09 SES 04 C, Exploring the Role of Teachers in Assessment Practices
This paper is a continuation of a paper presented at the 2016 ECER conference.
Since 2007 the Icelandic educational system has had no standardised or nationally coordinated assessment by the end of compulsory schooling. Instead schools have been provided with external surveys for grades 4, 7 and 10, intended mainly as formative assessment instruments. Since then the school system has lacked strategies to provide reliable evidence about student achievement and to what extent they are reaching goals and learning outcomes when they finish compulsory education and transit to further education. At the same time the control and responsibility of individual teachers over summative assessment has increased.
For more than a century there have been conflicting visions about the nature and role of summative assessments at national level reflecting an intense controversy about the purpose of assessment, about what learning outcomes should be assessed, how, when and where students and their learning should be assessed, under what conditions or context, who should do the assessing, how the results (data) should be interpreted, and finally how the results should be presented and used.
External summative assessment has obvious advantages such as maintaining standards in significant subject areas and thus securing control over what students learn and ensuring that important content is covered. Furthermore such assessment provides students and schools with important information about performance by comparing their achievement with the performance of larger groups. And finally such assessment results are considered reliable, practical and easy to administer. But there are also unfortunate disadvantages that need to be considered. Ranking and comparison may harm students‘ self-esteem, especially among low-grade students and students that perform poorly due to unfavourable conditions or cultural and socio-economic background, summative assessment has often taken the form of paper and pencil testing and teaching to the tests has become an excessive part of learning and teaching. Finally summative assessment administered by the authorities focuses on performance in particular subjects (fields of study) at particular points of time, rather than an overall educational growth and development over time.
The national curriculum now in force does not feature learning outcomes that are narrow and prescriptive, but rather a wide range of competencies that are indicative and situated, so it is considered natural that schools decide how learning contexts, conditions, and learning outcomes are organized regarding assessment in the interest of reliability and validity.
The central purpose of this study has been to promote what has been called historical consciousness about the role and nature of summative assessment, i.e. help pursue the debate about such assessment from the past into the present and from there into the future. The research design features three main components: 1) Analysis of discourse about centralised assessment in Iceland from 1920 to the present; 2)Interviews with 10th grade teachers and school administrators about assessment strategies by the end of compulsory education; 3)Written questionnaire used to give a profile of summative assessment practices in schools and attitudes among teachers and school administrators towards the use of standardized assessment.
Research questions: How has the debate about nationally coordinated assessment in Iceland developed from 1920 to the present day? In this part of the study and this presentation the main questions addressed are: How has this debate developed in recent years when the responsibility and control of administrators and teachers over assessment has increased immensely? How are teachers managing their ascendent duty to perform accurate, reliable and valid assessment in line with the national criteria and standards presented in the national curriculum?
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