Intention, interpretation and implementation: some paradoxes of Assessment for Learning across educational contexts

Intention, interpretation and implementation: some paradoxes of Assessment for Learning across educational contexts

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Intention, interpretation and implementation: some paradoxes of Assessment for Learning across educational contexts

The language of Formative Assessment, sometimes referred to as Assessment for Learning, is becoming ubiquitous within international educational discourse. Despite this, levels of common understanding might be considered questionable since the concept appears to have been subject to many different interpretations and to have resulted in varying implementations. The reason for this ambiguity lies partly in the way that the language of Formative Assessment or Assessment for Learning has increasingly been applied beyond the context of classroom practice. This development represents a shifting focus for assessment, moving from the purpose of explaining how interactions around learning in the classroom can enhance individual development to considerations involving larger scale, system wide accountability purposes. This shift appears to contradict the original spirit of Assessment for Learning (AfL) and has led to a blurring of the formative and summative boundaries of assessment.This paper presents some empirical data from an ongoing University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) research project to suggest that this issue is not just of philosophical concern but has also a practical impact in the classroom. The paper considers the variety of ways that the language of AfL is used by teachers in differing international contexts and suggests that a conflict of purpose might underlie such variations. The paper goes on to suggest the need for further research addressing some of the fundamental paradoxes within assessment discourse caused by this conflation of purposes and identifies areas for further research and investigation.

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