In Search of Deep Change: South African Schools

In Search of Deep Change: South African Schools
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
In Search of Deep Change:
A Study of the Implementation of Assessment Policy in
South African Schools
by
Shamrita Devi Hariparsad
A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment
of the requirements for the degree of
PhD
University of Pretoria
2004
Approved by Professor Jonathan D. Jansen
Chairperson of the Supervisory Committee
__________________________________
Date: _____________________________
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
I dedicate this dissertation to
Nirvaan Somers
My Son
My Inspirational Change Force
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Producing this dissertation was enlightening and challenging. I wish to thank the
following colleagues, family and friends who assisted me through this bumpy
journey.
Professor Jonathan Jansen, not only for his intellectual and critical guidance, but his
continued encouragement and support. Professor Jansen is a true Supervisor, a
Mentor, a Role Model! Thank you!
Nirvaan, for being my pillar of hope, strength and support.
Anita, Les, Dinesh, Camnee, Rajiv, and Ansuri for their unwavering love and
devotion towards my well-being and success.
Suresh, who in his own unique manner has supported my academic journey.
Nireen, for her understanding and kind assistance.
Farida, a sincere friend who stood by me providing intellectual, emotional and moral
support.
Professor Michael Samuel, for his critical comments and professional support.
Mr Duncan Hindle, for granting me leave from my workstation thus enabling me to
complete this project.
Yvonne Munro who has always been very helpful.
Most importantly to the two courageous teachers, and their respective principals and
schools, who so generously gave of their time and ideas.
I am sure that I may have excluded some important people in this list. For your
assistance and support during my development in this research journey, I thank you.
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
SUMMARY
Why has teachers’ classroom work remained relatively stable despite an enormous amount of
change in educational policy? In 1998 the national Department of Education of South Africa
introduced a new policy on assessment to complement its new curriculum policy introduced
in 1997. With its emphasis on performance–based outcomes, the assessment policy
constituted a decisive and significant break from the past assessment policy. This research
focuses on the implementation of the new assessment policy by classroom teachers. The study
is guided by the following three research questions:
1: What are teacher understandings and beliefs with regard to assessment policy?
2: In the context of official policy, how do teachers practice assessment in their
classrooms?
3: How can the continuities and the discontinuities between official policy on assessment
and teachers’ assessment practice be explained?
After reviewing the literature on policy implementation, the study articulated a broader
conceptual framework drawing on the construct of ‘deep change’. This perspective
supplements rather than supplants dominant approaches to policy implementation. The ‘deep
change’ framework suggests a more incisive approach to understanding the relationship
between policy and practice.
This study presents and tests three propositions about change, namely:
Proposition One: That teachers may not have a deep, sophisticated understanding of a new
assessment policy even if there is evidence of strong rhetorical commitment to the policy.
Proposition Two: That teachers may not be able to reconcile their own assessment beliefs and
capacities with the stated goals of a new assessment policy.
Proposition Three: That teachers may find traditional assessment practices (that is,
examinations and testing) to hold greater efficacy in the classroom than the alternatives
required by a new assessment policy.
A case study approach was undertaken with two Grade 8 science teachers from two different
contexts, one from an under-resourced township school, and the other from a well-resourced
urban school. Using evidence from questionnaires, free-writing schedules, extensive prelesson and post-lesson interviews, prolonged non-participant classroom observations, teacher
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records and documents, and student records and examinations, the study found that the two
teachers had a surface understanding of the new assessment policy; the teacher from the wellresourced, urban school was able to implement some of the new assessment methods, while
the teacher from the under-resourced, township school did not implement any of the new
methods of assessment required by the new assessment policy; both teachers were unable to
reconcile their own assessment beliefs and capacities with the stated goals of a new
assessment policy; and both teachers found the traditional assessment practices (that is,
examinations and testing) to hold greater efficacy in the classroom than the alternatives
required by a new assessment policy.
In other words, the study found that teachers did not have a deep understanding of the
assessment policy and did not change their assessment practices deeply as required by the
assessment policy. The study argues that educational policies will do little to achieve deep
changes in teachers’ pedagogical practices without concurrent attention to a strong theory of
change. The study concludes with implications for teacher learning, professional development
of teachers, theory and research.
Key words: assessment reform, education policy change, education policy implementation,
deep change, teacher change, theory of education, theory of change.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
Chapter One
Introduction and Overview
1
Chapter Two
Review of the Literature
10
Chapter Three
Towards a conceptual framework for understanding the relationship between
policy and practice
21
Chapter Four
Research Methodology
38
Chapter Five
The case of Dinzi: In search of new knowledge and resources
81
Chapter Six
The case of Hayley: In search of order and certainty
131
Chapter Seven
Cross- Case analysis: Convergences and divergences?
209
Chapter Eight
Between Theory and Data: Explaining the relationship between Assessment
Policy and Assessment Practice
254
List of Appendices
316
Appendix A
Letter to provincial Head of Department
317
Appendix B
Letter to principal of School A
318
Appendix C
Letter to principal of School B
319
Appendix D
Summary of critical research questions and methods
320
Appendix E
Summary of value of research methods
321
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Page
Appendix F
Questionnaire 1
322
Appendix G
Free writing schedule
330
Appendix H
Interview schedule 1
332
Appendix I
Analysis of the new official assessment policy
334
Appendix J
Questionnaire 2
341
Appendix K
Interview schedule 2
349
Appendix L
Classroom observation protocol
351
Appendix M
Analysis of teacher and student documents and records
353
Appendix N
Contact summary form
355
Appendix O
Document summary form
356
Appendix P
Contextual Information on the School
357
Bibliography
360
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CHAPTER ONE
The Implementation of Assessment Policy in South African Schools
Introduction and Overview
The policies we required …are firmly in place. The task we will all face during the next
decade ahead will be to ensure vigorous implementation of these policies…1
Introduction
In December 1998 the national Department of Education released a new assessment
policy that was modelled on its flagship curriculum, called Curriculum 2005. The new
curriculum had been released in 1996 for phased-in implementation in the schooling
sector comprising Grades R (5-6 year olds) to 9 (14-15 year olds). At the time of this
study (2002), both the new curriculum policy and the new assessment policy were in
operation in all grades except Grade 6.
The new assessment policy expected teachers to alter their assessment practices in
fundamental ways. For example, teachers were expected to use clearly defined
outcomes as the basis for evaluating student work, to define clearly what students are
to learn, to make the purposes of assessment clear, and to use multiple assessment
tools, techniques and methods -- such as self-assessment, journals, peer assessment
and projects. In addition, teachers were required to simultaneously introduce
continuous and authentic assessment, and to ensure that assessment was objective,
valid, manageable and sensitive to gender, race and disability (Department of
Education, 1998). This new method of assessment departed radically from the
assessment regime under the apartheid education system, one that relied heavily on
tests and examinations as final judgments on student performance.
The purpose of the new assessment policy comported with the progressive orientation
of other educational policies issued by the first democratic government of South
1
From the State of the Nation Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, Houses of
Parliament, Cape Town, 6 February 2004, emphasis added.
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Africa, namely “to uproot old practices, beliefs, values about the social order and to
replace them with new ways of conducting national business” (Manganyi, 2001:28). It
is within this new policy context that this research study is located, the purpose of
which is to examine teacher understandings and beliefs about the new assessment
policy, to explore how they implement/do not implement this policy in their
classrooms, and to explain the continuities and discontinuities between the new
assessment policy and the assessment practices. The research is situated in the
tradition of policy implementation studies, and broadly seeks to understand the
relationship between policy and practice in the context of assessment reform.
Rationale
I was drawn to this study by multiple rationales. First, was my interest and experience
as a policy maker required to oversee and support the implementation of educational
policies in public schools. In this context I found myself responding to the challenge
posed by Allington (2000:17), who charged that: “it is surprising how little attention
policy makers seem to have paid to the implementation process”. Second, the
Ministerial Review Committee on Curriculum 20052 (Chisholm, 2000), reported a
lack of alignment between the curriculum policy and the assessment policy, and that
there had been a lack of clarity with regard to assessment requirements. This Review
Team did not, however, conduct a detailed study of the new assessment policy.
Research conducted by the Centre for Education Policy Development, Evaluation and
Management (CEPD) (see CEPD, 2000, 2001, 2002) also reported that teachers
struggled with issues of assessment, although these studies did not conduct sustained
investigation into assessment policy and implementation. This lack of empirical work
on assessment policy reform and implementation in the South African context further
motivated this inquiry.
A further motivation for conducting this research was that the school improvement
movement had not paid sufficient attention to the issue of assessment policy or
practice. For example, an eminent proponent of school improvement, Hopkins
2
In 1999, the second democratic Minister of Education of South Africa had commissioned the review
of the new curriculum for schooling, named Curriculum 2005 that had been introduced in 1997 by the
first democratic government of South Africa.
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(2002:2) argues that “real” improvement is achieved by modifying classroom practice
and by adapting the organizational or management arrangements within the school to
support teaching and learning. No mention is made of assessment. This lack of a
concentrated focus on assessment in the policy research literature led me to select the
policy on assessment for further study because assessment has provided the impetus
for major educational reform efforts worldwide (see Black and William, 1998a,
1998b; Harlen et al., 1998; Pryor and Akwesi, 1998; Rothman, 1995; Taylor and
Vinjevold, 1999).
The literature on policy implementation points to an intractable problem – the
distance or gap between policy intentions and policy outcomes. Policy
implementation scholars offered competing theories explaining the dissonance
between education policy and teachers’ classroom practice. However, the limitation of
these accounts in much of the literature is in the assumption that change is achieved
when the surface features of change are observable or measurable, for example,
improvements in test scores or changes in teacher behaviours. I argue that such
perspectives are inadequate because surface measures of change cannot probe for the
depth or test the sustainability of change since only external performance is being
assessed and not changes in beliefs, emotions, attitudes, values and, of course,
knowledge and skills across contexts. This gap in the literature also fuelled my
interest in this study to seek a different theoretical frame for understanding the
relationship between the new assessment policy and its implementation/nonimplementation by classroom teachers. I also wished to add and contribute to the
theoretical basket of explanations for understanding policy implementation, especially
in developing country contexts. The study proposes an alternative conceptual
framework
for
understanding
and
explaining
policy
implementation/non-
implementation by classroom teachers.
The crucial importance of policy implementation is highlighted in the quotation
provided at the beginning of this chapter, made by the President of South Africa. But
this does not mean that policies will necessarily be implemented because of political
statements, however important they may be. Policy implementation, a process of
realizing policy goals in practice, is not as simple as it may seemingly appear in the
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presidential quotation. With such political directives Maina and Muliro (2001) in
Ward et al (2003:135) argue that:
These ‘grand scheme’ announcements …carry with them the
weight of political imperative. However, as ex cathedra
directives they are rarely linked to any real tangible output…
I agree that the implementation of policies is important, but its success at the level of
practice has been less than favourable. And as I have indicated various theories exist
that explain the problems relating to policy implementation. I add to this body of
theoretical explanations.
The Conceptual Framework for the study
The study represents a theoretical experiment designed to explain policy
implementation/non-implementation using the construct of deep change. The
conceptual framework on deep change recognises different kinds of change such as
non-change, superficial change, temporary or unsustainable change, mechanical
change, incremental change and deep change. Deploying this conceptual framework,
the study argues that for the successful implementation of the new assessment policy
teachers need to change deeply. Following the logic of the conceptual framework, the
study contends that deep change results when the theory of education underpinning
the policy is strong, and accompanied by an equally strong theory of change. Arising
from the conceptual framework the study posits three propositions, namely:
Proposition One: Teachers may not have a deep, sophisticated understanding of a
new assessment policy, even if there is evidence of strong rhetorical commitment to
this policy.
Proposition Two: Teachers may not be able to reconcile their own assessment beliefs
and capacities with the stated goals of a new assessment policy.
Proposition Three: Teachers may find that traditional assessment practices (that is,
examinations and testing) hold greater efficacy in the classrooms than the
alternatives required by a new assessment policy.
The study subjects these propositions to empirical and theoretical verification using
the data from the two case study reports, the conceptual framework on ‘deep change’
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and the new requirements as signalled in the new assessment policy of the South
African government.
The Methodological Plan of the Study
A qualitative, descriptive and exploratory case study approach was utilized for this
study. The approach was informed by the three research questions that guided the
study, namely:
1. What are teacher understandings and beliefs with regard to new official
assessment policy?
2. In the context of official policy, how do teachers practice assessment in their
classrooms?
3. How can the continuities and discontinuities between official policy on
assessment and teachers’ assessment practice be explained?
I chose the purposive sampling method in that only teachers who were willing and
able to participate were included in the study. This sample included two secondary
school teachers, each teaching Grade 8 Natural Science, from two different schools;
one from a well-resourced urban school and another from an under-resourced
township school. A variety of methods and tools were used to collect data for the
study, including questionnaires, free-writing schedules, pre- and post-classroom
observation interviews, non-participant classroom observations, assessment-related
documents from the case study teachers, and records of the case study teachers and
observed students. These methods and tools were subjected to peer-review as means
of conferring rigour, credibility and confidence in the study. In addition, the research
instruments were pilot tested with two teachers. The feedback received from peers as
well as from the pilot process led to adjustments in both the broad research strategy
and the specific research instruments.
The interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. The two teachers were given a
chance to comment on the contents of the transcripts. I prepared comprehensive
reports after each classroom observation and these reports were also given to each
teacher for comment. I utilized the process of methodological triangulation to further
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strengthen the validity of my findings. I employed the assistance of a critical friend to
externally review the completed case reports of each teacher as a further step in
establishing validity of the research process. I tested each proposition by the analysis
arising from comparing each case study report of the two teachers, within the
conceptual framework on deep change as it applied to the new assessment policy.
Limitations of the study
The study identifies many shortcomings. As a researcher, I had been the primary
instrument for the collection and analysis of the data in this case study; this leaves the
possibility of researcher bias being introduced into the research study. Questions
relating to ethics, reliability, lack of rigour and validity become relevant in such an
instance. I responded by employing strategies described above, such as allowing the
two teachers access to the transcribed interviews and reports on classroom
observations, using methodological triangulation, and seeking a critical reader to
evaluate the case reports.
Case studies provide little basis for making scientific generalisations. I made the
purpose of the research study explicit, that is, to explore and interpret the findings in
the particular contexts of investigation, that is, in relation to the two teachers being
studied. The study can be “generalizable to theoretical propositions” (Yin, 1994: 10)
but obviously not to all teachers and to all schools.
The policy itself is being taken as given, that is, it is not being conceptually critiqued,
but the validity of policy intention in terms of its implementation was being
investigated. It may seem that policy implementation is seen as being separate from
the policy process. I make it explicit that I embrace an integrated view of policy, that
policy implementation is part of the policy making process. But the focus of this study
is on policy implementation.
This qualitative case study resulted in voluminous amounts of data that needed to be
managed and secured properly. Slippage can be costly in terms of continuity essential
for the coherence of the study. For each set of data from each teacher, I created a
logical case study database that was safely and methodically stored but easily
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retrievable. I also made manual and electronic copies of each case study database and
stored them in three different places for safekeeping.
This study does not provide strategies on how to facilitate deep change among
teachers. In other words, it lacks an agenda for action. I respond to this potential
criticism by raising questions for ongoing policy research.
The significance of the study
The educational research literature on policy implementation is replete with evidence
showing that most policy reform efforts that have sought to significantly alter the
accepted patterns of schooling have emerged as shadows of their original intent.
Many studies have attempted to account for this “paradox of change without
difference” (Woodbury and Gess-Newsome: 2002: 763). However, such accounts
tend to assume that change is achieved when the surface features of change are
observable or measurable. This study argues that this perspective is inadequate
because such measures of change cannot test for the depth and sustainability of
change. This study provides a different theoretical analysis for understanding the
relationship between the new assessment policy and its implementation/nonimplementation by classroom teachers. In advancing a new theoretical perspective, I
attempt to add new scholarly understandings and insights on the policy-practice
dilemma in educational settings. The study also raises questions related to the depth
and sustainability of educational policy reforms, with implications for theory, practice
and (policy) research.
OVERVIEW OF THE DISSERTATION
Chapter One, this chapter, presented the research problem, namely, understanding
the relationship between policy and practice. It also explains the rationale, the
conceptual framework and the methodological plan for the study. The chapter
explains how validity had been established in the research process, as well as
identified limitations in the study and how this was addressed. The chapter highlights
the significance of the study in terms of offering a broader theoretical framework for
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understanding the relationship between policy and practice and its significance for
both theory and further inquiry.
Chapter Two explores the literature on policy implementation in both developed and
developing countries. The chapter found that many of the explanations offered for the
gap between policy and practice were inadequate in that they assumed that change is
achieved when the surface features of change are observable. The chapter suggests
and articulates a new theoretical framework that may more adequately account for the
deep changes expected of teachers for the successful implementation of new policies.
Chapter Three presents a broader theoretical framework, referred to as ‘deep
change’ to understand and explain the relationship between policy and practice. The
chapter distinguishes amongst different kinds of change such as non-change,
superficial change, temporary or unsustainable change, mechanical change and deep
change. This framework suggests that for the successful implementation of a new
assessment policy, teachers need to change deeply. It also suggests factors that could
lead to deep changes in teachers. The chapter advances three propositions on change
which is tested in this study. How the framework on deep change is used to test the
propositions is also described in this chapter.
Chapter Four describes the research design and methodology chosen to explore the
three critical research questions in the study. A qualitative, descriptive and
exploratory case study approach was utilized. Two teachers represented the sample,
each teaching Grade 8 Natural Science, one from a well-resourced urban school, and
another from an under-resourced township school. A variety of methods and tools
were used to collect data for the study including questionnaires, free writing
schedules, pre- and post-classroom observation interviews, non-participant classroom
observations, assessment related documents from the case study teachers, and records
of the case study teachers and observed students. This methodology resulted in the
compilation of case study reports for each teacher.
In Chapters Five and Six I describe each teacher’s personal and professional profiles
as well as descriptions of the schools and the observed classes. I report on each
teacher’s understandings and beliefs about the new assessment policy and how each
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teacher practised assessment in the classroom. The chapters also begin to analyse and
interpret the data against the propositions made. I engage in this preliminary analysis
as a foundation to Chapter Eight of this dissertation.
Chapter Seven compares the two teachers’ understandings and beliefs about the new
assessment policy against the backdrop of their assessment practices. The cross-case
analysis raises fundamental conceptual and procedural questions emerging from the
observation of convergence and divergence between the two teachers’ understandings
and beliefs about the assessment policy and their assessment practices. These
questions set an agenda for Chapter Eight of this study.
In Chapter Eight, the final chapter of the study, I provide possible explanations for
the observed assessment practices of each of the two teachers. This is in response to
the third research question of the study: How can the continuities and discontinuities
between official policy on assessment and teachers’ assessment practice be
explained? I present the argument or thesis of the study and its implications for
further research and enquiry. My argument is situated against the rationale of the
study described in Chapter One, the literature review explored in Chapter Two and the
conceptual framework developed in Chapter Three. In testing the propositions I
suggest that the teachers in the study had a surface understanding of the new
assessment policy, and that they were unable to reconcile their own assessment beliefs
and capacities with the stated goals of the new assessment policy. I suggest that
teachers need to change deeply in order to realise new policy objectives. And in order
to facilitate such changes I argue that policymakers need to construct policies
underpinned by a strong theory of education and driven by an equally strong theory of
change.
In the next chapter I review the literature on policy implementation.
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CHAPTER TWO
Review of the Literature
Problems arise when it comes to implementation of the policy1
In this chapter I survey the literature, drawing principally on the research dealing with
policy implementation. I made the decision to concentrate on the general research on
policy implementation in order to seek new interpretations and deeper understandings
of the relationship between educational policy and classroom practice. The literature
provided the conceptual basis for data collection plan, the research instruments used
in this study, and the framework for the analysis of the data. The literature review
emerged as a response to the targeted research questions in the study, which seeks to
examine teacher understandings and beliefs about a new assessment policy, and to
evaluate their classroom practices in relation to this assessment policy.
The knowledge base on policy implementation in the context of educational change
and reform is formidable, and it is insightful for examining and understanding the
relationship between macro-level policies and micro-level or classroom practice.
Research on educational reform and policy implementation has been, and still is, the
subject of substantial volume of research, debate and analysis among scholars both in
developing and developing countries (see Angula and Grant-Lewis, 1997; Chisholm,
2000; Christie, 1998; Cohen 1990; Cohen and Ball, 1999; Cuban, 1988, 1993, 1999;
Dunn, 2003; Elmore, 1996; Fullan, 1991, 1993, 1999a, 1999b, 2000, 2001, 2003;
Fullan and Hargreaves, 1992; Hargreaves, 1994; Hargreaves, Earl and Ryan, 1996;
Hargreaves, et al 1998; Jansen, 1998a, 1998b, 1999a; 1999b; 1999c; 2001a, 2001b,,
2002; Jansen and Christie, 1999; Newman and Wehlage, 1995; Reimers and McGinn,
1997; Sarason, 1990; Sayed & Jansen, 2001; Stigler and Hiebert, 1999; Spillane, et
al., 2002; Stoll and Fink, 1996; Taylor and Vinjevold, 1999; Tyack & Cuban, 1995;
Ward, et. al., 2003). Many of these studies claim that policy reforms designed to
improve the quality of schooling have been more rhetorical than substantive in their
impact in classrooms and schools, thus exposing the dissonance between policy
1
Excerpt from the interview with one of the case study teachers
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intention and policy outcomes at the level of practice. In other words they show that
policy is not self-executing. For example, Jansen (2002: 199) observes:
[Despite] unprecedented investments in policymaking and
policy production …in South Africa, there appears to be very
little change in the daily routines of schools and classrooms of
the nation.
Most reform efforts that have sought to significantly alter the status quo of schooling
have been either adapted to fit what existed or sloughed off, allowing the system to
remain essentially untouched (Cuban, 1988). Similarly, Elmore (1996: 1) argues:
Innovations that require large scale changes in the core of
educational practices seldom penetrate more than a small
fraction of U.S. schools and classrooms, and seldom lasts for
very long when they do.
Many educational policy studies attempted to provide explanations for the policy
gaps. For example, Jansen (2001) invokes the construct of ‘political symbolism’ to
argue that the failure of policy is a direct result of the over-investment of the state in
the political symbolism of policy rather than in its practical implementation, (see also
Smith et al., 2004). Jansen (2002: 200) theorizes:
Every single case of education policymaking demonstrates, in
different ways, the preoccupation of the state with settling
policy struggles in the political domain rather than in the realm
of practice.
Fullan (2001) argued that a large part of the problem is more a question of the
difficulties related to planning and coordinating a multilevel social process involving
thousands of people, who are much more unpredictable and difficult to deal with than
with things such as policy. Angula and Grant-Lewis (1997) ascribe implementation
problems to the overstretching of the system that was operating on many reform
fronts, a lack of will to act, limited understanding and skills, and lack of support.
Reimers and McGinn (1997) contend that policies fail because conditions to facilitate
dialogue and organizational learning were absent.
Other research on the
implementation of policy indicates that policy ideas rarely translate unproblematically
into classroom practice, and that implementers often undermine or alter policy
intentions (Garn, 1999). This supports prior research that revealed that innovations
were seldom implemented in the classroom in exactly the same way that the
developers had intended (Elmore & Sykes, 1992). Allington (200:12) summarised his
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findings on the studies of policy implementation as “few policies are faithfully
implemented”. He used the concept of “policy collisions” (ibid) to describe the
contradictory mandates produced by policy. Familiarity with this litany of
unsuccessful educational reform efforts or policy slippages during the implementation
process is valuable for this study as it would enable me to recognize, consider and
retain the messiness and complexity of policy implementation.
It is insightful and relevant to my study to use the work of McLaughlin (1998: 70-84)
who, in the context of the Rand Change Agent Study in the USA, investigated how
federal education policies whose intent was to stimulate change in local practices,
made their way through levels of government and practice. McLaughlin (1998)
reported that as officials at various levels of the policy system responded to new
education policies of the government, “implementation issues were revealed in all
their complexity, intractability, and inevitably” (p.70). The issues surrounding the
dilemma of translating educational policies into classroom practice are certainly not
new. The problem and complexity of implementing policies was first described in the
early 1970s by Jeffrey Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky who, in their investigation on
the complexities of policy implementation, found that implementers did not always do
as they were told, nor did they always act to maximize the policy objectives, but
“responded in what often seemed quite idiosyncratic, frustratingly unpredictable, if
not downright resistant ways” (p.70). This resulted in outcomes not only contrary to
policy expectations, but also to enormous variability (ibid). McLaughlin observed:
[It] is exceedingly difficult for policy to change practice,
especially across levels of government. Contrary to the 1:1
relationship assumed to exist between policy and practice, the
Change Agent Study demonstrated that the nature, amount,
and pace of change at the local level was a product of local
factors that were largely beyond the control of higher-level
policy makers.
(p71, emphasis in original)
This finding challenges the theory that enhanced inputs, namely more money or better
policies would result in improved practice at the local level, as well as the assumption
that a direct or linear relationship existed between policy and practice (ibid).
McLaughlin also noted that policies ignored the “black box” of local practices, beliefs
and traditions (p71) Furthermore, she noted that the dynamic, changing nature of local
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factors over time produced strategically and substantively different contexts for policy
(ibid.). One of the conclusions of the Rand Study was that the outcome of policy
“depends on how policy is interpreted and transformed at each point in the process,
and finally on the response of the individual at the end of the line” (p72). This
resonates with the observations made by Bowe et al. (1992) in Looney (2001:157)
that “policies will be interpreted differently as the histories, experiences, values,
purposes and interests, which make up an arena, differ. The simple point is that policy
makers cannot control the meanings teachers make of policies. Similarly, DarlingHammond (1998) claims that policy is re-invented at each level of the system and that
what finally happens in classrooms and schools is related more to the beliefs,
knowledge, resources, motivation and leadership operating at the local level than is
related to the intentions of the policy-makers. Allington (2000) supports such views
that the implementation of educational policies entails translation of the policy by
individual teachers. Elmore (1983) refers to this view about the fundamental
importance of classroom teachers understanding, interpreting and translating policy to
practice as “the power of the bottom over the top”. Fullan (2001) similarly contends
that changes in understandings and beliefs, which he refers to as ‘first principles’, are
the foundation of achieving sustainable reform. The above review is relevant and
valuable to this research study that seeks to explore, examine and explain teachers’
understanding and beliefs of a new policy on assessment.
Understanding change is related to capacity and the will to change, the two critical
variables identified by McLaughlin (1998:72) in affecting the outcomes of the
implementation process. Furthermore, if policy gets interpreted, transformed or reinvented from one level to another, as indicated, it suggests that in the South African
context, policies will get transformed or re-invented as it passes through the various
levels of bureaucracy, namely from national level to provincial level to district level
to the school level and finally to the classroom level – four bureaucratic levels of
interpretation. If one follows the logic of re-invention above, the implication is that
the policy interpreted by the classroom teacher would be substantially different from
that of the policy-maker at national level: political will and local capacity will play
themselves out here because will and capacity are not neutral concepts. They are
loaded with different ideologies, values and belief systems. Relevant to this line of
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thought is the observation by Manganyi2 (2001:28) that in South Africa there are
complex political, attitudinal, economic and even psychological forces at work, the
interplay of which determine the depth, scale and sustainability of change. This
observation
finds
resonance
with
the
observation
that
policy,
including
implementation is not devoid of politics, power, competing interests and conflicting
struggles (Jansen, 2001a:271). This means that these forces could shape the
understanding, interpretation, transformation and implementation of policies by
classroom teachers. Furthermore local capacity and will not only are beyond the reach
of policy, they change over time (McLaughlin, 1998).
Another conclusion of the Rand Study was that “implementation signals mutual
adaptation” (McLaughlin, 1998:73). This suggests that the policy and local realities
undergo mutual adaptation, which the study regards as useful since local factors are
recognized in integrating and shaping policy and practice. The study claims that
adaptation and variability are good. Glaser (1991) concurs that adaptation can provide
for a range of opportunities for success. Mutual adaptation suggests a dialectical
relationship between policy and practice as opposed to a direct relationship where
policy and practice are dichotomised. My concern about mutual adaptation relates to
the possibility of deliberate distortion of policy objectives and local realities by
competing interest groups under the guise of adaptation, thereby undermining and
subverting the goals of the educational reform and transformation agenda. I am also
concerned about the extent to which adaptations could compromise the quality of
implementation and its corresponding implications for achieving equity in education.
The Rand Study also emphasized the critical role of local implementation and the
‘street level bureaucrats’ who decide about classroom practice (McLaughlin, 1998).
Fullan (1993: 77), in arguing that “the actions of the teachers, the frontline agents of
change, are critical to successful implementation” supports this. Malcolm (2001:200)
also supports this view when he states that teachers are agents who are closest to
learners, who work at the critical interface of teaching, learning and assessment. I
agree with this view of the critical role of teachers in making decisions regarding
classroom practice because they are closest to their students and know them better. I
also believe that teachers as agents, rather than victims of change, can and do
2
The first democratically elected Director-General of national education in South Africa from 1994 to
1999
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influence policy change (Sayed, 2001:195; Welton, 2001:175). But I do not regard
teachers as a homogenous group who respond to change in uniform ways. This is
confirmed by Datnow and Castellano (2000) that teachers respond to school reforms
in varied ways such as pushing or sustaining reform efforts, resisting or subverting
them in active or passive ways. This literature is essential to this study since the focus
of this study is teachers or ‘street level bureaucrats’ working in their real classrooms
from where insights into the implementation process could be mined.
I agree with Lieberman (1998) that changing teachers and schools is a long-term
process involving an understanding of the policy problem and the local culture of
individual schools and their teachers. Fullan (1999) concurs that translating ideas into
practice is a more complex process than is realised. The difficulty of changing policy
into practice is also reflected in a comparative study of assessment in a cross-section
of countries, where it was found that:
The methods of assessment, the large scale use of marks and
grades and the ways in which the results were recorded, did not
lend themselves to any systematic use being made of
assessment information to improve the quality of either
teaching or learning.
(Macintosh, 1994 in Pryor and Akwesi, 1998, p. 269)
Research reports on assessment practice in England also revealed that implementing
assessment to improve pupil achievement was a problem (DES, 1992 in Harlen, et al.,
1992). Black and William (1989b) also found that there was a widespread pattern of
assessment practices that did not foster pupil learning. With reference to research on
National Assessment in England and Wales, Torrance (1993) found that new
approaches to assessment did not automatically have a positive impact on teaching
and learning. In the USA, it was found that policies that have the greatest appeal are
those least likely to produce any substantial change in teaching and learning (Muller
and Roberts, 2000).
Similarly, in South Africa it was found that although teachers often claim enthusiasm
for new policies, on close examination the actual classroom changes are modest
(Chisholm, 2000; Jansen, 1999a; 1999b; 1999c; Taylor and Vinjevolt, 1999). The
neglect of implementation concerns in the new education policies is argued to be a
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fundamental flaw that had severely compromised the capacity of the policies to
deliver change (Jansen and Christie, 1999). This gap between policy and practice is
supported by Sayed & Jansen (2001:1) who add that “little had changed ‘on the
ground’” and that “South African Education is awakening to the fact that policy ideals
seldom match classroom practice” (p2). This is the gloomy reality on the ground
despite the heavy ideological investment in new curriculum policies (Jansen &
Christie, 1999) and despite the claim that formal education policies in South Africa
can be compared favourably to the best in the world (Asmal, 1999). Vally (2003) goes
further, placing the policy implementation problem in a broader macro-economic
context:
[The] overarching and political choice of GEAR3has had and
continues to have a major impact on social development
options, resource availability and social delivery at the local
level.
With reference to the implementation of education policies during the transition in
South Africa, Manganyi (2001:32-36) refers to intrinsic factors such as the conception
and development of the policy, and extrinsic factors such as resources to support the
implementation process, as determining the chances of successful policy
implementation. He outlines the mediating role of social institutions, both statutory
and non-statutory, created by government. The Constitution, he argues, legitimates the
separation of functions between the government and those social institutions that
enjoy a high degree of operational autonomy. The position of Managyi is as follows:
the lack or failure of implementation is blamed on the inability of the statutory
institutions to execute their mandate; the national government is innocent because its
function is not implementation of policy; the implementation functions of the public
service sector have limited administrative and management experience; the three-tier
system of government, namely, national, provincial and local is complicated because
the Constitution again legitimates the differentiating functions of each tier; the
national minister has executive accountability for higher education and all national
policy in respect of the school system, while the provincial government have
executive responsibilities for the schools under their jurisdiction; in some provinces
there was widespread role confusion between politicians and senior public servants,
3
Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy, the macroeconomic framework of the democratic
South African government released in 1996
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which resulted in conflict and high turnover of senior education officials; and the
national government did not have sufficient human and material resources to cope
with the scale and complexity of the education change process. This complexity and
frustrations with implementation resulted in a Cabinet directive for a “more hands-on,
supportive and interventionist approach in national-provincial relations” (p33). This
account suggests the reactive orientation of the government in the policy process, and
its lack of attention to understanding the implementation process at the time of policy
formulation and declaration. This is supported by Nzimande (2001:3) who attests to
the lack of understanding and resources required to influence the formal process of
policy implementation.
In a related study, Welton (2001:175) found that one of the results of South Africa’s
new policy-making and legislation programme had been the deskilling and
disempowering of teachers and managers whose professional knowledge and identity
have been challenged. He argues that although the challenging of professional
knowledge and identity is necessary it needs to be accompanied by a strategy for
implementation that includes a major programme of reskilling and re-empowerment.
He bemoans the absence of a systematic, system-wide strategy for implementation at
the level of practice (p176). He adds that the process of implementation generally is
still very uneven and weak overall (ibid.). He uses the metaphor of ‘tissue rejection’
of a foreign implant to illustrate the fate of our new policies at the level of practice
(p180).
The explanations for the lack of fit between education policy and practice in
postcolonial states are usually ascribed to the lack of resources, the legacy of
inequality and the lack of capacity to translate the policy intent into practical reality
(Jansen, 2001b:271).
Jansen (ibid) challenges this conventional view and charges
that “this is a view of policy that is devoid of politics and of power, of competing
interests and conflicting struggles” (ibid). He uses this charge to provoke a challenge
to the conventional view in terms of the policy intent, that is, he asks, “What if the
policy stated was not in the first instance intended to change practice? What if other
primary motivations lay behind the generation of new policies rather than
transforming realities of teaching and learning in classrooms?” (p. 271). He uses
empirical analysis to develop a theory of ‘political symbolism’ to explain non- 17 -
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implementation of policy or lack of change in South African education reform after
apartheid despite considerable political investment in efforts to change apartheid
schooling (Jansen, 2001b, 2002). He describes the policy-making process in South
Africa as a “struggle for the achievement of a broad political symbolism to mark the
shift from apartheid to post-apartheid society” (Jansen 2001b: 272). He rightly claims
that the state was preoccupied with settling policy struggles not in the realm of
practice but rather in the political domain (p. 272). He continues that political
symbolism in policy development is disconnected from any serious concerns about
changing educational practice (ibid: 273). He observes that politicians and the public
pay more attention to the development of policy rather than to its implementation.
Hence he adds that our policies receive much praise because it can be compared to the
best in the world (Asmal, 1999). This, he continues, serves to consolidate the view of
the political importance of the formal statement of policy in South Africa reflecting
South Africa’s fascination with policy statements and its social validation rather than
their implementation (ibid). He correctly adds that implementation was not
conceptualized as an advanced planning tool but something improvised or constructed
through crisis, and that policy documents are not accompanied by implementation
plans. He argues further that the continued over-reliance on political symbolism as the
overarching framework for education policy rules out change in schools and
improvement in education quality (ibid: 284-5).
By implication, an argument is
being made that for change in practice to occur, deliberate attention should be focused
on implementation that is “concerned with the sobering realities of making change
happen in practical terms in sites where it is most manifest and effective, such as
schools” (ibid: 7). I fully support his argument because it is paying deliberate, focused
attention to understanding more accurately and deeply the dynamics and complexity
of implementing change at the classroom level – the level that matters most because
that is where we can directly make a difference to the lives of our students. De Clerq
(1997) endorses this view.
This literature identified the potholes that mark the bumpy road to effective policy
implementation. These studies demonstrate that most policies are not necessarily
implemented as intended by the policy. Various arguments are offered for successful
implementation: McLaughlin (1998) argues that local capacity and will, context and
teachers professional communities are essential for success; Fullan (2001) argues that
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a system of interactive factors such as the characteristics of the change (need, clarity,
complexity, quality/practicality), local characteristics (district, community, principal,
teacher) and external characteristics (government and other agencies) will accomplish
change in practice. Garn (1999) shows how implementer attitudes to support policies
ensured successful implementation. Jansen (2001b, 2002) uses a ‘theory of political
symbolism’ to explain non-implementation of policy; Datnow and Castellano (2000)
show how teachers’ beliefs, experiences and adaptations shape implementation. The
absence of a collaborative framework has been identified as a significant barrier to
implementation of education reform in the Czech Republic (Polyzoi and Cerná,
2001). Allington (2001) argues that it is the time lag between the emergence of new
policies and the initiation of the implementation of the policies that causes
implementation problems. Others argue that local policy implementation is
undermined because of the inability of state policymakers to craft clear and consistent
directives with respect to the behaviours desired from the implementers (Mazmanian
& Sabatier, 1981; Van Meter & Horn, 1975). Woodbury et al (2002) provide an
alternative model to the implementation dilemma in response to their view that many
perspectives on school reform did not adequately account for the complexity of the
educational change process.
This exploration of the literature on educational policy implementation revealed very
few if any arguments made for deeper understandings and explanations for the policy
implementation dilemma. The exceptions are Coburn (2003), Fullan (2003) and
McLaughlin and Mitra (2001). And these studies are located in developed countries.
In developing countries contexts especially in South Africa, it is only Jansen and
Taylor (2003) who argue for “deep and wide” (p.43) systemic reform. Their view:
We define systemic reform as having a breadth aspect –
reaching across the education system to connect key leverage
points that affect the education reform goals – and a depth
aspect – reaching down the education system to ensure deep
and sustainable change in the government’s education reform
initiatives.
(p. 43, emphasis added)
Extending this deep change discourse in educational reform initiatives, I suggest a
broader theoretical framework to understand the relationship between policy and
practice, so that educational reforms are not only large scale in terms of going broader
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but they also go deeper. In the next chapter I advance and articulate the conceptual
framework employed in this study within which educational policy implementation
could be examined and explained in an environment characterized by complex,
multiple, contradictory and shifting priorities.
Summary of Chapter Two
This chapter explored the extant literature on education policy implementation in both
developed and developing countries. I report that while most reform initiatives have
educationally impressive intents such as calling for more intellectually demanding
content and pedagogy for everyone, the outcomes of these reform initiatives at the
level of classroom practice is less than impressive. Implementation scholars have
offered numerous explanations for the dissonance between policy and practice. The
chapter argues for a broader perspective of understanding this complex and dynamic
relationship between policy and practice. The framework proposed is meant to
supplement rather than supplant existing accounts of the policy implementation
process. The next chapter elaborates on this new conceptual framework.
