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.
Baker, C., Keogh, J. (1995). Accounting for achievement in parent-teacher interviews. Human Studies, 18 (2-3), 263-300. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development : Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Caronia, L. (1997). Costruire la Conoscenza. Interazione e Interpretazione nella Ricerca sul Campo in Educazione [The construction of knowledge. Interaction and interpretation in educational research]. Firenze: la Nuova Italia. Cedersund E., Svensson, G.L. (1996). A "Good" or a "Bad" Student: A Study of Communication in Class Assessment Meetings. Language and Education, vol 10(1), 132-150. Couper-Kuhlen, E. (2007). Assessing and accounting. In Holt, E., Clift, R. (Eds.). Reporting Talk. Reported speech in interaction. (pp. 81-119). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Drew, P., Heritage, J. (1992). Talk at work: Interaction in institutional settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Goodwin, C., Goodwin, H. (1992). Assessments and the construction of context. In A. Duranti & C. Goodwin (Eds.). Rethinking context. Language as an interactive phenomenon, 147-189. Cambridge University Press. Greenfield, M., Quiroz, B., Raeff, B. (2000, Spring).Cross-Cultural Conflict and Harmony in the Social Construction of the Child. New direction for child and adolescent development, 87, 93- 108. Habig, J. (2015). Cooperation Between Parents and Schools From a Student Perspective. Studia paedagogica 20 (4), 155-165. Heritage, J. (2012a). Epistemics in action: Action formation and territories of knowledge. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 45(1), 1–29. Heritage, J., Raymond, G. (2006). The Epistemics of Social Relationships: Owning Grandchildren', Language in Society, 35(5), 677-705. Kotthoff, H., (2015). Narrative constructions of school-oriented parenthood during parent-teacher-conferences, Linguistics and Education, 31, 286-303. MacLure, M., Walker, B. M. (2000). Disenchanted evenings: the social organization of talk in parent-teacher consultations in UK secondary schools. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 21(1), 5-25. Pillet-Shore, D. (2003). Doing Okay: On the Multiple Metrics of an Assessment. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 36 (3), 285-319. Pillet-Shore, D. (2012). The Problems with Praise in Parent–Teacher Interaction. Communication Monographs, 79, 181-204. University of New Hampshire Pillet-Shore, D. (2015). Being a Good Parent in Parent-Teacher Conferences. Journal of Communication, 65(2), 373-395. Schegloff, E.  (1972). Sequencing in conversational openings. In Gumperz J.J., Dell Hymes, D. (Eds.), Directions in sociolinguistics: The ethnography of communication (pp. 346–80). New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston. Rpt Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
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