ERG SES H 12, Assessment in Education
Since Broffenbrenner’s claims on the ecology of human development (1979), an impressive amount of research in child development has been devoted to exploring the ways in which children’s primary social worlds (i.e. the family and the school) connect and create (or not) an osmotic ecological milieu where information circulates (see among others, Epstein, 1983; 1984; Brofenbrenner, 1986 a, b). Since then, mandatory and/or optional encounters between parents and teachers throughout the school year have been established in many countries (Christenson & Sheridan, 2001; Kim, Sheridan, Kwon & Koziol, 2013) as one of the major institutional loci where such an osmosis should take place (Milani, 2012; Granata, Mejeri, & Rizzi, 2015).
The general pedagogical frame defines these encounters as a common ground for family and school, with their institutional aim being communicating the evaluation of the child’s school performance, along with possible problems and ways to solve them (Kotthoff, 2015; Pillet Shore, 2003).
Since parent-teacher conferences are the cornerstone of the institutional communication between schools and families, a great amount of research has been devoted to analyzing teachers’ and parents’ perception as well as students’ perceptions mostly by means of self-report methodologies (Epstein & Salinas, 2004; Milani, 2008, Granata, Mejeri & Rizzi, 2015). Comparatively, there are relatively few studies on how PTC are accomplished as an interactive achievement, i.e. how participants (differently) construct the “assessable child”, deliver and acknowledge the assessments and achieve (or not) a common understanding of the child’s status (but see Baker & Keogh, 1995; Pillet-Shore, 2003, 2012, 2013, 2015; Kotthoff, 2015; Howard & Lipinoga, 2010; MacLure & Walker, 2000). Hence, studying parent-teacher conferences as communicative events may shed light on how domestic and scholastic epistemic territories are “talked into being” (Heritage, 1984) by partcipants, how their relative epistemic rights are negotiated and how this negotiation can impact on teachers’ work and - ultimately - on the children’s career.
We advance that a detailed analysis of how the management of knowledge and the negotiation of epistemic authority occur in parent-teacher conference, will also help in critically rethinking some “pedagogical certainties” concerning school-family communication and their possible outcomes.
In this paper we will focus on
- How are parent-teacher’ conferences managed by the actors with regard to the epistemic territories at stake? What types of knowledge and related epistemic rights do parents and teachers claim? (cfr. Heritage 2012, a e b; Heritage & Lindstrom, 1998). When constructing the “symbolic” child who presents him/herself as competent?
- How are assessments and assessment-relevant actions (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1987) performed (e.g. who displays to have the right to assess what)?
Data collection We videotaped the parent-teacher conferences occurring in a primary school of a medium sized urban center in Centre Italy (currently N. 36, lasting ten to twenty minutes). The participants’ consent was obtained according to the Italian law n. 196/2003, which establishes the norms concerning the handling of personal and sensitive data. Data have been transcribed using the conversation analytic transcription conventions developed by Jefferson (2004). Data Analysis Data collected through audio/videotapes will be analyzed according to the multi-modal Conversation Analysis’ techniques. The use of conversation analysis provides an appropriate method through which examining the fine details of the interaction, shedding light on the way in which power and status is reflected and acted out within the structure of the talk itself.
The study aims at contributing to the literature on parent-teacher conferences with a particular attention to the management of the territories of knowledge at stake and the interactive negotiation of epistemic authority. It also aims to shed light on the possible correlation between interactive competence and how the assessment are performed by participants in institutional interactions characterized by epistemic and social asymmetry.
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