18 SES 05 A, Ability, Behaviour and Assessment in Physical Education
According to Zeichner (2010) and Darling-Hammond (2006), the interplay between university studies and school placement studies is crucial for the quality of teacher education. Following this argument, our overall interest in this research project is the interplay between these educational contexts within Swedish physical education teacher education (PETE) and the pedagogic discourse produced in the transition between them. The focus is on how assessment for learning (AfL) as a particular content area (Wiliam, 2011) is perceived and expressed by PETE students in the context of a course on assessment methods at university and, shortly afterwards, realised and reflected upon in the context of a school placement course. By combining Basil Bernstein’s (1996) pedagogic device and Stephen Ball’s (2003) performativity perspective, we alternately ask how AfL is constructed as a pedagogic discourse and what AfL becomes in different contexts within PETE. Consequently, the purpose of this study is to explore the recontextualisation of AfL as a particular content area in the transition between a university course and a school placement course within Swedish PETE. Based on the presentation of AfL in influential research literature, the research questions are:
- How is the pedagogic discourse of AfL recontextualised in university and school placement courses within a PETE programme in Sweden?
- What becomes of AfL in this process of recontextualisation?
Lorente-Catalán and Kirk (2016: 78) argue that ‘we need to know more about the structures that support and reproduce […] the prevalent and dominant practices of teaching and learning in school physical education that work against the use of AfL’, if the alternative form of assessment is to become an embedded routine in the teaching practices. In this study, factors that may either enable or constrain the use of AfL are identified. Thus, our findings contribute with knowledge of potential interest to the European PE and PETE community.
Findings: In the different educational contexts of PETE, the PETE students encounter different enablers and constraints (Braun et al., 2011) in the form of five recontextualising rules, which regulates the pedagogic discourse of AfL. These indicate that: (1) the task of integrating different forms of assessment into teaching practice enables the use of AfL in PE, (2) an exclusive focus on summative assessment and grading constrains the use of AfL in PE, (3) the use of AfL in PE requires critical engagement in PE traditions, resistant to change, (4) knowing the pupils is crucial for the use of AfL, and (5) the framing of different school placements determines how AfL can be used.
In the transition from campus-based to school-based PETE, AfL was transformed into three different fabrications (Ball, 2003): (1) AfL as ‘ideal teaching’, (2) AfL as ‘correction of mistakes’ and (3) AfL as ‘what works’. The fabrication of AfL as ideal teaching was mainly produced in the context of a campus-based seminar before the school placement studies and in the group interviews afterwards. However, the normative ‘dream picture’ of AfL was hard to realise in practice. When the PETE students encountered ‘real’ pupils in ‘real’ schools, with PE traditions mediated through their supervisors and other frame-factors, some of them lost track of the alignment between curriculum, instruction and assessment. Instead of providing feedback based on specific learning intentions, they either corrected pupils’ mistakes, gave collective encouraging feedback or neglected providing feedback at all. Due to the limited time and lack of trustful relationships with the pupils, the PETE students concentrated on ‘what worked’ under the particular circumstances of the school-based PETE rather than adopting the holistic pedagogical approach of AfL.
In our study of AfL in the transition between campus-based and school-based PETE, we have turned to Bernstein’s (1996) theory of how pedagogic discourses are constructed, recontextualised and realised through the pedagogic device and to Ball’s (2003) theory of performativity. Participants in this study were a group of student teachers in the final year of their PETE programme at one of eight PETE universities in Sweden. All nine students in the class, seven male and two female, agreed to participate in the study. During the collection of data, the students were involved in two courses, one assessment course at the university and one school placement course. These courses were interlinked, which meant that a specific learning task was to use AfL during the school placement course. The empirical material consists of: a) curriculum documents from both courses, b) a sound-recording from one two-hour-seminar about AfL in PE during the campus-based course, c) observations followed up by individual, semi-structured interviews (40-50 min) with each PETE-student during their school placement studies, d) two group-interviews (90 min each) on campus after the school placement studies. The individual interviews concerned the participants’ use and views of AfL in relation to PE teaching. The questions focused on whether the PETE students had used any of AfL’s key strategies and in that case how, why and what this had led to. During the group-interviews, the PETE students discussed questions based on the researcher’s impressions from observations and individual interviews. In the analysis of the generated data, we searched for explicit as well as latent and implicit meanings in order to get to know the data. This familiarization was intertwined with a process of coding. We adopted an abductive approach in the sense that we oscillated between a questioning of what the empirical material contained and how the theories of Bernstein (1996) and Ball (2003; Braun et al., 2011) helped us identify patterns in the material. The following questions were posed in the analysis: 1. How is the pedagogic discourse of AfL constructed by PETE students in the context of the university course? 2. How is the pedagogic discourse of AfL constructed by PETE students in the context of the school placement course? 3. What recontextualising rules, in terms of enablers and constraints, regulate the pedagogic discourse of AfL in the different educational contexts within PETE? 4. What fabrications of AfL are produced in the recontextualisation process?
Leaning on Belton et al. (2010), Darling-Hammond (2006) and Zeichner (2010), we argue that cooperating teacher programmes should ensure a more active collaboration between university and schools. For instance, AfL, as it is introduced in the university course, is likely to endure the transition to school PE if its ideas are shared and discussed among university teachers and collaborating teachers involved in PETE. Based on our findings, these discussions should focus on: a) How to develop a framework for school placement studies that provides opportunities for PETE students to get to know the pupils, b) How to handle the intertwined process of assessment for and of learning, c) How to share the responsibility for assignments and learning outcomes in school-placement studies, so that PETE becomes more of a joint project between university and schools. From a wider European perspective, Lorente-Catalán and Kirk (2016) also warn that the transition of AfL from PETE to PE might be problematic. One solution could be ‘rich tasks’, as suggested by MacPhail et al. (2013), planned by teacher educators and cooperating teachers working together, and involving different aspects of teaching in authentic school settings. This study shows that a ‘rich task’ cannot only be defined in relation to educational models, such as AfL, as described in research literature at university (Wiliam, 2011) but must also be rooted in the problems that are identified in pedagogic practice, for example by cooperating teachers in schools. If these tasks are created collaboratively, school placements can become the key worksites (Chambers and Armour, 2012) for laboratory experiences (Behets and Vergauen, 2006), with PETE students supervised by cooperating teachers and coordinated by teacher educators at the university (Amaral-da-Cunha et al., 2020).
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