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CHAPTER THREE
Towards a Conceptual Framework for
Understanding the Relationship between Policy and Practice
“Our own tendency as policy advisors and policy makers is to overshoot noble
goals with too many simultaneously announced rapid fire policy changes, and
to forget about how to implement these” 1
In the previous chapter I reviewed the literature on educational change in order to
provide the conceptual platform to build the theoretical framework for this study that
addresses three policy-specific questions regarding teacher understandings and beliefs
with regard to the assessment policy; how teachers practice assessment in their
classrooms; and how the continuities and the discontinuities between official policy
on assessment and teachers’ assessment practices could be explained.
In this chapter I describe and discuss the conceptual framework that enabled me to
examine and explain the continuities and the discontinuities between official policy
on assessment and teachers’ assessment practices. I draw on the construct of ‘deep
change’ articulated by Fullan (1993; 1999b, 2001; 2003) to develop the framework
that I refer to as a ‘Deep Change Framework’, This framework is directed towards
constructing a different understanding of the relationship between educational policy
and classroom practice within the context of educational reform in a transitional
democracy. This framework is premised on the notion that the optimisation of
outcomes of the policy process is facilitated by a deep understanding of that process.
If policymakers wish to facilitate the implementation of policy by teachers they must
understand the process by which teachers implement/do not implement policy and the
conditions that support or hinder the process. This framework adopts such a process
orientation; it views change as deep, non-linear, complex and dynamic; and
recognises the simultaneity of top-down (policy) and bottom up (teacher) change
initiatives. This deep change perspective offers a different strategy for analysing and
1
Quotation from a paper delivered at the International Conference on Emerging democracies,
citizenship and human rights education in Netherlands by Dr I Rensburg, then Deputy Director-General
of Education of South Africa, 18-21 June 2000.
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understanding the tenuous relationship between policy and practice. As Dewey (1960:
102) put it:
A standpoint which is nowhere in particular and from which
things are not seen at a special angle is an absurdity. But one
may have affection for a standpoint which gives a rich and
ordered landscape rather than for one from which things are
seen confusedly and meagrely.
I therefore use the deep change framework as a perspective that is not only rich and
ordered, but also provides the conceptual tools necessary to understand anew the
continuities and discontinuities between official policy on assessment and teachers’
assessment practices. This perspective does not critique, dismiss or denigrate other
perspectives or explanations, but adds new insights to the policy-practice dilemma in
education change settings.
DEEP CHANGE
All change is not the same. Yet policy reformers assume that new educational goals
will alter teacher behaviours and beliefs in ways that lead to uniform, meaningful and
sustained changes in teaching and learning. Change, however, can be nonexistent, that
is no real change in the desired direction (Fullan, 1991, 2001); and change can be
superficial (Fullan, 1991; McREL, 2000) with alterations only in the surface features
of teacher behaviour without understanding the principles of and rationale for the
change. Change can also be temporary or unsustainable (Fullan, 2001), without the
long-term changes in teacher behaviours that extend beyond the life of a particular
reform. Change can be mechanical, with teachers going through the routines of
change but without understanding or committing to the deeper value-orientations and
belief systems that underpin a new reform. Change can be incremental (Quinn, 1996),
with small steps in the change processes that can be described as evolutionary rather
than sweeping, transformative changes in teaching and learning signalled in ambitious
policies of societies undergoing radical change. In other words, the fact that policy
reforms induce change is less interesting than searching questions about the depth,
meaning, nature and sustainability of such changes among teachers. It is this set of
concerns that inspired me to employ what the literature calls ‘deep change’ as a
conceptual framework within which to measure and explain the qualities of change
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among teachers exposed to a comprehensive new policy on assessment reform in
South Africa.
What is “deep change”?
Fullan (1991) notes that deep change involves constructing deep, sophisticated
meaning of the change in terms of what the change is, the purpose of the change and
how the change process proceeds. It involves a fundamental shift of mind in thinking
about change (Fullan, 1999b). Deep change involves altering the underlying
assumptions, goals, philosophy or belief, skills, conceptions and behaviour regarding
teaching and learning, including assessment – a change in culture (Fullan, 1991;
1993). Deep change involves teachers seeking the best knowledge and ideas in order
to go deeper into helping their students construct new meanings, solve problems,
work in diverse groups, and be proactive learners in a complex changing world
(Fullan, 1999b).
It implies taking risks and living with uncertainty (ibid). Deep
change means that teachers see themselves as active agents of change (change
agentry) rather than victims of change complying uncritically with policy reforms
(Fullan, 1993). This means:
[Each] and every teacher has the responsibility to help create
an organization capable of individual and collective enquiry
and continuous renewal, or it will not happen…It is only by
individuals taking action to alter their own environment that
there is any chance for deep change.
(p39-40; emphasis added)
For deep change, Fullan (2003:5) argues:
[We] need the creative energies and ownership of the teaching
force and its leaders. Hence the current emphasis on “informed
professional judgment”.
He adds that the vast majority of people in the system should end up owning the
problem and be agents of its solutions. This does not mean that the problem should be
handed over to the people, but that conditions and processes should be created that
will enhance the possibility of greater ownership and commitment (ibid). These
conditions should be balanced between chaos and order because too much chaos is
harmful and too much order could lead to fear, resistance or even passive dependency
(ibid).
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The core capacities of change agentry are personal vision, mastery, inquiry and
collaboration and are essential to live in a state of continuous imbalance created by
surprising and unplanned change forces (Fullan, 2003: 102). Deep change agentry
will mean that teachers develop rapport between top-down and bottom-up strategies
because top-down and bottom-up forces co-exist and feed on each other (p4).
Teachers will realise that they need the top and the top needs them in a “different twoway relationship of pressure, support and continuous negotiation” (p38).
For
example, teachers should appreciate that policies on assessment could and should
serve both the accountability function of making everyone aware of how well students
are doing, and the implementation function of developing strategies to make
improvements in teaching and learning based on the results. In other words deep
change involves teachers acquiring new skills, capacity, behaviour, commitment,
motivation, beliefs and understandings in relation to the reformed policy. Fullan
(1993:23) observes:
It is no denial of the potential worth of particular innovations
to observe that unless deeper change in thinking and skills
occur there will be limited impact. …[The] main problem in
public education is not resistant to change, but the presence of
too many innovations or adopted uncritically and superficially
on an ad hoc fragmented basis.
(emphasis added)
Stacey (1996), in Fullan (1999b: 68), supports this view and argues:
People who begin to think differently will almost certainly
begin to act differently, and they will then almost certainly
affect someone else who will begin to behave differently.
However, we are cautioned that people cannot be forced to change, coerced to think
differently or to develop new skills, but that they need to be provided with the
appropriate conditions that enable them to “consider personal and shared visions, and
skill development through practice over time” (ibid). Teachers cannot have an impact
in the classroom unless they also have an impact on altering the working conditions
surrounding the classroom (ibid).
Deep change means teachers guided by moral purpose in complex times of change;
that is, pursuing improvements designed to make a difference in the lives of students,
even though it is enormously complex and difficult (Fullan, 1993, 1999b, 2001,
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2003). Achieving moral purpose means developing mutual empathy and relationships
across diverse groups, a difficult but necessary task (Fullan, 1999b). Moral purpose
also means pursuing equity in teaching, learning and assessment:
We find that when reforms seek to achieve parity in opportunity
and achievement across diverse groups of students, reformers
faced enormous challenges.
Oakes et al. (1998), in Fullan (1999b: 2)
Moral purpose, at the macro-level, can be described as education’s contribution to
societal development and democracy (ibid). Moral purpose combined with change
agentry synergises care and competence, equity and excellence (Fullan, 1993). But:
In the teaching profession these two facets of educational
development have not come together. When teachers work on
personal vision- building and see how their commitment to
making a difference in the classroom is connected to the wider
purpose of education, it gives practical and moral meaning to
their profession.
(p145)
Deep change involves collaboration, collaborations formed inside and outside the
school (Fullan, 1999b). Collaboration means forming quality collegial relationships,
making connections, and seeing and valuing inter-relationships. This is especially
important in education where educational problems are so complex that they require
the mobilization of a collective force working insightfully on the solutions and
committing themselves to concentrated action together. It was found that schools that
worked collaboratively did better than those schools where isolation and privatism
prevailed (Fullan, 1993). A useful caveat follows, that is, individualism is not bad.
The capacity to think and work independently is essential to educational reform.
Herein is a paradox, namely the tension between collaboration and individualism.
However, policy makers are advised to honour both individualism and collegiality
simultaneously, and to allow the creative tension between individualism and
collegiality to prevail (p36). In extreme cases collaboration could lead to ‘group
think’ meaning “uncritical conformity to the group, unthinking acceptance of the
latest solution, suppression of individual dissent” (p34). Collaboration means forming
professional learning communities (ibid). It was found that student performance was
high in schools that had a strong professional learning community (ibid). Professional
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learning communities generate greater learning (ibid). Collaboration means aligning
and integrating new ideas with ideas that are already working to achieve greater
dynamic coherence (ibid). In collaborative schools teachers spontaneously self
organise to share and assess new ideas (ibid). ‘Communities of practice’ is another
term used to illustrate the power of groups in achieving deep change:
Communities of practice are groups of people who share a
concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who
deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by
interacting on an ongoing basis…
(Wenger, et al., 2002, in Fullan, 2003:45)
Deep change also involves forming collaborative relationships with the communities
outside the schools such as the parents, surrounding community, business, the district
and state level authorities (Fullan, 1999b; 2003). This collaboration both inside and
outside the school requires deep assertive planning to obtain substantial results (ibid).
This essentially means that quality relationships developed could inspire willingness
to invest in extra sacrifices and effort, and loyalty to the profession – resources
beyond money to achieve deep change. This collaborative context allows for a
“culture of knowledge sharing” where people are interacting; new knowledge is being
produced in the heads of people; new solutions are being discovered; people own
these solutions in the sense that they are passionately committed and energetic about
pursuing them; and there are questioning and critical people so as to avoid locking
into weak solutions and to continually seek potentially better ideas – critical sharing
for deep change (Fullan, 2003:47).
Deep change seeks the fusion of the intellectual, political and spiritual forces of
change (ibid). The intellectual force is about schools creating knowledge using the
world of ideas about learning (ibid). The political component involves establishing
alliances among diverse groups inside and outside the school in order to mobilize
power to achieve educational goals (ibid). The spiritual force or moral dimension is
the commitment to make a difference in the lives of all students (ibid). The fusion of
these three forces not only reinforces each other but “produces five times the energy –
the kind of energy that is essential for self-organising breakthroughs in complex
systems” (p82, emphasis in original). Fusion depends on engaging the public in the
debate about ideas, power and purpose (ibid). In essence deep change according to
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this perspective means developing the cognitive, moral and affective powers, and
seeing their relationships as mutually reinforcing to bring about deep change. It means
bringing about deep educational change with both mind and heart, and not just routine
or technical behaviours.
Deep change is achieved when the theory of education and the theory of change (or
action) are simultaneously strong (Fullan, 1999b; 2003). Fullan (2003:53) argues:
[You] cannot go deeply unless you create powerful new synergies between these two
theories. The relationship between the theory of education and theory of change is
illustrated in the figure below:
Theory of Education
Weak
Theory of
Weak
Strong
Drift
Superficial Change
Change for the sake
of change
Deep change
Change
Strong
Figure 1: Theory of education and theory of change
(Adapted from Fullan, 2003: 53)
Fullan (1999b) further proposes that reforms be examined in terms of their theories of
education and their theories of change or action (p.20). A theory of education includes
the substance of content, the pedagogy, including moral purpose and knowledge, the
pedagogical assumptions and associated components essential to the reform (Fullan,
1999b; 2003). The theory of change or action concerns what strategies are formed to
guide and support successful implementation (ibid). The distinction between the
theory of education and the theory of change is slippery and not absolutely pure, but it
is useful in developing a sophisticated understanding of deep change. One of the
complex change lessons is that theories of education and theories of change need each
other (Fullan, 1999b). But the two theories can coexist independently of each other or
one can be seriously underdeveloped at the expense of another (Fullan, 2003). Many
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reformers are surprised when their initiatives encompassing well-developed theories
of education are ignored or misused in practice (Fullan, 1999b). The explanation for
the failure is ascribed to the absence of a theory of change or action. For example, the
problem with progressive reformers who used Dewey’s progressive pedagogy was:
[Their] theory of education in the absence of a theory of action
drove them down a path of self-destruction.
(Fullan, 1999b:67)
Fullan (p51) refers to reformers with flawed theories of action as having faulty maps
of change, and ascribes these faulty maps of change for non-implementation of policy
ideas.
Most reform initiatives have a theory of education at best, and rarely have a theory of
action to address local context, culture or condition. Theories of change must focus on
context because:
Local context (readiness to learn, local capacity, etc.) is a
crucial variable, and no program can expect to spread
successfully if it does not take into account the variable
contexts which it will inevitably encounter.
(p21)
With reference to seven reform strategies, namely standards, teacher development,
new school designs, decentralization and site-based management, charter schools,
school contracting and vouchers Fullan (1999b:71) argues:
In my terms, these reform strategies contain elements of a
theory of education but lack comprehensive theories of action
needed to address related conditions, which would have to be
altered in order for success to occur.
The large-scale curriculum development projects of the 1950s and 1960s, also, while
strong on ideas almost totally neglected the culture of the institutions that were to host
the innovations (ibid). The implication is that deep change means changing the
context, which is difficult but possible. Changed context can result in new behaviours,
but the new contexts need to be dramatically different to stimulate new behaviours
(Fullan, 2003).
But the problem is extremely complex; even with a well-developed theory of action,
reform initiatives face incredible difficulties pertaining to tacit knowledge, local
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prehistory, local politics and personalities (ibid). It is equally important to make
explicit the theory of change guiding a program of change (ibid). In examining four
programmes with compatible theories of educations, it was found that each had
different theories of action that led to conflicts around dilemmas of schooling.
Different approaches to handling the dilemmas made it difficult to make action
decisions to carry out the collaborative work demanded by the projects (ibid). The
author concludes:
Rather than trying to forge a single, common theory of action,
those involved in reform efforts might be better off trying to
gain a deep, respectful understanding of when and why they
are likely to disagree.
(Hatch, 1998 in Fullan, 1999b:21)
Perhaps the theory of change should be guided by the science of complexity or
complexity theory that essentially claims:
[That] the link between cause and effect is difficult to trace, that
changes (planned and other wise) unfolds in non-linear ways,
that paradoxes and contradictions abound and that creative
solutions arise out of interaction under conditions of
uncertainty, diversity and instability.
(Fullan, 1999b:4)
The theory of action should factor in the pedagogical and experiential gaps between
different teachers and the contextual gaps between different schools. It should aim at
overcoming the obstacles and disadvantages to teachers’ pedagogical achievement by
considering more sophisticated strategies. This could give deeper meaning to the
moral question of change by reducing if not closing the educational gaps between
disadvantaged teachers (who are more likely to teach in under-resourced and/or rural
schools) and advantaged teachers (who are more likely to teach in well-resourced
and/or suburban schools) given the different starting points of different teachers. The
strategy must include capacity building as a route to individual and social
development.
The theory of change/action should view schools as “living systems” (Fullan,
1999b:13), which means being sensitive to the people within the school and
developing relationships with the external environment. The success of living systems
is that they consist of intricate, embedded interaction inside and outside the
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organization, which converts tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge on an ongoing
basis (ibid). The conversion of tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge is a meaningmaking process because it brings knowledge out into the open to be shared (ibid).
Knowledge creation is crucial:
The sharing of tacit knowledge among multiple individuals with
different backgrounds, perspectives, and motivations becomes
the critical step for organizational knowledge creation to take
place. The individuals’ emotions, feelings, and mental models
have to be shared to build mutual trust.
(Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995 in Fullan, 1999b:16)
This ‘living system’ orientation towards schools may likely address the criticism that
“schools are more a conservative agency for the status quo rather than a revolutionary
force for transformation” (p10).
A word of caution is instructive: “there never will be a definitive theory of change”
that will be applicable to all situations because each situation is unique with its own
history and makeup that would cause unpredictable differences to emerge (p10). It is
equally important to note that rationally constructed reform strategies do not work
because they are inappropriate in the face of rapidly changing environments that selfgenerate complex dynamics over and over again. Fullan (21) advises:
[It] is the task of change theorists and practitioners to
accumulate their wisdom and experiences about how the
change process works.
Quinn (1996) describes deep change as making personal choices and commitments as
well as taking personal responsibility to disrupt the status quo, which most
organisations naturally tend towards. He adds that deep change requires new ways of
thinking and behaving, it is major in scope, is discontinuous with the past and is
generally irreversible, it distorts existing patterns of action and involves risk taking, it
is much more difficult and it demands a great deal from those who are in the system.
It is unsettling and it requires people to call forth and learn new ways of interacting
with problems and with the environment. In other words reform efforts requiring deep
change means shaking up the system inside out (ibid). This view of deep change
differs from Fullan (described above) in that it is more dramatic and exaggerated. But
for radical change to take place, maybe this is what is needed. The question is which
concept of deep change works best under what conditions?
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My understanding from the literature is that deep change involves deep and
consequential change in classroom practice by teachers and when teachers make
major paradigm shifts in their epistemology, values, beliefs, attitudes, skills and
behaviour to realize the transformative goals of the reformed policy. My
understanding seems to resonate with the definition of deep change provided by
Coburn (2003: 4):
By “deep change,” I mean change that goes beyond the surface
structures or procedures (such as changes in materials,
classroom organizations, or the addition of specific activities)
to alter teachers’ beliefs, norms of social interaction, and
pedagogical principles as enacted in the curriculum.
But achieving this kind of change is a complex endeavour and an enormous challenge
for teachers, the difficulty of which was reported in the findings of the Review
Committee on Curriculum 2005, that teachers lacked the deep understandings of
Curriculum 2005 and struggled with issues on assessment (Chisholm, 2000). Other
examples also reveal the lack of deep change in teacher’s classroom practices
compared to reform policy expectations (see Coburn, 2003; Cohen, 1990; Ball, 1990;
Fullan, 1993, 1999b, 2003). I agree that it would be more challenging for teachers to
make deep changes in practice the further the new practice is from existing practices
(Cohen and Ball, 2000, in Coburn, 2003). The literature also posits that for teachers to
change deeply, a strong theory of education and a strong theory of change necessary
(Fullan, 2003). Defining deep change matters for it influences both the ways
policymakers craft reform strategies and the way researchers study the problem of
depth. Knowing what deep change is leads to the question of why deep change is
important.
Why is deep change important in education reform?
Dramatic social, political, economic and technological changes create new complex
goals for education and adaptive challenges to teachers requiring them to change their
practices at a deep level to respond to these challenges. Adaptive challenges are often
systemic problems with no ready answers to respond to the dilemmas. The new
assessment policy is an example of a response to the adaptive challenges of
significant social and political changes coupled with increasing attention to student
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performance by society. The adaptive challenges require schools to change the way
they operate in order to thrive in an environment that differs from the past (McREL,
2000: 4). This new environment challenges deeply held beliefs, question past values
that were accepted and poses competing but legitimate perspectives. Deep change is
also essential to serve the moral purpose of education (Fullan, 1999b). The moral
purpose of education includes engaging in improvements designed to make a
difference to the lives of all students, especially the disadvantaged ones, enabling
them to be productive citizens in our increasingly complex and dynamic society
(Fullan, 1999b: 4). Deep change is required to develop human capital, which is,
making a difference to the lives of individual students, and linking this to the
development of social capital, that is, making a difference in all students for the larger
social good (Fullan, 1991; Merchant, 1995). Deep change is important to convert
organisations into learning organisations so that their traditional beliefs and practices
do not become calcified and resistant to change but enabling them to radically modify
their values and behaviour to reflect new knowledge, skills, conceptions, values, and
insights. Deep change is important for a greater understanding of the big picture of
change and for more meaningful teacher change.
What are the strengths of deep change?
Deep change enables teachers to make a radical break from past policies and practices
that were educationally, politically, economically and morally inappropriate, if not
damaging, for human development and growth. For example, in South Africa, the
debilitating effects of our past apartheid policies and practices on the majority of our
people are well documented and well known. It is unquestionable that the world is
changing at a phenomenal rate, and this creates enormous pressure for us to change in
ways that are deep in order to respond to the challenging, complex, dynamic,
uncertain world. Engaging in deep change creates conditions for the development of
critical and problem-solving skills. Teachers would no longer be uncritical
implementers of policy. Students will also be given the opportunities to change in
deep and meaningful ways. High quality, substantive and sustained change will be
possible by deep change. Deep change most probably would enable us to move to
“New horizon 2”, the kind of deep reforms needed in the twenty first century (Fullan,
2003:3).
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What are the limitations of deep change?
One major weakness is the assumptions about teacher learning and change. There is
an assumption that if teachers have a deep understanding of the change and find the
change meaningful, they will change their classroom practice accordingly. What if
they do understand and have developed a deep meaning of the change but decide not
to practice the change because of the extra effort, energy and time required to
implement change? What if there are no incentives and sanctions accompanying and
sustaining teachers’ deep change efforts? Would that mean that teachers lack the
commitment to practice deep change? There is also the assumption that teachers have
the capacity to make deep changes. Under what conditions would teachers make deep
change in teaching and learning? How do multiple realities of teachers’ lives impact
on their willingness and capacity to change deeply? Another weakness is related to
how to get teachers to change deeply. It needs to be acknowledged that teachers have
their own personal ideologies, preferences, values, knowledge, beliefs, and practices
about assessment, teaching and learning that they have developed and internalised
during the course of their development as students and as teachers. This tenacity of
their established traditions will inevitably influence the nature and extent of changes
in their practice. They cannot be told or coerced into making deep changes. Making
deep change is unlike removing old clothes and putting on new ones, Far from that.
Teachers have to struggle through ambivalence and ambiguities to develop deep
change over time. Underlying assumptions, values, beliefs, perceptions and behaviors
cannot be changed by policy directives, but can be cultivated, nurtured and
encouraged by the creation and sustaining of conditions that allow teachers the
opportunities to make such deep changes (Day, 1999). Those conditions have yet to
be developed and examples of deep change are yet to appear (Fullan, 2003). Deep
change demand more effort, and failure of deep change will take a greater toll on the
educational enterprise.
Arising from the survey of the literature on change and in particular, the literature on
deep change, as well as the conceptual framework discussed above, I make three key
propositions about deep change, which I discuss below.
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Key propositions about deep change
I describe these propositions as tentative and “fuzzy” (Bassey, 1999: 13). These
propositions are informed by my experience as a classroom teacher, teacher educator
and education policy maker. The propositions I make must be seen as theoretical
concepts to be tested in this study; they are tentative and open for others to follow up
and test their trustworthiness. They are tentative statements rather than absolute
claims on knowledge. The three key propositions are as follows:
Proposition One:
Teachers may not have a deep, sophisticated understanding of a new assessment
policy even if there is evidence of strong rhetorical commitment to the policy
There must be a dynamic synergy of what teachers do and the meaning or purpose
they ascribe to it. Inherent in the purpose or meaning is the pedagogical belief in the
change. The purpose of the specific change, which is the change in the assessment
policy, must be located within the larger goal of the country’s reconstruction and
development agenda, including curriculum change. In other words teachers need to
have a deep sophisticated understanding of the new assessment policy. The crux of
change is developing deep meaning in relation to the new reform:
The problem for implementation then, is not only teachers
“learning how to do it,” but teachers learning the theoretical
project … absent knowledge about why they are doing what
they’re doing; implementation will be superficial only, and
teachers will lack the understanding they will need to deepen
their practice or to sustain new practices in the face of
changing context.
(McLauglin and Mitra, 2000 in Fullan, 2001: 45, emphasis in original).
My proposition is that teachers may not have this deep sophisticated understanding of
the assessment policy, but rather a superficial understanding of the new assessment
policy. Fullan (2001) who noted that teachers often make classroom decisions based
on pragmatic trial-and error grounds rather than thinking through the rationale and
principles of the change supports this proposition. He adds that superficial adoption
must be replaced with deep meaning (Fullan, 2001). Oakes and his associates (Oakes,
et al., 1999) also observed that teachers often rush to adopt new initiatives without
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considering their deeper meanings and purposes. Similarly, McLaughlin and Mitra
(2001) concluded that for the achievement of deep reform teachers needed to know
why they were doing what they did to prevent superficial implementation. Therefore
in this study I do not assume that the teachers understand the policy’s intended
message, in other words, I problematise the understanding of the new assessment
policy by teachers.
Proposition Two
Teachers may not be able to reconcile their own assessment beliefs and capacities
with the stated goals of a new assessment policy
Teachers will react to their perceptions of change in different ways depending on their
own guiding beliefs and capacities. I agree:
Changes in beliefs are even more difficult: they challenge the
core values held by individuals regarding the purposes of
education; moreover, beliefs are often not explicit, discussed,
or understood, but rather are buried at the level of unstated
assumptions.
(Fullan, 2001:44)
My proposition that teachers may not reconcile their own beliefs and capacities about
a new policy with the stated goals of the policy is based on the fact that teachers
seldom if ever, are provided with opportunities to overtly articulate their beliefs and
capacities about new policies. This assertion is supported by House and McQuillan
(1998) who observed that the broad goals of reforms remained far removed from the
everyday lives of teachers. The way reforms are introduced to teachers is usually by
telling them about the goals, aims and principles of the reform (see Chisholm, 2000:
57). Beliefs and capacity are related to will and commitment, the essential
requirements that matter in policy implementation (McLaughlin, 1998).
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Proposition Three
Teachers may find that traditional assessment practices (that is, examinations
and testing) hold greater efficacy in the classroom than the alternatives required
by a new assessment policy
I assert that their assessment practices will be based on their past historical context
and experiences, in other words in ways that they were assessed as students, in ways
that they are familiar with, by following the existing traditional practices present at
the schools and by the present conditions, opportunities and constraints present in the
classroom and the school. In other words they will use assessment in a linear,
sequential manner, mostly for grading and promoting students rather than connecting
it meaningfully to teaching and learning.
In using these propositions to explore and understand the relationship between policy
and practice, I must reiterate and emphasise, and as stated previously, that if the
propositions prove to be true, I will not use them pejoratively by ascribing it to
teacher deficiency, but rather to various other possibilities. Furthermore, as stated
previously, I view teachers as active agents of and for change, therefore I treat them
as my key informants or ‘primary unit of analysis’.
How I use deep change in my research
Each of the propositions that I have constructed is linked to the research questions in
this study. I therefore examine the data from each case study in relation to the policy
analysis described in Chapter One of this study, and this conceptual framework to
ascertain whether each teacher:
•
Developed deep and sophisticated understandings and beliefs concerning the
new assessment policy;
•
Developed the new knowledge and skills or capacity in assessment as required
by the policy;
•
Practiced the different types of assessment as required in the new assessment
policy;
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•
Made the kinds of changes expected by the assessment policy, or made other
the kinds of changes described in the conceptual framework.
In other words I make a three-way comparative analysis between the new official
policy on assessment, the conceptual framework on deep change and the teacher case
reports. I shall employ this three-way comparative analysis to explain the continuities
and discontinuities between the new official policy on assessment and the teachers’
assessment practices. This explanation is located within the broad purpose of the
study, that is: understanding the relationship between macro-level policies and microlevel practice.
This conceptual framework on deep change, in addition to its potency in
understanding the relationship between policy and practice, guided me in choosing an
appropriate methodology to guide the study in responding to the three research
questions mentioned earlier in the chapter.
Summary of Chapter Three
In this chapter I advance and articulate a new conceptual framework called ‘deep
change’ as a theoretical tool to examine and explain the relationship between policy
and practice. I describe different types of change including deep change. The
importance, strengths and limitations of deep change are discussed. The chapter
makes three propositions with regard to teacher change that would be tested
empirically by the data collected in this study. I suggest that for the successful
implementation of policy teachers need to change deeply. The chapter explains how
the propositions made in the study could be tested in light of the new conceptual
framework.
The next chapter explains the research methodology employed in this study.
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CHAPTER FOUR
The Research Methodology
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings
having a human experience1
In the previous chapter I advanced a broader conceptual framework for this study. In
this chapter I shall describe and illustrate my role as a qualitative inquirer; an outsider
and a non-participant researcher seeking to capture the assessment experiences,
understandings and practices of two teachers in relation to the new assessment policy
of the South African government. I will describe and explain my strategies to obtain
data that would cast new light on the relationship between assessment policy and
practice, and specifically to respond to the three research questions that provided the
script for this study. The three questions can be summarised as follows:
1: What are teacher understandings and beliefs with regard to the assessment
policy?
2: In the context of official policy, how do teachers practice assessment in their
classrooms?
3: How can the continuities and the discontinuities between official policy on
assessment and teachers’ assessment practice be explained?
Choosing a Methodology - Qualitative Methodology
My methodological decisions derived largely from the established research literature.
I will however complement this account with my own experiences and understandings
of qualitative methodology.
Schools as educational institutions and the individuals, including teachers, who are
involved in and with them are a heterogeneous group of beings having different
human attributes, abilities, aptitudes, aims, ideologies, values, perspectives, needs and
experiences. I required a methodology that would be able to capture this heterogeneity
1
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher, in Bloomfield and Cooper (1995: 483)
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from each teacher’s perspective and, according to Bogdan and Biklen (1982)
qualitative methodology enables the researcher to consider experiences from the
informant’s perspectives. This methodological stance resonated with the purpose of
this study – to find out what teachers, as key informants in this study, were saying,
understanding and doing. In other words, to gain access into teachers’ professional
and personal landscapes of understandings, knowledge, beliefs and actions with
reference to the new assessment policy. It is an approach that does not evacuate the
personal experiences of teachers in the educational change process. However, this
focus on the personal is with due reference to the wider political, educational, social,
economic and cultural debates, and not independent of them. Furthermore I recognize
that schools and teachers inhabit complex social contexts with all the issues and
influences that this entails. Accordingly the methodology chosen takes account of the
complex social contexts that shape human experience and actions. I hold the position
that qualitative research methodology is capable of accommodating and accounting
for the myriad of differences and complexities that are involved in social settings such
as schools (Bassey, 1999). Furthermore, schools do have their problems but the
analysis and location of these troubles requires a methodology that is not simplistic,
misleading and therefore procedurally and conceptually dangerous. In this sense,
qualitative research does not ignore but rather addresses the complexities of the
various aspects of schools and schooling and takes account of different objective
experiences and subjective perspectives (ibid). The comprehensive and succinct
definition of qualitative research provided by Denzin and Lincoln (1994) adequately
summarises the reason underpinning my choice of this research methodology:
Qualitative research is multimethod in focus, involving an
interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This
means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural
settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena
in terms of the meaning people bring to them… Accordingly,
qualitative researchers deploy a wide range of interconnected
methods, hoping always to get a better fix on the subject matter
at hand.
(Denzin and Lincoln, 1994: 2)
As an interpretative researcher, a characteristic of qualitative research (Bassey, 1999),
I was interested in describing and interpreting or explaining what I heard, read, and
saw in each teacher’s practice in the search for deeper understandings of beliefs into
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assessment practice, and for obtaining richer theoretical insights. I recognized that it
may offer possibilities but no certainties and absoluteness as to the outcomes of
events in the future because of the sheer evolving complexities and variations in
educational contexts. This brings me to another reason about the appropriateness of
the qualitative tradition; that is, it accommodates the nature of the research context of
South Africa, one that is undergoing rapid and unpredictable transformations.
Why case study research
I shall explain why I chose the case study method as a preferred strategy in my study
from the plethora of other approaches to educational research such as experiments,
surveys and action research. This account will be informed by readings from the
academic literature on the topic and my past experience of using the approach.
According to the literature on case studies there are a variety of positions and
meanings taken by various authors (see Bassey 1999). It was from this melee of ideas
that I was attracted to Yin’s (1994:13) view that the essence of case study is that it is
enquiry in a real-life context as opposed to a contrived context of experiments or
surveys. This resonated with my study that aimed to explore teacher understandings
and practices of the assessment policy in their real-life contexts, namely in their
classrooms. Yin (ibid) added that it is an enquiry that investigates contemporary
phenomena when the boundaries between phenomena and context are not clearly
evident. This view is supported by Merriam (1988) who wrote that the variables of the
phenomena will not be separated from the context, referred to by Cronbach as
“interpretation in context” (10).
I could see the link with my research study that
focused on current issues in each context, each influenced by different social,
ideological, political, economic, cultural and historical forces. It is also about enquiry
into a “singularity” (Bassey 1999: 58) meaning that a “particular” (ibid) set of
teachers is the focus of the study as illustrated by my research study. I was also drawn
by Yin (1994:13) who wrote that case study inquiry:
[Relies] on multiple sources of evidence, with data needing to
converge in a triangulating fashion, and as another result
benefits from the prior development of theoretical propositions
to guide data collection and analysis.
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To summarise, I chose the case study approach because
It provides ‘thick description’, is grounded, is holistic and lifelike, simplifies data to be considered by the reader, illuminates
meanings, and can communicate tacit knowledge.
(Merriam, 1988:28).
Although I was attracted by the positive claims made about case study research in
terms of its “uniqueness, its capacity for understanding complexity in particular
contexts” (Simons in Bassey 1999:36) I was also mindful of one of its disadvantages,
namely the difficulty of generalising from a single case. Simons (ibid) views this as a
“paradox, which if acknowledged and explored in depth, yields both unique and
universal understanding” (36). I agree with Simons, and I also concur that “living
with paradox is crucial for understanding …To live with ambiguity, to challenge
certainty, to creatively encounter, is to arrive, eventually, at ‘seeing’ anew” (ibid).
Hopefully this case study would result in a new and alternative understanding of the
relationship between policy and practice in the context of educational change.
Since the purpose of my enquiry is to explore and understand the relationship between
the new assessment policy and teachers’ assessment practice, my study could be
identified as theoretical research, the purpose of which is to describe, interpret or
explain what is happening without making value judgements or trying to induce any
changes (40). In other words it is a theoretical exploration.
The above account illustrates why I chose a qualitative case study strategy to conduct
this research study. It resonated with the rationale, the broad aim or purpose and with
the three research questions of my research study. I believe that the meticulous study
of specific situations can gradually build theory that could later be tested and
extended to a broader set of events.
Propositions about deep change – tentative “fuzzy propositions”
This study is guided by three propositions, which are describe as tentative and “fuzzy”
(Bassey, 1999: 13). These propositions are informed by my experience as a classroom
teacher, teacher educator and education policy maker. These propositions were
discussed in detail previously in the conceptual framework on deep change that
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focused on teacher change in response to the new assessment policy. I use these
propositions not as statements that are absolutely true as used by physical scientists in
the scientific method described by Karl Popper (1963). These propositions are neither
located in nor linked to ‘hypotheses’ as in the quantitative research paradigm where
hypotheses are fixed to be tested in controlled settings for pursuing patterns of cause
and effects. The purpose of my research study was to explore, learn and understand
the relationship between government policy and classroom practice, as opposed to
assigning empirical properties to quantitative variables. The propositions I make must
be seen as theoretical concepts to be tested in the classrooms of teachers; they are
tentative and open for others to follow up and test their trustworthiness. They are
tentative statements rather than absolute claims on knowledge; Therefore these
propositions reside in the qualitative research paradigm where the qualitative data
collected would allow me to consider the deep, often hidden meanings and structures
of the life world of teachers as humans as it is experienced individually by each
classroom teacher.
Since the propositions are closely linked to each research question, they served as a
guiding framework to assist in constructing the research design discussed below.
Proposition one: Teachers may not have a deep and sophisticated understanding of
a new assessment policy even if there is evidence of strong rhetorical commitment
to the policy
The first research question ‘What are teacher understandings of the assessment
policy?’ enabled me to test this proposition. The semi structured questionnaire
(Appendix F), free writing schedule (Appendix G) and interview schedule (Appendix
H) based on the assessment policy probed deeply into teachers’ understanding of the
policy. This deep probing, characteristic of ethnographic, qualitative tradition
unearthed each teacher’s understandings of the policy. Responses to the second
research question were used as supplementary and complimentary evidence to test
this proposition because I believe that their classroom practice would be informed by
their understanding of the new policy. Based on this analysis the particular
proposition could be confirmed or refuted. This is discussed in detail in each case
study chapter, namely Chapter Five for Dinzi and Chapter Six for Hayley.
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Proposition 2: Teachers may not be able to reconcile their own assessment beliefs
and capacities with the stated goals of a new assessment policy
Teachers will react to their perceptions of change in different ways depending on their
own guiding beliefs and capacities. My proposition that teachers may not reconcile
their own beliefs and capacities about a new policy with the stated goals of the policy
is based on the fact that teachers seldom if ever, are provided with opportunities to
overtly articulate their beliefs and capacities about new policies. This assertion is
supported by House and McQuillan (1998) who observed that the broad goals of
reforms remained far removed from the everyday lives of teachers. The way reforms
are introduced to teachers is usually by telling them about the goals, aims and
principles of the reform (see Chisholm, 2000). Beliefs and capacity are related to will
and commitment, the essential requirements that matter in policy implementation
(McLaughlin, 1998). I pursued this proposition by focusing on research question 3:
“Why do teachers implement assessment in the ways observed?” I constructed
interview schedules after I had observed each teacher’s classroom practice. This indepth post-observation interview schedule enabled me to probe deeply into why
teachers assess in the ways observed. The responses from the deep probing as well as
the conceptual framework on deep change were used to analyse and explain teachers’
assessment practices in the context of the new assessment policy.
Proposition 3: Teachers may find the traditional assessment practices (that is,
examinations and testing) to hold greater efficacy in the classrooms than the
alternatives required in a new assessment policy
I assert that their assessment practices will be based on their past historical context
and experiences, in other words in ways that they were assessed as students, in ways
that they are familiar with, by following the existing traditional practices present at
the schools and by the present conditions, opportunities and constraints present in the
classroom and the school. In other words they will use assessment in a linear,
sequential manner, mostly for grading and promoting students rather than connecting
it to teaching and learning. I tested this proposition by employing the second research
question: ‘In the context of policy, how do teachers practice assessment in their
classrooms? I observed the classroom practices of each teacher using structured
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classroom observation protocols (Appendix L), conducted post-classroom observation
interviews with the teachers that pursued issues emerging from the classroom
observations with the intention of generating information of why they assessed as they
did. The data collected was analysed against the intentions declared in the new
assessment policy.
In using these propositions to explore and understand the relationship between policy
and practice, I must reiterate and emphasize, and as stated previously, that if the
propositions prove to be true, I will not use the information pejoratively by ascribing
it to teacher deficiency, but rather to various other possibilities. Furthermore, as stated
previously, I view teachers as active agents of and for change therefore I treat them as
my key informants or ‘primary unit of analysis’.
