09 SES 07 C, Discussing Assessment Related Education Policy and Research
Within the context of literature on educational reform, how do the five challenges proposed by Baird and Hopfenbeck (2016) for curriculum and assessment in the 21sst century apply to attempts at assessment reform in secondary education in Ireland?
Objective: provide a context for considering assessment reform attempts in secondary education in Ireland in order to distil implications for future development in assessment reform.
The study makes the assumption that the constructs posited as challenges for the 21st century (Baird and Hopfenbeck, 2016) provide a lens within international educational research for interpreting/critiquing proposals and outcomes for reform in assessment in secondary education in Ireland. Assessment reform has been very slow in Ireland, so this study investigates, on the basis of these challenges within international research, implications for the ways that Ireland may face the issue of reform in the future. The study is therefore interpretive.
The study gives a basis for accepting the five challenges proposed by Baird and Hopfenbeck (2016) as reasoned reflection on developments in education in many different countries. Their reflection is well referenced and brings together diverse developments and expressed concerns of international educational researchers.
The first challenge posited by Baird and Hopfenbeck is ‘Crisis of knowledge.’ The authors claim that the world of the 21st century ‘demands from us the abilities to apply, synthesise and organize knowledge, to know how to learn new knowledge for the rest of our lives and to adapt this to unanticipated situations’ (823). The authors add that it is ‘vital to be able to judge the quality of the knowledge presented and to be critical of the sources behind it’ (823). The authors give an example of a change to the English curriculum in England in 2013 and draw the observation that what counts as knowledge in education ‘is highly influenced by politics’ (824). Political debates as to what should be taught and what counts as valuable learning are complicated. In addition, the focus on ‘21st century skills’ shows a gap between policy and empirical evidence (824).
The second challenge is designated as ‘Spiraling reforms’ which the authors consider follows from the uncertainties of the first challenge. Many countries have developed ‘frenetic reform activities’ (p.825), in curriculum and assessment, driven by politics.
‘Globalisation’ is the third challenge that reflects the move from national developments to a focus on global citizenship and international benchmarking. National policymaking is now influenced by results in international tests such as TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA, (826) with a detrimental effect on national capacity to self-evaluate (827). Power has shifted to the supranational agencies which means ‘there is less trust and less investment in professional capacity at the national, local level’ (827).
The fourth challenge, ‘Pervasive performativity’ follows from this globalization trend in the conviction that professionals must be governed by ‘constant target setting and auditing’ (828). Professionals seeking to maximize efficiency in such a score-driven system ‘is known as performativity’ (828), with score results ‘supposedly signifying student learning, teacher performance and school effectiveness’ (828). Such a system disempowers professionals and potentially compromises genuine student learning.
The fifth challenge, ‘Rising educational standards or grade inflation?’ addresses the issue of data from many countries that indicate higher participation in third level education and higher results in school-leaving assessment. There is debate over whether this phenomenon represents improved standards or a weakening in the value of grades. For grades to hold value, ‘how educational standards are measured and monitored is a big challenge for the future’ (830).
Atkinson, Paul and Coffey, Amanda. 2011. Analysing documentary realities. In David Silverman (ed.). Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory, Method and Practice. 3rd ed. Sage. pp. 77-92. Baird, Jo-Anne and Hopfenbeck, Therese N. 2016. ‘Curriculum in the Twenty-First Century and the Future of Examinations.’ Dominic Wyse, Louise Hayward and Jessica Pandya (eds.). The Sage Handbook of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. Sage. pp. 821 - 837. Barnes, Mary; Clarke, David and Stephens, Max. 2000. Assessment: The engine of systemic curricular reform? Journal of Curriculum Studies . 32, (5). Taylor and Francis. Pages 623-650 | Published online: 08 Nov 2010 Brown, Gavin T. L.. 2004. Teachers' conceptions of assessment: implications for policy and professional development. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice. 11 (3). pp. 301-318 doi.org/10.1080/0969594042000304609 Brown, Martin; McNamara, Gerry and O’Hara, Joe. 2016. ‘Teacher Accountability in Education: The Irish Experiment.’ Brendan Walsh (ed). Essays in the History of Irish Education. London. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 359-381 doi: 10.1057/978-1-137-51482-0 Fullan, M.G. 1991. The new meaning of education change. London. Cassell Educational Limited Hargreaves, Andy. 1989. Curriculum and Assessment Reform. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. OISE Press. Newton, Paul E. 2007. Clarifying the purposes of educational assessment. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice. 14 (2). pp. 149-170. doi.org.dcu.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/09695940701478321 Nusche, Deborah. 2016. Student assessment and its relationship with Curriculum, Teaching and Learning in the Twenty-First Century. In Dominic Wyse, Louise Hayward and Jessica Pandya (eds). The Sage Handbook of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. vol. 2. pp. 838 - 852. Sage. Pelgrum, w.J. 2001. ‘Obstacles to the integration of ICT in education: results from a worldwide educational assessment.’ Computers & Education. 37 (2). September 2001. pp. 163–178. doi.org/10.1016/S0360-1315(01)00045-8 Prior, Lindsay. 2011. Using documents in social research. In David Silverman (ed.). Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory, Method and Practice. 3rd ed. Sage. pp. 93-110. Remesal, Ana. 2005. Educational reform and primary and secondary teachers' conceptions of assessment: the Spanish instance, building upon Black and Wiliam. The Curriculum Journal 18 (1). Taylor and Francis. pp.27-38. doi.org/10.1080/09585170701292133 Santini, Marina. 2009. Book review: Discourse on the Move: Using corpus analysis to describe discourse structure by D. Biber, U. Connor and T.A. Upton. Computational Linguistics. 35 (1). pp. 105-107
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