Potentials and boundaries of formative assessment insights from new zealand
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Potentials and boundaries of formative assessment: Insights from New Zealand. Yongqi Gu Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand peter.gu@vuw.ac.nz. The big question. What is assessment for? . Assessment purpose: norm- vs. criterion-referenced.

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Potentials and boundaries of formative assessment: Insights from New Zealand

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Potentials and boundaries of formative assessment:Insights from New Zealand

Yongqi GuVictoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

peter.gu@vuw.ac.nz


The big question

  • What isassessment for?


Assessment purpose: norm- vs. criterion-referenced

  • To rank or select among the students: Norm-referenced

  • To see who can achieve set goals or standards: Criterion-referenced


Assessment purposes: Summative vs formative


Purposes of classroom assessment

  • To obtain info on how effective teaching has been

  • To provide feedback to learners:

    • Progress?

    • Weaknesses?

  • To give learners an incentive to study

  • To clarify to both teacher and learners what learners need to achieve in terms of:

    • what to learn

    • amount of learning

    • level of performance


Language assessment in China

  • Language assessment research

    • Review of 9 key journals

    • All assessment articles (total=91) published between 2001 and 2005

  • Language assessment practice


Journals reviewed

  • Foreign Language Teaching and Research

  • Modern Foreign Languages

  • Journal of Foreign Languages

  • Foreign Language World

  • Foreign Languages and Their Teaching

  • Journal of PLA University of Foreign Languages

  • Foreign Language Research

  • Foreign Language Education

  • Foreign Languages Research


Journals reviewed (Chinese)

  • 外语教学与研究

  • 现代外语

  • 外国语

  • 外语界

  • 外语与外语教学

  • 解放军外国语学院学报

  • 外语学刊

  • 外语教学

  • 外语研究


Lable

Topics

A

Proficiency test

B

Testing oral English

C

Testing listening

D

Testing writing

E

Testing reading

F

Integrative testing

G

Computer assisted testing

H

Reform in language testing

I

Band 4 and Band 6

Language assessment articles published in China: Categories


J

Test analysis

K

Test taking strategies

L

Test format

M

SLA and testing

N

Authenticity

O

Curriculum and testing

P

Social aspects of language testing

Q

Pragmatic aspects of testing

R

Testing trends

S

Washback

T

Formative assessment

U

Using tests for diagnostic purposes

Language assessment articles published in China: Categories


Language testing articles published in China (2001-2005)


Research concentration (2001-2005)


Four articles on formative assessment


Using summative tests for diagnostic purposes


Summary

  • Chinese researchers have concentrated on summative assessment (assessing OF learning), not on formative assessment (assessing FOR learning).

  • No article touched on criterion-referenced assessment from 2001 to 2005.

  • Chinese teachers have not extensively explored formative assessment as a teaching or learning tool for the classroom


Formative assessment

  • Formative assessment refers to assessment that is specially intended to generate feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning (Sadler, 1998)


Assessment that can be formative is assessment that

  • Is embedded in a pedagogy of which it is an essential part (eg constructivist).

  • Shares learning goals with students.

  • Involves students in self-assessment.

  • Provides feedback which leads to studentsrecognising the gap and closing it.

  • Is underpinned by confidence that every student can improve.

  • Involves reviewing and reflecting on assessment data.

    (Harlen, 1998)


Three conditions for formative feedback

  • Knowledge of standards (knowing what good performance is)

  • Comparing these standards (desired level of performance) to the student’s own current level of performance

  • Taking action to close the gap between current and desired performance

    Sadler (1989)


How does feebback work?Feedback in a self-regulated learning framework

Butler and Winne (1995)

Teacher sets task

Goals/criteria/standards

Processes internal to student

Domain

knowledge

Strategy

knowledge

Motivational

beliefs

Student

goals

Tactics &

strategies

Internal

learning

outcomes

Paths of internal feedback

Self-regulatory processes

(Cognition, motivation & behavior)

Externally

Observable

outcomes

External feedback

(Teacher/peers)


Does formative feedback work?Empirical evidence

Black and Wiliam (1998)summarized over 250 studies, and concluded that:

  • Improving formative assessment raises standards, dramatically. And FA helps low achievers more than other students.

