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Perception is Reality: The Real Reasons Formative Assessment has not Thrived



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The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore three questions regarding formative assessment (FA) and Student-Involved assessment strategies among five middle years teachers in Saskatoon Public Schools. The questions were one, what were the beliefs of the teachers regarding formative assessment and student involved assessment? as well as two, what were their perceptions about attitudes of students, parents, and the community about these innovative assessment practices? and thirdly, what did the teachers believe would support teachers in taking up formative assessment and student-involved assessment? The five participating teachers had varying lengths of service ranging from five to over twenty-five years. Teachers were interviewed in a semi-structured style during one forty-five minute interview, each. Teachers were provided with sample prompts in order to facilitate the conversation. Teachers reported using FA and student involved assessment strategies with mixed results. Teachers used strategies and modified them on occasion to suit the learning conditions, to allow for time constraints, or to accelerate the pace of instruction. Teachers also reported using FA and student-involved assessment strategies primarily in subject areas in which they felt most comfortable and relied on more traditional summative assessments in subject areas in which they were less comfortable. Teachers stated there were varying degrees of support from colleagues, school based administrators, and school division consultants. The support generally disappeared if the school based administrator whose emphasis was FA and student-involved assessment left the school for a different assignment. Some participants reported taking initiative to pursue FA of their own accord, but were left to roll out the initiative on their own. Teachers described mixed results with other stakeholders in these processes as well. Generally parents and students were less interested in FA and student-involved assessment and showed a preference for summative evaluations such as percentages and letter grades. Implications of these findings are that teachers are not appropriately trained in student assessment and support for formative assessment is inconsistent. Students are often omitted from the unpacking of curricula, are not accountable for collection of their own assessment data and are not held responsible to act upon any formative assessment feedback in order to improve their learning. This study led to the following definition of formative assessment: formative assessment is the demonstration by students they can act upon descriptive feedback to show they have achieved a learning outcome regardless of mode (oral, written, performance, etc.).



Keywords: Assessment for Learning, professional development, formative assessment, student involved assessment, number grades, summative evaluation



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Curriculum Studies


Curriculum Studies


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