Prefiguring my Analytical Moves - Planning the Research Design
I will first describe the initial research design or plan of this research study, which
constituted part of my research proposal. In addition to methodological issues it will
also focus on theoretical and epistemological issues such as the nature of the research
design including the data to be collected, the role of the researcher, and the role of the
researched. The purpose of this is to show that the decisions made in the initial
research plan and design had to be altered as a response to unforeseen and
unpredictable contextual realities and complexities that rear their heads in schools. I
raise theoretical questions and challenges around the inherent difficulties of
conducting research in unstable contexts such as South Africa, a country caught
profoundly in contested, complex and challenging grip of change.
I chose the purposive sampling method because I wanted to include teachers and
schools who were willing and able to participate in the research study. The sample or
key informants for this research study would be two teachers, each from two different,
consciously selected schools, and one from a well-resourced school and another from
an under-resourced school. These schools are typical of the context of a developing
country such as South Africa. This would allow me to make a comparative cross-case
analysis between the two teachers, in search of consistencies and differences. Within
each school the teacher chosen would satisfy the following specific but varied criteria:
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each teacher must be currently teaching Grade 8 Natural Science, qualified to teach
science, experienced in teaching Grade 8 Science, confident and enthusiastic, and
willing to participate in the research study. Information with regard to teachers’
qualification, experience, competence, confidence and enthusiasm would be sought
from the recommendations of the principals. Information with regard to willingness to
participate in the research study would be elicited from the teachers themselves with
the approval of the school principal. This sampling strategy could be viewed as
resulting in “theoretical sampling and sampling adequacy” (Morse et al, 2002: 12)
where the research participants, in this case study, the chosen teachers have
knowledge, experience and perceptions of the research topic, in this case study, of the
new assessment system. It is a strategy for working with rigour (ibid.). The reason for
limiting my sample to two teachers was to obtain in-depth qualitative information
from each teacher that would provide the opportunity of getting to understand deeply
each respondent in terms of their assessment knowledge, understanding and practice.
The teachers would be selected based on the subject matter that they were teaching
such that there would be congruence between the subject matter taught by each
teacher, for example, each teacher would be teaching ‘electricity’ and ‘gravity’, or
any other relevant subject matter. This would then possibly rule out the variable of
subject matter being taught to account for any discrepancies. The rationale for
choosing Grade 8 classes was based firstly, on my experience as a classroom teacher
and teacher-educator in this particular grade; secondly, since no exit examinations are
written in this particular grade the emphasis and focus on examinations and
assessment might be reduced, since exit examinations generally demand more
attention to examinations and assessment and this could bias the findings. I chose
Natural Science because of my own knowledge and experience of science - both as a
classroom teacher and teacher-educator of Natural Science.
My data collection plan had included various methods to obtain information from the
research sites, namely questionnaires, free-writing schedules, interviews - both preclassroom and post-classroom observation interviews, non-participant classroom
observations, records of teachers and learners, and documents. I chose various
methods so that methodological triangulation would be possible. That is, information
received from the various sources would be used to corroborate or refute one another.
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I chose to conduct the major part of the research study in the third term because this is
the term that the school and teachers are more settled compared to the other three
terms, for example, in the first term schools are generally busy with admissions, new
timetabling, new staff, and distributing textbooks and stationery before settling down
to serious work, while the second term and fourth terms would be terms when halfyear and year-end examinations are written respectively, and this might bias the
research findings. I had planned to observe Dinzi from the under-resourced school for
three weeks in the third term teaching for example ‘Gravity’ (could be another
Natural Science topic), and another three weeks teaching say ‘Electricity’ (or another
topic). I would similarly repeat this for Hayley from the well-resourced school,
assuming that Hayley would be teaching ‘Electricity’ or the same topic as Dinzi for
three weeks, and ‘Gravity’ or the same topic as Dinzi in the third term. In other words
I would spend six weeks with each teacher teaching the same science topics. The
documents to be analysed were assessment related documents/transcripts from the top
five learners and the five bottom learners per school. This initial plan seemed
practical, achievable, and responsive to the purpose and the three critical questions of
the study.
I presented this research plan that I had titled “A Case Study of Implementing the
Assessment Policy in Schools: Research Plan” at the Postgraduate Student Research
Indaba held at the University. One criticism was received from a member of the
audience who believed that the size of the sample was too small for the study. My
response to the criticism was that this study was not a survey that would demand a
large sample size, but a qualitative, case study, which required information rich in
depth and description, and in context, about this particular aspect of educational life,
hence a larger sample size would be irrelevant to the purpose of the study.
I developed a variety of methods and tools to collect the data. The rationale behind
using this variety of research methods and tools is that it would provide me, a
qualitative researcher confidence that the research is rigorous, credible and justifiable
as research. I viewed the different data collection methods and tools not only as
intimately interrelated and mutually reinforcing, but also as a necessary opportunity
for the teachers to produce data in a variety of forms.
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Each method and tool was informed by and aligned with each of the three critical
research questions. The value of each method and tool is elaborated in the appendices
(see Appendix D and Appendix E). These methods and tools were subject to review
by my peers and critical friends as additional means of conferring rigour, legitimacy
and confidence in the study. In addition the research tools were pilot tested with two
teachers. The feedback received from my peers and critical friends, as well as from
the pilot process informed the changes made to the research tools.
To respond to the research question: What are teacher understandings and beliefs
with regard to the assessment policy? I chose three data collection, methods,
namely,
•
A Questionnaire containing both open and closed ended questions to elicit
teachers understanding of the assessment policy (Appendix F)
•
A Free writing schedule containing both open and closed ended questions to
elicit teachers understanding of the assessment policy (Appendix G)
•
An Interview schedule that was semi-structured to collect information before
the classroom observations (Appendix H).
To respond to the sub question to the first question: How do teacher understandings of
the assessment policy compare with the contents of the assessment policy? I chose the
three methods mentioned above but added document analysis of the assessment policy
(Appendix I).
For research question 2: In the context of policy, how do teachers practice
assessment in their classrooms? I used the following four methods:
•
A Questionnaire containing both open and closed ended questions to elicit
teachers responses of their assessment practice (Appendix J)
•
An Interview Schedule that was semi-structured to elicit teachers responses of
their assessment practice before classroom observations (Appendix K)
•
Classroom observation protocol to capture how teachers practiced assessment
in their classroom (Appendix L)
•
Analysis of documents and records to infer how teachers practiced assessment
in their classroom (Appendix M).
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To respond to the third research question: How can the continuities and the
discontinuities between official policy on assessment and teachers’ assessment
practice be explained? I chose two methods, namely:
•
Interviews with each teacher after classroom observations to elicit their responses
as to why they assessed the way they did.
•
Theoretical analysis of the accumulated data within the conceptual framework on
deep change in order to explain the convergence and divergence from policy.
This research design was included in my research proposal, which was approved by
the university authorities. I was ready to enter the field to collect the data from the
two schoolteachers. I intended spending six continuous weeks with each teacher.
Entering the world of the two teachers, the key participants of the study, would enable
me to study each teacher’s perspective about assessment - how their views and
understandings were manifested in their speech and actions. I should add that while
this narrative, the aim of which is to show how I worked towards achieving
methodological coherence, looks linear and neat, I was mindful that in reality the
research process characterising qualitative research is anything but linear and neat as
displayed on paper. Sampling plans may demand to be treated differently, it may
expand or change course; data collection methods may be modified; or data may
demand to be treated differently, or the conceptual structure or theoretical thinking
initially brought into the study may demand revision, - all responses to the research
context that is not static but dynamic and complex. In other words, although I started
with a well-formulated research plan or design, I was open to the possibility of the
research process being influenced by specific contextual factors.
Gaining access to selected schools – Navigating the political bureaucracy
My past experience had informed me that one of the major responsibilities of a
researcher conducting research in schools is to obtain official ethic clearance from the
bureaucracy, that is, to seek permission from the education authorities to conduct
research studies in schools. I first discussed my research study with the Deputy
Director General of Education responsible for school education in the General
Education and Training Band (Grades R to 9) at the national Department of
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Education, (He is my Supervisor at work) with the intention of seeking his formal
permission. He consented but requested that I seek formal, written permission from
the relevant provincial Head of Department. I wrote the formal letter of request to the
relevant provincial Head of Department, which was approved by the said Deputy
Director General of Education, and faxed it and posted it to the relevant provincial
Head of Department (Appendix A). I followed up telephonically with the office of the
provincial Head of Department the following day to enquire whether the fax was
received, and was informed that it was received and that I would be receiving a
response soon. After two weeks when I received no response from the provincial
Head of Department, I telephoned the office again to find out about the response. This
time someone else answered and said she knew nothing of the fax and requested that I
re-fax the letter, which I did. She confirmed receipt and promised that it would not be
a problem, and a response would be forthcoming. Two weeks later there was no
response. I telephoned the office of the provincial Head of Department again, and this
time I was informed verbally that I could conduct my research and a formal, written
letter will be forthcoming. To date I have not received a formal, written letter granting
me permission to conduct the research in schools in the chosen province. This begs
the question why no written formal response was given despite the promise to do so,
and despite the many reminders. My personal experiences in communicating with
provincial head offices inform me that there is seldom any coordination among the
many officials working in the offices of the provincial Heads of Department. This
results in documents being misplaced or lost or falling through the bureaucratic
cracks. Furthermore, the staff compliment is rarely stable, for example, on different
days of the same week one would find oneself communicating with different people
about the same query, only to be told that the person one originally spoke with is not
available, or is on leave, or has left. This instability might be one of the many
unintended consequences of a rapidly transforming society such as South Africa – or
to use the euphemism, the ‘challenges’ facing a young evolving democracy. I decided
to use the verbal permission given as valid to conduct the research study.
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The Field Experience
Gaining access to possible schools for field work – First Knock or Disruption to my
Research Plan
I telephoned several principals of rural township schools and of urban schools as
indicated in my preplanning stage as well as in my research proposal to obtain their
informed consent to conduct my research study in their school. After I had explained
the purpose of the call, explaining the nature of my research study and requesting
permission, all responded that they were very busy, but that I should call later. The
responses that I received were not as I had hoped. After many unsuccessful attempts
to gain access into the schools, and filled with anxiety and despair I informed my
Supervisor of my research study about my problems regarding gaining access into the
selected, planned schools. I was informed about some schools that might welcome
researchers into their schools. I chose two schools, one from an urban township area
where it was likely that the school would be under-resourced and one from a suburban
area where it was likely that the school would be well-resourced. This choice would
ensure different contextual realities as indicated in the original plan.
This difficulty of gaining access into schools to conduct the research study knocked
my assumption of gaining access easily into schools to conduct classroom-based
research. The lesson for me here is that gaining access to schools that are willing to
participate in research studies should not be taken for granted by researchers
conducting school-or classroom-based research. Rather the selection of the research
site should be problematised. The question is why were principals unwilling to allow
me access to conduct research in their schools. Was it due to subtle forces they only
knew? Was it because of the potential a research study has of revealing the workings
of the schools and holding it up for close-up scrutiny? Was it fear of research being a
kind of ‘inspection’ where their school and its practices would be observed and
analysed by an outsider in ways that may be intimidating? Was it seen as threatening
to the autonomy and professionalism of the school, especially in the controversial
context of teacher and school evaluations? Why was promising anonymity and
confidentiality not sufficient? Another lesson was the power of the principal in the
decision-making process in terms of selecting the research site. Having personal or
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professional connections with principals seem to make the process of gaining access
into a school easier.
Gaining access into the ‘township school’ – School A
Terms of Entry
At the beginning of May I had telephoned the principal, informed him about my
research study, and requested his permission to use the school and a Grade 8 Natural
Science teacher who was qualified, experienced and competent to teach science. He
indicated his willingness to participate, and agreed to nominate a Grade 8 Natural
Science teacher in terms of the criteria mentioned. We agreed to meet to discuss the
issue formally with him and the nominated teacher. He requested that I liaise with his
secretary to set up a date for the meeting. After several unsuccessful attempts to set up
the meeting in May and beginning of June, the principal agreed to meet me at the
beginning of the third term. The third school term for this province had been changed
to accommodate an international conference - the Johannesburg World Summit on
Sustainable Development that had been scheduled for September 2002.
On the first day of the third term, I telephoned the principal to make an appointment
to meet formally with him and the nominated teacher. He informed me that he would
be available to meet with me two days later at eight thirty in the morning.
Entering the field - School A
I arrived as agreed with the principal for my first visit to the school. I had rehearsed
how I would conduct myself and what I would say to the principal and to the teacher
because I believe that how we conduct ourselves as researchers and how we interacted
with potential research participants would inform them as much about us as
researchers as would our words. I needed the principal and the teacher to volunteer to
consent to and participate in the research study, and I believed that first impressions
count. I also wanted to develop a mutual relationship based on trust and respect. I also
recognised the unequal power relationships that existed between the principal and the
teacher whose consent I needed, and me as researcher. As a researcher I needed their
permission and willingness to conduct the research in the school hence they had
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power over me. If they were not willing to participate that would mean continuing the
search for another willing and suitable research setting. But I did not allow this
recognition to discourage or to disempower me, rather to be cognizant of it so that I
could address it effectively by being open and honest. I was also aware that as an
‘outsider’ researcher, I did not have much to offer the school in return beyond maybe
a sensitive, listening and non-judgemental ear.
I met with the school secretary who directed me to the principal’s office. I stood
outside the narrow passage before meeting with the principal at 08:30 in his small
office. After exchanging introductions and greetings, I explained the nature of my
research study in detail, assuring him that the goal of the research study was not to
critique or evaluate the school or the nominated teacher, but to explore, to learn and to
understand the relationship between policy and teachers’ classroom practices in the
context of the newly released government assessment policy. I assured him that I
would neither interfere, impose not intrude into the activities of the school. I added
that my role and status as a researcher for a doctoral degree was that of a learner
rather than that of an expert and critic of the school and its staff. I promised strict
confidentiality and anonymity, and further assured him of being sensitive to the
significance of the data collected from the school, and promised that it would not be
misused or misinterpreted. I explained in detail the actual terms of entry for the
research study, that as a classroom-based case study it required that I visit the school
every day in the third term for the teacher to complete detailed questionnaires, a freewriting schedule, to conduct in-depth interviews with the nominated teacher, both preand post-classroom observation interviews, to observe the selected Grade 8 Natural
Science lessons of the nominated teacher, to observe and collect assessment related
records and documents from the school, the nominated teacher and the selected
Grade 8 Natural Science learners.
I handed him a formal letter requesting his
permission to conduct the research study in the school (Appendix B). His response
was very positive and he expressed his willingness to participate by agreeing verbally
to my request. In fact he shared with me his concern about the challenges facing
education in South Africa and about the ability of the government to deliver on its
educational mandate. He also added that he believed that research would contribute to
our understanding of change in our struggling democracy. This disclosure from him at
our initial meeting suggested that he not only valued research, but that he trusted me
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as a researcher. This was important because achieving a trusting relationship with the
research participants is central to the success of any research study (Howe & Moses,
1999). It creates opportunities and potential for greater sharing of information (ibid).
He reported that this particular school faced many challenges related mainly to
poverty. After thanking him for his willingness and openness towards my research
study, I enquired whether he or the teachers were aware of and had the copy of the
new assessment policy that was the focus of the research study. I showed him a copy
of the new assessment policy. He replied that the Head of Department for Science and
the science teachers would have the copy. He then informed me that the Grade 8
Science teacher who he had nominated was not in school on that day as she and some
other teachers of the school were attending a training session arranged by ‘Head
Office’ (meaning the provincial Department of Education). He requested that I return
on the following Monday at 09:00. He promised that he would make arrangements for
me to meet with the nominated teacher.
After the meeting I completed the ‘Contact Summary Form’ (Appendix N). I was
concerned that the principal had not been aware that the nominated teacher would be
attending a training session and would therefore not be at school on the day he made
the appointment to meet with me. Why was this so? I now speculate. It might be
possible that the school received the invitation for the training session late, or maybe
it slipped his mind, or maybe both. This lesson reminded me of the unpredictable
nature as well as the complexities of conducting school- and classroom-based
research.
The general appearance of the school characterised that of a typical township school.
The pathway from the road into the school was un-tarred therefore the surroundings
were very dusty. The administration building was small, with very small offices to
house the management team, and a small staffroom. The small offices of the principal,
the management staff and secretary were sparsely furnished. There were many
learners outside the classrooms.
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First Meeting with Teacher Dinzi2
I arrived at school A at 08:45 as requested by the principal. The secretary informed
me that the principal was not in. On enquiring whether I could meet the Deputy
Principal I was informed that both Deputy Principals were teaching. I was requested
to wait in the principal’s office. On the principal’s table I observed a document titled:
‘GDE Annexure A: Continuous Assessment Portfolios - 2002: School Principal’s
Report Form’ with a line for the “Term” and a table as illustrated below:
Tick subject Subject Number of tests completed Number of assessment tasks completed
I had enquired later about this document from both the principal and the research
teacher who reported that it related to the Grade 9 classes only.
About forty minutes later, a Deputy Principal came into the principal’s office. I
informed him about the purpose of my visit. He reported that he was neither aware of
my research nor of my meeting with the principal. He called for the Head of
Department (HOD) of Science. I repeated the purpose of my visit to her. She
responded that she “was not sure of this as I just returned from USA on Friday”
(personal communication). She said that she would need to discuss the matter with the
teachers to find out whether they were willing to participate in the research study. The
second Deputy Principal had joined us, and she also reported that she was not aware
of my research study or of my appointment with the principal. She added that if the
principal had agreed to the research study then the HOD needed to talk with the
relevant teacher. The Deputy Principals and the HOD then left the principal’s office
leaving me feeling anxious and helpless. The principal arrived thirty minutes later. He
apologised for being late stating that he had to visit the optician. He left the office to
call the recommended teacher who he introduced to me. I repeated the nature of my
research to her, my request for her participation, as well as the expectations from her
and the implications thereof. She agreed to participate in the research study but added
that I should be aware that she and other teachers were “focusing on grade 9 because
2
Pseudonym used for the sake of confidentiality
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of the GETC3, and not so much on Grade 8s” (personal communication). When I
requested for her timetable, she left the principal’s office and returned about thirty
minutes later with her timetable. I had asked both the principal and the teacher
whether they had any questions or comments regarding the research study. Both had
none. The principal left his office. I gave Dinzi the two Questionnaires (Appendix F
and Appendix J). We went over them together while I explained in detail what was
expected. She then perused over them herself and reported that she understood the
contents and would have no problems in completing them. I emphasised that these
questionnaires had to be complete before the interview and classroom observations.
She reported that she would need two days to complete it. She requested that the preobservation interview take place during her non-teaching period at the school. She
reported that she was teaching ‘density’ to her Grade 8 Natural Science class. I
thanked her for her cooperation, and provided her with my telephone number to call if
she had difficulties answering the questionnaires.
There were many dilemmas that struck me at this meeting. First, the seemingly lack of
communication between the principal and the other members of management about
my research study. Why? I speculate again. Maybe he did not have the opportunity to
inform them as yet, or maybe he did not think it necessary. Second, the teacher’s
remarks of focusing on grade 9 classes and GETC. What did this mean? Why? Does
this indicate that the teacher’s focus of teaching, learning and assessment was on
classes that wrote exit examinations, while other classes that did not write exit
examinations received less attention? Did this support my rationale for selecting
Grade 8 classes in the research study, that is, because no exit examinations were
written in this grade, a relative bias towards examinations may be excluded? Third, I
was surprised that she took thirty minutes before she could provide me with her time
table. Why? Maybe my assumptions that teachers have their timetables readily
available needed to be questioned. I had to remind myself again of being cognizant of
the complexities of conducting school- and classroom-based research.
3
GETC is an acronym for the General Education and Training Certificate awarded at the end of the
General Education and Training Band, namely at Grade 9, signifying the successful completion of the
compulsory attendance phase of schooling in South Africa.
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Gaining access into the ‘suburban school’ – School B
In the middle of May I had telephoned the principal, explained the nature of my
research and my request for permission to use her school and a qualified, experienced
and competent Grade 8 Natural Science Teacher. She agreed but informed me that I
should call her at the beginning of the third term, because the second term was a very
busy term.
On the first day of the third term, I telephoned the principal to make an appointment
to meet with her. We agreed to meet two days later.
Entering the field – School B and First Meeting with Hayley4
I arrived at the school as requested by the principal, prepared for this meeting as I had
been for School A described above. The secretary ushered me into the principal’s
office. We exchanged formal introductions and greetings. The principal formally
agreed to the research study and had nominated a teacher. She informed me that this
particular teacher was qualified, experienced and competent to teach science, and was
teaching one class of Natural Science, namely Grade 8 D. She added that the other
teacher who was teaching the other grade 8 Natural Science classes was unqualified to
teach but had a science degree. I provided the principal with a formal letter requesting
permission to conduct the research in the school (Appendix C). The principal had
shared some documents with me, which I intended recording in the ‘Document
Summary Form’ (Appendix O). I enquired from her whether she or the teachers had a
copy on the new assessment policy, and I showed her a copy of the policy. When she
looked at the date on the cover of the Government Gazette indicating the Assessment
Policy, she replied that she did not have a copy because that particular policy was
outdated - it was dated ‘1998’. She added that it had been relevant during the time of
the previous Minister of Education, namely, Professor Bengu, but that when he left
and a new Minister of Education, namely Professor Asmal was appointed that policy
was changed. She did not have a copy of the changed policy as such but did have
many related documents that she had given me.
4
Pseudonym used for the sake of confidentiality
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The nominated teacher then joined us. I explained the nature of my research study, the
expectations from the school and the teacher, as well as the implications thereof. Both
the principal and Hayley agreed to participate in the research study. The principal
however requested that I return the following day to finalise arrangements with
Hayley who informed me that we could meet the following morning during her nonteaching time in her classroom. I enquired whether they had any questions regarding
the research study. They had none. I provided them with my contact details should
they need to contact me. I thanked them for their time and for granting me permission
to conduct the research in the school.
I completed the Contact Summary Form (Appendix N). I was puzzled by the response
of the principal that the Assessment Policy had been replaced. Was it replaced?
When? Why? I was unaware of this alleged change but was open to the possibility
that due to the many changes affecting education I may have slipped up. I followed up
with the Curriculum Section as well as with the Legal section in the national
Department of Education with regard to the status of the new assessment policy, the
focus of this research study. I was relieved that it had not been changed. But this begs
the question: Why did the principal believe that it had been changed? What are the
implications of this belief on implementation of the policy? Could it be related to the
Review of Curriculum 2005?5 Could it be related to lack of relevant information from
higher authorities? Could it be related to conflicting information? Could be related to
too much information that seems confusing? It was beyond the scope of this research
to pursue these questions.
I was struck by the attractive appearance of this school – the first impression indicated
that it was a well-resourced school. The visible spaciousness of the school was
appealing and inspiring. The large administration building housed a large reception
area with attractive tables and chairs; fresh flowers on the table, and beautifully
draped curtains. Two secretaries working in a large, well-furnished, well equipped
office received visitors and students. The administration area was strongly secured
with burglar-guarded gates that were controlled by the secretaries. The large garden
5
In 1999, the second democratic Minister of Education, Professor Asmal, had commissioned the
Review of Curriculum 2005, a new curriculum for South African Schools introduced in 1997. The
Report of the Review Committee was released in May 2000 (see Chisholm, 2000). This resulted in a
Revised National Curriculum (see Department of Education, 2001)
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and playgrounds was attractive and well-maintained. There were no students visible
outside the classrooms. This appearance was a conspicuous contrast to School A in
the township.
First meeting with Hayley
The following morning, I met with Hayley in her classroom, which happened to be a
laboratory. This was her non-teaching time. I explained again the purpose and nature
of my research study, as well as the expectations and demands it would make on her
time. She replied that she was very happy to participate and added that she was glad
that somebody was doing research to find out whether polices are working in the
classroom, because her experience was that she and most teachers in the school were
“confused” (personal communication). She shared her timetable and some of her
records with me. I made a note of these records that were to be analysed later using
the ‘Document Summary Form’ (Appendix O). I provided Hayley with both
Questionnaires (Appendices F and J). We reviewed them together while I explained in
detail what was expected. She then perused over them and reported that she
understood the contents and would not have problems responding to them. We made
arrangements for the first pre-classroom observation interview and for the
commencement of the classroom observations of her Grade 8 Natural Science class.
She reported that she was teaching ‘Energy and Change’. I thanked her for her
cooperation, provided her with my telephone and fax numbers to call me if she had
difficulties answering any questions.
I was extremely pleased at Hayley’s response to the research study. She seemed
willing and welcoming. She had prepared for my visit by having all her files and
documents ready for me to view. She seemed very open to share her work with me.
To me her behaviour made a statement about both her willingness and commitment to
participate in the study and her trust in me as a researcher. Her ‘large, thick files’ with
documents overwhelmed me.
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Second Knock or Disruption to the research plan
After the first meetings with both Dinzi and Hayley I realised that the subject matter
each was teaching differed. Dinzi of the township school was teaching ‘Density’
which I traced to be related to the theme ‘Matter and Materials’ indicated in Natural
Sciences Senior Phase Policy Document (Department of Education, 1997). Hayley
from the suburban school was teaching the theme ‘Energy and Change’ indicated in
Natural Sciences Senior Phase Policy Document (ibid.). I realised that my simple and
neat plan of the two chosen teachers teaching the same subject matter had been
naively conceived. This knocked my assumptions regarding uniform subject matter
being taught by two teachers. I decided that I would continue but would make this fact
known upfront in the research study – that the subject matter of each teacher was
different and this could or could not affect their assessment practices. Closer analysis
of both the Assessment Policy and the Natural Science Senior Phase Policy Document
revealed that the different themes taught would not alter the assessment practices
because the specific outcomes, the assessment criteria, range statements and
performance indicators were the same for the different themes (ibid.). What would
differ were the key concepts and phenomena of each theme.
Negotiating Classroom Observations and Interviews – Third Knock or Disruption to
my Plan
I realised that it would not be possible to observe each teacher for two sessions of
three weeks each as indicated in my initial plan. Circumstantial realities demanded
that the two teachers be observed and interviewed simultaneously in the third term.
This meant that I had to analyse the timetables of both teachers to determine a
schedule for the interviews and classroom observations. From the timetables obtained
from each teacher I developed a schedule for the school visits to each school. I
observed that there was a clash on Tuesdays, that is, the teaching times of both
teachers coincided. I decided that I would alternate the classroom observations
between the two schools on Tuesdays. I realised that this could create gaps in terms
of continuity of observations. I addressed this dilemma by enquiring from each
teacher what each did on the unobserved days, as well as requesting the teachers to
audiotape the lessons for me after negotiating this request with them.
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With regard to the interviews, I had negotiated places and times that were convenient
for each teacher. Some would be conducted in school during the teachers’ nonteaching periods and after school, others outside school during hours and venue
convenient to the teachers.
Data Collection and Storage
Systematic recording of data
I kept detailed written records of what I observed and heard, and of documents
received from each teacher for each visit in two separate journals, one for each
teacher. The date, time and place were noted. I created two files in my computer, one
for Dinzi and one for Hayley. I simultaneously created hard files for each teacher.
This was the start of the building of a case record for each teacher. For each teacher I
created a sub-file in my computer, as well as hard copies. Each sub-file contained data
from each teacher in line with each research tool, for example, ‘Questionnaire A’
meant that this was a response to the questionnaire from Dinzi and it went into the
sub-file of Dinzi which was clearly labelled ‘Questionnaire A. This procedure was
repeated for all the other data sources for both teachers. As I engaged in this exercise,
ideas about the trustworthiness of the data, issues for further exploration and modes of
analysis emerged. I had inserted annotation notes where follow up was necessary, the
nature of the follow up and when insights were forthcoming. This process not only
contributed to the initial stage of data analysis, but it also stimulated me to make
initial, temporary speculations regarding the outcomes to the research questions.
Profile of the Schools and Teachers
I developed detailed profiles of each school and teacher by using information from the
contextual information form (Appendix P), contact summary forms, questionnaires,
free writing schedules and during the classroom visits. These profiles were used to
explore and understand the contextual realities of each teacher. The contextual
realities of each teacher would be used to offer and support explanations for their
assessment practices. These profiles are provided in the chapters on each case study
teacher.
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Questionnaires
I administered two set of questionnaires simultaneously to each teacher to complete
prior to the classroom observations. The first set of questionnaire (Appendix F) was
aimed primarily to elicit information about their understanding of the assessment
policy, the focus of critical question one. Some questions elicited information about
the teachers themselves. The second set of questionnaire (Appendix J) aimed to
collect information about how the teachers practiced assessment in their classrooms,
which was the focus of critical question two.
Responses to these questionnaires served as the starting point of the data analysis and
also served as a platform from which other fine-grained, deeper questions emanated.
As soon as I received the questionnaires from the teachers I began preliminary
analysis of this data, primarily to capture their understandings and to guide me into
probing deeper into their responses during the follow-up interviews, and to add to the
construction of the profile of each teacher and school. The gaps noticed were followed
up. Time was reported to be the primary constraining factor in completing the
questionnaire. The open-ended questions were very briefly answered, contrary to what
I had prepared and hoped for. The nature of these responses demanded that these
issues be followed up in depth in subsequent interviews.
A revealing result of the initial analysis of the questionnaires and its consequent oral
follow up was that neither of the teachers had been aware of, or seen or had a copy of
the gazetted National Assessment Policy document - the specific policy used in this
study as means to explore and understand the relationship between policy and
practice. Dinzi had a copy of the Draft Assessment Policy from the provincial
Department of Education (Gauteng Department of Education, 1999), which Hayley
did not have; Dinzi and Hayley had copies of ‘Circular Number 5/2000’, the topic of
which read “National Assessment Policy as it relates to OBE and the implementation
of Curriculum 2005 and Assessment in GET Grades”. Hayley reported that she had
“lots of documents” (response to questionnaire 1 and personal communication) related
to assessment and did not know “which policy” the study related to (personal
communication). Dinzi did not have copies of similar documents. This begs the
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question about the unequal distribution of assessment related documents to different
schools and teachers. Why did the selected schools and teachers not have a copy of
the gazetted National Assessment Policy? Why did Dinzi have a copy of the Draft
assessment policy of the provincial Department of Education and not Hayley – both
from the same province? Why did Hayley have so many assessment related
documents that Dinzi did not have despite both being in the same province? How
would this affect implementation of the new assessment policy? This last question
will be pursued further in the concluding chapter.
This revelation was a further knock to my assumption that each school would have
copies of this gazetted National Assessment Policy as indicated in my initial research
plan. It made me question my assumption - was my assumption naïve or was it valid?
How would I know? I suppose I believed that in our educational change landscape
with the sounds of Curriculum 2005 and OBE so loud, this new assessment policy, an
inherent part of the new curriculum would at least be in the schools, if not with
teachers. But I did not change the research questions that were based on the gazetted
National Assessment Policy because national policies are foundations that guide and
inform provincial policies as indicated in the National Assessment Policy (1998:7):
This new assessment policy for the General Education and
Training Band, alongside the new national curriculum
framework, provides the pedagogic basis for our new
education and training system. It will guide the provincial
education authorities in designing their own assessment
policies and will therefore become a vital instrument for
shaping educational practice in the thousands of sites of
learning across the length and breadth of our country.
…[Over] the next many years we will promote this policy
…Provincial departments of education will develop assessment
guidelines based on this policy for use …
(Emphasis added)
Free writing schedules
Before the classroom observations, but after receiving the completed questionnaires, I
administered the free writing schedule to the teachers (Appendix G). It allowed
teachers to provide information that they might not have written in the questionnaires
or said in the interviews. This free writing schedule was used as a triangulation tool to
corroborate information received from the questionnaires, interviews, classroom
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observations and documents, as well as to construct questions to follow up later for
greater depth of information.
Interviews
I conducted personal, face-to-face interviews with each teacher before classroom
observations and after classroom observations. The interviews provided the discursive
space and opportunities for teachers to reveal their understandings, beliefs and actions
in their own words.
Pre-classroom observation interviews
The interviews were semi-structured explorations of their understandings of the
assessment policy. The purpose of this interview was to respond to the first critical
question, namely: What are teacher understandings and beliefs with regard to the
assessment policy? This interview was shaped primarily by the semi- structured
interview protocol developed (Appendix H) that provided the framework within
which the teachers could express themselves in their own terms. Supplementary and
complementary questions were added as the need arose to probe deeper into
respondents’ views. These interviews were conducted in the school/classroom of the
said teachers at their request. The interview lasted from thirty to sixty minutes
depending on the availability of the teachers. I had to be flexible to suit the particular
conditions of each teacher. With the permission from each teacher the interviews were
audio-taped.
At the first and subsequent audio-taped interviews, I ensured that the teachers felt
comfortable and at ease by explaining the purpose of the interview, assuring them that
this was not a critique of them personally, and promised strict anonymity and
confidentiality. These interviews saw me poised with the list of questions seated
opposite the teacher as suggested by them. This arrangement enabled me to make
face-to-face contact with each teacher in the hope that the interviewees would not feel
nervous and intimidated. At first each was nervous but gradually the nervousness
gave way to candid responses. I tried to make running notes while listening to the
interview but found this extremely challenging. Making eye contact with each
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teacher, and showing that I was appreciating their responses, and simultaneously
writing notes was extremely difficult. I decided to abandon writing detailed notes and
rather focused on the teacher’s responses. However, when I noticed something
striking and relevant in terms of the interview, I made a note of it. For example when
a teacher made a statement like “new ways of assessing” (interview notes) and I
probed further requesting the teacher to mention the new ways and explain how she
used it in her class and its consequences, I noticed a conspicuous feeling of anxiety
and nervousness – this was noted. The question it raises is why did the teachers feel
anxious about responding to ‘why’ questions.
These interviews resulted in uneven outcomes. The interview with Hayley from the
suburban school was successfully completed because she had provided time during
her non-teaching periods and after school to complete it. However, with Dinzi, from
the township school, it was not possible to complete this interview before the
classroom observations because she was unable to find the time to accommodate the
interviews. The question is why? What was it about Dinzi in school A that prevented
the completion of the interview? Were there inherently unique and complex
contextual forces at play, and what were they? I realised that the issue of the
unsuccessful attempts with Dinzi was not simple but might be intricately woven to
political, social, personal and especially historical contexts. I hoped that data from the
other data sources would help compensate for the gap in the data collected from this
interview with Dinzi.
The audio-taped interviews were transcribed verbatim. Initially I started the torturous
process of transcribing, but soon gave up as it was too time-consuming. I recognised
that these tapes were part of the heart and soul of the study, the hard data about, not
only what, but about how each felt at the moment of the interview. However, since I
personally conducted the interviews and made brief notes during the interview, I did
not believe that the quality of the data would be compromised if I outsourced the
transcriptions, so I decided to have the tapes transcribed by qualified transcribers. The
audiotapes were transcribed verbatim and the transcriptions were shown to each
teacher for validation.
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Post-classroom interviews
I conducted many small post-classroom interviews that were informed and shaped by
what I had observed in each teacher’s classroom and school, and by each teacher’s
responses to the questionnaire and free writing schedule. This allowed me to uncover
the outer layers of perceptions and go deeper to discover the world below, perhaps a
different world to gain new and different insights. The results were different for each
teacher, which I describe below.
Dinzi from the township school
This teacher was unable to provide the time for the many interviews that I hoped to
conduct to elicit her responses about why she practiced assessment the way I had
observed. This resulted in limited post-observation data from this teacher. This raises
questions: Why was she unable to provide the time for the interviews despite
promising to do so? Was she unwilling to provide the time, and if so why? Did the
relationship between the researcher and researched change, and if so why? Did I as a
researcher play a role in this change if there was a change? Did she now view our
relationship as polarised with different motives, priorities and perspectives, that is, me
as a doctoral student-researcher focused on making a scholarly contribution to
knowledge, and her as teacher focused on the daily process of educating the youth?
How could I know? How does a researcher address this issue? Will this compromise
the integrity, rigour and confidence of the research study? I felt helpless, disillusioned
and intimidated until I discussed the issue with my Supervisor and critical friends who
advised that I continue the study with the data sets that I managed to collect from this
teacher.
Hayley from the suburban school
I conducted many interviews with Hayley based on my observations of her
assessment practices, her records and her learners’ records. Some of these interviews
took place in the school during her non-teaching times, and after school, and some in
my house, at her request. This resulted in a fuller set of data for this particular teacher
than for Dinzi. This raises theoretical and methodological questions: Why was it
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possible for Hayley to provide the times for the interviews? Why were the data sets
from Hayley fuller and deeper? Did her contextual realities frame her responses and
how? What was her view of our relationship? Did this impact on her decisions to
make the time to respond to the interview questions? Would this affect the research
study, and how?
The process and procedure I followed to conduct this interview after classroom
observations were similar to that for the pre-classroom observations in that I ensured
each teacher felt comfortable and was not nervous. Each interview was audio-taped
with each teacher’s permission. I also made brief notes during the interview to capture
salient features of the interview process. I tried to ensure that the note-making process
did not adversely affect the process of interviewing by continually making face-toface contact with them during the interview process. The audiotapes were transcribed
verbatim and the transcriptions were shown to each teacher for validation.
Follow up visits (Examination, recording and reporting)
As a result of setting up dates for the follow up interviews in the fourth school term I
was informed by each teacher that they were very busy preparing for the November
examinations. I decided that I would visit the two schools during this time to obtain
information and relevant documents about the November examinations and the
process of assessment during this period. This was not part of my initial research plan,
but I felt that it was important because the November examination is part of the
assessment system. However my observations during this period were limited because
of my work schedule as a full time employee. I had to find gaps in my work schedule
to rush to the schools to gather data. From each school I collected the following:
•
The examination time table, including grade 8 Natural Science;
•
The question paper for Grade 8 Natural Science and the marking memo,
•
The mark sheet of the observed Grade 8 Natural Science class
•
The schedule information as required by the District and provincial
Department of Education;
•
Reports of learners, samples given by the teachers.
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The purpose of this exercise was to explore how this examination was related to each
teacher’s understanding of the assessment policy, and to explore the reasons for the
observed activities, and whether they reflected changes as intended by the new
assessment policy.
I interviewed each teacher about each aspect of what I had collected and observed
with respect to the November examination. These interviews were audio-taped,
transcribed verbatim and given to each teacher for validation.
Classroom Observations
The purpose of the classroom observations was to elicit information in response to the
second research question, namely: In the context of policy, how do teachers practice
assessment in their classrooms. It would also assist me to make inferences regarding
the second critical question, namely: What are teacher understandings and beliefs
with regard to the assessment policy?
I was a non-participant, outsider observer – a ‘fly-on-the-wall’. I had to extend the
observations into part of the fourth term because of disruptions to observations in the
third term brought about by contextual realities of the school. This is another knock or
disruption to the original plan. However each teacher was willing to accede to the
arrangement. Each teacher’s classroom observation will be described separately.
Observations in Dinzi’s classroom
I observed seventeen classroom lessons in Dinzi’s classroom over a period of seven
weeks, five in the third term and two in the fourth term. At the first observation lesson
I had been requested by Dinzi to sit in the front right corner of the classroom. This
seemed to be the only place that was available because the classroom was relatively
small compared to the number of chairs and desks in the classroom. Dinzi informed
me that there were fifty learners in this Grade 8 Natural Science class although the
average number that I observed was forty learners. Even for forty learners the
classroom lacked sufficient space. One of the seventeen lessons had been conducted
in the science laboratory. I made detailed running notes of the observed lessons,
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audio-taped the lessons and completed the prepared classroom observation protocol
that captured the teacher’s assessment practice. These were given to the teacher for
validation.
