construct achievement and effect improvement. In such a partnership significant attention has to be paid to helping students become effective learners through the development of metacognitive and self-regulatory skills and behaviours. Instructional programmes must therefore provide students with opportunities to monitor and regulate the quality of their work during production. To this end students need to understand the goals of learning and what constitutes quality work, compare current performance to what is expected, and have a repertoire of strategies so they can modify performance as necessary (Sadler, 1989; 2010).
Given the unitary nature of AfL, teachers cannot implement assessment for learning merely through the addition of a particular strategy(ies). The incorporation of a particular strategy will have little effect on making the transformational change necessary unless it is accompanied by changes in “understanding, values and attitudes” (James & Pedder, 2006, p. 27). Assigning students a central role in both learning and assessment necessitates teachers rethinking their roles and responsibilities, and those of students, in learning / teaching episodes. However as a raft of research findings have shown, implementation of AfL has been neither simple nor straightforward. To date, a number of key AfL strategies are neither well understood by teachers nor well utilised in the promotion of learning (Hawe & Dixon 2014). Furthermore, in the main, teachers are yet to make a major shift in their thinking about their roles and those of students in learning and assessment (Dixon, Hawe & Parr, 2011; Gamlen & Smith, 2013) As a counter to these findings, there have been calls to provide practising teachers with substantial, high quality, professional learning opportunities that will build both teachers’ AfL content and pedagogical content knowledge (Absolum et al., 2009) and their capability and confidence including the raising of teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs (Dixon, 2011)
Given that the AfL discourse challenges teachers’ long-standing beliefs about the nature of teaching and learning, and the associated roles and responsibilities of teachers and learners getting teachers to acknowledge and examine their beliefs are central components of any professional learning. To this end, the teaching-learning strategies used in an undergraduate course (Assessment for Learning) deliberately set out to bring teachers’ beliefs about AfL to the surface. In this paper we report on the experiences of 19 practicing teachers enrolled in an AfL course and the perceived impact of these experiences on their understandings and beliefs. Specifically we report on:
The understandings and beliefs teachers held about AfL prior to commencing and at the conclusion of an AfL course;
The course related experiences teachers identified as having influenced their post course understandings and beliefs.
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