  • Something should be done about it inside the classroom

  • Teachers can improve formative assessment


Factors that influence the effectiveness of FA

  • Providing effective feedback to students.

  • Student’s active involvement in their own learning.

  • Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment.

  • Recognising the profound influence of assessment on students’ motivation and self-esteem.

  • Ensuring pupils reflect on their learning and understand how to improve.


Inhibiting factors

  • A tendency for teachers to assess quantity and presentation of work rather than quality of learning.

  • Greater attention given to marking and grading, much of it tending to lower self esteem of students, rather than providing advice for improvement.

  • A strong emphasis on comparing students with each other, which demoralizes the less successful learners.


The New Zealand Experience

  • Standards-based assessment (SBA) at the national level

  • Qualifications awarded by completing sets of unit standards (desired learning outcomes), not in terms of years of learning, and not by comparison with other students.

  • Teachers design assessment tasks which relate to the specific learning needs of their learners and the context in which they are studying


The New Zealand Qualifications Framework

  • Aim: a single, coherent framework for New Zealand

  • Unit standard: a set of specific learning outcomes and the criteria for their assessment

  • Assessment/performance level: achieved/not achieved

  • Particular set of unit standards are required for certificates and diplomas at each level.


The NZ qualifications system: 10 levels


Level 1: Description


Level 3: Description


NCEA Assessment

  • National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA):the National Qualifications Framework in schools

  • NCEA=Levels 1-3 in NQF: senior secondary school

  •  8 achievement standards for each school subject

  • Each stardard has a credit value and sits at a specified level on the NQF.

  • Credits are accumulated towards a qulification


Stadands-based Assessment in NCEA

  • Four levels of performance:

    • Excellence

    • Merit

    • Credit

    • Not achieved

  • Half of the standards for each subject are assessed by classroom teachers, the other half externally assessed nationally


An example: ESOL unit standard 17363

  • Read independently information texts, using ESOL

  • Level: 3

  • Credit: 5


Summary of SBA in NZ

SBA in NZ is criterion-referenced assessment. It achieves a much better formative purpose than a summative one. This is because

  • SBA makes desired standards of learning explicit to both teachers and learners

  • It enables and encourages rich and frequent feedback from both the teacher and the students themselves

  • It does not emphasise the grade, and gives students multiple chances to achieve a standard.


What’s good about Standards-based assessment? 1

  • Clear and specific goals and standards for both learners and teachers

  • Students assessed in terms of what they can do, and not how they compare with peers

  • Slow learners are given multiple chances to achieve.


What’s good about Standards-based assessment? 2

  • Rich formative tasks during or at the end of particular units of work

  • peer, and self assessment based on observation, questioning, and feedback

  • give detailed information about students' learning needs

  • suggest appropriate teaching strategies to meet student needs


Problems with standards-based assessment 1

  • Assessment by unit standards greatly increased teacher workloads as they designed tasks and implemented them, kept records of student achievement, and participated in the necessary moderation activities.

  • Unit standards are assessed on an achieved/not achieved basis. There is no provision for rewarding superior performance and academically able students may not be challenged to achieve to the best of their ability.


Problems with standards-based assessment 2

  • Despite moderaton procedures, ensuringconsistent and fair assessment on a national basis is a tall order.

  • SBA is good for low-stakes, formative purposes, but is used for high stakes purposes such as certification.


Insights for language assessment in China

  • At the system level, the main purpose of foreign language assessment in China is probably always going to remain norm-referenced, summative, and selective.

  • At the pedagogical level, setting clear and realistic goals and standards for Chinese teachers and learners of English is a natural step we have to start. However, a NZ-style standards-based assessment is both impractical and unnecessary.


Insights for language assessment in China

  • At the classroom level, I see an urgent need for teachers to explore formative assessment tools such as self- and peer- assessment, portfolios that provide rich feedback information.

  • At the learner level, formative assessment will not only improve learning results, but also encourage self-reflection, self monitoring, and self-regulation.


Insights for language assessment in China

  • At the research agenda level, it is not a question of whether, but a question of how formative assessment should be made use of systematically by Chinese teachers and learners to improve learning.


Purpose of assessment?

  • If a major purpose of assessment is to inform teaching and learning, why aren’t we exploring formative assessment for its potentials in the foreign language classroom?


Thank you!


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