One Vision, Many Eyes. A Social Constructivist Approach to Embedding Formative Assessment and Evaluation in a Secondary School
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
The theoretical framework for this empirical study extends a trail of thinking from a social constructivist view of learning to the areas of assessment, evaluation and leadership. The relationship between social constructivist learning principles, formative approaches to assessment and evaluation, and collaborative leadership styles is explored and discussed. Learning and teaching developments in secondary schools have often fragmented the intrinsic elements of learning, teaching, assessment, evaluation and leadership. As Palmer (2007) so aptly puts it: ‘…we think the world apart.’ (p. 64). This study seeks to ‘think education together’ by taking a more integrated perspective. The aims of this study were to add to the body of knowledge in the area of assessment and evaluation through the adoption of the aforementioned integrated perspective, develop formative assessment and evaluation policies and practices in a secondary school to the extent that they are embedded in the school’s working culture and paradigm, and finally to chart the means by which change has been achieved. The research is argued to be located in the critical paradigm, adopts an action research methodology in which the researcher assumes a participatory, practitioner researcher role in conducting an ethnographic case study of a secondary school. A social constructivist theme was retained throughout the research design and although both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered, the study was conducted within an interpretative framework informed by symbolic interactionism. Data were gathered via a multi-method approach that included focus groups and semi-structured interviews, observation and accompanying field notes, document and classroom artefact analysis, and non-inferential statistics. Focus groups were used to check data sources, confirm interpretations, develop and disseminate new ideas and approaches, and refine developments based on feedback received. This process was informed by Gladwell’s (2000) notion of ideas taking on the qualities of viruses which in turn develop into epidemics. Participants’ early reluctance to accept a need to change was overcome through an initial ‘internal’ audit of current policy and practice relating to learning, teaching, assessment and evaluation, the results of which confirmed the ‘external’ judgements made by OfSTED and the Local Authority (LA) in terms of the need for the school to develop formative approaches to assessment and evaluation. A purposively selected assessment and evaluation focus group showed a commitment to formative ways of working, and was instrumental in defining and refining new policies for assessment and evaluation in collaboration with other focus groups, non-focus group colleagues, pupils and parents. Additional focus groups for pupil behavioural aspects and mentoring were embraced by the research rather than discouraged in order to retain an integrated ‘real world’ perspective. The aims of the study are shown to have been met in that new formative ways of working are now embedded in assessment policy and practice and the researcher has developed a new approach to whole school leadership. This study proposes a new way of thinking that embraces paradox rather than preserving divisions. Moreover, it argues a case for transformative education being reliant on taking this stance. The study also presents a picture of leadership and research based on co-existence and proposes a new ‘Stenhousian’ philosophy where research becomes the basis for leadership.
Doctor of Education in Education