Dargusch,J_2012_02Thesis.pdf (4.51 MB)

Formative assessment as contextualised practice: Insider accounts

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posted on 2024-02-16, 00:50 authored by Joanne DarguschJoanne Dargusch
This thesis draws on a socio-cultural framework to investigate the nature and function of the formative assessment practices of Queensland teachers of Year 12 English. The thesis presents case reports that examine two teachers’ accounts of the practices they rely on in their Year 12 English classrooms to use assessment for learning. The final chapter of the thesis presents a reflection on the cases, examined against a critical review of literature and an examination of Queensland assessment policy relating to formative assessment. It provides key insights into the teachers’ formative assessment practices in a distinctive assessment setting. Year 12 is the final year of secondary school in Queensland and is therefore a high-stakes environment. In Year 12 assessment information is gathered for certification purposes, that is, for reporting student achievement at exit from a two-year course of study and from school itself. The Queensland system is described in terms of three main characteristics: school-based, externally-moderated and standards-referenced. In Year 12, all classroom assessment is designed, carried out and reported by teachers. The reference point for student achievement is defined standards, identified in subject-specific syllabus documents. External moderation by District Panels and State Review Panels made up of experienced teachers is used as part of a system of quality assurance to ensure high comparability between judgements made by schools about their students. While a focus in Year 12 English is on reporting student achievement on course completion, and for certification purposes, there is also an expectation that Queensland Senior School teachers will be engaged in assessment for formative assessment purposes. This expectation is made explicit in the English Senior Syllabus (QBSSSS, 2002b). Queensland teachers practise formative assessment in three interrelated contexts, referred to in the thesis as system, school, and classroom. System assessment parameters are provided for teachers in key policy documents, which they are expected to use in designing localised assessment programs that are responsive to students in their particular school. In the school context, the ways of working within a particular school have official expression in the local school instantiation of Senior English in the form of the School Work Program and relationships with senior staff including English Department Heads. Quality assurance occurs through a process of external moderation conducted by Review Panels. Teachers have to account for both system and school requirements, and interpret these in the context of their own classroom. They are influenced by their understanding of their role in formative assessment, and their understanding of the role of their students in formative assessment. Formative assessment in Queensland is, therefore, contextualised practice and this framework of multiple, interrelated contexts is consistent with the socio-cultural theoretical framework that describes formative assessment as situated practice. The case reports presented in this thesis examine two teachers’ accounts of their formative assessment practices in Year 12 English classrooms. The data sets included two phases of interviews and formative assessment artefacts provided by the teachers. The analyses of the interviews began with thematic coding of broader chunks of data which identified the following themes: roles of participants; relationships and interactions among participants; formative assessment practices; assessment criteria and standards; formative assessment purposes in Year 12 English; formative understandings; and other possibilities for formative assessment. From these codes sub-theme codes were identified that revealed greater detail of teachers’ formative assessment practices. The artefacts ranged from official school-produced documents to actual teacher-generated handouts provided by the teacher for their own classroom. The artefacts were analysed according to the interview data, and the teacher’s description of each artefact’s formative assessment function and by examining each for the understandings of formative assessment made available in it. The analysis conducted in the cases is informed by a critical review of literature in Chapter 3, which identifies key messages in the literature that have implications for this study of formative assessment in Queensland. The analysis of the Queensland policy and policy-related documents relevant to school-based, externally-moderated and standards-referenced Senior Schooling in general, and Senior English in particular, revealed a growing emphasis on formative assessment. The case reports provide several key insights into teachers’ formative assessment practices in these multiple, interrelated contexts. The first is that in these contexts, improved summative assessment grades are taken to be the evidence of improvement from formative assessment. The second is that these teachers make no clear demarcation between formative assessment and pedagogy. A third is that teachers occupy the central role in formative assessment, as the primary source of evaluative feedback. This is evidenced through students’ continued dependence on teachers’ feedback to improve their assessment pieces completed for summative assessment purposes. Two recommendations are presented. Both are pertinent to Queensland Year 12 English classrooms, as well as to the practice of formative assessment in other assessment systems. The first is the introduction of an extra feedback loop based on self-assessment to occur after students have received feedback from the teacher and incorporated this into their work. The second is the introduction of a classroom system of storing students’ summative assessment pieces digitally as well as in hard copy to facilitate easy student engagement with their completed assessment items for the purposes of improvement.


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Open Access

  • Yes

Cultural Warning

This research output may contain the names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. We apologize for any distress that may occur.

Era Eligible

  • No


Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith; Professor Joy Cumming

Thesis Type

  • Doctoral Thesis

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