Dinzi reported that she did not have a Grade 8 Natural Science preparation file as yet
but that she was in the process of preparing one, and added that a temporary teacher
who had since left the school had taken the preparation file. I assumed that there had
been a Grade 8 Natural Science preparation file that the said temporary teacher had
taken with her. I consequently learnt that the temporary teacher had taught this
particular Grade 8 class in the second term only because the school had been
understaffed. However the provincial Department of Education had terminated the
contract of the temporary teacher at the end of the second term. So the temporary
teacher who I was given to understand prepared her own preparation file for this
Grade 8 Natural Science class left the school without returning the preparation file.
The Head of Department (HOD) reported that she was not at school during that time
therefore she could not ensure that the preparation file was returned.
I also attended and observed a Natural Science Learning Area meeting during the
course of the observation period in the third term. This was important because it
enriched the contextual characteristics of this case study.
Observations in Hayley’s classroom
I had observed twenty lessons in Hayley’s classroom over a period of seven weeks,
five in the third term and two in the fourth term. Hayley had agreed to the extension
of time. This was a knock to my initial plan as stated for Dinzi above.
At the first observation lesson I had been requested by Hayley to sit at the back of the
laboratory. I made detailed running notes of the observed lessons, audio-taped the
lessons and completed the prepared classroom observation protocol.
Hayley had a comprehensive and detailed lesson preparation file.
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Records and Documents
I collected a variety of learner and teacher records from each of the teachers, although
not equally as will be indicated below. Each record and or document collected was to
be analysed in terms of specific criteria (see Appendix M).
Learners’ Test Records
Both teachers had informed me that learners had written tests on pages that were
supposed to be pasted into the learners’ workbooks/notebooks. Each teacher reported
that they did not see the need to have a separate book for tests, that it was more useful
to have the tests with the work/notebooks. I collected copies of test question papers
from Dinzi and copies from Hayley. The purpose of this was to explore whether the
tests reflected each teacher’s understandings of the new assessment policy and
whether the intentions of the policy were being achieved. These were to be analysed
later using the analysis framework developed (Appendix M). I also used them to
construct questions for the follow-up interviews.
Learners’ work/notebooks
I collected random samples of learners’ workbooks from each teacher’s class. The
purpose of this was to explore whether learners’ note/workbooks reflected the
teachers understandings and practice of assessment. I constructed follow up questions
after analysing the workbooks in order to find out why they assessed the way they did.
Learners’ assignments
I collected two sets of assignments, randomly selected, from Hayley’s class only.
Dinzi reported that her class had not completed any assignments. The purpose of this
was to explore whether they reflected both the teachers’ understanding of assessment
as well as how they practised assessment. I constructed follow up questions after
analysing the workbooks in order to find out why the teacher assessed the way she
did.
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Learners’ Reports
I collected samples of the June and November reports of learners from each teacher.
The purpose of this was to explore whether the reporting process was aligned with the
teachers understandings of the policy and with the new policy intentions.
Case Records and Audit Trails
I developed a case record for each teacher, that is a case record for Dinzi and a case
record for Hayley, and developed audit trails for the study. The audit trail points to the
trustworthiness of the study. The audit trails could also be provided to other
researchers to enable them to validate or challenge the findings, or construct
alternative arguments.
Pitfalls and problems - Challenges and lessons learned during data collection
A fundamental issue that emerged is the dual role that I played in this study, one as a
researcher and another as a teacher development agent in a national government
department. While these different roles are complementary, allocating adequate time
to each role proved to be extremely challenging, especially when the role of the
teacher development agent demanded much travelling to other provinces, working
with international sponsors on their terms, and managing national teacher
development projects. Does this allow for slippage of rigour? The lesson for me is
engaging in qualitative case study research for a doctoral programme demands
focused attention and therefore should be pursued full time, if possible, after
negotiation with the employer and supervisor. This arrangement will not only enhance
the quality of the study but would also prevent any compromises that could result as a
result of the divided attention between employment demands and research study
demands.
During the process of data collection I had been amassing unequal amounts and
quality of data from each of the research informants. I began to grow anxious fearing
that the rigour of the research study may be compromised, despite reminding my self
that as a researcher my role was “not an automation shorn of human interests and
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programmed to execute a design devoid of socio-political consequences” (Kemmis,
1980 in Bassey 1999: 25). I was also cognizant of the observations of Valero and
Vithal (1998: 1) that “disruptions to carefully conceived plans are the norm rather
than the exception” in research contexts that are undergoing fundamental
transformations politically, socially, economically, culturally and educationally. The
lesson for me as a researcher was that being aware of what the academic literature
observed and suggested was insufficient to cope with the dilemma I was experiencing.
I am not suggesting that it was not helpful, it was, but I found that I had to struggle
with my own conscience and feelings about the unequal data I had collected. I
realised that my research plan was not devoid of socio-political underpinnings; I fore
grounded the complexity of conducting research within the shifting ecology of an
unstable, developing social contexts; I was also open to the possibilities of changes to
the research design. But I was still struggling with the questions: Did I make false
assumptions about the conditions that actually existed in schools? What did I
overlook? Would the unequal data sets compromise the rigour, legitimacy, credibility
and confidence of the research? I must add that this made me feel helpless as a
researcher. Until I decided to discuss it with some of my critical friends and my
Supervisor who advised and assured me that I had sufficient data sets even if unequal,
to continue with the data analysis and the research study.
Being a non-participant observer in the classrooms, I often noticed learners make
mistakes that distorted and fatally impacted learning. Should I just watch what was
happening or go forward and help the learners (and teacher)? This dilemma proved
extremely challenging - my intention as a non-participant observer and the seduction
of being drawn into the classroom dynamics. I had to make the tough choice informed
by the principles and standards of being a non-participant researcher or an outsider to
this classroom milieu. I could not interfere or intrude – a seemingly simple and single
answer to this complex phenomenon, but one that caused much angst.
Shifting the weight and analytic move to data analysis
How was I to analyse this corpus of research data yielded from the research field? The
data sets included data from the questionnaires, free-writing schedules, interviews –
pre-and post-classroom observations, records and documents from teachers and
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learners, and documents from the principal of one school and documents from the
Science HOD from another school.
Early during the conceptualisation of the research study I had been confronted by the
dilemma of deciding how to analyse the data; should I analyse it manually as I had
done in the past, or use a computer software programme, a process that was totally
new to me and would demand much learning and practising time. I had discussions
with groups of researchers who used one or other of the two approaches of data
analysis in order to assist me make an informed decision. I heard different views,
some pro computer and some anti-computer analysis - and this was understandable.
For example, those who used the computer software reported that it took a few clicks
of the mouse to find something rather than scratching through a pile of papers. I also
went to a two-day ‘training session’ at the university to learn how to use a computer
software programme, namely AtlasTi, to analyse qualitative data. It was my
experience at this ‘training session’ that finally informed my decision not to use the
computer software because firstly, it was too time consuming to learn, and time as a
part-time researcher is a scare resource. I must add that this had nothing to do with not
wanting to learn something new. I had to be pragmatic and realistic. Working
simultaneously as a part-time researcher and full time employee of a government
department made it impossible to find the time to learn this new approach to data
analysis, even though I wanted to. Secondly, I was informed that the limited number
of qualitative researchers experienced in the using the computer software programme
to analyse data, did not have sufficient time to support me as a novice learner if I
decided to use the computer soft ware to analyse my data. I realised that as a novice
learner I would demand much and sustained support to be successful. Thirdly, and
this is my own untested intuitive feeling of the perceived ‘coldness’, and the linearity,
limited lateral and creative thinking and processing of data by a computer programme.
Before the actual analysis began, I made plans to arrange the data as I collected them
into a logical order by placing it into two different arrays, one for each teacher. I
constructed a matrix of categories related to each research question with its
accompanying research method and tools in which to place the data. I created a data
display wall chart based on each research question for each teacher to examine the
data and to tabulate the frequency of different events and to place the data in a
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temporal scheme (Miles and Huberman, 1994). Two general strategies were used, one
relying on and following the critical research questions that led to the case study and
developing a description for each case (Yin, 1994), and second, including pattern
making and explanation building (Miles and Huberman, 1994; Yin, 1994), that
constituted the second level of analysis.
As I collected data I simultaneously started the initial or first level of analysis. This
entailed the process of reduction, display, and verification (Miles and Huberman,
1994). This early start to analysis was informed by the advice of Cohen, et. al., (2000)
who advised that it reduced the problem of data overload by selecting out significant
features for future focus. As data from the questionnaire was collected I coded it in
line with the three critical questions and its linkages to the assessment policy and the
conceptual framework. Let me illustrate. For research question one, ‘What are
teachers understandings of the new assessment policy’, I asked a sub-question in the
questionnaire: “What do you think are the main reasons why the new assessment
policy has been introduced into our schools?” Dinzi responded:
…[In] the perception that all learners can learn and succeed
although not necessarily at the same time or level. Through
the assessment the learners’ achievement on this road to
success can be measured against the expected outcomes.
(Questionnaire A)
Hayley responded:
To vary methods used to assess learners (to give the bigger
picture) not just theoretical. To give tools to assess the weaker
learners, to credit learners at whatever rate they may have
acquired the necessary competence. To encourage lifelong
learning.
(Questionnaire B)
The new assessment policy (Department of Education, 1998: 8) provides two reasons
for developing a new assessment policy, firstly, the “requirements of the new
curriculum” based on outcomes-based education and the “shortcomings of the current
assessment policy A Resumē of Instructional Programmes in Public Schools, Report
550 (97/06)” that prescribed a complex set of rules and regulations for subject
groupings and combinations, that lacked transparency and accountability, that had
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inadequate assessment practices, that made inappropriate use of tests and
examinations, and absence of meaningful feedback or support for learners.
In the conceptual framework on ‘deep change’ I suggested in Chapter Three, I
differentiated between superficial and deep changes. According to Fullan (1991) and
McRel (2000) superficial changes involve changes to the surface features of the
change without understanding the rationale for the change, while Fullan (ibid) notes
that that deep change involves constructing deep, sophisticated meaning of the change
in terms of its purpose. Using this conceptual framework as an analytical tool, I asked
what type of understanding each teacher had regarding the purpose of the new
assessment policy. Was it superficial or deep? How did it compare with the policy?
Why did they have this type on understanding? How would that understanding affect
their further understanding of the policy as well as their assessment practices? This
analytic stance assisted in the construction of the case study reports for each teacher
that I provide in the later chapters, Chapter Five for Dinzi and Chapter Six for Hayley.
I compared data collected from the various sources, a process known as
methodological triangulation to construct patterns on their understandings and
practices. These patterns became themes that I refined and challenged against data
from competing sources. As I subjected the data from the various sources to content
analyses, distinct categories were identified.6 Tentative conclusions began to emerge.
I returned to the data “over and over again to see if the constructs, categories,
explanations, and interpretations made sense” (Patton, 1980: 339). This process
revealed the interaction between me as researcher, the topic and the sense-making
process – referred to as “validity-as-reflexive-accounting” (Creswell and Miller, 2000:
125).
I developed a detailed account of how each teacher understood the new assessment
policy and practiced assessment in her classroom, that is, a descriptive case study
(Merriam, 1988:27), followed by explanations of each teacher’s understandings and
practices based on each teacher’s response to the post-observation interviews and the
conceptual framework on deep change. These accounts are provided in the chapters
on each case study teacher, namely Chapter Five for Dinzi, and Chapter Six for
6
These categories were analytical statements yielded from the analysis of the assessment policy
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Hayley. I then used the descriptive data to develop conceptual categories, to test the
propositions that I proposed prior to data gathering, to develop a typology of
assessment practice for each teacher, to explain the assessment practices of the
teachers, to suggest relationships between the teachers understanding of the
assessment policy and their practice, and to explain the continuity and discontinuities
of their assessment practice with the assessment policy.
Using the data from the case report of each teacher I developed within- and cross-case
data displays (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Yin, 1994). Each case report facilitated
cross-site comparisons and helped identify emerging themes. The cross-case analysis
revealed similarities and differences between the two cases. This is synthesized in
Chapter Seven.
During the data analysis phase I reminded myself to be cautious about interpreting
processes in another culture (school and classroom culture) versus my current
bureaucratic culture (policy environment culture) and jumping to conclusions that I
think I know what is going on. I rigorously questioned my judgements, feelings, and
perceptions without stifling the development of my unique research self, because I
recognised the influence of my subjectivity hence I continually clarified and
reconsidered my decisions, speculated about alternatives and drew upon the data for
insights such that my assumptions were continually being questioned. Continual
interrogation of my assumptions was fundamental because as Senge (1992: 243)
suggests that one way to further understanding about particular practices is “being
aware of our assumptions and holding them up for examination”. This enabled me to
adopt a more reflective research disposition.
Validity concerns
While the concerns about validity in this research study are infused in the above
account, I shall repeat it here as a matter of emphasis. I used the following variety of
strategies to ensure that my research study is valid that maximized its quality and
credibility.
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A fundamental political concern that I had been confronted with from the
beginning of the study was contending with the duality of roles imposed by
this study on me – one, an employee within the national Department of
Education responsible for formulating policies and the other a researcher
exploring policy implementation? Would this lead to negative or positive
tensions? How would my employers view my research stance? How would
they received or respond to its findings? Furthermore, and more importantly,
my Supervisor for the study was a vociferous and fearless critic of the
education system. Would engaging in this study with my chosen Supervisor
make my employers question my loyalty to them? I addressed this dynamic
tension by firstly recognizing it, and secondly viewed it as an opportunity to
develop both a critical thinking and risk taking mentality - essential tools for
learning in our dynamic, complex educational transformation process.
The ethical issues in this research study centred around informed consent
which I addressed by obtaining informed consent from each of the two schools
and teachers as discussed previously in this chapter; around confidentiality and
anonymity which I addressed by promising confidentiality and providing
pseudonyms for the schools and teachers; around the unequal relationship
between myself as the researcher and the teachers as research participants in
terms of who benefits from the research study, which I addressed by
acknowledging that as a doctoral student I was to benefit not only in
advancing academically but also advancing the frontiers of knowledge. In
addition I did not adopt a hierarchical position of expert in relation to my
research participants, but rather that of a learner, which I made explicitly clear
to each school and teacher. There was also the issue around the duality of my
roles while in the schools, a role as a political bureaucrat and that of a
researcher. I decided at the beginning of the research study that I would
remove my bureaucratic hat in the research settings and use a researcher hat.
This proved to be very challenging as I was often tempted to inform the
participating teachers and schools of recent and relevant educational
documents and discussions that I had been privy to as a bureaucrat. But I had
to exercise extreme caution and restraint – a difficult task for a ‘born teacher’
that I believe I am.
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I returned to the data “over and over again to see if the constructs, categories,
explanations, and interpretations make sense” (Patton, 1980: 339). This
process revealed the interaction between the researcher, the topic and the
sense-making process and is referred to as “validity-as-reflexive-accounting”
(Creswell and Miller, 2000: 125).
The raw data and its interpretations were taken to the teachers concerned for
their verification, to check how accurately I have represented their realities
and to assess whether my interpretations accurately represent what they said
and did (Creswell and Miller, 2000). I incorporated the teachers’ comments
into the draft case study report that they would have reviewed. By giving the
teachers a chance to react to the data and to the final account ensures that the
participants add credibility to the qualitative study (ibid). This ensured
construct validity (Yin, 1994).
I gave the final draft case study report to a critical friend and colleague who
would be an external reviewer to help establish construct validity (Creswell
and Miller, 2000).
By using multiple sources of evidence from questionnaires, free-writing
schedules, interviews, classroom observations, records and documents, that is,
a process of triangulation, construct validity was established. I searched for
convergence among the multiple and different sources of information to form
themes and categories.
Limitations of the Research Study
Because I, as researcher am the primary instrument for the collection and analysis of
data in this case study, researcher bias could be introduced in the research study. This
is related to issues such as ethics, reliability, lack of rigor and validity concerns. This
had been dealt with by following a variety of strategies that ensured credibility to my
research study as discussed above for validity concerns.
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This study cannot be used to make broad generalizations because it is a case study and
as such provide little basis for making scientific generalisations. However by making
the purpose of the research study explicit, namely, the use of a specific policy, the
new assessment policy could be used as a window to explore and understand the
relationship between policy and practice in a particular context of investigation. The
study may be “generalizable to theoretical propositions” (Yin, 1994: 10) but not to all
policies, and not to all teachers and all schools.
The policy itself is being taken as given, that is, it is not being conceptually critiqued,
but the policy intention in terms of its implementation is being investigated. It may
seem that policy implementation is seen as being separate from the policy process. I
embrace an integrated view of policy, meaning that I view policy implementation as
inextricably linked to the policy making process. I also recognize that many other
conditions are required to effect change, for example, vision, enthusiasm,
commitment, resources, material, financial and human, not only policy interpretation
and implementation.
This case study research resulted in voluminous amount of data that needed to be
managed and secured properly. Slippage can be costly in terms of continuity essential
for coherence of the study. For each set of data, I created a logical case study database
that was easily retrieved. Manual and electronic copies of the case study database
were made and stored in various places for safe keeping.
Being a researcher and educator, possible tensions arose when working in schools. I
made my position very clear when seeking permission to conduct the research in the
schools willing to participate. I implored the teachers and the schools to see me as a
colleague seeking their assistance in learning to understand educational change in a
complex, evolving and challenging political, cultural, economic and social landscape.
Confidentiality and anonymity was promised and honoured.
Another limitation is conducting research in transitional context such as South Africa
that is undergoing substantial changes politically, economically, socially and
culturally. In such contexts Valero and Vithal (1998:9) suggest that “disruptions to
carefully conceived plans may take on more dramatic alterations”. For example:
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•
Researchers may be unable to gain access to the schools within which
research was intended. This may be due to class boycotts, student or teacher
strikes, unscheduled closing of schools due to social or political problems.
The school context is merely a microcosm of wider social changes, and
therefore, a variety of macro- and micro- level factors come to be played out
within the school context. As educational researchers, the clearly laid out
plans of data collection are often unable to be carried out.
•
Researching the subjective interpretations of research subjects may alter
significantly in relation to time, place and context during the data collection
process.
•
The research subjects within the context of a rapidly changing society are also
characterised by a kind of evolutionary (if not radical) transformation of their
own personalities, ideologies, and beliefs. The evolutionary status of such
change entails that data collected from subjects about their beliefs, ideologies,
attitudes, etc. are potentially subject to a range of fluctuations. These
fluctuations do not (as to be expected) progress in neat trajectories.
I will only make modest claims about change based on the initial set of observations
emanating from this research study.
This research methodology guided my entry into each school to collect the data from
each teacher to construct the case study report for each teacher. I construct these case
reports in the following two chapters.
Summary of Chapter Four
This chapter describes the qualitative case study method used to respond to the three
research questions explored in the study. I make three propositions to be tested by the
study. The chapter describes the research design and the various methods and tools
used to collect data from the two teachers, each teaching Grade 8 Natural Science, but
from two different contexts. I highlight the disruptions to the data collection process
as well as my response to these disruptions. In this chapter I explain how validity was
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established. Limitations of the study are identified and responses to the shortcomings
were provided.
In the next chapter I develop a case study report of Dinzi.
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CHAPTER FIVE
The Case of Dinzi: In Search of New Knowledge and Resources
I am not conversant about the basics.
I cannot really get deep into it?
I don’t have deep knowledge about it as such1
In this chapter I describe Dinzi’s understandings and beliefs about the new assessment
policy as well as her assessment practice in her classroom. I used the methodological
plan described in the previous chapter to proceed into the school to collect data from
this teacher. I drew on this data to construct the comprehensive case study report of
Dinzi. The chapter will be both descriptive and analytical in nature. I first provide a
detailed descriptive profile of Dinzi, the school where she teaches, and of the
observed Grade 8 Natural Science class, followed by a discussion of her
understanding of assessment policy. This is followed by a discussion of her observed
assessment practice. I shall provide the analytical response to the reasons informing
her assessment practice in Chapter Eight of this dissertation. In developing the case
report of Dinzi, I draw on evidence from the various data points elaborated and
discussed in Chapter Four.
The following summarised framework, coupled with the respective research
instruments adducted as evidence, guided me in developing the case study report on
Teacher Dinzi:
1
Quotation from this teacher during an interview (July 2002)
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•
Profile of Teacher Dinzi
•
Profile of school inhabited by Dinzi
•
Profile of observed class – Grade 8 Natural Science class
•
Dinzi’s understandings and beliefs with regard to the assessment policy using
evidence from the following primary data points:
Questionnaire (A1)
Free writing schedule (A2)
Interviews prior to classroom observations (A3)
•
Dinzi’s practice of assessment with evidence emanating from the following
primary data sources:
Questionnaire (A1)
Interviews prior to classroom observations (A3)
Classroom observations – the fundamental and most critical data source
(A4)
Teacher Documents (A5)
Teacher records (A6)
Student2 Notebooks (A7)
Student Records (A8)
June and November examinations (A9)
Interviews after observations (A10)
Profile of Teacher Dinzi
I built the profile of Dinzi based on information obtained during formal interviews,
informal conversations, as well as from the bio data questionnaire, which the teacher
completed. This profile is essential to the focus of this study because personal and
professional traits are inextricably linked to what people say and do. In other words it
would provide a personal context to compliment and enrich the insights from the
study.
Dinzi is a level one educator3, and is forty years old. Her first language is Xhosa while
English is her second language. Her knowledge of Afrikaans is very limited. Her
2
In the South African context the term ‘learner’ is used to refer to students and pupils. I will use the
terms ‘student/s’ and ‘learners’ interchangeably in this study for practical reasons.
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qualifications indicate that she is formally qualified as a teacher, that is she obtained a
Junior Secondary Teacher’s Diploma Certificate specialising in Science and
Mathematics from the Cicira Training College of the then Transkei4 in 1977. This
Certificate qualifies her to teach Natural Science, Biology and Mathematics. She also
has a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Psychology and Sociology majors obtained from
the University of Fort Hare in 1985. She is currently in her second year of study
towards a Further Certificate in Outcomes Based Education (OBE)5 offered by a
tertiary institution in the province and funded by the provincial Department of
Education. Dinzi and two other teachers from her school had been nominated by the
school principal to study towards this Further Certificate in OBE (personal
communication with the head of department of science in the school).
Her teaching experience spans fifteen years, all in this same school called Delamani
High School6. She has taught mathematics to Grades 8 and 9 for fourteen years. She
has never taught Biology during her teaching career, and this is her first year of
teaching Grade 8 Natural Science, of which she teaches one of the four classes. She
reported that she taught this particular class, that is Grade 8 Natural Science, the focus
of this study, in the first term, but a temporary teacher taught this class in the second
term. Temporary teachers seemed to have been employed by the provincial
Department of Education to relieve the heavy workload of staff at this school.
However in the third term the provincial Department of Education did not renew the
contracts of the temporary teachers. This resulted in the reorganisation of the school
timetable, and Dinzi resumed teaching this Grade 8 Natural Science class in the third
term. She also teaches mathematics to three Grade 9 classes and English to two
classes, one Grade 10 class and one Grade 9 class. She reported that she was not
qualified to teach English but was forced to because the school was short staffed
(personal communication). She is the class teacher of Grade 10 A. Of the 40 periodweek, Dinzi teaches 30 periods, which means that she has 10 non-teaching periods per
3
In terms of the Employment of Educators Act of 1995 school-based educators are categorised in one
of five levels, ranging from level 1 to level 5. Level 1 is the starting category, level 2 being Heads of
Department, Level 3 Deputy Principals, and levels 4 or 5 occupied by Principals depending on the
student numbers.
4
Transkei was one of the Homelands for Blacks created by the apartheid government of South Africa.
5
The approach to education and training underpinning education transformation chosen by the postapartheid government of South Africa
6
Not real name but pseudonym for the sake of anonymity and confidentiality
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week. All her lessons are conducted in a classroom allocated to her, and students
move to her classroom for lessons.
With regard to Curriculum 20057 and OBE she “received training in mathematics,
general OBE and for Grade 9 only but not for Grade 8, Natural Science and
assessment” (personal communication).
She is a member of South African Democratic Teachers Union. Her extra-curricular
duties involve memberships of the Sports Committee, School Development Team,
Library Committee, School Governing Body, School Uniform Committee and School
Assessment Team.
Profile of Delamani High School
Delamani High School is situated approximately fifteen kilometres from the city
centre. It is regarded as a ‘township’8 school that had been established twenty seven
years ago. It is supported by one of the twelve districts9.
The management team of the school includes the principal who is male, two deputy
principals, one female and one male, and five heads of department for the different
learning areas/subjects. There is a head of department for science who is female. Both
the principal and the science head of department have been in the school for fifteen
years. There are thirty-two members of staff whose racial composition is mainly
homogenous in terms of race, that is, all are Black African but one exception, one
Indian male who is a head of department. There are more female teachers than there
are males. Most of the teachers in the school are studying OBE courses with UNISA10
sponsored by the provincial department of education (personal communication with
the science head of department, July 2002). The science head of department had been
7
The new flagship curriculum introduced in 1997 by the post-apartheid government of South African
The apartheid government of South Africa had created specific and separate areas for the different
groups of people based on race. Africans, Indians and Coloureds were each housed in group areas
known as ‘townships’.
9
In South Africa the system of governance in education consists of 4 or 5 levels, namely, starting from
the top: national (one) – provincial (nine) – regional (not in all provinces and where it is present the
numbers vary) - districts (numbers vary in the different provinces) – schools (numbers vary in each
province)
10
University of South Africa
8
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away from the school for about three weeks, the last week at the end of the second
term and the first week of the third term, attending a Teacher Enhancement
Programme in the USA sponsored by a university in the province (ibid). She reported
that she “did not know what happened while she was away …my classes were left
unattended” (ibid).
The non-teaching support staff includes two clerks, one caretaker, one gardener, one
cleaner and one night watchman. The school has a School Governing Body that “is
trying hard but more effort is needed” (personal communication with the teacher).
Most parents belong to the working classes and are uneducated therefore their input in
terms of decision-making at the school is minimal (ibid).
There are one thousand and seventy three (1073) students in this school, ranging from
Grade 8 to Grade 12. This means that there are two educational systems operating at
this school, one, the new the General Education and Training Band11 made of Grade 8
and 9 students, and the old Senior Secondary Phase made of Grades 10 to 12 students.
All the students are Black African12. Many of the students come from the surrounding
informal settlement characterised by socio-economic deprivation. Many live alone
because their parents/mothers/fathers live and/or work in the rural or farm areas and
these students attend this school especially because it accommodates students who
speak Venda13. This is the only school in the township that accept Venda speaking
students
because
of
anti-discriminatory
practice
of
the
school
(personal
communication with the principal and teacher). The first language of most students in
this school is Venda, followed by Tsonga, and Northern Sotho. Their language
proficiency in English is very limited and in Afrikaans it is negligible. Each student is
expected to pay one hundred rand (R100) per year towards school fees. However,
11
The new South African System of Education since 1994 is made up of three bands, namely, General
Education and Training (GET) consisting of Grades 1 to 9 that is compulsory; the Further Education
and Training Band (FET) consisting of Grades 10 to 12 offered in schools and in technical colleges,
and the Higher Education Band (HET) consisting of post Grade 12 students in Universities and
Technikons. At the time of writing the new FET Curriculum is scheduled to be implemented in Grade
10 classes in 2006, in Grade 11 classes in 2007 and in Grade 12 classes in 2008. This means currently
Grades 10 to 12 follow the old curriculum, known as NATED 550 for short.
12
In terms of the post apartheid classification system, people are either Black or White; Blacks include
Africans, Indians and Coloureds.
13
Venda is one of the African languages spoken in South Africa
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many are exempted from payment because of poverty.
There is a School
Representative Council made up of representatives from each class.
The road leading to the school is tarred. The building is single storey, made of brick
and tile, consists of six blocks with twenty five classrooms, one small, disorganised,
and sparsely resourced laboratory that “needs to be made attractive” (personal
communication with Dinzi), a small, poorly-resourced library, a small hall that is
partitioned to serve as classrooms, one of which houses the home economics class,
and a woodwork centre. When needs arise for the use of the hall, for example, to hold
parents’ meeting, the partitions in the hall are removed for such occasions but even
then it becomes overcrowded because of its small size (ibid). The small administrative
block houses an office for the principal, two offices for each of the two deputy
principals, an office for one head of department (the other four have no offices but use
the staff room), and two offices for the administrative staff. The office spaces are
reported to be inadequate (personal communication with the principal). In fact the
principal’s office is very small and houses the single computer, the school’s prized
possession. It also houses the single staffroom, which is not only extremely small to
accommodate the thirty two staff members, but also lacks sufficient table and chairs,
shelves and cupboards. The windows in the staff room have burglar bars, but lack
curtains, and some window panes are broken, which allow dust to enter making the
staff room very dusty. The sizes of the classrooms are also very small to
accommodate the large number of students in the school.
The building is wired and supplied with electricity, but the classrooms lack electricity
and plug points. The building is completely fenced with a gate at the entrance that is
locked. Security seems to be a priority because of vandalism that is prevalent in the
area. The gravel entrance into the school building gives it an untidy image, but the
garden is receiving attention. The surrounding ground is un-tarred and un-grassed
therefore dust spreads throughout the building. The verandas are extremely narrow
forcing students to walk on the dusty path to their next classrooms. When it rains
students have limited shelter to move from one classroom to another. The number of
taps and toilets for students are insufficient. Litter is one of the major problems in the
school because of insufficient bins and waste being collected once a week. However
students are expected to clean up every afternoon. There is no parking facilities
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present forcing cars to be parked in any suitable space available. The building needs
painting and minor repairs. Since the school lacks a tuck shop, vendors are allowed
into the school to sell their wares such as chips, sweets and cool drinks.
Dinzi believes that the school is “not conducive to teaching and learning” partly
because of the nature of the school building described above, and because of lack of
teaching and learning resources such as text books, photocopying paper, chalk and
dusters (personal communication).
Two school timetables are in operation - one from Mondays to Thursdays and another
for Fridays. From Mondays to Thursdays the school starts at 07:45 with assembly and
followed by registration – both assembly and registration lasting fifteen minutes. This
is followed by the first period starting at 08:00 and lasting forty minutes. There are
seven periods each lasting forty minutes. The periods are interrupted by two breaks,
the first one at 10:00 lasting fifteen minutes, following two periods, and the second
one at 12:15 lasting thirty minutes, following three periods. There are two periods
after lunch before the school day ends at 14:05.
On Fridays the school starts at 7:45 with assembly and registration lasting fifteen
minutes as for Mondays to Thursdays. However each period lasts thirty five minutes
with one break lasting thirty five minutes, with the school day ending at 13:00. The
reason for the timetable being different on Fridays was not clear. The principal
informed me that he continued the practice as he found it when he had arrived at the
school but requested that I enquire from the teachers (personal communication). One
teacher repeated the principal’s view, while another reported that it was to
accommodate the Muslim students and teachers who had to attend mosque on Friday
afternoons (personal communication with teachers). I learnt that there were no
Muslim teachers in the school and a negligible number of Muslim students (personal
communication). On the other hand, Dinzi reported that “most students run away on
Friday afternoons and don’t come back after lunch” (personal communication).
Teachers are expected to report to school at 7:30 and leave at 15:00 depending on the
duty roster. Teachers are expected to supervise students after school hours, mainly in
the afternoons depending on a planned supervision timetable that ensures every
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teacher has a turn on a rotational basis. Supervision in the afternoons ends at 17:00.
The supervision after school hours is a response to the poor student performance in
the school as well as to provide those students from poor homes with opportunities
and conditions to learn with additional support from the teachers on duty. Dinzi
reported that this after school supervision was a strain on her but the students,
especially those in Grade 12 were benefiting.
Profile of the observed Grade 8 Natural Science class
According to the formal records of the school there are fifty students registered in this
Grade 8 Natural Science class (class register from class teacher). However, this
number was not present at any of the seventeen observed lessons when the numbers
fluctuated from a minimum of twenty-eight to a maximum of forty one. All students
are Black African. There is an almost equal distribution of male and female students.
Most come from the surrounding informal settlement characterised by socioeconomic deprivation. Many live alone because their parents/mothers/fathers live
and/or work in the rural or farm areas and these students attend this school because
their parents chose that they be schooled in an urban area. The first language of most
students is Venda, others being Tsonga, and Northern Sotho. Their proficiency in
English is very limited, while in Afrikaans it is negligible.
I did not see any student with a science textbook during my seventeen classroom
observations. Many did not have class/notebooks (notebooks in future) in class. In
fact during one observation lesson (A4, 20 August 2002) not one of the thirty-five
students had a notebook in class. Many lacked pens or/and pencils. In the rare
occasion when they were requested to write, some wrote on bits of scrap paper, while
many would not write at all (A4). Dinzi reported that these students “could talk but
not write because of English language” (A3). Their educational engagement in the
observed lessons had been minimal (ibid).
During the classroom observations I had observed a worrying lack of discipline
amongst the students with some walking into and out of the class as they chose, or
coming in late, screaming across the classroom and talking during lesson time, eating
during lesson time and throwing their litter on the classroom floor. Their attitude and
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value to learning, schooling and the environment are open to question. Dinzi reported
“they are like that” (personal communication). The question is why they are allowed
to get away with this kind of behaviour by the teacher and the school. Why is she not
more assertive in demanding and calling them to order?
A specific classroom has been assigned to Dinzi to conduct her lessons. It is in a
separate block away from the administration block. The walls are bare of any pictures
and wall charts, and in urgent need of painting. The desks and chairs occupy the entire
classroom leaving no space for a table and chair for Dinzi. There is a wall cupboard in
the corner of the class but not used by Dinzi as it does not have a lock therefore
susceptible to burglary. Desks and chairs are arranged in groups and in rows
depending on the preferences of the students. It is conspicuous by the absence of
chalk, dusters and any other teaching and learning resources. The windows have no
burglar-guards; some have broken windowpanes, and are painted half way. The door
has no lock and is left open. This allows dust from the un-tarred and un-grassed
surrounding to enter the classroom making the classroom very dusty. The general
appearance and ambiance of the classroom is unwelcoming and educationally
unappealing if not bankrupt. This raises the question why Dinzi and her students do
not take care and pride in making the classroom educationally attractive.
During the seventeen observed lessons, the classroom had been characterised by a
disturbing and unhealthy appearance – it was always filthy with empty chips packets,
lunch wrapping, sweet wrappings, empty cool drink cans and other litter. There was
no bin in the classroom. Even the area surrounding the classroom was more often than
not littered. This begs the question about why this situation is tolerated by the teacher
and students, and by the school generally.
This contextual background informs this study about the conditions in which Dinzi
works. I now move from context to content - the main thrust that frames the study,
namely, Dinzi’s understanding and beliefs of the new assessment policy, how she
practices assessment within this context and why she practises in ways observed.
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Dinzi’s Understanding and Beliefs with Regard to the Assessment Policy
In this section I describe and analyse Dinzi’s understanding and beliefs with regard to
the new assessment policy, in response to the first research question. However I
disturb the description and analyses with questions that are meant to establish an
agenda for the explanatory section in Chapter Eight of this dissertation.
Dinzi indicated that not only was she aware of the new assessment policy but that she
also had a copy of it (personal communication). The policy was given to her at a staff
meeting but it had not been discussed properly (ibid).
She believed that the policy
was easy to understand, and that it provided clear guidelines for implementation (A1).
Her responses to the questionnaire (A1) indicated that she strongly agreed that the
policy must be viewed in relation to our larger agenda of reconstruction and
development; the policy provides the pedagogical basis for our new education and
training system; the policy serves as a vital instrument to shape her educational
practice; the purpose of assessment should always be made clear to students;
assessment should be an integral, ongoing part of the learning process; students who
do not meet the criteria must receive clear explanations with an indication of areas
that need further attention; focusing on formal tests as the sole method of assessment
should be avoided; the policy creates opportunity for feedback to the school, and other
stakeholders about the schools performance; the policy provides a clear indication
about how well every outcome in the learning programmes are being taught and
learned; the policy informs and improves the assessment practices of educators; and
the policy makes recording of assessment data cumbersome.
She also agreed (ibid) that the policy: creates opportunity for feedback to students to
improve learning; the criterion-referenced approach should be used; creates
opportunity for teachers to improve teaching and learning; enables assessment results
to be communicated clearly, accurately, timeously and meaningfully; makes it
possible for results to be reported both informally and formally; enables the reporting
process to be used as a focal point of dialogue between the home and the school;
allows for the assessment of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes; will enable
teachers to use assessment information to assist students’ development and improve
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the process of teaching and learning; makes it possible to credit students’ achievement
at every level, whatever pathway they may have followed, and at whatever rate they
may have acquired the necessary competence; requires the use of tools that
appropriately assess student achievement and encourages lifelong learning skills;
allows the internal assessment process to be moderated externally in accordance with
specific provincial guidelines; the specific outcomes, which are grounded in the
critical outcomes, will serve as the basis for assessment; and the various specific
outcomes and their assessment criteria must be available to students.
Most of her responses to the questionnaire seemed to indicate that Dinzi’s classroom
assessment practice was aligned with the requirements of the new assessment policy
(Chapter One and Department of Education, 1998). I would argue that these responses
possibly indicate her awareness of the information about the policy but not necessarily
her understanding, more specifically a deep understanding of the policy; this deep
understanding can only be obtained by further probing that I did during the seven
interviews14.
Her understanding with respect to the rationale behind the introduction of a new
assessment policy was:
[In] the perception that all students can learn and succeed
although not necessarily at the same time or level. Through
assessment the students’ achievement on this road to success
can be measured against the expected outcomes. It therefore
sees to it that students are given equal opportunities to succeed
by implementing different methods of assessment in order to
accommodate all the levels of abilities of students.
(A1)
She added:
The educators had their own way of assessing governed by the
individual and the school where he/she teaches.
(A2)
[But] partly because of the way in which the student used to be
assessed, the old system in which the students had to stick to
time, given a question paper. Then after the question paper
14
Each interview lasted between one and two hours depending on Dinzi’s availability.
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went in, an hour or two hours later, and then the assessment
was not done continuously, or not daily. To some extent it is of
advantage to most students especially if they do their work.
Maybe to change the approach of the educators towards
assessing, to do it maybe fairly. To exchange the approach of
the educators towards assessment, they thought it was unfair. It
was unfair in the sense that you would find from experience,
that because the student did something naughty because he did
not understand, and the teacher would say. “Tomorrow I am
going to give you a test”, then some students were not prepared
for the test, and the students were not told what to expect for
the test, whereas now if you give them any work, any test, you
have got to tell them what you are expecting from them. And to
give the students equal chances of moving to the next grade.
(A3)
Her responses to each of the three different instruments are varied but synthesised
analyses suggest that Dinzi has a general and superficial understanding of the
rationale underpinning the new assessment system. It seems weakly connected to that
provided in the assessment policy that clearly articulates the rationale, namely, “both
the shortcomings of the current assessment policy, and the requirements of the new
curriculum for grades R-9 and Adult Basic Education and Training, have made it
necessary to develop a new assessment policy” (Department of Education, 1998:8,
emphasis added). In fact the policy provides a lengthy criticism of the old/current15
assessment policy known as A Résumé of Instructional Programmes in Public
Schools, Report 550 (97/06; commonly referred to as NATED 550), namely, that it
prescribes a complex set of rules and regulations for subject groupings and
combinations, it lacks transparency and accountability, it embraces inadequate
assessment practices, it encourages inappropriate use of tests and examinations
contributing to high failure and drop-out rates among students, it allows for absence
of meaningful feedback, and it allows for absence of support for students (ibid).
By comparing her response to the assessment policy and to the analytical conceptual
framework I would argue that she has a surface or superficial understanding of the
rationale underpinning the introduction of the new policy since she mentioned
“measured against the expected outcomes” which indicate that she has an idea that
15
This particular policy is old compared to this new one of 1998 for GET Band (focus of this study),
but it is current because it is being used in Grades 10 to 12 until the phasing in of the new FET
curriculum in 2006 for Grade 10. Dinzi has to teach under both policies simultaneously.
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outcomes were driving the new assessment policy, although this was at a general
superficial level. However, she did not mention the shortcomings of the of the
old/current assessment policy, which is detailed in the new policy on assessment.
This raises two issues. Firstly, why does she have only a superficial understanding
and how did she come to this understanding? Secondly, how will this surface
understanding affect or influence her understandings and beliefs of the policy as well
as on her assessment practice? What implications does her surface understanding have
for policy change and educational change generally?
Her general understanding of the new assessment policy is that:
It’s a standardised method of assessing in both FET and Grd
R-9. The government made it to be uniform nationally.
(A2)
I understood it as the new way that was introduced by the
National Department of Education; what should be done, what
are the procedures to be taken, what forms of assessment the
people have used. What tools and techniques and what methods
should they be used, and then how much involved should a
student be in the assessment.
(A3)
However she added:
I am not conversant about the basics. I cannot really get deep
into it? I don’t have deep knowledge about it as such.
(A3)
She admits that she lacks a deep understanding of the policy. Why? The analysis of
her responses lead to the following questions: Why does she have a wrong
understanding that this policy is for the “FET” band as well when it is only for one
band, the GET band? What is meant by ‘standardised method of assessment’? Why is
her response focused on ‘what’ is to be done with a conspicuous absence on ‘why’
and ‘how’ issues regarding assessment? How will this lack of a deep understanding
of the new policy affect her assessment practice? What are its implications for
educational change and policy change specifically? How could she develop a basic
and a deep understanding of the new policy? She also added that she did not feel
confident and empowered with regard to the new assessment policy (ibid). How
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would this lack of confidence and empowerment affect her commitment and ability to
understand and implement the assessment policy? These responses are inconsistent
with her responses to the questionnaire where she reported that the new assessment
policy was easy to understand, it provided clear guidelines for implementation and
that it allowed for flexible implementation (Questionnaire A1). Why are there
inconsistencies in her responses? What are the consequences of these inconsistencies
to her understanding and implementing the new policies? However the analysis
reveals that she is aware that assessment involves many “forms”, “tools”, “methods”
and learner involvement (see A3).
With reference to the meaning of ‘critical outcomes’ she reported:
I am not very sure about it, I must be honest.
(A3)
She did not even want to try to provide what she believed it meant (ibid). Not only is
this definition provided in the assessment policy but it also indicated “the specific
outcomes grounded in the critical outcomes will serve as a basis of assessment”
(Department of Education, 1998: 11, emphasis added). The new education system is
based on the outcomes-based approach to education and yet she does not have any
understanding of this fundamental concept! This begs the question why? What are the
implications of this lack of understanding on her assessment practice?
Dinzi understands ‘specific outcomes’ as:
What is expected of students to know at the end of each
lesson… the assessment is guided by this specific outcomes.
(A3)
This was partially consistent with the new assessment policy. She missed the “and
do”. She added however that she did not have a good understanding of the specific
outcomes in Natural Science because now you find that certain specific outcomes are
not commonly used although they are there (ibid). Her response reveals a superficial
understanding of this concept. The issue is why she lacks the deep conceptual
understanding of a defining feature of the new curriculum and assessment system and
how will it influence her assessment practice?
She reported that she was not very sure about the relationship between the new
national curriculum policy and the new assessment policy, and not conversant with
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the new national curriculum policy (Interview A3). This means that she has no
understanding of this relationship. Again we need to ask why. Dinzi is currently
teaching Grade 8 Natural Science (focus of this study) and Grade 9 Mathematics, both
of which are supposed to be informed by new national curriculum policy and the new
assessment policy. Why was she in this state of ‘policy ignorance or illiteracy’ if you
like, despite the new assessment policy clearly articulating that “this new assessment
policy for the General Education and Training Band, alongside the new national
curriculum framework, provides the pedagogic basis for our new education and
training system” (Department of Education, 1998: 7, emphasis added). It added, “The
learning programmes for each phase will serve as a basis for assessment in each of the
phase” (p14). How will this limited if not lack of this basic understanding impact on
her understanding of the policy and its implementation? What does it imply about the
strategy in bringing about changes in teachers?
Who will address Dinzi’s
predicament, when and how?
Her understanding of the main goal of the policy is:
[To] make it possible for the student to meet same standards in
the same grade though they may be in different schools. It then
accommodates students even if they need transfer from one
school to another, if properly administered the student will fit
in any school; it is to make the students to be independent,
accountable and responsible citizens.
(A2)
She added:
[To] try and make things easier for the students and the
educators, so that the students themselves should be able to fit
in the outside world and even give the students equal chances
of moving to the next grade.
(A3)
But this response is different to the new assessment policy that states that the aims of
the policy are to “enhance the provision of education which is continuous, coherent
and progressive, for each student, serve as a key element in the quality assurance
system, and introduce a shift from a system that is dominated by public examinations
which are high stakes, and whose main function has been to rank, grade, select and
certificate students, to a new system that informs and improves the curriculum and
assessment practices of educators” (Department of Education, 1998: 9-10).
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It is clear that she has a different and superficial understanding of the goals of the new
assessment policy. This raises the questions as to why Dinzi exhibits a surface rather
than deep understandings of the assessment policy. Would this affect her
understanding of the policy on the whole? How will her understanding affect her
assessment practice? What implications will this have on understanding policy change
and on developing strategies for professional development for teachers in the context
of policy change?
She did not respond to the question on her understanding about ‘criterion-referenced
approach’ to assessment in the free writing schedule (A2). Does it imply that she did
not know what it meant? However in the interview she reported that it:
[Means] a certain criteria you set when you assess the
students. But now the problem with it is that the criteria will
differ from one educator to another because it depends now on
what you expect from the students. Our criteria will never be
the same.
(A3)
She added that she uses it:
To explain to them (students) how we are going to allocate
marks. Part one if you give me this I will give you three marks,
if the information is not all what I wanted then you have two
marks, if there is nothing at all you get nought.
(A3)
Her understanding of ‘criterion-referenced approach’ to assessment is different
compared to the assessment policy that defines ‘criterion-referencing’ as “the practice
of assessing a students’ performance against an agreed set of criteria. In the case of
OBE the student is assessed against agreed criteria derived from the specific
outcomes” (Department of Education, 1998:19; emphasis added). This raises many
questions: Why is her understanding so shallow? How will her shallow
understanding/non-understanding of the concept ‘criterion-referenced assessment’
affect her understanding of the new assessment policy on the whole and on her
assessment practice? What are its implications for the successful implementation of
the assessment policy and for policy change more generally?
Dinzi also has a limited understanding of a related concept, ‘assessment criteria’ that
she understands as:
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What do you use to assess the students? Are you going to use
question and answers or are you going to the groups
themselves to assess themselves. … I’m not sure I’m using it
correctly.
(A3)
This understanding is not linked to the meaning provided in the assessment policy,
namely, “evidence that the student has achieved the specific outcomes. The criteria
indicate in broad terms, the observable processes and products of learning which
serve as evidence of the students’ achievement” (Department of Education, 1998: 19;
emphasis added). The policy adds that the specific outcomes and their assessment
criteria must be made available to students to inform them what is to be assessed, and
that students who do not meet the criteria must receive clear explanations with clear
explanations with indications of areas that need further work and must be assisted to
reach the required criteria (Department of Education, 1998: 11; emphasis added).
Furthermore the agreed upon assessment criteria are explicit in the national
curriculum policy (see Department of Education 1997; emphasis added). However she
added:
We’re still struggling to get to grips with it. Meaning to be able
to know exactly what the terms mean, and how do you achieve
those assessment criteria. Although they’re listed they don’t
have application. …I don’t use it because they confuse me.
(A3)
She admits that she has a surface or limited and confused understanding of the
concept and therefore she does not use it. This confusion poses serious questions
relating to the successful implementation of the new assessment policy. The questions
are: Why does she have this confused understanding? Who will help Dinzi address
her confusion, how and when? How will students be affected?
Her understanding of continuous assessment is:
When students are assessed almost daily and this counts
towards their CASS.16
(A2)
We have been using continuous assessment before the policy
came with its new terminology called continuous assessment.
16
Continuous Assessment, the model of assessment underpinning the new assessment system of
education in South Africa
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We used class tests say fortnightly, you would give students
class work and homework and record them towards the
students year mark. Continuous assessment does not have a
fixed time but can be done randomly.
(A3)
This response reveals a superficial understanding as well as some erroneous
understandings compared to the assessment policy. The new policy does not state that
students should be assessed “almost daily” nor “randomly” but rather on an ongoing
basis (Department of Education, 1998: 19). Furthermore, the year mark system that
characterised the old assessment system is philosophically, conceptually and
theoretically different from the continuous assessment model. It appears from the
response as if regular “tests” constitute the marks despite the policy making it explicit
that the continuous assessment model should “not be used as a series of traditional test
results” (Department of Education, 1998: 9, emphasis added). It also seems as if
‘recording’ of marks receives primacy rather than using the information to improve
teaching and learning suggested by the continuous assessment model (ibid). Her
responses raise questions relating to the source of her superficial and erroneous
understanding of continuous assessment, the model underpinning the outcomes–based
assessment system. What informs her understanding of the continuous assessment
model? If she believes that continuous assessment is not new but equivalent to the
year mark system of the past, how does this understanding influence her assessment
practice?
She also believes:
Now they have made everything a bit more complicated.
(A3)
Why does she feel this way? How will this feeling affect her assessment practice and
her students? Who will assist her in clarifying these issues and how?
She believes the continuous assessment marks should not be moderated externally
because:
The rate at which students understand differs and so it may
delay or accelerate the rate of the students.
(A3)
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This seems inconsistent with the policy requirement that “moderation will be carried
out to ensure that appropriate standards are maintained in the assessment process”
(Department of Education, 1998: 10) and that “the internal assessment process should
be moderated externally, for example, by professional support services” (p11). Why
does she believe that continuous assessment marks should not be moderated
externally? How would this affect the successful implementation of assessment
processes generally and specifically the continuous assessment model? If the
continuous assessment marks of students are not moderated internally and/or
externally, would students be affected and how? Is continuous assessment being
monitored, by who and how?
Some of the principles underlying the new assessment policy are that assessment
should be authentic, valid, and sensitive to gender, race, and cultural background
(Department of Education, 1998: 10). Her understanding of ‘authentic’ assessment
was”
To use a memorandum from what you expect from students so
that the students are able to say I’m right here or you marked
me wrong and so on. It can be more than that, I’m not sure.
(A3)
Dinzi acknowledges that she is not sure about the meaning of authentic assessment.
Why was she not sure? How will her not being sure impact on her assessment
practice?
Her understanding of a ‘valid’ assessment is:
When the type of assessment you share with other educators
and agree on it.
(A3)
This shows her superficial understanding of the principle. Why and how did she arrive
at her understanding? What are its implications for her assessment practice?
She was not able to explain her understanding with respect to assessment being
sensitive to gender, race and culture. Why was this so? If this non-explanation is
interpreted as her not knowing what this meant then it may have serious implications
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for the successful implementation of the policy. What impact will this have on
assessment practice? How will this affect the educational change strategy?
She described student ‘portfolio’ as:
It is some class work, homework, some projects and so on and
you put it in the file. It’s a collection of student’s work.
(A3)
She believes that the reason for having portfolios is
So that now students can be able to take his portfolio home and
show it to the parents. … And it helps the child to see whether
he’s improving in his schoolwork (ibid). She added that she is
starting to use it now, just giving it a try, it’s not something
we’re told to do.
(A3)
Although she believed that it is:
Positive having a portfolio, it was difficult because some
students wouldn’t do their work because they couldn’t find
relevant resources to do the work and also the laziness of the
students. Well another reason is that because of the numbers
of students that we have, it becomes an enormous task to assess
their work. It is something new and we don’t know what to
expect there…it is frustrating and it de-motivates me for
teaching.
(A3)
She continued that she was not using portfolios for the Grade 8 Natural Science Class
but only for Grade 9 class. She also added that she keeps the portfolios in her cabinet
and only gives them to the students:
Towards exam time …after we recorded the marks of the
students …we are guarding against the students losing some of
their work.
(A3)
Dinzi’s understanding of what a portfolio is cannot be disputed, but her understanding
of the reasons for having a portfolio seems superficial. The fact that she is not using it
in her Grade 8 class but only in Grade 9 raises serious concerns for the Grade 8
students. Why does she not use portfolio assessment in her Grade 8 class? Why does
she believe that she must be told to use portfolio assessment despite it being
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articulated in the assessment policy as one of the techniques to be used by teachers
(Department of Education, 1998:12)? In fact the policy expects all educators to have a
sound knowledge of each technique, including, portfolios, and to use it in a balanced,
fair and transparent way (ibid). Dinzi demonstrates receptivity to the idea of a
portfolio but indicates a number of school level constraints that made it difficult for
her to implement portfolios. The issue is who will assist and support her address her
concerns, how and when? How could her frustrations and negative feelings be
addressed, when and by whom? Why is Dinzi seemingly focusing more attention on
‘recording’ marks? What fundamental conditions are necessary for portfolio
assessment to be used successfully? By giving the portfolios to students towards the
time of the examination not militate against them using it to improve their learning
continuously? How should students and teachers manage the portfolios so that some
tasks do not get lost? Do teachers have sufficient storage space for the portfolios?
With regard to recording of student assessment results Dinzi reported:
With the new assessment policy now we’ve got to keep the
record, as long as you assess the students you’ve got to record
it, what used not to happen in the earlier days.
(A3).
Her understanding of the new recording mechanism seems extremely shallow. She
indicates that recording students’ assessment results is something new to her, that she
did not do this in the past. This will have serious implications for her and the nature of
the recording process which the policy demands “should provide a clear indication
about how well each and every outcome is being taught and learned, and should
include information on the holistic development of the student such as values,
attitudes and social development (Department of Education, 1998: 12). How does she
record students’ achievement? She did not respond to the questions on where she
records, what is recorded, how often recorded and any other relevant information that
she wanted to share regarding recording in the free writing schedule. This begs the
question: Why did she not respond to these questions?
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Her understanding around the issue of reporting of assessment results was:
The report sheets should be well designed so that different
tasks can be recorded.
(A2).
This does not illustrate her understanding of the new reporting process despite it being
articulated in the assessment policy: “effective communication about students’
achievement is a prerequisite for the provision of quality education” (Department of
Education, 1998: 12-13)? What did she mean by “well designed”? Can she construct a
“well designed” report sheet, why and how? She did not respond to the questions on
frequency of reporting, contents of the report, how it is communicated, and whether
students and parents are encouraged to comment. Why did she not respond to these
questions?
The new understandings and beliefs that she acquired as a result of the new
assessment policy were:
At the end of a topic or lesson I as an educator must be able to
know whether the student has reached a specific outcome for
that “lesson”. If no, I must structure further experiences so that
the student can reach the outcome, maybe by using a different
type of assessment. If yes, I should structure the learning
experiences to reach the same outcome at a higher level or to
reach a next level. I then use the above information to help the
student. I also use the information to improve my teaching too.
The standards have been elevated because you associate
assignments with universities; you never thought you can give a
Grade 9 child to do a project, to go do an assignment. We’d
just give them home work; there was no emphasis to doing
these projects and assignments. I would also say that it
depended on the type of education that we were trained in.
That made a difference, maybe with the other TED17 schools;
they are used to those terms they used to practice assignments
and projects, whereas the main Bantu Education18 had no
emphasis put on those things.
(A1)
17
Transvaal Education Department – a system of education for the whites during the apartheid days
Education designed specifically for African Blacks to ensure it was inferior and that it equipped them
as inputs into the unskilled labour market.
18
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It seems apparent that she is aware that assessment in OBE focuses on the
achievement of clearly defined outcomes as stated in the policy (Department of
Education, 1998: 9). She is also aware that she must use different types of assessment
and to use the assessment to improve teaching and learning (ibid). But this is
inconsistent with her responses to the free writing schedule where she wrote that the
new policy does not make much demand on her except that what we have been doing
in the past is given new names now (A2). She confirmed this during the interview that
the past assessment system and the new assessment system:
[Are] not that different, except that some of the new
terminology; because we did interviews, we did question and
answer methods, we did formative, they are new names - its just
the terminology that is just new.
(A3)
Why are her responses inconsistent? What does it imply about her understanding of
the new policy? If she believes that it is only the terminology that has been changed,
how does that shape her understanding and implementation of the new assessment
policy? What implication does this have for educational change generally and policy
change in particular?
She reported that as a result of the new assessment policy she changed her belief with
regard to students:
I had to change the fact that there are students who are “non
achievers or stupid”. Given equal opportunities all students
can achieve.
(A1).
Outcomes-based education is premised on the basis that ‘all students can learn or
achieve’ as indicated in both the new national curriculum (Department of Education,
1997) and the new assessment policy (Department of Education, 1998). So in this
respect her response is consistent with the policies. Her responses, while appearing
consistent with the new assessment policy raise many issues. Firstly, what do equal
opportunities mean? Secondly, what assumptions are made about students? Thirdly, is
she able to provide equal opportunities and how? Fourthly, do equal opportunities
translate to equal outcomes for all students? Fifthly, under what conditions can all
students achieve? On probing deeper during the interview she added:
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I won’t say it (policy) has changed my role as a teacher.
(A3)
This response inserts another dynamic into her understandings, namely her belief
changed but her role did not change! The question is why and how does this affect her
assessment practice?
She believes that the new policy will benefit the students if a child does his work
properly (A2). She also believes that it is difficult to assess in different ways as
intended by the policy because:
The students don’t go that extra mile to go and find
information. Most of them haven’t done their work.
(A3)
She is implying that the assessment policy would be successful on condition the
students do their work, and that is unquestionable. What is questionable is whether
students are the only condition? What about the role of the educators? Do educators
not form part of the successful policy change equation? What about the role of other
factors besides students and educators to bring about successful policy change? How
should teachers address the situation when students do not do the work? How do
teachers address this situation?
Dinzi believes that the policy was not well planned as revealed by her response to the
interview:
I don’t think it was well planned because now I think if they, the
government, had planned it they would have considered the
expenditure that the schools would get into, because now if we
talk about a new policy and then having the OBE and so on, we
are using - there is a lot of paperwork and so on, which is not
necessary, where you have got to draw worksheets for the
student and so on. If the school is a poor school, they cannot
have funds to buy paper for the students, and the parents won’t
have money to buy those materials and the resources that are
needed. And as I already mentioned, there are the small
classrooms where you have to do the activities, shortage of
resources, big number of students that the teachers deal with
and shortage of staff.
(A3)
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Embedded in this response are feelings that imply a certain degree of concern if not
negativity. How would this feeling affect not only the implementation of the policy
but more importantly her commitment and motivation to change?
She also believes the approach is top-down as illustrated by her response:
The government introduce the policy whatever it is and then
from there they expect teachers to work on the policy, to
implement the policy. When problems arise then they call for
workshops
(A3)
Dinzi seems to be articulating a concern regarding the expectations of policy from
teachers. How does this feeling affect her commitment and ability to understand and
implement the policy? What is the lesson for policy reform and educational change?
She believes that:
If there is any change of policy that the Department is aware
that is going to affect you in two years time, the educators
should be trained before, they shouldn’t be given crash courses
over two weeks and then be asked to implement what we have
done in the crash course, it is not possible, because when you
are teaching children, you are dealing with the future of
people, because at the end it reflects negatively on the
educators when they look at the results and find that the
children have failed and so on, they forgot that these crash
courses are not proper training for the educators.
(A3)
She also believes that the facilitators of the training do not know their work to train
teachers because
The facilitators they are taken by surprise. It is a top down kind
of a thing. The National Education told us you have a class for
the weekend, then you get to the teachers, then to the
SMTs19and the SMTs will get to the educators, They, the
facilitators are frustrated. …We attend workshops even it has
not yet worked.
(A3)
Dinzi felt that the workshop conducted to prepare teachers for the use of student
portfolios was not helpful:
19
School Management Teams
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Because we were instructed what to do so I wouldn’t call it a
workshop. They should have just written letters to us to do 1, 2,
3, full stop. It was a waste of time.
(A3)
These responses seem to reveal negative feelings. What are the implications of these
negative feelings on her commitment and ability to understand and implement the
policy successfully?
She believes that for better understanding of the policy:
All educators from management to level one educators need
proper and thorough training on assessment.
(A3)
What does this imply with reference to current training of school staff generally and
for assessment in particular? What is ‘proper’ and ‘thorough’ training? How should
this be achieved and by who and when?
Despite all this, Dinzi seems to be optimistic because she believes:
We need to be positive. With time, say in 2 years time, if there
are no changes again we will make it. If what we are doing this
year is going to be the same next year, then we will improve.
(A3)
What makes her feel positive? Is time the only resource needed for positive change in
terms of policy implementation? What is implied by “if there are no changes again’?
If changes do occur, what will be the consequence for the successful implementation
of the policy? Is it possible to predict that things will remain the same next year,
especially in a rapidly changing country like South Africa?
The above description and analysis show that Dinzi has fluid and unstable
understandings and beliefs or attitudes with regard to the new assessment policy.
Most of her understandings are shallow and superficial, a few non-existent, and much
of it lacking consistency with the assessment policy. Most of her beliefs or attitudes
are negative but some are positive. How these varied understandings and beliefs
inform her practice of assessment in her classroom needs to be explored. I respond to
this issue in the next section of the chapter.
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Dinzi’s Assessment Practice in the Classroom
In this section I shall describe Dinzi’s assessment practice in her classroom in
response to the second research question, namely, ‘In the context of official policy,
how do teachers practice assessment in their classrooms? I attempt to compare her
assessment practice with her understandings and beliefs about the policy, with her
claims about her practice and with the policy itself, in search for continuities and/or
discontinuities.
As indicated previously the following primary data sources are drawn upon to respond
to this question:
Questionnaire (A1)
Interviews prior to classroom observations (A3)
Classroom observations – the fundamental and most critical data
source (A4)
Teacher documents (A5)
Teacher records (A6)
Student notebooks (A7)
Student records (A8)
June and November examinations (A9)
Interviews after observations (A10)
I first examine Dinzi’s reported assessment practice as revealed in the questionnaire
(A1) and in the interviews (A3) to seek connections/disconnections with her
understandings and beliefs about the policy, with the assessment policy and with the
kinds of changes made, if any.
Reported Practice
Evidence from the Questionnaire (A1)
Here I report on the Dinzi’s responses to the questionnaire (A1) on the match between
her assessment practice and the assessment policy.
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Dinzi claimed that most of her assessment practices mirrored the requirements of the
policy, such as: assessment informs and improves her curriculum and assessment
practices; assessment offers all learners an opportunity to show what they know,
understand and can do; assessment helps learners understand what they can do and
where they need to develop further; her assessment practices are sensitive to gender
and learners’ abilities; assessment is continuous; assessment decisions are based on
pragmatic, trial-and-error grounds; facts, applications and higher order thinking skills
are assessed; uses the criterion-referenced approach; assessments are not restricted to
tests only; assessment is always undertaken for a specific purpose; learners are
involved in assessing their own work; learners are involved in assessing the work of
their peers; learners are provided with opportunities to reflect and talk about their
learning and achievement; a wide range of assessment methods are used confidently
and appropriately; assessment information is used to decide what to do next with
individuals, groups or the class; portfolios are built over a period of time; marking
involves both verbal and written feedback; marking focuses on the learning intentions
as the criteria for success; prompt and regular marking occurs; the outcomes of
marking, along with other information, are used to adjust future teaching plans; and
reporting of results is both informal, namely dialogues in class and formal, namely
written reports, amongst others (B1).
However she reported that there was room for improvement in some of her
assessment practice such as generating and collecting evidence, evaluating this
evidence against the outcomes, recording the findings of the evaluation and using the
information to assist learners’ development and improve the process of teaching and
learning; identifying the key learning outcomes so that assessment against them can
be made and used to help develop learning; assessment decisions are based on
thinking through the purpose and principles of assessment; assessment informs daily
and weekly practice; assessment allow learning to be matched to the needs of the
learners; and prompt and regular marking takes place (A1).
She did not make any claim to show that her assessment practice does not mirror the
assessment policy or requires re-thinking (A1).
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The analyses of her claims suggest that most of her assessment practices match the
requirements of the new assessment policy. I followed up these claims in the
interviews for deeper information regarding her assessment practice.
Evidence from the Interviews (A3)
During the interview prior to the classroom observations Dinzi reported that she used
various forms of assessment in her Grade 8 Natural Science class such as oral
assessment, class-work, homework, experiments, investigations, assignments,
portfolios, projects, tests, and interviews (A3). She added that she gets students
involved in the assessment in the form of self-assessment and group assessment
(ibid). She also indicated that she planned for assessment because:
[For] each and every lesson you’ve got to have … how we are
going to assess them. I think that is very important.
(A3)
She reported that as a result of the new assessment policy she changed her assessment
practice:
Well I would say I have changed because I am able to assess
the students randomly at any time. For example, I can assess
them maybe weekly or maybe daily. It’s unlike in the old time
where we had to assess only by giving the children tests,…there
is a mountain of tests. Now by even giving them class work,
there are some class work whereby you feel you assess this one,
allocate marks to that class work or homework.
(A3)
As indicated, her claims suggest that she has changed her assessment practice. I will
now probe deeper into the dynamics of her classroom practice to explore whether it
does actually mirror her stated claims, whether it does reflect her understandings and
beliefs as reflected in the previous section, to get at her deeper, tacit knowledge that
may have been hard to obtain during the interviews, and to investigate its relationship
to the assessment policy. This might lead to different and more sophisticated insights
that will help me craft a more productive understanding of the relationship between
policy and practice in the context of educational change or transformation.
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Evidence from the classroom observations
I had observed seventeen lessons in Dinzi’s Grade 8 Natural Science class in a period
of six continuous weeks from July 2002 to September 2002 (A4). One of these
lessons was conducted in the science laboratory and one test was administered during
this time.
In the first observed lesson (A4, 24 July 2002) Dinzi handed out a prepared worksheet
to the thirty-eight students and requested that they answer the four questions that
appeared on the worksheet. It seemed that the worksheet had been copied from a
textbook because at the top of the page “UNIT 13” had been written and at the bottom
of the page “36” had appeared indicating a page number. She read out the four
questions aloud before requesting students to work in pairs to answer the four
questions. They did not work in pairs but in groups of varying size depending on their
choice. Most students seemed uninterested and were screaming across the class to
such an extent that Dinzi had to repeatedly shout “shut up”. This did not deter them;
in fact some were talking to students outside the classroom via the window. Only four
students had their notebooks in class. I had observed a group of six students who had
been discussing the ‘objectives’ written on the worksheet and not the questions. They
had not written anything. Ten minutes later Dinzi, standing in front of the class,
provided the answers orally. Neither the teacher nor the students wrote anything.
There was no chalk or duster in the classroom. During this lesson:
•
The purpose of the lesson was not made clear to the students.
•
The outcomes for the lesson were not given. The teacher made use of
objectives, a practice that had been part of the old system.
•
No assessment took place either by the teacher or the students (I also
observed the students’ notebooks for evidence of assessment, there was
none).
•
Neither the teacher not the students did any writing.
•
The teacher requested students “to paste your worksheets” as homework.
(ibid)
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The issues relating to assessment emanating from this observation include:
•
Why did Dinzi not make the purpose of the exercise clear to students?
•
Why did she not provide the outcomes for the exercise?
•
Why is she still using objectives, a characteristic of the old system of
education?
•
Why did she not assess this work?
•
What is her understanding of ‘oral question and answer’? Who provides the
questions and answers?
•
Why were students not involved?
•
Why was there a complete absence of any writing both by the teacher and by
the students?
•
Why is there a visible lack of discipline by the students in this classroom?
I had observed a similar pattern in the third lesson (A4, 31 July 2002) except that after
issuing the hand-written worksheets Dinzi had informed the students that she would
be using “certain assessment criteria to assess you”. She wrote the ‘assessment
criteria’ as she understood it on the board as follows:
a) Correct formulae √
b) Correct units √
c) Correct multiplied √
d) Logical steps √
Again in this lesson Dinzi did not inform the students the purpose of the assessment;
neither did she define the outcomes to be assessed. This begs the question why? Her
understanding of assessment criteria is different from that given in the policy? This
raises the question: Why and how did she come to this understanding? She seems
confused between the uses of criteria in a rubric with assessment criteria. What
implication does her understanding of assessment criteria for the successful
implementation of the assessment policy and on student achievement? She collected
five students’ notebooks and initialled and dated them. She informed me that this was
a way of assessing the students work but that she did not record their work. Is this a
type of informal assessment? If it is, how does she use the information, if she uses it
at all?
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Her misunderstanding of the concept ‘assessment criteria’ is also revealed in one of
her Grade 9 mathematics class (A4, 21/08/2002). I had observed four lessons in her
Grade 9 mathematics classes to supplement the Grade 8 Natural Science observations.
The purpose was to observe whether she practised differently in different grades and
for different subjects/learning areas. The following appeared at the bottom of the
hand-written test question paper that she had administered to the class:
ASSESSMENT CRITERIA
4
3
2
1
1. Addition and subtraction
a) Like terms below each other
b) Rules for addition
c) Rules for subtraction
2. Multiplication
a) Sign rules
b) Exponential rules
c) Correct multiplication and division
(Copy from test question paper, 21 August 2002)
It seems evident that Dinzi has different understandings of the concepts ‘criteria’ that
are used in a rubric, a tool used for assessing students, and ‘assessment criteria’ that
forms the foundation of assessment in the outcomes based assessment system. This
different understandings or maybe misunderstanding raises serious questions not only
for the successful implementation of the assessment policy and the new curriculum
policy but also for outcomes-based education generally.
In the other three lessons when she issued worksheets similar patterns were observed.
The purpose of the work was not given. None of the worksheets had outcomes
indicated on them. Dinzi did not assess the students’ work. Neither did students assess
their work. How will Dinzi and the students know whether they are achieving the
outcomes?
Only during one of the observed seventeen lessons did Dinzi take her class to the
laboratory (A4, 7 August 2002). While students were running around in the science
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laboratory, she handed out worksheets and told them in the midst of the noise that “we
are going to find out about the topic density”. Is this a clear purpose of the lesson?
While the worksheet had the words ‘specific outcomes’ on it, no specific outcomes
were written, but the space was left blank. This begs the question why? She requested
that they form four groups, about ten per group with a maximum of twelve per group.
When she said “one member from each group come to the front for some apparatus, a
whole group of students ran noisily to the front table. It became extremely noisy with
students not only screaming loudly across the classroom but also dragging the
laboratory stools. It made it extremely difficult to hear Dinzi’s voice which was
drowned by the students’ noise. Dinzi wrote on the board ‘pipette’ and showed them
what it was. One student walked out of the laboratory without excusing himself –
Dinzi either did not notice or did not mind. The students were moving from group to
group just to chat to others. Discipline had totally collapsed when the teacher
screamed: “Quiet in your group. Shut up!” Why did discipline collapse? She read the
procedure aloud to them and asked one member per group to “fill the plastic basin
with water”. They did but not without throwing water onto their friends, and messing
the floor and the tables. Dinzi requested that they complete the table in their
worksheet after they placed the objects into the water. She had to scream to get their
attention. She told them what to do and re-drew the table on the board.
The group that I observed did not know the difference between a rubber stopper and a
cork stopper as this was the first time that they saw them and their first visit to the
science laboratory. Dinzi told them to place a tick in the relevant column. The
observed group threw all the objects into the water simultaneously without writing
what they observed. One student from another group asked the teacher: “What is
‘sinks’ and what is ‘floats’”?
Dinzi explained the concepts very briefly.
The
observed group placed the cork stopper into the water, and filled in the table “cork
sinks” (when it floated) in the column ‘floats’. The teacher tried to use one group to
demonstrate to the class but was not successful because students were not paying
attention but were playing with the water and apparatus. The observed group did not
know what to do thereafter and were just playing with the water and apparatus, like
the others until the lesson ended.
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Despite all this effort, Dinzi did not mention the outcomes to be achieved in this
lesson and she did not collect the students’ work to assess them. This begs the
question why? How will Dinzi and the students know whether they had achieved what
they were supposed to have achieved? How and when will feedback be given to
students, if it is given?
One of the worksheets that she gave to her students had in addition to activities four
‘projects’ to be done (A4, 16 August 2002). This worksheet was a photocopy from a
textbook because at the top of the page appeared “ACTIVITY 4” and at the bottom
“38” indicating a page number. Dinzi did not inform the class the purpose of the
lesson. She also did not provide the outcomes for the lesson, either orally or on the
worksheet (ibid). The activities were not done practically but orally with Dinzi
reading the activities listed in the worksheet aloud as she stood in front of the class,
and provided the answers orally. This begs the question why? What was the purpose
of the worksheet? Furthermore, she only went over half the activities. She requested
the students to do the ‘projects’ listed in the worksheet at home. But no student did it
(see A4, 19 August 2002). The teacher provided the answers to the questions based on
the first two ‘projects’ orally while standing in front of the class (ibid). The questions
relating to the other two ‘projects’ were not done at all. Dinzi did not collect the
students’ notebooks. This lesson raises many issues. Why does she not make the
outcomes to be achieved explicit? Why did she not collect and assess the students’
work? Why does she provide all the answers, and why orally only? Why does she not
find out the reasons students do not do their homework? What are her understandings
of the concepts ‘activity’ and ‘project’?
Two significant findings in the four mathematics classes (A4, 7/8/02, 8/8/02, 14/8/02,
21/8/02) and one English class (A4, 8/8/02) had supported my observations and
findings in her Grade 8 Natural Science classes One was her ‘teacher-centred’ and
‘talk-and-talk’ approach to teaching and learning characterised by Dinzi standing in
front of the class asking the questions and providing the answers with limited if any
involvement of students. Second was the lack of student discipline – students strolled
into the class late, talked loudly to one another and across the classroom while the
teacher was teaching, in fact the noise created by the students made listening to what
the teacher said extremely difficult with Dinzi occasionally requesting students to
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“shut up” (A4), and the students were eating openly during lesson time. This raises
fundamental questions for successful educational change. First for the new system of
education that is “student-centred” (Department of Education, 1998: 9). Second for
teaching and learning generally, that is, how can effective teaching and learning and
assessment take place in the absence of discipline in the classroom? And what kind of
values and attitudes are being inculcated in students?
All sixteen of the seventeen lessons observed were characterised by the teacher asking
questions and providing most if not all the answers, by a ‘talk and talk’ method and a
‘teacher-centred approach’ with the Dinzi standing in front of the class. The following
lesson illustrates the modal patterns of her classroom practice (A4, 1 August 2002):
Teacher:
We want to calculate density, where do we start? Quickly, quickly.
Density is mass over volume.
She wrote the formula for volume on the board and calculated the volume. She then
asked:
Teacher:
What do we do with the volume?
She worked out the problem on the board and explained what kilogram per meter
cubed meant. She told them:
Teacher:
If other units given, for example, given density and volume and asked
to find mass, how do you do it?
She wrote the formula for density on the board. The teacher used a mathematics
example to explain further by also writing on the board:
Teacher:
Density is mass over volume.
She wrote on the board: Density = Mass
Volume
Teacher:
Given 10 grams over centimetres cubed as density and 15 grams as
mass, what is the volume?
If you are given six is equal to eighteen divided by what?
She wrote on the board: 6 = 18
?
Teacher:
How do you find it?
Amidst the shouting of answers, one student screamed “divide by 18”.
The teacher continued:
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Teacher:
The volume is equal to N for numerator over the Q for quotient.
She wrote on the board:
Volume
= N (for numerator)
Q (for quotient)
= Mass
Density
One student informed the teacher that he did not understand the lesson but the teacher
continued:
Teacher:
Volume is equal to the mass divided by the density.
She wrote on the board as she stated:
V= M
D
She continued to explain using science and mathematics information:
Teacher:
In science density is equal to mass divided by volume. In maths the
quotient six is equal to eighteen, the numerator, divided by three the
numerator.
She wrote on the board:
Science
Density
Teacher:
Maths (numbers)
6 = 18 N (numerator)
3 D (denominator)
= Mass
Volume
“Volume is similar to finding quotient in maths”. Density is equal to
mass divided by volume. Volume is equal to mass divided by density.
Mass is equal to density multiplied by volume
She wrote on the board:
1)
Density
= Mass
Volume
2)
Volume
= Mass
Density
3)
Mass
= Density x Volume
Dinzi did not mention nor write nor use the outcomes to be achieved in any of the
observed seventeen lessons, or in the one test that I observed her administering. This
test had three factual questions that had been done in class before, which means that
rote learning is being encouraged. This begs the question why higher order questions
are not set? Furthermore, the purpose of this test was not made transparent to the
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students as required by the new assessment policy (Department of Education, 1998:
10). Why did the teacher not inform the students the purpose of the test or
assessment? After the test Dinzi informed me that this was a standardised test:
To check with other teachers doing the same thing with
students, its set as the pacesetter so that I mustn’t relax, I must
do my work … and to check the level of the students on the
topic.
(A10)
How did she come to that understanding of ‘checking’? Why is ‘checking’ so
important? What is meant by “I mustn’t relax”? Dinzi did not mention the
achievement of outcomes at all. This begs the question why? A week later Dinzi
informed me that she did not mark the test as yet because she was too busy preparing
for the launch of the library (personal communication). She also did not have a
marking memo or mark sheet as yet.
My summary of the modal pattern of the seventeen observed lessons are (A4):
•
What students were to learn had not been clearly defined.
•
Outcomes were conspicuous by their absence.
•
Lessons were teacher-centred with the teacher standing in front of the class
giving information or asking questions and providing answers orally.
•
Students’ work was not assessed by the teacher.
•
Students were not involved either in the lesson or the assessment.
•
The teacher had administered one formal test, and only facts were assessed,
but the test was not marked.
•
Continuous assessment was conspicuous by its absence.
•
Different forms of assessment such as oral assessment, class work,
homework, experiments, investigations, assignments, portfolios, projects, and
interviews were absent. (Students reported that they did not do any
assignments, projects, or portfolios this year (see A4 15 August 2002).
•
Misunderstanding of criterion-referenced assessment.
•
No records of assessment data.
•
No teacher guidance on how to improve.
•
Very little writing on the board by the teacher.
•
Very limited writing by students in their notebooks.
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•
Most students did not have notebooks during lessons.
•
Students did not have textbooks in class.
•
Lessons never started on time but between ten and fifteen minutes late.
•
Students from outside the classroom not having lessons but disturbing the
lessons of those inside classes.
•
The teacher had been using two outdated textbooks, namely, “SEP – Physical
Science Std. 6” dated 1980-1985 and “General Science in Action Std. 6”
dated 1984.
These findings reveal firstly that there seems to be a correlation between her surface
understanding and varied beliefs of the new assessment policy and her assessment
practice, secondly that there is a mismatch between what and how Dinzi claims she
assesses and what was observed, and thirdly a disconnection between how Dinzi
practices assessment in her classroom and the demands made in the new assessment
policy. This begs the question why?
Evidence from documents that Dinzi possess (A5)
Dinzi showed me her personal copies of the following documents with regard to
assessment:
The “Provincial Assessment Policy: From Grade R to 9 in the General
Education and Training Phase and ABET. July 1999, Draft 8” which she said
that she received in 2002 at a training workshop. In the questionnaire she
indicated that this policy is easy to understand and implement (A1). During
the interview she stated that this policy was not discussed properly at staff or
departmental meetings and “it’s not constantly referred to but we refer when
there’s a particular problem” (A3).
“Circular Number 5/2000: National Assessment Policy as it relates to OBE
and the implementation of Curriculum 2005 and Assessment in GET Grades”
dated 19/01/2000 from the provincial department of education. She reported
that she received this from the school management in 2002 and has read and
understood it. This circular claims that it “aims to assist educators in
understanding, developing and implementing assessment practices that are
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appropriate for Curriculum 2005” (A5, emphasis in original). It is detailed in
terms of what is expected of teachers (ibid). This raises the question: why did
Dinzi not use this?
“Natural Sciences: Assessment of Students in Grade 9” compiled by a Natural
Science Facilitator but is undated. This document provides the reasons for
assessment, the different approaches, types and tools of assessment as well as
examples of assessment activities and recording sheets. She reported that she
received this at a workshop in the course of this year (2002) but could not
remember when. She reported that it was for Grade 9 as indicated on the cover
therefore she did not use it. This raises the question regarding the value of the
workshop? What did she learn/not learn at the workshop? Why could she not
use the information in her Grade 8 class?
“Rubrics”. Dinzi reported that she had received this document at a Grade 9
assessment course that she had attended in July 2001. It was at this course that
she first came across the term ‘rubric’. She reported in the interview that she
has problems with developing rubrics (A3)
These three documents collectively seemed to provide a relatively comprehensive
landscape of the new assessment system, and some provided guidelines for
classroom practice. It raises the question why Dinzi does not practice assessment
as indicated in these documents that are shaped by the new assessment policy?
Teacher Records (A6)
Lesson Preparation
From July Dinzi reported that she was in the process of developing lesson
preparation files for Grade 8 Natural Science (personal communication). I did not
see them during my seventeen classroom observations and other visits including
the follow up visits in October and November 2002. She reported that the reason
for not having these documents was that the temporary teacher who had taught the
class in the second term had taken the file away. This raises the question of
whether she does plan for assessment, and if so how? Also if she does not plan for
assessment how, does it affect her assessment practice?
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Notes
I had however observed a hand written page with what seemed a title “RUBRIC OF
ASSESSING A CALCULATION FOR DENSITY” for grade 9 (A4, 3). It had the
words ‘specific outcomes’ with SO (for specific outcome 1) left blank and next to
SO2 was written “CONCEPTS and PRINCIPLES”. I did not observe Dinzi using this
in her class despite her teaching ‘density’ for the entire observation period. This begs
the question why? Is she confused between Grade 8 and Grade 9 work? Why was
specific outcome one left blank? Why was specific outcome 2 incompletely written?
Mark sheet for Grade 8 B
From July 2002 Dinzi repeatedly reported that either she was still working on the
mark sheet where she recorded students’ marks or that she had left it at home. In fact,
towards the end of the third term the class teacher of Grade 8 B (not Dinzi who is the
learning area teacher) informed me that she had not as yet received the continuous
assessment marks for Natural Science from Dinzi who “needed to prepare it correctly,
and she would be doing this over the holidays” (personal communication, 21 August
2002). The issue is why did Dinzi not have a mark sheet ready? How does she record
student achievement scores? What does preparing it correctly mean? By the end of
September when I did not see nor receive the mark sheet from Dinzi I decided to stop
pursuing the matter further. Then on 28 November 2002 I had received a copy of the
mark sheet from Dinzi. It was recorded in the same form that had been used for the
class register. Next to the name column was a column that indicated the maximum
mark of “25” below which was written “EX” that I understood to mean examination,
followed by another column indicating the maximum mark “75” below which was
written “Y.M.” that I understood to mean year mark, followed by a column indication
a maximum mark of “100” below which was written “F.M.” that I understood to mean
final mark. A column “SYMBOLS” followed this. The symbols were “O, A, PA, NA”
meaning ‘outstanding’, ‘achieved’, ‘partially achieved’ and ‘not achieved’
respectively, and this symbol was written to corresponded to the relevant final mark
of the student.
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The science head of department had informed me previously that the:
•
November examination mark had to be converted to a mark out of 25. I
figured this was represented by the “EX” column on Dinzi’s mark sheet.
•
Year mark or continuous assessment mark for Grade 8 Natural Science was to
add up to a mark of 75 and would be made up of:
o Tests (including June examination)
o Investigations
o Assignments
o Projects
I figured this was represented by “75 Y.M” in Dinzi’s mark sheet.
•
Promotion or final mark was 25 + 75, the total being 100 as indicated on
Dinzi’s mark sheet.
•
Each symbol corresponded to percentages and levels as required by the
provincial Department of Education indicated in their District Memorandum
dated 18 November 2002, and that is was amended for 2002 only.
•
She had not moderated the mark sheet of Dinzi’s Grade 8 B class because
Dinzi did not have it ready (as at 25 November).
•
She will not be in school from Friday 29 November 2002 as she would be
marking matriculation Biology examination papers.
(Personal interview with the science Head of Department on 25 November 2002).
This mark sheet raises a fundamental question: How did Dinzi arrive at the year mark
or continuous assessment mark for her Grade 8B class? Dinzi reported that the
continuous assessment mark was constituted from:
The notebook, and then you also check the handouts of the
students … and then the experiments…then the exam mark, …
then the assignment.
(A10)
The only form of assessment that is consistent with what the science head of
department requested was the assignment. Furthermore, the examination mark was
not supposed to be part of the continuous assessment mark. But when continuous
assessment was practised is not clear because I did not observe any during the
seventeen observed lessons and follow up visits to the school. The students also
reported that they did not do assignments. My classroom observations revealed that
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the notebooks and experiment were not assessed (A4 and A7). The issues that these
raise are: Did the science head of department or the deputy principals or the principal
monitor and moderate how continuous assessment scores were generated and
assessed, and if so how and when was it done? How will students be affected with a
lack of consistency from one teacher to another?
Dinzi reported that the Grade 8B class was given:
Not a project as such, we made it an assignment which I think
they don’t differ. They did an assignment on density.
(A10)
How does Dinzi’s understanding of investigations, projects and assignments compare
with that of the science head of department and the other science teachers? How does
the understanding impact on her assessment practice and student achievement? Do
some students benefit while others are disadvantaged? What implication does this
have for equity? Students also reported that they did not do any investigations and
projects (A4, 15 August 2002). Is there a discrepancy between what Dinzi claims she
does and what she actually does in her classroom? If so...why? She also reported that
“now what we do, all the test marks are then converted to 75” (A10, emphasis added).
Does this imply that only test marks are used to compute the continuous assessment
marks? Why are there anomalies in her responses? The importance of monitoring and
moderating the continuous assessment marks should be seen in the context of Dinzi’s
response:
Sometimes a teacher can cheat; just write marks only to find
out you haven’t given the student any work or haven’t marked
the work of the student.
(A3)
This seems a serious issue for the successful implementation of the continuous
assessment model. What are the implications if the marks, both continuous
assessment and the final mark, are not monitored and moderated effectively and
efficiently from the beginning of the year? How will students be affected in the
absence of monitoring and moderation? What does it say about the new assessment
system?
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She also reported that the final mark is used solely for promotion purposes because:
[If] the child has been promoted to the next grade then there’s
nothing that we can do to change it, that child is over.
(A10)
Is this an appropriate use of the examination result, which the new policy urges us to
move away from? The broader purpose of assessment is provided in detail in the new
policy (Department of Education, 1998: 10-11). Why does she not know the broader
purpose of assessment as indicated in the new assessment policy indicated above?
Why does she still believe in this narrow purpose of assessment?
Student notebooks (A7)
During the seventeen classroom observation lessons I observed the notebooks of
students who had them in class. It is important to note that on any one day only thirty
to thirty five percent of the students had notebooks in the class. In fact on one
particular day not a single student had a notebook in Class (A4, 20 August 2002).
Dinzi reported that the reason for this is:
They’re just careless and lose them because the school
provides them with notebooks.
(A10)
This raises many questions: Why is Dinzi not assertive with the students who do not
have notebooks in class? Why are they irresponsible? The analysis of the notebooks
revealed the following:
•
There was no evidence of outcomes being used in the notes or any worksheets
from the beginning of the year.
•
No evidence of work being assessed by the students or teacher except for the
teacher’s signature and the date in some books. Although Dinzi reported that
“it is continuous assessment” and that she gave them marks in the notebooks
(A10) I did not see any in any marks in the observed notebooks. This signing
pattern also varied, - of the six notebooks analysed, two had been signed once,
while the four had not been signed at all.
•
Incorrect work goes uncorrected, for example, one book and this was a book
of a better student, revealed the following:
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Density = L x b x h
= 4cmx3cmx2cm
= 24 m
Incorrect work seemed prevalent in most notebooks despite Dinzi reporting:
They are young and need to be checked if they follow and do
the right thing. They don’t write clearly, make spelling mistakes
or they don’t interpret correctly so you’ve got to guide them
and try to remedy it in class.
(A10, emphasis added)
The remedies were neither evident in the notebooks nor during my classroom
observations. Why is there this inconsistency between her stated claims and her actual
classroom practice?
•
There was great disparity in the sets of notes and worksheets amongst the
various students - no two students had same or similar notes and worksheets.
For example, one student had incomplete notes from February until March,
and his next set of notes was for 31 July, and that consisted of five incomplete,
incoherent lines only, and that is where it stopped. There were no notes for
August and no worksheets at all. While another student had no notes from
February, but incomplete notes and worksheets from July to August 2002.
•
No notebook had the worksheet or exercise that had been conducted in the
laboratory.
•
Most notebooks contained notes from other learning areas as well.
•
Most notebooks looked dirty and untidy and were coloured over. This
colouring over the notes and worksheets obscured the notes and gave the book
an unsightly and un-educational look.
This evidence reveals an absence of outcomes-based assessment generally and
continuous assessment specifically being practiced by the teacher. In addition, the
teacher was not using information about students’ performance/non-performance or
achievement/non-achievement to correct and improve learning. This begs the question
why, since it has serious implications for the successful implementation of the new
assessment policy.
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Other student records (A8)
Test books
Dinzi reported that she did not see any test books of students this term but:
[Thinks] they have flip files in which they place all their tests.
(A4, 21 August 2002, emphasis added).
Upon enquiry from the students they reported that they had no pages with tests or files
or test books (ibid). However two students showed me exercise books that they called
their test books. One had answers to what seemed a science test because the heading
was “Natural Science Test” dated 25 April 2002, but no question paper, and this was
all that had been recorded to date as at 21 August 2002. The other had what seemed
like answers but completely different to the first student and it did not have a heading
or date.
This raises questions with regard to evidence of students’ achievement results. Where
and how do students keep evidence of their achievement results? How will they learn
from their mistakes or improve their learning if they do have records of
achievements? If educational administrators, and students’ parents’ or guardians need
information about their children’s performance, how will it be responded to if there is
no evidence of achievement?
Projects
I did not observe any project work of the students. They also reported that they did
not do any projects. This begs the question why?
Assignments
Again I did not observe any assignments of the students. They also reported that they
did not do any assignments. This begs the question why?
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Portfolios
I did not observe any portfolios for this class. The students also reported that they had
no portfolios; in fact they did not understand what a portfolio was until I described it
in detail to them. This raises the question why because portfolio assessment is a
requirement of the new assessment policy that states “samples of students’ work
included in portfolios should show that they are able to integrate knowledge, concepts
and skills, and that students have not been assessed only on memorisation of
information” (Department of Education, 1998: 12). On what will Dinzi base student
progress in the absence of portfolios? Will the students be disadvantaged in any way
and how? Should this process of keeping portfolios be monitored and moderated, by
whom, how and when? What are the consequences to teaching, learning and
assessment if portfolio assessment is not implemented by teachers?
Reports
Dinzi informed me that students received four reports, one per term (personal
communication).
First Term Report
I was unable to get the first term reports from the students because most reported that
they could not find it whilst others reported that it was with their parents who did not
live with them, and others kept forgetting.
The Half-Year Report
The half-year report was called “Senior Phase Progress Report” (A8, 3) issued at the
end of the second term in June 2002. The space for the ‘term’ to be written was left
blank, and so was the space for the ‘number of days the student was absent’. The new
assessment policy requires that the report must “comment on the attendance of the
student at the learning site” (Department of Education, 1998: 13) but this was not
adhered to, why? It had three columns; one reflected the “learning area”, another
“marks achieved” and the other the “effort symbol” (A8, 3). In the column ‘learning
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area’ acronyms were used, for example LLC 1, NS, HSS and so forth for each of the
eight learning areas, but what these acronyms meant was not indicated in the report.
Are assumptions made that parents and the students know what these acronyms
mean? How valid are the assumptions? In the column ‘mark achieved’ there was no
total indicated, for example, for NS (Natural Science) a student’s mark was indicated
as “76” but the total was not indicated, that is, 76 out of what? In the ‘effort symbols’
column symbols such as “A”, “S”, “NAS” were used with their meanings indicated
as, “achieved”, “satisfactory” and “needs additional support” respectively. This begs
the question: ‘achieved what’? How will students, teachers and parents know what the
students achieved and how? What does ‘satisfactory’ mean? In the ‘remarks’ column,
which was relatively spacious to accommodate a lengthy remark, a one-word remark
was written: “satisfactory”. What does this ‘satisfactory’ mean to students and their
parents/guardians? This is inconsistent with the policy requirement that requires the
reporting process to comment “on the personal and social development” and to “give
an indication of the strengths and developmental needs and identify follow up steps
for learning and teaching” (Department of Education, 1998: 13). Why is this policy
requirement not being complied with in the report? Does the teacher believe that this
form of communicating assessment results meaningful to students, parents and to the
education system, including herself? When I enquired from Dinzi whether students
receive additional support she responded that they do in the form of after school
support. But Dinzi did not refer to the progress/non-progress of students as indicated
in the half-year report during my seventeen classroom observations. The question is
why?
Third Term Report
Dinzi informed me that that there would be no report as such in the third term, but
only a mark sheet indicating the continuous assessment marks (personal
communication, 21 August 2002). However she did not have the mark sheet ready at
the end of the term. The class teacher of Grade 8 B (not Dinzi who is the learning area
teacher) informed me that she had not as yet received the continuous assessment
marks for Natural Science from Dinzi who “needed to prepare it correctly, and she
would be doing this over the holidays” (ibid). I did not see nor receive a copy of this
continuous assessment mark sheet despite several attempts to the point of being a
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pest. By the end of September I decided to stop pursuing the matter further. The
question is why did Dinzi not have the continuous assessment mark ready? What
implication does it have not only for student assessment and improvement but also for
the successful implementation of the new assessment policy that is based on the
continuous assessment model? How will students know their performance for the
third term?
This seems in contradiction to the policy requirement for “timeous
communication of assessment results” (Department of Education, 1998: 10).
Year-End Report
The year-end report was called “Senior Phase School Report” (A8, 4) issued to
parents at the Parents’ Meeting on 1 December 2002. The space for the number of
days the student was absent had been left blank as had been for the half-year report.
This is inconsistent with the new assessment policy that requires the report to
“comment on the attendance of the student at the learning site” (Department of
Education, 1998: 13) but this was not adhered to. Why was this so? It again had three
columns; one reflected the “learning area”, another “marks achieved” and the other
the “level achieved” (ibid). In the column ‘learning area’ acronyms were used again,
for example LLC 1, NS, HSS and so forth for each of the eight learning areas but
what these acronyms meant was not indicated in the report. Again are assumptions
made that parents and the students know what these acronyms mean? How valid are
the assumptions? In the column ‘mark achieved’ there was no total, indicated, for
example, for NS (Natural Science) a student’s mark was indicated as “4” but the total
was not indicated, that is, 4 out of what? In the ‘level achieved’ column letters such as
“A”, “PA”, “NA” were used, but what they meant was not indicated. What is the
meaning of ‘level’ achieved? Are they assuming again that parents and students will
know what ‘A’, ‘PA’, ‘NA’ mean? What if parents do not know? However what was
indicated in the “KEYS” section of the report was “Level 4, Level 3, Level 2 and
Level 1 with their meanings, “excellent achievement (70%-100%), achieved (40%69%), partially achieved (35%-39%), not achieved” respectively. In the relatively
large ‘remarks’ column was written either “Achieved” or “Not achieved”. This raises
the question again, achieved or not achieved what? Is this clear and meaningful to
students, parents, and other stakeholders and to the education system? The new
assessment policy requires the report to include comments “on the personal and social
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development” and to “give an indication of the strengths and developmental needs
and identify follow up steps for learning and teaching” (Department of Education,
1998: 13). Why is this policy requirement not adhered to in the report?
Examination Question Papers (A9)
Dinzi reported that two examinations were written, one in June - the half-year
examinations and one at the end of the year – the final examinations (personal
communication)
Half-year examination question paper
It was impossible to obtain a copy of the half-year science question paper from Dinzi,
the science head of department, the other Grade 8 science teacher or from the
students. None could find a copy. The way teachers and students manage the storage
of documents is open to question. However I was able to obtain loose answer sheets
from four students. These answer sheets revealed that three questions were set and all
required factual, short answers, such as “kinetic energy”, and “conductors of heat”
that carried two marks each. The question is why were only low-level factual
questions asked? Why were higher levels, more cognitively demanding questions not
tested?
November examination question paper
Dinzi and the other Grade 8 Natural Science teacher were examiners of this paper,
while the science head of department was the moderator. The students were expected
to respond to three questions with a total of twenty five marks in one hour. All
questions were low level, factual questions, such as, “mention three …; what are;
name five; calculate the …” This raises fundamental issues. Why were questions
confined to this low level of cognitive operation? Why did they not assess higher
levels of knowledge and skills? What are the implications of this for assessment
change and educational change generally?
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The evidence from all these data sources, namely, teacher documents and records,
student notebooks and records and the examination question papers, suggest firstly a
mismatch between Dinzi’s stated claims and her assessment practice, secondly a
correlation between her understanding and beliefs about the new assessment policy
and her assessment practice, and thirdly a disconnection between Dinzi’s assessment
practice and the expectations of the new assessment policy. These findings beg the
question why, the response to which is the focus of Chapter Eight and the third
research question, namely, ‘How the continuities and discontinuities between the
official assessment policy and the teachers’ assessment practice could be explained?
It seems clear that Dinzi has a surface understanding of the new assessment policy,
that her beliefs or attitudes about the policy and the way it was introduced had been
mainly negative, and her assessment practice was very weakly connected to if not
disconnected from the official policy on assessment. These findings again beg the
question: Why does Dinzi have a surface understanding of the new assessment
policy? Why is she negative towards the policy and the way it was introduced to her?
Why is there a distance between her assessment practice and the new assessment
policy? I shall take up these questions in Chapter Eight as I had indicated earlier.
Summary of Chapter Five
In this chapter I described Dinzi’s understanding and beliefs or attitudes concerning
the new assessment policy in response to the first research question of the study. The
chapter also describes how this teacher practices assessment in her classroom, thereby
responding to the second research question. The findings suggest that Dinzi has a
surface understanding of and negative beliefs or attitudes about the new assessment
policy, and that her assessment practice is mostly discontinuous with the new
assessment policy. I provide possible explanations for the findings in Chapter Eight.
The next chapter would examine Hayley’s understanding and beliefs with regard to
the policy and the way in which she practices assessment in her classroom.
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CHAPTER SIX
The Case of Hayley: In Search of Order and Certainty
I think I must resign and return in five years when the department has figured out
all their mistakes1
To be very honest, the assessment for me is a nightmare.2
I think all of this is a lovely story.
Its ideal, but we don’t live in an ideal world.
We live in a world where people are not motivated
at all to come to school.3
In the previous chapter I described Dinzi’s understandings and beliefs concerning
the new assessment policy, and how she practiced assessment in her classroom.
This chapter describes Hayley’s understanding and beliefs about the new
assessment policy, and how she implements the new assessment policy. This case
data on Hayley’s understandings, beliefs and practices regarding assessment are
used in Chapter Seven to compare the two teachers’ understandings and beliefs,
and assessment practices, and in Chapter Eight to answer the broader question as
to how the continuities and the discontinuities between the new official
assessment policy and the two teachers’ assessment practices be explained.
I employ the same framework to construct Hayley’s case study report as Dinzi’s
so as to enable the study to compare the two teachers’ understandings and beliefs,
and assessment practices with more coherence and elegance in the next chapter.
This chapter therefore provides a detailed descriptive profile of Haley, the school,
the observed Grade 8 Natural Science class, followed by a description of her
understanding and beliefs about the new assessment policy. This is followed by a
description of her observed assessment practice. In developing the case report of
Haley, I draw on evidence from the various data points elaborated and discussed
in Chapter Four.
1
Quotation from an interview with the teacher (November 2002)
Quotation from this teacher during an interview (July, 2002)
3
Quotation from this teacher during an interview (August, 2002)
2
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The following methodological framework and research instruments were
employed in this chapter to guide the construction of the case study report of
Haley:
•
Profile of Teacher Haley
•
Profile of the school inhabited by Haley
•
Profile of the observed class – Grade 8 Natural Science class
•
Haley’s understandings and beliefs with regard to the policy using evidence from
the following primary data points:
Questionnaire (B1)
Free writing schedule (B2)
Interviews prior to classroom observations (B3)
•
Haley’s practice of assessment with evidence emanating from the following
primary data sources:
Questionnaire (B1)
Interviews prior to classroom observations (B3)
Classroom observations – the fundamental and most critical data source
(B4)
Teacher documents (B5)
Teacher records (B6)
Students’4 notebooks (B7)
Student records (B8)
Examinations – June and November (B9)
Interviews after observations (B10)
Profile of Teacher Haley
The profile of Haley draws on information obtained during formal interviews,
informal conversations, as well as from the bio data questionnaire, which the
teacher completed. This profile is essential to the focus of this study because how
policies are understood and used depends crucially on a number of contextual
factors, as well as personal and professional traits. In other words this teacher
4
In the South African context the term ‘learner’ is used to refer to students and pupils. I will use
the term ‘student/s’ in this study for practical reasons.
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profile provides a personal context to complement and enrich the classroom level
data.
Haley is a twenty-eight year old, level one educator. Her first language is
Afrikaans, while English is her second language. Her knowledge of African
languages is limited. She studied at the University of Pretoria where she obtained
a Bachelor of Science Degree, with majors in Zoology and Physiology, followed
by a Higher Education Diploma in 1996. This means that she is a fully qualified
teacher of science.
Her first appointment as a teacher in 1997 was at this school, named Higgins High
School5. Her five and a half years of teaching experience was confined to this one
school. In this time she had taught Grade 8 mathematics for one year, Grade 10
Physical Science for two years, Grade 10, 11 and 12 Biology for five and a half
years, and Grade 8 General Science (old syllabus) for two years and Grade 8
Natural Science (new curriculum) for one and a half years. This indicates that her
experience with the new curriculum is limited to 18 months.
Haley is the class teacher of Grade 12 D. This means that she has responsibility
for this class of students in terms of their attendance, their general conduct and
performance in school, as well as reporting on their general progress. She teaches
Natural Science to only one out of the six Grade 8 Natural Science classes,
namely Grade 8 D, the observed class in this study. The principal and the
management team of the school had nominated Haley as the Co-ordinator for
Grade 8 Natural Science. This means that Haley is responsible for all the planning
and preparatory work, such as compiling notes, worksheets, assessment exercises,
and moderating the work for Grade 8 Natural Science because she has superior
credentials compared to other Grade 8 Natural Science teacher, who is unqualified
and inexperienced. She shares this “Grade 8 Natural Science package” (personal
communication) with the other teacher who teaches the other five Grade 8 Natural
Science classes. She has regular meetings with him and ensures that he does the
work according to requirements. She also teaches Biology to two Grade 10 classes
5
Not real name, for purpose of confidentiality, pseudonym is used.
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and to two Grade 12 classes. In addition, she serves as a Mentor Teacher to a
Grade 12 class. As a Mentor Teacher she helps and supports this class for one
period per week. The school has designated formal test periods on the timetable,
and Haley serves as an invigilator for two Grade 12 classes. She teaches thirty-two
periods6 per week of the forty-two period weeks, which means she has ten nonteaching periods per week
Currently Hayley is not engaged in any formal studies, but she has received some
training in Outcomes-based Education and Curriculum 2005. Between September
2000 and February 2002 she received a total of fifty-seven and a half hours
training from various sources, such as district facilitators, university lecturers, and
the teacher union she belonged to. These were held after school hours, either in
the afternoons or on Saturday mornings. Most were conducted away from school
and were “generic in nature and overwhelming; cramped, too much information,
too much to remember, too much work to worry about, can’t remember a lot, not
useful, but the Natural Science specific one was useful” (B1). She summed up her
training with the claim that: “Generic training is a waste of time” (ibid).
Haley belongs to the Afrikaans teacher organisation known as the Transvaal
Teachers Union (Transvaal Onderwyseunie). Her extracurricular duties include
being a coach and organiser for athletics and netball.
Profile of Higgins High School
Higgins High School is located in a lower middle-class, suburban area about eight
kilometres from the Pretoria city centre. It is a residential area occupied by Whites
who are mostly in the upper-middle age to old age group, and belong to the
middle to lower income group. The school had been originally established in the
city centre in 1955 by the apartheid government to cater for students from the
white population group (personal communication with the school principal). That
school building had been burnt down and the school had been re-located to its
current location in 1979 with the purpose of serving as a technical high school but
6
One period is forty minutes
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that idea did not materialise (ibid). The school is thus forty-seven years old,
twenty-four in the city centre and twenty-three in its current geographic location.
Most White students from this suburb do not attend this school, but travel to other
schools where Afrikaans is the medium of instruction (ibid). The school is
supported by one of the twelve districts.
The total staff complement is fifty-five, made up of forty-two professional staff
and thirteen non-teaching staff. The management team consists of the principal
who is a White, female; one Deputy Principal, who is a White male; and four
heads of department for the various subjects/learning areas, two White males and
two White females, but no head of department for science as she had resigned
from the profession in January 2002. However the senior Biology teacher provides
assistance although his competency in Natural Science is very limited (personal
communication with teacher). The principal had started her career as a teacher in
this school. There are thirty-six other members of professional staff in the school;
four Black Africans (all males), four Indians (three males and one female), three
Coloureds (all females) and twenty-five are White (nineteen females and six
males). This makes the teaching staff relatively heterogeneous racially, although
white staff members remain dominant in this school.
The non-teaching staff includes one Secretary/typist, one Receptionist, one
Accounting clerk, one Treasurer, one Laboratory Assistant, four caretakers
responsible for school maintenance, and three other support staff, one to make
photocopies, one to make tea and clean the kitchen and one to help in the tuck
shop. The school is supported by a tuck shop and a clothing shop managed by a
White female. There is also a strong, active and very effective School Governing
Body that plays a leading role in school governance (personal communication
with principal and teacher).
There are eight hundred and seventy seven (877) students in this school, five
hundred and ten females and three hundred and sixty seven males, six hundred
and ten Black Africans, one hundred and twenty six Whites, twenty-eight
Coloureds, and twelve Indians. The Black student population represents about
seventy four percent of the total student population. The school accommodates
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Grades 8 through 12. This means that the school is operating two educational
systems simultaneously, one new system, the General Education and Training
(GET) Band constitutive of Grades 8 and 9, and the old system, the Senior
Secondary Phase constitutive of Grades 10, 11 and 12.
About 50% of the Black African students are from the adjacent ‘township’ and
they travel to this school by bus and taxis. The others live in the surrounding areas
previously occupied by Whites, but they attend this school because its medium of
instruction is English and it is affordable, whereas the medium of instruction in
other schools in the surrounding area is Afrikaans and it is more expensive
(personal communication with principal). Only 2% of the White student
population live in the area, the others travel to this school because of its
affordability (ibid).
Each student is expected to pay four thousand rand (R4000) per annum towards
school fees, which is “affordable and cheap compared to the other surrounding
schools” (ibid). There is a School Representative Council that is actively engaged
in matters relating to the school. The school does not have a ‘School Assessment
Team’ (personal communication with teacher).
The road leading to the school is tarred. It is situated in a corner of a long street
and is completely fenced. There are two entrances into the school; one is the main
entrance facing the main road, while the other is a side entrance. The side entrance
with a small gate is used only by the school staff to enter and leave the school.
The main entrance has two gates, a large one leading into a tarred parking area
and a small gate leading into the reception area. The side gate and the large main
gate are locked at all times and operated by the school maintenance workers who
open and close them as necessary. The small main entrance has an intercom
system, and is usually operated by the school receptionist.
The building is double-storey, brick and tile, and consists of seven large blocks.
The main entrance leads to the administrative building – a single, large double
storey building housing the large well-furnished and attractive reception area on
the ground floor, which leads on one side into the offices of the Receptionist, the
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typist, the treasurer, the accounting clerk, the deputy principal and the principal,
and the photocopying room. All the offices are spacious, well furnished and well
resourced. On the other side the reception area leads onto a flight of stairs leading
into the large school hall, a gym, offices and large staff room with a kitchen on the
second floor. The heads of department occupies the offices on this floor. The staff
room is not only spacious, but also adequately and well furnished, and looks very
attractive, educationally and otherwise. The staff room has pigeonholes for each
teacher into which documents are placed. All the windows in this building have
burglar guards and draped elegantly with very attractive curtains. No
windowpanes are broken. The other blocks house the twenty-two classrooms, six
laboratories, one large, well-resourced library, other specialist rooms such as a
hotel room and two well-equipped kitchens for home economics, a computer room
with thirty-one computers, and a technology room with the latest specialised
equipment. All the buildings have covered verandas. There are more than
sufficient well-maintained toilets for both staff and students. The huge and wellmaintained playground with tennis courts, netball courts, hockey field, soccer
ground, and cricket grounds provides excellent opportunities for extra-curricular
development. There are sufficient under-cover parking facilities for all staff. The
area surrounding the school is either tarred or grassed, and together with the wellmaintained gardens gives the school a very attractive appearance.
The school is wired and supplied with electricity, and each classroom is supplied
with electricity and plug points. An intercom system provides easy access of
communicating information to staff and students in every classroom. It is also
fitted with an alarm system connected to an armed response facility. Security
guards are hired when meetings are conducted in the afternoons after school
hours. The school is conducive to teaching and learning not only because of the
stable infrastructure but also because of limited noise from traffic.
Although Higgins High School operates three timetables or ‘bell times’ as they
call them, the school starts everyday from Monday to Friday at 7:30 and ends at
14:00. Registration takes place daily. There is one set of ‘bell times’ for Mondays,
another for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and another for Wednesdays. The
reason for this arrangement is to accommodate the assembly on Mondays and the
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tests on Wednesdays. Assembly is held every Monday mornings for thirty-five
minutes in the school hall. There is ‘cleaning’ time every afternoon before the last
period except Wednesdays, when students clean their classrooms they are in at
that time as well as the immediate area surrounding the classroom. On Mondays
there are seven periods while on the other days there are eight periods – each
period lasting forty minutes. Every Wednesday morning there is a ‘test’ period for
one hour beginning at 7:30 and ends at 8:35, when all students write tests
according to a fixed timetable prepared at the end of the year for the following
year. There are two breaks every day but their times differ in accordance with the
three sets of bell times.
Teachers are expected to report to school by 7:10 and leave at 15:00 depending on
their extracurricular duties. Each morning begins with short staff meetings of
about ten minutes, from 7: 20 in the staff room chaired by the principal.
Profile of the observed Grade 8 Natural Science class
There are 33 students in Haley’s Grade 8 D Natural Science class, with an almost
equal number of girls and boys. Thirty students are Black African (16 females, 14
males), two White (females) and one Coloured (male). Most of the African
students, about 80% live in the surrounding townships, while the others live in
suburbs away from the school. The White and Coloured students do not stay in
this suburb but chose to school here both because the school fees are relatively
cheaper and the medium of instruction is English. The first language of the Black
African students is an African language (Hayley did not know which specific
African language from the eleven official ones), while English is their third
language and their proficiency in Afrikaans is limited (personal communication
with the teacher). The first language of the White and Coloured students is
Afrikaans, their second language English, while their African language
proficiency is nil.
These students are exposed to five, 40-minute periods of Natural Science per
week, of which one is a double period on Thursday afternoons, and the other four
are single periods from Monday to Wednesdays; there is no science on Fridays.
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During my twenty classroom observations I noticed that the students were very
disciplined, and seemed to have accepted the school’s discipline and rules and
regulations, for example they would line up quietly outside the laboratory where
their natural science lessons were conducted, before being permitted to enter.
Once inside they would place their bags on the floor, greet the teacher, before
taking their science books from their bags. This had been an established routine,
and when they did become noisy, the teacher would stand in front of the class
either with her finger over her mouth, or clapping three times – and students
would respond immediately with silence. They use a science textbook titled:
Natural Sciences for Grade 8: Learner’s Book. 2000. The Learning Station Series
by Roodt, Whitlock, Wessels, H.J. & Ray.
A laboratory has been assigned to Haley to conduct all her lessons. It is two
blocks away from the administration building, and adjoins another two
laboratories. It has five rows of long, fixed tables on either side (10 rows in all)
that could each accommodate ten students per row (five per side) very
comfortably. This means that the laboratory could accommodate fifty students
with ease. Students sit on movable stools. On the side of each table is a sink and
tap. The laboratory is inspiringly decorated with scientific wall charts, models,
and pictures, as well as healthy growing plants. The windows all have
windowpanes and burglar guards. In front there is a solid, fixed teacher’s table,
and a teacher’s chair, a large chalkboard, duster and an overhead projector on a
movable stand. There are shelves in front as well, and two dust bins. Adjoining
the laboratory is a spacious ‘preparation/chemical’ room with shelves and lock-up
cupboards. This chemical room is used to store chemicals and student work.
During my twenty observation lessons I found the laboratory to be well-organised,
attractive, clean and conducive for science teaching. However, there were
consistent interruptions to the lessons because of announcements made on the
intercom system. Another interruption was caused by students whose teachers
were absent arriving in Haley’s class to be ‘student-sitted’. It was a practice of the
school that when a teacher was absent, the students of that teacher’s class would
be divided to go to other teachers’ classes to be accommodated, as they could not
be left unattended. There were usually about four to six students who would sit at
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the back of the class doing whatever school work they chose. It was a wellcoordinated process that was done in the morning; groups of students whose
teachers were absent would be informed and provided with an official note about
whose classroom they had to report to. The receiving teacher would sign these
forms to ensure that they had reported to her/his class and also to ensure that no
teacher was over burdened with too many students to ‘student-sit’.
Haley’s Understanding and Beliefs with Regard to the Assessment Policy
In this section I describe Haley’s understanding and beliefs with regard to the new
assessment policy. In the course of this detailed description I offer evaluative
reflections on this teacher’s claims and commitments about assessment in her
school and classroom contexts. I draw on the following data sources to describe
and analyse Hayley’s understandings and beliefs with regard to the new
assessment policy:
Questionnaire (B1)
Free writing schedule (B2)
Interviews prior to classroom observations (B3)
Interviews after classroom observations (B10)
Haley reported that she does not have a single assessment policy but “lots of
documents” (B3) related to assessment:
I don’t know which policy you are talking about because I
have received lots of documents, and been to different
training courses but every time we use different material.
(B3)
She showed me her “big file” (personal communication, 19 July 2002) containing
official documents that she had received. Most of these documents were either
placed in her pigeon box in the school staff room or given to her at training
workshops that she had attended (ibid). I provide more information on these
documents in the later section of this chapter.
Her response to the questionnaire (B1) revealed that Hayley strongly agreed that
the new assessment policy creates anxiety and stress amongst educators including
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her self (ibid). This raises the question: How does this negative feeling affect her
understanding and implementation of the policy?
In the questionnaire responses (ibid) she agreed that the policy provides the
pedagogical basis for our new education and training system; one of the principal
aims of the policy is to enhance the provision of education for every learner;
assessment should be an integral, ongoing part of the learning process; the specific
outcomes, which are grounded in the critical outcomes, will serve as the basis for
assessment (but added that she does not how as it is too difficult); learners who do
not meet the criteria must receive clear explanations with an indication of areas
that need further attention; focusing on formal tests as the sole method of
assessment should be avoided; creates opportunity for feedback to learners to
improve learning; provides a clear indication about how well every outcome in the
learning programmes are being taught and learned (she added: “don’t think it is a
true reflection”); informs and improves the assessment practices of educators (she
added: “difficult, time-consuming”); makes it possible for results to be reported
both informally and formally; it allows for the assessment of knowledge, skills,
values and attitudes (but added that she does not know how to report on values
and attitudes in the written school report).
She disagreed that the various specific outcomes and their assessment criteria
must be available to learners (she added that these “are written in such high
English that teachers don’t even know what it means. Don’t think it will help a Gr
8 learner”); the policy allows the internal assessment process to be moderated
externally in accordance with specific provincial guidelines; assessment should
not be used only to rank, grade, select and certificate learners; enables assessment
results to be communicated clearly, accurately, timeously and meaningfully (she
added: “parents do not understand what SOs mean, they want a %”); enables the
reporting process to be used as a focal point of dialogue between the home and the
school (she added: “Most parents not involved at this school”) (ibid).
She strongly disagreed that teachers have no problems implementing the new
policy (ibid). This raises questions: What problems do teachers have with the
policy? Why do they have such problems and how could it be addressed?
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Haley was not sure that the policy must be viewed in relation to our larger agenda
of reconstruction and development; the policy serves as a vital instrument to shape
educational practice; the purpose of assessment should always be made clear to
learners; the criterion-referenced approach should be used; it creates opportunity
for teachers to improve teaching and learning; creates opportunity for feedback to
the school, and other stakeholders about the schools performance; and has been
introduced because of poor matric results (ibid).
The
analysis
resulting
from
Hayley’s
responses
suggests
points
of
correspondences with as well as differences from the new assessment policy (see
Chapter One and Department of Education, 1998). These responses could indicate
that she is aware of some of the prescriptions of the assessment policy rather than
a deep understanding of the assessment policy. I probed for such deep
understanding during the twelve interviews with Hayley7, which I now describe.
Her understanding of the rationale underpinning the development of a new
assessment policy is given as follows:
To vary methods used to assess learners (to give the bigger
picture) not just theoretical. To give tools to assess the
weaker learners, to credit learners at whatever rate that
may have acquired the necessary competence (System not
ready yet because as long as reports are part of our lives it
won’t work).To encourage life-long learning.
(B1)
By using only tests and exams to assess a learner you are
only looking at one aspect of that learner. Each individual
is more than just formative. By assessing in various ways
one should get a better picture of what an individual is
capable of. I think our old way of assessment did not give
us a true reflection. Although theoretically it gave one a
very good idea how a learner can deal with content.
(B2)
Well the way they want us to teach OBE we’re definitely not
going to be able to assess it in our old way because you do
so much more activities where the learners are …talk and
chalk is not happening so much. …what the child is capable
of although I still don’t know how to do that.
This may sound racial but I found that everything that has
happened in our country was changed because I think they
doomed everything that was with apartheid.
7
These interviews lasted from one to two hours depending on Hayley’s availability.
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I think lots of other countries are doing this type of
teaching…they also think they should also change.
(B3)
Her responses to each of the three different instruments are varied but together the
data suggests that Haley has a very general and broad understanding of the
rationale underpinning the new assessment system. She does recognise the
political motive driving the change agenda as well as ‘policy borrowing’ involved
in the process. But this understanding is weakly connected to that provided in the
assessment policy that clearly articulates the rationale, namely, “both the
shortcomings of the current assessment policy, and the requirements of the new
curriculum for grades R-9 and Adult Basic Education and Training, have made it
necessary to develop a new assessment policy” (Department of Education,
1998:8, emphasis added). In fact the policy provides a lengthy criticism of the
old/current8 assessment policy known as A Résumé of Instructional Programmes
in Public Schools, Report 550 (97/06; commonly referred to as NATED 550),
namely, that it prescribes a complex set of rules and regulations for subject
groupings and combinations, it lacks transparency and accountability, it embraces
inadequate assessment practices, it encourages inappropriate use of tests and
examinations contributing to high failure and drop-out rates among students, it
allows for absence of meaningful feedback, and it allows for absence of support
for students (ibid). Hayley reported that she did not know about NATED 550
(personal communication, July 2002).
By comparing her response to the assessment policy and to the analytical
conceptual framework I would argue that she has a surface understanding of the
rationale underpinning the introduction of the new policy. The evidence of this
surface understanding is reflected in her response where she indicated that the old
way of “tests and exams did not give a true reflection” (B2) and her reference to
“OBE” further reflects that she has some idea that the new policy was responding
to the old assessment system and was driven by outcomes-based education.
However, she did not articulate a comprehensive understanding of the
shortcomings of the of the old/current assessment policy, which is detailed in the
8
This particular policy is old compared to this new one of 1998 for GET Band (focus of this
study), but it is current because it is being used in Grades 10 to 12 until the phasing in of the new
FET curriculum in 2006 for Grade 10.
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new policy on assessment. But she did not mention nor refer specifically to the
new curriculum, Curriculum 2005. This raises questions with regard to policy
change. Firstly, why does she hold a superficial understanding of the assessment
policy? How did she come to this understanding? How will this surface
understanding affect or influence her understandings and beliefs of the policy as
well as on her assessment practice? What implications does her surface
understanding have for policy change and educational change generally?
Her general understanding of the new assessment policy is:
I do not understand everything in these documents. I have
got all this information; I am not detailed so much in the
sense of ideas. It is confusing.
(B1)
To continuously assess learners with the aid of various
methods and not just with the use of tests and exams. Not to
link learners to a percentage but assess them on “if a skill
have been mastered or not”. Learners must get the
opportunity to improve themselves. Teacher must guide
learner to obtain level needed to master the skill in
question.
(B2)
Okay I understand that we may not only use tests and
exams to assess a child. So out of all these different things
I …it seems to me that we must try and find different ways
of assessing that especially some children are not good in
giving their views theoretically in a sense of with a …or just
studying and bringing back. I think they are trying to help
us that we assess other things as well to have a bigger
picture of the child and not just the left side of the brain.
How much they can take in and how much they can give
back but they actually think more in the sense of like when
they work with their hands or how they interact in groups
so that we assess all of that as well.
(B3)
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She reported that her understanding of outcomes-based assessment is:
On a scale of 0 to 10, I will say 4.
(B3)
Hayley admits that her understanding is superficial, limited, and confused. This
response is consistent to her response in the questionnaire where she reported that
the policy is not easy to understand. This begs the question: What contributed to
her claimed state of ‘confusion’ and how would it impact on her assessment
practice? She is aware that she must assess continuously, use a variety of
assessment methods and not only tests and examinations, help students improve,
and develop students holistically as required by the policy, but she did not refer to
the concept ‘outcomes’ at all. She referred instead to mastering ‘skills’. This
might indicate her limited understanding of the new policy, which clearly states
that “assessment in OBE focuses on the achievement of clearly defined
outcomes” (Department of Education, 1998: 9, emphasis added). This raises
questions about her deep conceptual understandings of outcomes, outcomes-based
education and outcomes-based assessment. Her partial understanding is also
reflected in her silence with regard to improvement of teaching as a result of
assessment. She referred to the word “theoretically” many times during the
interviews (B3). To her ‘theoretical’ meant using a textbook to give information
back or studying for a test and giving the information back (B2). She is seemingly
connecting theoretical work to rote learning and written work that demands
cognitive reasoning, while working with the hands, interacting orally in groups,
making creative posters and projects are ‘not theoretical’ and demands less or no
cognitive reasoning. Her understanding of the term ‘theoretical’ raises questions
regarding its influence on her assessment practice.
Her understanding of the main goal of the assessment policy is:
To give a better reflection on a learner’s capabilities.
To continuously assess a learner’s progress.
To maximise a learner’s potential.
(B2)
To use different tools. To assess the children to get a bigger
picture of a child. To…I think in a way we’ve heard this a
lot when we were studying to maximise someone’s
potential. If you take a person there’s more than just as I
said theory. So if you are covering more aspects of the
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child in that way you can motivate him maybe as I said,
maybe this person is good with his hands and then he can
find out that I'm good with my hands and then he can
maximise that area and you can actually at the end go and
do something with his hands and make a very good life
after school.
(B3)
Hayley seems to understand the broad goals of the assessment policy, although
not completely. For example she did not mention that assessment was related to
serving as key element in the quality assurance system, and it introduced a shift
from a system that is dominated by public examinations which are high stakes,
and whose main function has been to rank, grade, select and certificate students, to
a new system that informs and improves the curriculum and assessment practices
of educators (Department of Education, 1998: 9-10). On this basis it could be said
that she has a surface understanding, but also by her own admission. The question
is why she has a surface understanding, and how it would impact on her
assessment practice.
To Hayley the purpose of assessment is:
To give a reflection of a learner’s capabilities;
To be able to assess if a learner has obtained/master a skill
To continuously assess a learner’s progress and maximise
a learner potential.
(B3)
The new assessment policy specifically states that the purpose of assessment to
ascertain “whether learning required for the achievement of the specific outcomes is
taking place” (Department of Education, 1998: 10, emphasis added). It seems that
she is partially correct. It seems as if she equates outcomes to skills because
throughout the interviews she constantly made reference to skills as if they meant
outcomes. Compared to the assessment policy (10-11) where the purposes are well
written, for example: determine whether learning required for the achievement of
the specific outcomes is taking place, determine whether any difficulties are being
encountered, report to parents, other role players and stakeholders on the levels of
achievement during learning process, build a profile of the learner’s achievement
across the curriculum, provide information for the evaluation and review of the
learning programmes used in the classroom, and maximise learners’ access to the
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knowledge, skills, attitudes and values defined in the national curriculum policy, her
understanding is indeed superficial. This raises the question: Why and how will this
superficial understanding influence her assessment practice?
Her understanding of critical outcomes is:
Its that five main ones of all subjects, if I’m correct, and
that’s like you must be able to work in a group, you must
be able, there’s five big ones that overall, that’s as far as I
know.
It’s more a global view, certain things the government want
each student at the end of the schooling career, the critical
things they want a child to be able to do or the skills they
might have obtained after twelve years in school.
(B3)
This response illustrates that Hayley has some knowledge about the critical
outcomes, but by her own admission “if I’m correct”; she displays uncertainty about
its meaning. This illustrates Hayley’s partial and superficial understanding of this
fundamental concept underpinning the new education system and the new
assessment system specifically. The policy clearly indicates: “the specific outcomes
grounded in the critical outcomes will serve as a basis of assessment” (Department
of Education, 1998: 11, emphasis added) and Hayley agreed to this in the
questionnaire (B1). Yet she has a surface understanding of a defining concept of the
new assessment policy. This begs the question: Why does she have a surface
understanding of this fundamental concept and how it will influence her assessment
practice?
To Hayley, specific outcomes mean:
The skills they must have obtained while, whatever you are
doing is taking place. So that’s what they want us in
Natural Science, the specific outcomes they want at the end
of the phase. When I read them I don’t understand what
they actually mean. They use very, very big words.
(B3)
Hayley again refers to skills that students must obtain. She concedes that she does
not understand the concept. However she tries to use specific outcomes in her
lessons, as illustrated by her reported attempt at using specific outcomes in a test:
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I gave them a paragraph and I said to them to identify the
phenomena. …I gave them a phenomena and I asked them
to formulate five proper questions on the phenomena so I
could assess. So that was SO19, AC10 1 and 2.
(B3)
She admitted that the specific outcomes:
[For] me does not make sense. …I know the word but not
what it means. It is confusing because I don’t understand
the English so well.
(B3).
As indicated earlier, assessment in OBE focuses on the achievement of clearly
defined outcomes and it should provide a clear indication about how well each
and every outcome is being taught and learned (Department of Education, 1998).
Hayley admits that she has a superficial understanding of this fundamental
concept driving the new assessment policy. This invokes the question: Why and
how would that impact on her assessment practice?
Her understanding of assessment criteria is:
The AC’s are the ones elaborating on the SOs. That’s what
they want at the end of the day, to be able to assess
underneath each of the nine SOs we’ve got in Natural
Science. Each specific outcome has mos its assessment
criteria, how you going to assess that specific outcome. I
don’t see any advantages at the moment. For me it is a big
headache.
(B3)
Hayley seems to be aware of the placement of the assessment criteria in relation
to the specific outcomes in the curriculum policy document (see Department of
Education 1997), but she does not know what it means conceptually. It is not
about how to assess but “evidence that the student has achieved the specific
outcomes. The criteria indicate in broad terms, the observable processes and
products of learning which serve as evidence of the students’ achievement”
(Department of Education, 1998: 19; emphasis added). The policy adds that the
9
Meaning Specific Outcome 1 in Natural Science: Use process skills to investigate phenomena
related to the Natural Sciences (Department of Education, 1997:6)
10
Meaning Assessment Criteria which are statements of the sort of evidence that teachers need to
look for in order to decide whether a specific outcome of aspects thereof has been achieved (13)
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specific outcomes and their assessment criteria must be made available to students
to inform them what is to be assessed, and that students who do not meet the
criteria must receive clear explanations with clear explanations with indications of
areas that need further work and must be assisted to reach the required criteria
(Department of Education, 1998: 11; emphasis added). Her superficial
understanding is confirmed in her response in the questionnaire (B1) where she
reported that the specific outcomes and the assessment criteria are:
[Written] in such high English that teachers don’t even
know what it means.
She also reported that she could not see the connections between the specific
outcomes and the assessment criteria because:
For some of them you can but for some of them I don’t.
(B3)
Again this superficial understanding raises serious questions with regard to policy
implementation, for example: What contributes to her surface understanding and
what is its impact on her assessment practice?
Her understanding of the criterion-reference approach to assessment
is:
I don’t know what this means. I can analyse the word and
say what I think it means, but for the rest I have not heard
about this before.
(B2)
This response signals a policy implementation concern because teachers are
expected to use the criterion-referenced approach to assessment because it is one
of the principles underpinning the new assessment system, and students are
expected to be assessed against agreed criteria (see Department of Education,
1998). The question is: Why does she not know the meaning of criterion-reference
approach to assessment? How would her not knowing this essential principle
underpinning the new assessment system affect her assessment practice?
To Hayley, continuous assessment means:
To continuously assess learners on various types of
activities with the use of different methods. To continuously
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track a learner’s progress, so as to identify problems early,
with enough time for corrective measures. I say the whole
year and their marks are not just based on one exam at the
end of the year. By assessing someone the whole time with
all different types of things, you get a picture of how strong
the child actually is.
(B2)
The response indicates that Hayley has an understanding of continuous
assessment although she did not mention ‘outcomes’ to assess learning, and its
role on improving teaching. The question is how does she use the continuous
assessment model in her classroom? Does she use ‘outcomes’ as indicators of
achievement? If not, what does she use?
She added that the continuous assessment should be moderated because:
To ensure that a high standard of work is maintained.
Moderation should then also be done up to standard. I just
see a big problem how one would moderate internal
continuous assessment, externally!
(B3)
Her response partially correlates with the policy but it raises questions regarding
external moderation of continuous assessment because the policy is explicit about
internal continuous assessment marks being moderated externally. The question
is: Are the continuous assessment marks that she generates moderated, by whom,
how and when?
Haley’s understanding of the relationship between the new assessment policy and
the new National Curriculum Policy/Framework is:
I am not sure what the National Curriculum Framework
means.
(B3)
She admits that she does not know about the national curriculum policy and its
relationship to the assessment policy. Again it invokes the question: Why?
Hayley is currently teaching Grade 8 Natural Science (focus of this study) which
is supposed to be informed by the new national curriculum policy and the new
assessment policy. The new assessment policy clearly states: “this new assessment
policy for the General Education and Training Band, alongside the new national
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curriculum framework, provides the pedagogic basis for our new education and
training system” (Department of Education, 1998: 7; emphasis added) and “The
learning programmes for each phase will serve as a basis for assessment in each of
the phase” (p14). And by her own acknowledgement she has no idea of the new
national curriculum framework. This raises many questions: Why does she not
know? How will this limited understanding impact on her understanding of the
policy and its implementation? What does it imply about the strategy in bringing
about changes in teachers? Who will address Hayley’s predicament, when and
how?
Some of the principles underpinning the new policy are that assessment should be
“authentic, valid and sensitive to race, gender, cultural background and ability”
(Department of Education, 1998: 10). Her understanding of ‘authentic assessment
is:
Original work used to assess.
(B2)
Her understanding of valid assessment is:
Assessment needs to fit with the type of activity done.
(B2)
Assess in such a way that I can answer to school
requirements and department’s.
(B1)
The policy requires that teachers use assessment that is “authentic” and to ensure
that assessment is “valid”. But both her understandings seem superficial
compared to their meanings related to assessment. How did she arrive at such
understandings and what impacts will it have on her assessment practice?
Hayley understands assessment being sensitive to gender, race, cultural
background and ability as:
Take all things into consideration when assessing (which is
contradictory to bias-free)
(B2)
You may not ask stuff that everyone will not have – like
cultural background, and if I talk about something in
London and I know half the people don’t even know where
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London is, or they don’t even know people who if English
speaking. Then I am not culturally sensitive.
(B3)
The analysis reveals that Hayley has a superficial understanding of this principle.
Firstly, why does she think that it is contradictory to bias free? Secondly she did
not respond to the ‘race’, ‘gender’ and ‘ability’ issue - does this imply that she
does not know: Why and how will it influence her assessment practice?
A portfolio assessment according to Hayley is:
[A] combination of different types of tasks that the
learner did during the year that’s all kept safe. It may
never go home, usually, almost 100% of all those tasks
must be done in class time, no sharing of information,
may not be sent home except for projects.
(B1)
The reason for the portfolio assessment is:
I think a lot of schools in our country didn’t work. So
the Department is forcing schools to have a minimum
amount of like worksheets and practicals and so forth
…. To make sure there is continuous assessment …not
just tests and exams. The portfolio must usually go with
a learner to a new school … so that those teachers can
see what skills the child has obtained up to this point
(B3)
However she believes:
At this point we’re doing everything we anyway
would’ve done plus the tasks that goes into the portfolio
file. So it feels to me we’re doing double work. …but
administratively that’s a mess.
(B10, emphasis in original)
Her understanding of what a portfolio is made up of cannot be disputed, but it
does seem superficial because of her views that security is a priority and that
students may not take it home, and that it must only be done in class. This
understanding seems different to the continuous assessment model. Her
understanding of the rationale behind portfolio assessment seems incomplete. She
seems to be confusing the cumulative records of the students with portfolio
assessment. This raises two questions: Firstly how did she come to this
understanding of portfolio assessment?
How will this surface understanding
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influence her assessment practice? Furthermore why is she doing separate work
for portfolios only?
This further illustrates her superficial understanding of
portfolio assessment. She displays negative feelings about the process by her
response “that’s a mess” (see above). The question is: Does this negative feeling
find expression in her classroom practice, and how?
With regard to ‘projects’ and ‘assignments’ Haley reported:
I always have a problem with the word project and
assignment. I don’t know what’s the difference because
anything that’s done at home and where they have to go
and do research by themselves feels to me as if it’s a
project. But it’s also an assignment that they go and do.
So I never know what to use. …Maybe you get different
assignments and a project is one of them.
(B10, emphasis in original)
This response raises serious concerns regarding policy implementation. The
policy requires “all educators should have a sound knowledge of” the different
techniques, including “project work and assignments” and to use them. So in
terms of the policy it seems as if ‘project work’ and ‘assignments’ are different,
but Hayley has a different understanding. How will this affect her assessment
practice?
As far as recording of assessment information is concerned, Haley understands:
All assessment should be recorded to be used to make
conclusions later on. Recorded on sheets in mark books
(excel on computer for final product). Assessment should
reflect a child’s ability to master a skill and how child has
improved over time. Recording should be regular (This
takes a tremendous amount of time). I don’t know in which
format to record it.
(B2, emphasis added)
She has a general understanding of the recording process as indicated in the
policy. Again she refers to students’ mastery of “skills”. She is seemingly silent
on values, attitudes and social development as required by the policy? (see
Department of Education, 1998:12). Is she perhaps equating skills with
‘outcomes’? Her concern regarding the time demands and the format required is
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noteworthy in as far as exploring how this concern is addressed in her assessment
practice.
She also reported that although she does group work and assesses it she does not
record it but only records what the school or department wants or what gets
reported:
I know in my head that outjie can really speak well in front
of the class but no one asks me that anywhere else. So for
me it’s useless actually recording that.
(B3, emphasis in original)
This response seems to illustrate both her superficial and mechanical
understanding of the recording process.
Why does she record only what is
required by the school and the department? Does she use the marks to improve
teaching and learning in the class? Secondly, it appears as if she lacks the deeper
value orientations of group work in terms of the social development of students.
She seemingly sees group work as a mechanical exercise and uses it because it is
one of the critical outcomes (ibid). This may no doubt affect the way she assesses
students. She reported:
I can’t write on a piece of paper all these attitudes and
values. How do you mark things or assess things like that?
(B3)
The question is: Why is she experiencing this difficulty in assessing values and
attitudes, and who will address her concerns, when and how?
With regard to the reporting of assessment results, her understanding is:
Learners always see their assessment in form of rubric
mark 1-to 4 or a percentage or sometimes in words.
Parents only receive a report on assessment results once
a term. If problems are identified, we send a different form
to parents to take note of problem and to respond (also
telephonic communication).
(B2)
This response illustrates that Hayley communicates the assessment results to the
students and to parents as required by the policy, which indicates: “effective
communication about learner achievement is a prerequisite for the provision of
quality education” (Department of Education, 1998:12). The response also reflects
that she views reporting as an opportunity to provide regular feedback to students
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as an integral part of teaching and learning (ibid). However her response does not
indicate whether she reports against the outcomes. The question invoked is: How
does she report student achievement results?
The new understandings and beliefs that Hayley acquired as a result of the new
policy:
In the old days it was basically just worksheets. Sometimes
here and there a practical and tests. So I had to change my
mindset in trying to find new ways to assess. I think away
from tests and exams and all sorts of other little ways to
continuously assess a child and not just once or twice a
year. That I must assess in different ways.
(B3)
She is aware that she should use different methods and not only examinations and
tests. However although she claims to have changed her mindset, it seems only in
finding new ways to assess. This seems a technical exercise, and the rationale of
why she had to assess in different ways was that it was expected of her:
If I want to still have a job I need to change with the system.
(B3)
Again ‘outcomes’ are not mentioned. Is this an indication of her having no or
limited understanding of ‘outcomes’? How will this affect her assessment
practice?
Hayley believes that the new assessment policy is not easy to understand, it does
not provide clear guidelines for implementation and it does not allow for flexible
implementation (B1). This response is certainly very worrying for the educational
change agenda. How is a teacher expected to implement a new policy, a policy
that is deeply transformed, that she does not understand? How is a teacher
supposed to implement the deep policy changes without clear guidelines? The
questions this invokes are: Why does she feel this way? How would this feeling
affect her assessment practice? How could this feeling it be addressed, by whom
and when?
As far as ‘oral questions and answers’ are concerned, Hayley believes that she
cannot do it:
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For me it’s important that someone individually write
something down because for me to assess something that’s
not there physically is for me a problem. It’s subjective, and
there is no standard, it’s someone’s opinion. I think there
are too many stakes in the assessment for people’s feelings.
But in a test, worksheet or exam, your feelings can do
nothing to influence you in the sense that if its right its right
and if it’s wrong it’s wrong.
(B3, emphasis in original)
This raises questions for the successful implementation of the new policy that
requires teachers to use oral questions and answers as a formal form of assessment
(see Department of Education: 12). The question is: Why can’t she use this form
of assessment?
She believed that her role has changed:
My role I think they expect of me to assess lots, to use
different tools because if I just stand in front of the class
and talk then I can’t use the different tools. Lots of paper
work and forms. I spent I don’t know how much time trying
to figure out to make a form on which I can report these
different things and I think I’ve had three different ones
now and none of them are working for me. Ja. So again my
role has changed in a way that how I plan my things in
class. Like we would never have had a debate before. We
would have never had so much group work before you know
maybe once or twice in a year when they do experiment,
maybe a bit more than once or twice but now its way more.
We can discuss things. I must be more aware of what’s
happening in my class. Yes, if they didn’t want me to assess
in so many different ways, I wouldn’t change my teaching
so much.
(B2)
The analysis reveals that Hayley is responding to the changes in compliance with
the policy directives. But seemingly on the technical aspects of the change, such as
filling in forms and increasing the number of tasks, rather than on the conceptual
aspects, such as the underlying assumptions, goals, philosophy or belief, skills, and
conceptions of the change.
The question is why and will this impact on her
assessment practice, and how?
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With reference to the policy she feels:
Confused because we have we have received so many
different documents. I’ve got two of these thick files full of
all different types of documents and things that they suggest
and then they suggest it differently but I really don’t know
what to use anymore. So I'm really doing at this point in
time what I think in my brain. I now make my own things
that I use.
(B3)
This response raises many questions: Why has she received so many documents?
Why are they different? How is she expected to make sense of the documents? If
she is assessing informed by only what she knows from her past experience is it
compromising the expectations of the new assessment policy?
Hayley believes that with the new policy:
It is a lot of effort. I basically take the book we are using,
and then I have to sit and it usually takes me an hour or two
hours just to take one topic and then try and work out, with
this piece we will do it with a play, and then what am I
going to assess. I must decide, I must assess the leader or I
must assess the whole group on the content, or on how they
perform or must I rather assess them on how long they took
to prepare. Now I must think what have I already assessed
previously, because maybe I have assessed the leader
before the time and I have assessed this person already in
three ways. It is a very administrative thing at the end of
the day because you must sit and try and figure out what
you have already done and what you still need to do and
who you are going to assess and what you are going to use
to assess them.
(B3)
This analysis suggests Hayley spends much time and effort in planning when trying
to implement the assessment policy. It also seems to suggest that more focus is
placed on the ‘what’ of assessment, than on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of assessment. The
question is why and how will this influence her assessment practice. It also seems to
suggest that while she is planning her assessment activities she does not use
‘outcomes’ as criteria to assess. Again the question arises: Why is the use of
outcomes not articulated? She seemingly relies on the textbook only in preparing
her work with no mention of the use of the policy. The question is: Why the
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dependence on the text book, and does this dependence compromise the
achievement of the policy goals?
She believes that the new assessment policy:
[Is] not clear enough, I think we, lots of teachers are very
negative at the moment. To be very honest, the assessment
for me is a nightmare. Yes it is complex to try and assess
and do the OBE as well. I am trying my best to actually
assess in different ways, but there are just so many types
that it’s just not working, because I don’t really know what
they expect of me.
(B3)
It seems clear that Hayley is struggling with making sense of the policy and
implementing it. It is causing her grief. The question is how can the teacher who is
so emotionally traumatised towards the policy implement the policy successfully?
How could commitment and ownership towards the change be developed from
this emotionally traumatised teacher?
Hayley believes that the policy influences the parents:
Parents are affected in the way that learners need
resources from different places. Needs to get there and back
(eg brochures, library, interviews, etc,) and time consuming
for everyone.
(B3)
It seems as if parents are burdened with the requirements of the policy. This raises
many questions: Is this the intention of the policy? What are the consequences to
students who have no parent/s, or whose parent/s do/does not have the resources
(time, money, physical ability and intellectual capacity) to assist?
But she believes that parents should not be involved in the assessment process:
No, it is not working for the moment. Learners do not cooperate – sign work themselves etc. I am not using it al all.
(B2)
Most parents not involved at this school.
(B1)
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This response seems contrary to the policy requirement that parents should be
partners in the assessment process (see Department of Education, 1998). It raises
the issue of whether students know and understand the consequences of forging
signatures. How does the school address this issue? Another matter of concern is
why parents are not involved in the school, and how schools could encourage active
parent involvement. Her response was consistent with her response to the
questionnaire (B1) where she disagreed that the policy created opportunity for
parents’ active involvement in their children’s education.
Hayley also believes:
[T]he way the department has approached OBE with the
teachers, there’s lots of teachers that left teaching because
of the way it was dealt with, and for me there’s a very
negative vibe against OBE. …I’m usually a very positive
person but it has been tough staying positive….
(B3)
Hayley’s response once again indicates negative feelings towards policy changes.
The questions that emerge from this response are: How will this emotional feeling
about the change process affect her implementing the new assessment policy?
Who is addressing Hayley’s concern? Who will support her, when and how?
She believes that for the assessment policy to be effectively understood and
implemented:
We need more and new ways of training, for example
modelling new practices of assessment as it should be done
in schools, not just theory in training sessions. I would like
someone to actually show me again exactly what they
expect of me, but now they also tell me that’s not going to
happen because the people don’t know yet at the
Department because they change what they want from us
every now and then. So I think that is part of the problem,
because they don’t know – all of this is experimental it
seems at the moment, so if they train us now on this more
intensely then I think it is going to be a waste. It might
change again very soon as well.
(B3)
It seems that Hayley has little interest in understanding the rationale behind the
changes, but in the practical applications of the changes. It also shows that she has
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very little confidence in the department in the way they prepared teachers for the
implementation of new policies. She seems uncomfortable with change. The
questions this response invokes are: Why does she want to be told what to do only
and not the why? How will her lack of confidence in the department and its
training affect her assessment practice?
How could she be encouraged and
supported to cope with change?
She feels:
OK, the good thing is I get to know the learners better but
for the rest I feel confused, lost; finding another job and in
ten years come back; maybe they’ve decided what they
want and then I can go on. I hate it if I don’t know exactly
what someone wants from me. You know this guessing for
me is a nightmare because the whole time it feels as if you
not actually doing your job properly because you don’t
know what you actually supposed to do. It doesn’t give us
security; it gives us more stress that increases it seems by
every month.
(B3)
She reported that her morale as a teacher is at an all time low, that had it not been
for the principal of the school, who she totally respects, she would have left the
teaching profession despite the fact that she is passionate about teaching. She
indicated that does not feel comfortable with the confusion residing in the
education system at present (personal communication, July 2002).
This analysis again reveals her deep feelings of discontent with the new policy
and education system. The question is: Does this affect her assessment practice
and how?
Based on the above description and analysis I will argue firstly that most of
Hayley’s understandings with regard to the new assessment policy are superficial
while a few are non-existent. Secondly her beliefs or attitude with regard to the
new assessment policy are mostly negative. I now move on to the next section to
examine her assessment practice in her classroom, and to establish whether and
how these understandings and beliefs influence her assessment practice. This is
the focus of the next section and the second research question.
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Hayley’s Assessment Practice in the Classroom
In this section I describe Hayley’s assessment practice in her classroom, making
comparisons to the new assessment policy and to her understandings and beliefs
about the policy. The description inevitably invokes questions in relation to the
policy requirements (Chapter One) and the conceptual framework (Chapter
Three). These questions set the stage for Chapter Eight.
To gain insights into Hayley’s assessment practices I use following framework as
indicated earlier:
Questionnaire (B1)
Interview prior to classroom observations (B3)
Classroom observations – the fundamental and most
critical data source (B4)
Teacher Documents (B5)
Teacher records (B6)
Student11 Notebooks (B7)
Student Records (B8)
Examinations – June and November (B9)
I first examine Hayley’s reported assessment practice as indicated in her
responses
to
the
Questionnaire
(B1)
and
Interviews
(B3)
to
seek
connections/disconnections of her understandings and beliefs about the policy to
the assessment policy and to the kinds of changes made by her, if any.
Reported practice
Evidence from the Questionnaire (B1)
In this section I report on Hayley’s responses to the questionnaire (B1) on the
match between her assessment practice and the assessment policy.
11
In the South African context the term ‘learner’ is used to refer to students and students. I will use
the term ‘student/s’ in this study for practical reasons.
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Hayley claimed that most of her current assessment practice mirrored that
required by the policy, such as: assessment offers all learners an opportunity to
show what they know, understand and can do; assessment is continuous; sharing
of assessment intentions with learners is routine practice, which enables learners
to understand their role in the assessment process; facts, applications and higher
order thinking skills are assessed; assessments are not restricted to tests only;
learners are involved in assessing their own work; learners are involved in
assessing the work of their peers; prompt and regular marking occurs; the
outcomes of marking, along with other information, are used to adjust future
teaching plans; and reporting of results is both informal, namely dialogues in class
and formal, namely written reports, amongst others (B1).
However she added that there was room for improvement in her assessment
practice with regard to identifying key learning outcomes so that assessments
made against these can be used to help develop learning; linking achievement data
to curriculum outcomes; thinking through the purpose and principles of
assessment to base assessment decisions; observing, noting and recording
progress against key learning outcomes and involving parents in recording
comments on their children’s work (ibid).
She also reported that her assessment practice does not allow learning to be
matched to the needs of the learners, learners are not involved in recording
comments on their work, reports do not outline strengths in all aspects of school
life, and that no moderation mechanisms are in place at school, provincial level or
national level with the exception of “tests and exams only” that is moderated by
the school (ibid).
She also reported that she uses various methods, approaches, and techniques of
assessment such as short tests, longer standardised tests, peer assessment,
examinations, portfolios, project work, assignments, and observation sheets as
required by the policy. However she did not use informal monitoring by
observations, oral questions and answers, interviews, learner-self assessment, selfreporting, conferencing, and journals (ibid).
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Her report indicated that she ensured that her assessment practice was accurate,
fair, varied, balanced, valid, manageable, and bias-free (ibid).
Evidence from the Interview (B3)
Hayley is aware that the policy expects her:
[To] assess in different ways and not just test and exams, to
continuously assess a child and not just once or twice a
year.
(B3)
She added:
I assess them formally in the form of tests and worksheets
that I mark. I also assess them informally in my head the
whole time that I’m working with them. With a worksheet I
will have a memo, and like when they do group work I will
have a form on which I indicate if they’re co-operative in
the group, are they participating; are they fulfilling their
role that they have in the group.
I will give them a worksheet or a little test or the paper that
they must comment on and they need to fill it in, it’s usually
by writing. For me it's difficult to orally assess people
because that’s just logistically a big problem.
But I think these other assessments like debates, the child’s
attitudes and values and things, for me it is very difficult
(B3, emphasis in original)
Her account of how she records assessment results:
I’ve got a mark book and I also have a file in which I keep
all these marks. We use EXCEL, and what I basically
record there is the worksheets, the practicals, all the
continuous assessment that we do. I record that in one of
two forms.
(B3)
She stated that she used the assessment information:
[To]be able to identify, especially after we've worked with
data, what the students didn’t understand, and what they
understood very well. So then I will go back to things that I
saw that there was a misunderstanding that there was a lot
that was not understanding that. I would also use it for
individually to see, like I've had a few children here that
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just didn’t understand graphs.
individually.
So I could help them
(B3)
The analyses of Hayley’s reports yield both continuities and discontinuities with
the official assessment policy. Most of her claims suggest alignment with the
policy, for example, she uses diverse methods and tools of assessment, she uses
continuous assessment, she provides each learner with time and assistance to
realise her/his potential, use assessment that is accurate, valid, manageable, bias
free, sensitive to ability, and time-efficient, use findings to assist learners develop,
record findings, and communicate assessment results clearly, accurately,
timeously and meaningfully (see Department of Education, 1998). However some
of her accounts are disconnected to the desired policy messages, for example,
assessing only written work whereas the policy calls for the use of ‘oral questions
and answers’, ‘interviewing’, ‘conferencing’ and ‘self-reporting’ – these require
oral work but she is unable to implement these forms of assessment. The question
is why? What is the nature of the “logistical” problem that she alluded to? More
crucial and fundamental to the policy change process is her report concerning her
difficulty of using outcomes in her assessment practice. I had observed this
concern indirectly during the interviews when she did not mention “outcomes’ as
a way of assessing student achievement. This begs the question: Why is she
experiencing difficulties using outcomes?
I recognised that it would be naïve to assume that what is reported is necessarily
translated into practice. People are usually guided by perceptions – perceptions
that they are doing things when in actual fact a deeper analysis may reveal
practices contrary to perceptions. In other word they may have implicit
presumptions. That is people may perceive that they are doing something without
actually doing that in reality. Furthermore I also realised that people usually know
more than what they explicitly say. With these cautions in mind, I supplement and
complement these reported claims with classroom observations as primary data
sources to establish first, whether her assessment practice moved in or away from
the direction of the assessment policy as claimed above, second, whether her
assessment practice corresponds (or not) to both her understanding and beliefs
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about the policy, and to the policy itself, and third the kind of changes made if
any. Hence I move to examine Hayley’s classroom practice.
Evidence from the classroom observations (B4)
In this section I attempt to examine and characterise Hayley’s classroom practice
in relation to the reported claims, her understandings and beliefs about the policy,
the policy expectations and the kind of changes made if any, as mentioned
previously. I had observed twenty lessons in Hayley's Grade 8 D Natural Science
class over a period of seven continuous weeks from July to September 2002 (B4).
This observed class had four Natural Science lessons per week - single lessons
from Monday to Wednesdays and a double lesson on a Thursday, and none on
Fridays. The duration of each lesson was forty minutes. All the observed lessons
took place in the science laboratory allocated to Hayley.
Lesson One (B4, 23 July 2002)
I begin with the description and analysis of the first lesson observed as a point of
departure that would be used as a reference point for future descriptions and
analysis. This was a single lesson.
I arrived at the school at 08:40 and proceeded to the laboratory. The Grade 8
Natural Science lesson was scheduled to begin at 08:45. When the buzzer rang
signalling the end of one lesson and the beginning of another students began
moving to their next classes.
The Grade 8 D Natural Science students lined up quietly outside the laboratory
awaiting the teacher’s invitation to enter. I had observed this as being the routine
practice in all twenty lessons. Hayley welcomed me into the room before
requesting the students to enter. They entered in a disciplined manner, took their
individual places, placed their bags on the floor, and stood waiting for Hayley to
greet them. Hayley waited until everyone was standing in absolute silence before
she greeted them, followed by my greeting them. It should be noted that I had met
with the students previously informing them of the reasons for my visits, and that
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they should regard me as a fellow student in the class. She then requested them to
sit down which they obediently did.
The lesson began by Hayley informing the students that she had observed not all
of them had completed their previous work given on Monday. She requested that
those whose books that she did not mark were to leave it on the front desk for
marking. She wrote the date on the board before reminding the students about the
last term’s SO 212 activity in the library (Note that Hayley did not state what SO2
meant, perhaps it was explained in the previous lesson). She also informed them
that not all of them played all the roles in group activities as they did at the
beginning of the year.
Teacher:
Some of you have not been something yet, some of you have.
She assigned roles to different students in their groups such as ‘Leader’, ‘Scribe’,
‘Timekeeper’, and ‘Reporter’ as indicated on the handout with the heading
“Group Work: Peer Assessment” that provided the job descriptions of the
different group members (that is ‘Leader’, ‘Scribe’, ‘Timekeeper’, ‘Reporter’)
followed by a rubric with two columns, one column was for “assessment” and the
other “participation”. Each column had numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 as criteria, 1
indicated poor, 2 below average, 3 above average and 4 very good.
She recapped work they were busy with, namely ‘Energy’ by using the ‘question
and answer’ method:
Teacher:
Now there is different states of energy. Lets quickly see the hands,
what different types, ag, sorry, states?
Students responded by stating “potential” and “kinetic energy”. Hayley continued
with ‘question and answer’ mode of teaching and learning, as revealed by the
following transcript:
Teacher:
Ok, if I got a ball in the air and it is not moving?
Several students raise their hands, and Hayley allows a particular student to
respond:
12
Specific Outcome 2: Demonstrate an understanding of concepts and principles, and acquired
knowledge in the Natural Sciences (Department of Education, 1997: 11)
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Student A:
Potential
Teacher:
Very good, and if I drop it?
Again, several students raise their hands. Hayley asks another particular student
by name.
Student B:
Kinetic
Teacher:
Student C:
Kinetic energy. Ok, now that we know, we are sure that we know
now what the states of energy, ne. Ok, now we have different forms
of energy, states. Names? Let’s see?
Electrical
Teacher:
Electrical energy.
Student D:
Chemical
Teacher:
Chemical energy.
Student E:
Radiant
Teacher:
Radiant energy. What does radiant energy mean?
Student F:
Light energy
The lesson continued in this question and answer mode until Hayley informed the
class that she was going to give each student a picture that showed “lots of people
doing different things”. She told them that each group would be given ten minutes
to complete the questions. She reminded the ‘timekeepers’ of their roles, and if
they did not have watches she would assist them. She reminded ‘reporters’:
Teacher:
Come and tell me, not in front, as you’re sitting. You can just stand
up and tell us what you found.
She asked them to put their hands up if they needed help. One student wanted to
know whether they must write the answers. The teacher responded that they were
to write their answers on the worksheet and continue at the back of the worksheet,
which they would later paste in their notebooks. She asked if there were any more
questions. She requested that not only the ‘scribe’ but also each one had to write
the answers on their worksheet after their discussions. She handed out the
worksheet with the picture. The worksheet seemingly was a photocopy from a
textbook. On the worksheet was the heading in bold “Energy and change” and
below that in bold “Find the energy source NS13 SO114:AC115; SO916:AC117;
13
Natural Science
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LLC18 SO219:AC620; HSS21 SO4:AC1” (Note: what these abbreviations
represented or meant were not given on the worksheet), and below this was the
instruction: “Study the picture with a partner”. On the count of five she asked
them to begin, reminding them that they had ten minutes to complete their work.
As students were working, she walked around observing and helping them.
The groups worked in a disciplined fashion and displayed interest and focus in
their work. The group that I focused on had problems interpreting the word
“places’ in the first question, and linking it to the word ‘items’ in the second
question. They were arguing about the correct name for the coal fireplace/heater.
One said it was a “bowlah”, the others laughed at this answer. They settled for
“coal heater”. They could not find the picture of the candle to match it with ‘wax’
given on the worksheet. They also had difficulty in answering the last question:
“Where does the energy in the source come from? Where does it go to?” One
student consulted the textbook for help. The one student instructed: Just think
where diesel and paraffin get their energy from? Since they could not answer
they called the teacher for help. The teacher asked them where petrol came from
and one student answered, “coal”. This group did no writing but concentrated on
discussions only. The teacher alerted the class that they had five minutes left and
therefore to hurry up and complete their work. This resulted in students’ becoming
noisy as they rushed to complete their work. Hayley continued to observe and help
students when the buzzer rang signalling the end of the lesson. Hayley clapped her
hands as a strategy to get students to be quiet and pay attention to her. She
requested students to put their worksheets back in their books except those
students whose books were not marked, and they left their books on the front desk
as they left the classroom. Some students cleaned the laboratory before they left.
14
Specific outcome 1: Use process skills to investigate phenomena related to the Natural Sciences
(Department of Education, 1997: 9)
15
Assessment Criteria 1: Phenomena are identified (ibid)
16
Specific outcome 9: Demonstrate an understanding of the interaction between the Natural
Sciences and socio=economic development (23)
17
Assessment Criteria 1: Evidence is provided of how science and technology are used in society
(ibid)
18
Language Literacy and Communication
19
Specific outcome 2: Demonstrate an understanding of concepts and principles, and acquired
knowledge in the Natural Sciences (6)
20
Assessment Criteria 6:
21
Human and Social Sciences
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At the end of the lesson Hayley informed me that the purpose of that lesson was
“to ensure students can work in groups, assess one another and to assess their
abilities in groups (personal communication: 23 July 2002). She added that she
did not record peer assessment exercises because the students were not as yet
experienced, and that some students would not be as honest in assessing their
friends as she would have liked them to be (ibid).
The analysis of this lesson reveals the following:
•
The purpose of the lesson was not made explicit to the students showing
disconnection to the policy.
•
The purpose of the assessment was not made clear to the students. This
reflects disconnections to both her reported claims and to the policy
requirement. But it accords with her response to the questionnaire (B1)
where she indicated that she was not sure whether the purpose of the
assessment should be made clear to the students.
•
There was no peer assessment done despite the instruction given by
Hayley and the handout given to students to peer assess. This reflects lack
of correspondence with her stated claims and the policy requirement.
•
While the worksheet had SOs (specific outcomes), and ACs (assessment
criteria) the teacher did not mention them at all, and neither did any
student enquire about its meaning. This could reflect the lack of clearly
defined outcomes being used in the lesson. While this practice is
disconnected to the policy requirement it correlates with her surface
understanding of the concept, and with her reports (B1 and B3) that she
finds it difficult to use outcomes in her lessons.
•
Most of the questions assessed facts reflecting disconnections with her
reports and the assessment policy.
•
Assessment of attitudes and values did not take place. This reflects a lack
of correlation with the policy but in line with her reports (B3) that she
finds it difficult to assess attitudes and values.
•
The assessment activity seemed to be unmanageable and was not time
efficient as indicated by students’ struggling with the lesson and not
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completing it in the allocated time given by Hayley. This reflects
inconsistency with both her reported claim and the policy.
•
Hayley did not formally assess the work in terms of giving marks but
merely initialled it. This could be interpreted as a form of informal
assessment.
•
Students working in small groups as an instructional model seemed to
receive more attention without linking it to the lesson content. In other
words, it seemed skills development was emphasised at the expense of
knowledge development. This is consistent with her surface understanding
of group work, but inconsistent with the policy requirement.
This analysis suggests first that Haley’s assessment practice corresponds to her
surface understanding of the policy generally; second it is weakly connected to
the assessment policy and to her reported claims, third she has a superficial
understanding of peer assessment in that she believes that the presence of a
handout with the rubric will translate into its effective use, and fourth she has a
mechanical and superficial understanding of group work because its relation to
the development of values and attitudes or social development was ignored. I
would argue that she went through the mechanics of the new assessment
requirements without any deep change in understanding, beliefs and behaviour.
The question is why? It is clear that Hayley invested a lot of effort in preparing
for this lesson and students were engaged with interest and enthusiasm in the
lesson. But this effort was a poor resemblance to the policy requirements and her
stated claims. This invokes the following questions: Why is her assessment
practice disconnected from her reported claims and from the policy? From what
frame of reference is Hayley operating? Under what conditions is peer assessment
as a policy recommendation possible?
I examine a lesson conducted during the double period where Hayley indicated
that they were “doing practical work” (personal communication with teacher, 24
July 2002).
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Lesson: Practical Work (B4, 25 July 2002)
This lesson occurred after lunch from 12:35 to 14:00. As soon as the bell rang
signalling the end of the lunch break, Hayley and the students proceeded
immediately to their respective classrooms.
As in the previous lessons students lined up quietly outside the classroom before
being invited to enter by the teacher. Hayley first orally reviewed the previous
work (done on previous Monday) based on a worksheet given to students. She had
assessed this work herself and had allocated marks and recorded it in her mark
sheet (I saw it). She used the ‘question and answer’ method as illustrated by the
following transcript:
Teacher:
What kind of energy does a burning candle use?
Student A:
Kinetic energy
Teacher:
Now I want to teach you something. Next to number 1, it counts for
2 marks. This usually means that you need to name 2 things, ok, so
if you only say radiant energy I can only give you 1 mark, but what
do we know? Radiant energy is made up 2 types of energy? Yes?
Student B:
Heat energy and light energy
Teacher:
Heat energy and light energy. So radiant is not wrong, but radiant
is one name for the other 2 names, ne. But if this question counts 1
mark, you could have just said radiant energy. But now it counts 2
marks, that’s why we say light energy and heat energy. You
understand. Next question, which form of energy cannot travel
through space?
When this exercise was complete, she continued with the oral review of the work
set on the picture completed the previous day (Wednesday). Note she did not write
on the board. Students were expected to mark their own work from this review – a
form of ‘self-assessment’ I would think, but I observed that only a few students
were correcting their work.
Hayley requested students to close their books and continued:
Teacher:
We are going to be more precise. Every time I am going to give you
something, you need to tell me two things, you must tell me who
supplied the energy, or where the energy come from, and then
draw arrows … changed into what?
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She explained, using the example of a radio, that electrical energy was changed
into sound and heat energy. She wrote on the board:
“Radio: electrical energy → sound energy + heat energy”.
She continued with another example of someone running and wrote on the board:
“Running: chemical potential energy → kinetic energy + sound energy + heat
energy”.
Hayley informed the students that they were going to find out whether they
understood their work by giving them a worksheet. She then used the overhead
projector as an example to illustrate energy change in the following way:
“Electrical energy → light energy + sound energy”.
She then told them that they were going to do practical work with apparatus,
namely, a torch, a lamp, a heater, a candle, an alarm clock, a kettle, a fan and a
hairdryer (Hayley brought these from her home), each distributed on different
benches. She requested them to “be as precise as possible” and to tell her “the
form of energy that is in it”. She continued:
Teacher:
You let the apparatus stand as it is, then you put it on, then you see
what you see and what you feel and all of it. Then you switch it off.
…and then underneath on that line you must tell me what type of
energy is in the source before I switch it on. Then when I switch it
on, what is going, that energy going to turn into. Ok, so you will
have a word with its arrow then some kind of energy there is
afterwards, ok?
Hayley repeated the instruction as some students seemed confused. They were
expected to rotate their movements as they observed the different devices
provided. They rushed excitedly to do the practical work in their groups. Hayley
went around observing and assisting. Some groups that I observed were working
well, for example, one switched the torch on, discussed that chemical energy was
changed to heat and light energy, and wrote it down, using arrows correctly.
Another group using the alarm clock seemed confused. One student was
discussing while one was writing without using arrows as illustrated below:
“Chemical, electrical, sound”
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Some observed groups were discussing in an African language, others in
Afrikaans, very few in English. Some were fooling around, for example the one
group with the hairdryer and another group with the torch. Hayley seemed to be
experiencing
problems
maintaining
discipline
and
helping
students
simultaneously. Students were talking very loudly when she intervened:
Teacher:
It is very confusing if you have the, the states of energy and the
forms of energy mixed up. Ok, now this exercise, when you read
there at the top tells you, you must tell me the different forms of
energy. Ok, so now you cannot tell me it is potential, radiant,
kinetic, that is what takes place. But you must be specific. You must
tell me what form of energy, which changed into which other form
ok. Technically, it is a long story, for the moment we will call it
mechanical energy, ok.
(Emphasis in original)
One observed group with the lamp engaged in the following way:
Student 1:
I think a lamp has got light energy, and what else?
Student 2:
Light energy.
Student 1:
Student 3:
Ja, light energy and mechanical energy because in the book it says
energy that it stores, in the battery, there is energy, which is
stored so chemical, mechanical energy. In the lamp there is
chemical and there is light energy. I think that is all.
It is, ja.
Student 4:
No, it is not mechanical because there is light.
Hayley joined this group and Student 4 asked her whether it was mechanical
energy, to which Student 1 responded “no”. Hayley added:
Teacher:
Why do you think it is mechanical?
Student 3:
No she was asking.
Student 4’s response was not audible, but Hayley nodded her head and left to
another group, while this observed group wrote on their worksheet – three wrote:
“Electrical energy → mechanical energy + light energy”.
The other three wrote:
“Electrical energy → light energy + heat energy”.
The teacher reminded the students:
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Teacher:
You must not just one say, and one write. You must let everyone
agree, then only write.
Another observed group of five working with the kettle was engaged in the
following discussion:
Student A:
Student B:
When it is standing with water inside it is potential. When it is
switched on it is electrical plus heat and the first one, but there is
movement inside so which means it is mechanical also because
there is movement inside.
Which movement?
Student A:
Do you think the water just boils like that?
Student C:
Water has mechanical energy.
Student A:
Oh yes, but no I didn’t say that, so it is potential.
Student D:
It is potential to electrical plus heat, here …
Student A:
After potential you need it converted to something ne? After
potential you plus everything, electrical plus heat. Ok finished.
Student E did not contribute to the discussion. All five wrote:
“Potential → electric + heat”.
Another observed group working with the lamp engaged in the following
discussion:
Student L:
Student M:
I’m just showing you this. You see those batteries ne, electrical,
chemical energy because there are no wires and all those stuff.
Remember the time you were at the alarm clock. You said it is
chemical and electrical and then Mam said it is fine because there
are wires in the alarm clock.
What about the battery? Because the lamp doesn’t have battery.
Student L:
No the lamp it works with wires.
Student N:
Sure there are two batteries there, ne?
Student L:
Student M:
Ja. They have got chemicals in the inside ne. Mam said if you
connect the two that should make a stream, an electrical stream,
which causes light.
Ja
Student L:
Electrical, chemical changed to light and heat.
Student N:
And then?
Student L:
That’s about it, ok we’re finished.
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After ensuring that all groups had completed their work the teacher requested
students to switch the apparatus off and take their original individual seats. She
continued:
Teacher:
I need you take a pencil in your hand. Ok, now I firstly thought that
we would mark one group the others and so forth but then you
cannot actually understand what you wrote yourself so I want you
to mark your own work.
She used the question and answer method to review the activities orally as
follows:
Teacher:
Ok, next one, the candle, yes?
Student X:
Wax
Teacher:
The wax is a form of chemical energy, Ok, next?
Student Y:
Light energy
Teacher:
Daars sy. The chemical energy will have an arrow, after the arrow
we say light energy and?
This pattern continued until the end of the lesson and end of the day. However not
all students were assessing/correcting their work. Hayley requested that they paste
their worksheet in their books and informed the students that she would check
their work the following Monday (note this was Thursday, and there was no
Science on Fridays). She informed them that they would need their books to
study for “a little test for 15 marks next week Thursday” which she added would
be based on forms of energy covered in the previous three pages of work that they
did. Hayley dismissed the class.
The analysis of these lessons (review and practical work) revealed the following:
•
The purpose of the assessment was not made clear to the students,
illustrating non-alignment with the policy, but aligned with her response in
the questionnaire (B1) that she was ‘not sure’ whether the purpose of the
assessment should be always made clear to students.
•
Outcomes to be achieved in the lessons were not identified, both on the
worksheets and by the teacher, illustrating a lack of correspondence with
the policy, but it corresponded with Hayley’s responses to the
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questionnaire (B1) and interviews (B3) that she did not understand the
meanings of the outcomes because they “are written in such high English
that teachers don’t even know what it means” (B1).
•
Hayley had indicated that the purpose of the lessons was to find out if
students understood the work on energy. However, the questions focused
mainly of factual information illustrating the disconnection to the policy
and her reported responses (B1, B3).
•
Hayley did not assess attitudes and values, illustrating a lack of correlation
with the policy, but consistent with Hayley’s response that she found
assessment of attitudes and values difficult to assess (B3).
•
The activities seemed unmanageable and time inefficient because students
were struggling with the activities and could not complete all the activities
in the allocated time, illustrating mismatch with the policy requirement
and Hayley’s reported claims in the Questionnaire (B1) and interviews
(B3).
•
Hayley reviewed all the questions without indicating specific strengths and
weaknesses, contrary to the policy requirement of identifying areas where
students would need support and remedial intervention.
•
Although the question and answer method was used, it was mainly
teacher-centred, illustrating again a mismatch with the policy and her
reported claim.
•
With reference specifically to the review of worksheet of 22 July:
Hayley assessed the students’ work but with the aid of a marking
memorandum and not against outcomes as required by the policy –
illustrating a lack of correspondence with the policy, but it corresponds
with Hayley’s responses to the questionnaire (B1) and interviews (B3)
that she did not understand the outcomes.
Hayley recorded the marks in her mark sheet/book in compliance with
the policy requirement
The purpose of the lesson was not made explicit to the students,
contrary to the policy requirement.
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•
With reference specifically to the practical work:
The purpose of the lesson was provided, namely, to find out whether
they understood their work in terms of forms of energy, illustrating a
correspondence with the policy.
As she indicated her original intention was that peers should have
assessed this work, but because of their writing (see above) she
changed her mind to ‘self-assessment’. However most observed
students were not assessing or correcting their work. In fact many did
not have pencils. This means that this work was not assessed by the
teacher or by the students.
The teacher focused mainly on technical issues, such as ‘electrical
energy → light energy + heat energy’. Conceptual understanding of
energy changes were lacking as revealed by the student discussions
and the teacher’s review.
Assessment was to follow teaching and learning as indicated by the
teacher about the test to follow. This might suggest that assessment is
not an integral part of the teaching-learning process as desired by the
policy.
This analysis suggests first that Haley’s assessment practice is weakly connected
to the assessment policy and to her reported claims; second it corresponds to her
superficial understanding of assessment generally and self-assessment in
particular. Her reliance on worksheets and group work is evident of her surface
understandings of the new assessment system. The question is why? It is clear that
Hayley invested a lot of effort in preparing for these lessons, especially the
practical work for which she brought all the devices such as the torch, lamp,
heater, candle, alarm clock, kettle fan and hairdryer from her home. All these were
also clearly set out on each bench before the lesson began. Students seemed
interested and enthusiastic as well, but the lesson became too technical and
mechanical. The practical lesson presented ample opportunities for both informal
and formal assessment as reflected in the students’ engagement given above. She
could have assessed process skills of students such as observation, writing,
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communicating, and values and attitude but did not. The question is: Why? What
factors are constraining her efforts to fulfil the demands of the policy?
I will examine a lesson that does not involve group work but individual work.
Individual work (B4, 29 July 2002)
This lesson is different from the two above in that students worked individually.
After reminding the students about the forthcoming test for the following
Thursday, and writing on the board “Grade 8 Test on Thursday, Txt22. P46-49”
Hayley informed the students about the significance of the work that they were
about to do:
Teacher:
All of this that we did on Thursday was so that you could practice,
the rest of the work you can do in your groups so that you can
discuss what you think this is. So that you think something and the
other teams think something else, that you can convince one
another what you think.
This worksheet you must do individually, remember as soon as I
mark something for marks, I need you to do it yourself because
otherwise I can’t see if the person next to you can do it. I want to
see if you understand it, as soon as you don’t understand it, then
you must put your hand up, because I am the only one that can help
you with this. Is that clear?
(emphasis in original)
Hayley requested the students to sit three in a row so that they would not look into
other students work. She then gave them a worksheet with the following
information: Name of the school; “Natural Science: Grade 8; “Module 1: Energy
and change”; “Unit 1: Focus on energy; “Topic 2: Changing and transforming
energy”; “WORKSHEET – Individual”.
Hayley requested that they first paste their worksheet in an ordered fashion before
proceeding with the answers. Students spent much time cutting, colouring borders
borrowing scissors, colour pens, glue/pritt and pasting worksheets before
commencing with the questions. The teacher took the bin around for students to
22
Textbook
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place off cuts from their worksheets otherwise the teacher complained “they
would mess the lab floors and sinks” (personal communication, 29 July 2002).
The teacher reminded them:
Teacher:
Remember you cannot waste time because I am taking the papers
at the end of the period. Sorry, quickly look here. In questions 1.1
to 1.6 they asked you to write how the energy got used. You must
write it how I have done it on the board. You must tell me what
type of energy was used. You must put an arrow, and then you
write for instance, light energy plus what it is. You cannot just list
the different energies because then it doesn’t answer what they
want you to do. You may go.
Hayley walked around and quickly intervened:
Teacher:
Sorry, Ladies and Gentlemen put your pens down. Look me in the
eyes. I walked past two desks and everybody is doing the same
thing.
She wrote on the board what she had observed:
“electrical → heat → light”
(I had observed this on the previous Thursday when students were doing the
activities). She continued:
Teacher:
This is wrong. It means that electrical energy becomes heat energy
which becomes light, and that’s wrong. Its electrical energy that is
converted to lots of things, for instance, heat energy plus the next
thing, plus the next thing. It is as follows:
Electrical energy → heat + light (She wrote this on the board)
The students continued to work individually and silently, putting their hands up
when requiring assistance from the teacher. Six students (out of 33) completed
their work before the time was over. They placed their work on the teacher’s table
and were allowed by the teacher to go to the back of the classroom to complete
previous work if necessary or read from their science textbook. I did not observe
what individual students were writing for fear of disturbing them and maybe
compromising their responses, which seemed very important for marks.
The buzzer signalled the end of the science period. The next five minutes were for
cleaning the classroom and surrounding area. The students who had completed
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their work cleaned up while others were allowed to complete their work. The
students left their books on the teacher’s table as they left.
An analysis of this lesson reveals:
•
Hayley did not use outcomes in this lesson. There were no outcomes listed
in the worksheet either. This clearly reflects the lack of correspondence
with the policy, but correlates with her report that she did not understand
the outcomes.
•
The purpose of the assessment was given although it is questionable.
•
All the questions except one carrying 2 marks out of 25 marks required
recall of information, reflecting inconsistency with the policy and her
report.
•
The questions were not manageable as was made clear from the teacher’s
and my observations that most of the students were confused about what
the arrow symbolised. It seems they had no conceptual idea and
understanding that energy was being converted from one form to another. I
had observed this lack of conceptual understanding that had its roots from
the beginning of the unit.
This analysis suggests first, a clear correspondence between her assessment
practice and her surface understanding of the policy; second a weak
correspondence between her classroom practice and the policy and her reported
claims. This raises questions: Why? What conditions are necessary for the
effective implementation of the policy?
I next examine the lessons during which students wrote tests.
Tests (B4, 01 August 2002 & B4 22 August 2002)
The test (B4, 01 August 2002; the teacher had informed them previously about the
test) was written in the first lesson of the double period lesson. Hayley informed
me that this test was an example of a short test. She had requested students to sit
three per row before the question paper was given out to them. On the question
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paper appeared the following: Name of school, “Natural Sciences: Grade 8”,
Module 2: Energy and change, Unit 1: Focus on energy, Topic 1: Magic energy,
Test. There were 5 questions, and below each question a space for the answer. The
total marks for the test was 15 marks. The pupils wrote the test in what seemed
like examination conditions with the teacher walking around the classroom. On
completion of the test the teacher collected the test pages and continued with the
next lesson, which was a review of the previous day’s worksheet.
The analysis of this test lesson reveals:
•
Hayley did not make the purpose of the assessment clear as required by the
policy. This reflects disconnections to both her reported claims and to the
policy requirement. But it accords with her response to the questionnaire
(B1) where she indicated that she was not sure whether the purpose of the
assessment should be made clear to the students.
•
The specific outcomes were not used as a basis for assessment as
suggested by the policy. While this practice is disconnected to the policy
requirement it correlates with her surface understanding of the concept,
and with her reports (B1 and B3) that she finds it difficult to use outcomes
in her lessons.
•
The specific outcomes and their assessment criteria were not given to the
students to inform them what were to be assessed.
•
She did not use the criterion-referenced approach to assessment
recommended by the policy. While this practice is disconnected to the
policy requirement it correlates with her reports that she has no knowledge
of this concept.
•
All five questions tested facts only that encouraged rote learning contrary
to the policy and her reported claims.
This analysis suggests that her assessment practice correlated with her surface
understanding of the policy, as well as limited correspondence between her
assessment practice and the assessment policy. The analysis raises the question:
Why is there limited correspondence between her assessment practice and the
assessment policy?
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The other test that I observed (B4, 22 August 2002) was administered in a similar
way. Hayley informed me that this was an example of a standardised test. She
handed out the prepared question papers to students who were absolutely quiet
and seated two to three per bench in examination conditions. She requested that
they hold up their pens with their left hand until she requested them to start
writing. She informed them that they had half an hour to complete the questions,
before instructing: “On your marks, get set and go!” Two students asked for
clarification regarding a question. The teacher responded:
Teacher:
Wood is burning, tell me the energy changes.
On the question paper appeared the name of the school, “Natural Science Grade 8,
Module 2: Energy and Change, Unit 1 and 2, TEST”. It had four questions with a
total of 30 marks. It also indicated the criteria that were going to be used for
marking the bar graph (this was done in a previous assignment) and a rubric for
the assessment of the bar graph with “SO2” written next to the rubric.
The teacher informed the students that the rubric was for information only, but
they were required to answer all the questions. While they were answering the test
Hayley walked around the classroom. She reminded them when they had ten
minutes left. Those that had completed their test were allowed to hand in their test
and continue with the assignment but not to refer to their textbook. When they had
completed their test, she collected the question papers and answers and stapled
them together, and requested them to continue with their assignment given
previously.
The analysis of this test lesson reveals the same pattern as given above, namely:
•
Hayley did not make the purpose of the assessment clear as required by the
policy.
•
The specific outcomes were not used as a basis for assessment suggested
by the policy.
•
The specific outcomes and their assessment criteria were not given to the
students to inform them what were to be assessed.
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•
She did not use the criterion-referenced approach to assessment
recommended by the policy.
•
All questions tested facts only with the exception of one question carrying
4 marks out of 30; - seemingly rote learning is encouraged contrary to the
policy.
This analysis also suggests first, a connection between her surface understanding
of the policy and her classroom practice, second, a disconnection between her
assessment practice and both her claims and the assessment policy. The question
this analysis invokes is: Why is there a seemingly disconnection between
Hayley’s assessment practice and the new assessment policy? Under what
condition will it be possible for teachers to align their assessment practice in
accordance with the new official assessment policy?
I next examine a lesson when an assignment was done during class time for the
portfolio.
Assignment/Portfolio (B4, 19 August 2002)
After students walked into classroom in the usual manner, Hayley informed them
about the assignment:
This week we are going to do an assignment so that I can give you
marks, so that I can assess you on this work. When I assess you,
you must please remember to use your textbook. Now how we
are going to do this; this assignment is totally individual, so you
must not ask anyone around you. What is happening, there is a
paper booklet like this again; I am going to give you. Then the
instructions: I will go with all of you through the instructions, and
then I am going to ask that you only sit on your own. Just make
sure that you have enough space; I know that it is you and that you
are doing it yourself.
(B4, 19 August 2002; emphases added)
Teacher:
The students were seated individually such that only three students occupied a
bench ensuring sufficient space between them so that they could work
‘individually’. Hayley distributed the 9-page assignment question paper or “paper
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booklet” to the students and requested that they write their name and grade on the
top. She then explained the process:
Teacher:
OK, let’s read the first part, where it says, specific outcomes
numbers 2, 4, and 6. The one I am focussing on is only number 4.
Number 2, remember, we did a whole file where at the end we had
a graph. Let me explain to you how it works. Now in this
assignment there is also a graph. Now when I mark this graph, I
am going to look how much you got the previous time for the SO 2.
Let’s say for the previous time, you got a 2, you could either get a
1,2,3,4 – a 4 means it was very good, and the 1 means you still
needed some help. Now if you get the graph 100% right now, then
I can change the 2 you received the previous time, to a 3 or 4. OK,
you must use your book; you may use your textbook.
Now how this works is, I need you all to open your textbook to
page 134. On page 134, quickly open your textbooks. Now this
whole thing, from page 134 to page 146 is the discovery of water
and what water does for us, where it comes from and the whole
story about water. Now you know a lot of this but lots of this will
be something new and interesting to you. Now I will read with you
from number 1 on your assignment… You only really need to do
my questions that I have typed for you, but then you use the
information from the book to answer them.
The students commenced working on the assignment very quietly while the
teacher walked around the class offering assistance to those students who raised
their hands for help, for example, Hayley clarified a question on rivers. The
students needed to use the atlas to trace the source of the river, but no atlas was
available. Hayley responded by requesting they pursue this particular question at
home and fill in the answer the next day. The students worked in a quiet and
disciplined way, only to be interrupted by intercom messages.
On the cover of the 9-page assignment question paper appeared:
“Natural
Science” below which appeared “Specific outcome 4 (SO4)”, below this appeared
“WATER”, and a space for students to insert their names and grade, as well as a
diagrammatic illustration of a tap releasing two drops of water. The name of the
module, unit number, and instructions were given in the first page. In addition
“Specific outcomes covered: 2, 4 and 6” (emphasis added) appeared on this page.
There were nine activities that appeared in a box, and next to each activity the
corresponding textbook page number, the specific outcome number and the
assessment criteria were provided, for example:
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ACTIVITY – P140 (SO4: AC2, AC4, AC6, and AC7
(Assignment, 19 August 2002, emphasis in original)
The number and complexity of questions for each activity varied. Interspersed
among the activities appeared rubrics for assessment, for example:
RUBRIC FOR ASSESSMENT – SO4: AC 5 – Practices are investigated
1
None or one negative effect is mentioned
2
Two negative effect is mentioned
3
Three negative effect is mentioned
4
Four negative effect is mentioned
(Assignment, 19 August 2002, emphasis in original)
Space had been provided for answers to be written on the question paper.
I had observed few students and they seemed to be struggling both with reading
the textbook and answering the questions. I asked ten students randomly at the end
of the lesson what they understood by ‘specific outcomes (SOs)’ and ‘assessment
criteria (AC)” but they did not know what it meant. The issue is why Hayley uses
these ‘SOs and ‘ACs on the worksheets? Some observed students were rewriting
the questions, and when Hayley observed this she informed them not to do so.
One observed student wrote “Over 1000mm” in response to the first question:
“What do you notice about the pattern of rainfall as one move from east to west?”
He copied this information verbatim from the textbook where the rainfall map of
South Africa was given. It seemed clear that he did not understand both the
question and the information in the textbook. Hayley seemed to have observed the
difficulties students were experiencing because she interrupted:
Teacher:
Sorry ladies and gentlemen, we have a bit of a problem. You may
not at all answer - you are all already on page number 136
answering activity, that first one. Please don’t do that you are
going to give me the wrong answers. You must start and read on
page 134, you must read everything then when you get to the
activities, then you may answer it. Okay. No one may just start
with the activities, everything that’s typed in that book, from page
134 till page 146 at the end, you must have read. All the things,
otherwise you’re going to give me the totally wrong answers for
your activities. Okay? So page back; 134; that’s where we start.
(Emphasis in original)
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The students continued working quietly, the odd hand going up now and again for
the teacher’s attention. I observed many students struggling because they did not
begin to write. The teacher observed this as well and interrupted:
Teacher:
Sorry to disturb you. There’s two words that I find that some of
you don’t know what it means. Okay, Activity on page 136; number
2; it says there “Give an approximate figure for annual rainfall in
your area”. Approximate means ‘plus-minus’. You must tell me
approximately how much. Okay. In the sense of … like an average
... what you think. If you have to guess, estimate, when you look at
your picture. How much do you think? Okay and then activity,
page 137; number 3; it says there “Is there a correlation between
the areas of high rainfall and high population density?” This
means is there a pattern. Can you see is there… can you see
something that the one influences the other one. Is there some
pattern between the two? Okay, you can go on.
The other one is where they talk about activity on page 137; ‘the
northern half and the southern half’. On that specific map they
didn’t tell me… they didn’t show you where that equator is, where
the line is. So you’ll have to first go and look on the atlas where
exactly is that line, to know on which side there’s the most rain.
Okay, you can go on.
(Emphasis in original)
When the buzzer rang to signal the end of this lesson, the students continued to
work. This was a distinct departure from their usual behaviour at the observed
times when they would begin packing their work away when the buzzer rang.
Hayley requested:
Teacher:
Look here, when you pass me you need to bring me your project
yourself, no one else may give it to me. Okay, have a lovely day,
bye-bye.
Hayley collected each student’s paper as they left the classroom.
The analysis of the lesson reveals the following findings:
•
Assignment as a way of assessing students was used as required by the
policy and connected to her claim.
•
What students were to learn were clearly defined as required by the policy,
but disconnected to her reported claim where she indicated that she is not
sure (B1).
•
Questions assessing knowledge and skills were incorporated in line with
the policy requirement and her reported claim.
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•
Questions assessing higher levels of thinking such as application of
knowledge, not only memorisation of information, had been incorporated
illustrating the link with the policy requirement and her reported claim.
•
Criteria for assessment were provided to the students (although they did
not know what they meant) in keeping with the policy requirement, but
disconnected to her response in the questionnaire (A1).
•
While the specific outcome had been given to students (students did not
know what it meant) it was not clearly defined as required by the policy.
The ten observed students who I asked had no idea what it or the
assessment criteria meant. This is connected to her surface understanding
of the concept and her reported claim.
•
While clear instructions were provided, the purpose of the assessment was
not made clear illustrating a departure from the policy requirement.
•
Questions assessing values and attitude were not incorporated indicating a
departure from the policy requirement. But consistent with her response
that she did not know how (B3).
•
The questions were not manageable. Many students were experiencing
problems reading and understanding both the textbook and the questions as
illustrated above. This reflects a disconnection with the policy and her
reported claim.
This analysis suggests mixed outcomes as far as the connection between her
assessment practice and her understanding of the assessment policy, with the
assessment policy and her reported claims. Some reflect that her assessment
practice seem to corresponding with the policy (first five bullets above) while
others seemingly lack correspondence with the policy (last four bullets). It reflects
that Hayley is trying to make sense of the new demands of the policy, such as
using portfolio assessment as an alternative form of assessment, and the use of
outcomes and assessment criteria. This analysis raises two questions: Are teachers
supported as they struggle to implement the new assessment policy? Under what
conditions is it possible to satisfy the new policy requirements?
I shall next examine a project that Hayley gave to her students.
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Project (B4, 23 August 2002)
The project (B4, 23 August 2002) focused on “Specific outcome 6” and had been
given to students on the last day of the third term, that is, 23 August 2002 to
complete during the holidays and handed in on the first day when they returned ,
that is, 13 September 2002. On the first page appeared “Natural Science, Specific
outcome 6 (SO6) Culture vs. Water”, space for students to write their name and
grade, as well as various illustrations depicting different cultures drawn by
Hayley. This looked very attractive and interesting. On the reverse side the
meaning of specific outcome 6 was given, as well as the instructions. It read:
“There are many fascinating myths, legends, poems and stories about water.
Choose one culture of the world that you want to research …Find out as much as
you can about …Make a poster on the A3 page provided, that will show the
cultural value of water in the culture you have chosen”.
(B4, 23 August 2002)
It also had a table shown below indicating how students were to be assessed:
ASSESSMENT
Did not
Not yet
Achieved
CRITERIA
attempt
achieved
with help
Achieved
Achieved with
distinction
FOR YOU POSTER
General appearance,
0
1
2
3
4
Descriptive heading
0
1
2
3
4
Content relates to the
0
1
2
3
4
0
1
2
3
4
Scientific accuracy
0
1
2
3
4
Bibliography
0
1
2
3
4
layout, neatness
theme
Content is structured
and clear
TOTAL
(Project, 23 August 2002, emphasis in original)
The analysis reveals the following findings:
•
Hayley used project as an alternative method of assessing students as
required by the policy and consistent with her report.
•
What students were to learn were clearly defined as required by the policy
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•
The specific outcome is used to serve as a basis for assessment in
compliance with the policy.
•
The specific outcome and their assessment criteria have been made
available to students to inform them what is to be assessed in compliance
with the policy.
•
It seems to be fair, manageable and time-efficient as required by the
policy.
•
Questions assessing knowledge and skills were incorporated in line with
the policy requirement.
•
Questions assessing higher levels of thinking such as application of
knowledge, not only memorisation of information, had been incorporated
illustrating the link with the policy requirement.
•
Questions assessing values and attitude were not incorporated indicating a
departure from the policy requirement, but consistent with her report.
The analysis suggests that this assessment practice corresponds with the new
assessment policy except with assessment of values and attitudes. But Hayley
did report that she could not assess values and attitudes. The question is why it
was not possible for Hayley to assess attitudes and values.
I provide a summary that characterises the modal patterns of the twenty
observed lessons:
•
Hayley prepares worksheets for students to answer in written form
either in groups or individually, and she formally assesses individual
work only. These worksheets are used for class work, practical work,
assignment or project. She formally assesses the individual work using
a prepared marking memorandum soon after it is written, followed by
a review of the questions, using question and answer method, although
she reads the questions from the worksheet and more often than not
provides the answers as well, mainly orally. She records the marks in
her mark book.
•
She assesses continuously.
•
She assesses informally by observation.
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•
A variety of methods of assessment was used such as standardised test,
small test, project, portfolio assignment, and practical work.
•
She made assessment an ongoing integral part of the learning process.
•
She records students’ marks regularly in her mark book.
•
She communicated assessment results timeously, accurately and
clearly.
•
She provided assistance to those learners who required it either during
class time or outside class time
•
What students were to learn were not explicitly and clearly defined in
eighteen lessons.
•
Outcomes were not used in eighteen lessons. Hence progression is not
linked to the achievement of specific outcomes.
•
The purpose of the assessment was not made clear in seventeen
lessons.
•
The criterion-referenced approach to assessment was not used in most
lessons.
•
Most assessment activities were not manageable and time efficient.
•
Assessment of attitudes and values were conspicuous by its absence.
•
Most lessons were teacher-centred with the teacher standing in from
asking providing the answers orally.
This analysis suggests, first, there is a relationship between her surface
understanding of the policy and her assessment practice especially with regard to
the concepts ‘outcomes’, ‘criterion-reference’, ‘assessment criteria’, the goal of
assessment, and the rationale driving the new assessment system; second, her
assessment practice is weakly connected to her negative feelings about the policy;
third, there is some correspondence between her assessment practice and the
policy, and some show lack of correspondence.
From the analysis the following questions are invoked: Why does she have a
surface understanding of the assessment policy? Why, despite her negative
feelings about the policy is Hayley able to comply with some of the demands
made by the new assessment policy? Why are there some connections and some
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disconnections between her assessment practice and the new official assessment
policy?
I next examine the assessment related documents that Hayley has in her
possession as evidence of her practice.
Evidence from documents (B5)
Hayley showed me her “large, thick file with lots of documents” (personal
communication (23 July 2002). She added that she was:
Overwhelmed by the large number of documents; I don’t
know which are important and which not. It’s very timeconsuming and before you finish with one document you
receive another.
(Personal communication, 23 July 2003)
The documents are as follows:
“Circular Number 5/2000: National Assessment Policy as it relates to OBE
and the implementation of Curriculum 2005 and Assessment in GET Grades”
dated 19/01/2000 from the provincial department of education (B5, 1). She
reported that she received this from the school principal. This circular claims
that it “aims to assist educators in understanding, developing and
implementing assessment practices that are appropriate for Curriculum
2005” (A5, emphasis in original). It is detailed in terms of what is expected of
teachers (ibid). Hayley reported that she found it difficult to understand and
that it is confusing. (personal communication, 23 July 2002). This raises the
question of the manner in which information is communicated to teachers in
the policy reform process.
“Circular Number 11/1999: The Learner Profile guidelines for Grade 1 and
Grade 2 learners” dated 21 March 1999 from the provincial department of
education (B5, 2). She received this document at a workshop in November
1999. This document provided details of the rationale behind the learner
portfolio, what it is, the process of its development and management. Hayley
reported that she does not use it because it refers to Grade 1 add 2 learners.
However I believe that it contains important and relevant generic information
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that would be relevant to all teachers. This then raises the issue of the way
information is communicated to teachers.
“Circular Number 13/1999: Progression for Grade 1 and 2 learners” dated 25
August 1999 from the provincial department of education (B5, 3). She could
not remember how she received this document, but did not refer to it because
it refers to Grade 1 add 2 learners. However I believe that it contains
important and relevant generic information that would be relevant to all
teachers. This again raises the issue about the way information is
communicated to teachers.
“OBE Assessment for General Education and Training (Grade 1 to 9):
Assessment chapter for GET Educator’s Manual”, undated from the
Department of Education (B5, 4). Hayley reported that she received this in her
pigeonhole but did not use it because she did not know what to do with it.
This document was very comprehensive providing the rationale for the change
as well as explanations of the concepts used in assessment. It also provided
examples of different types of assessment. Why did Hayley not use this useful
document?
“The Concept of Expected Levels of Performance”, undated and no indication
of its source (B5, 5). Hayley received it from the head of department but “I
certainly don’t use it because it confuses me” (personal communication, 23
July 2002). This again raises the issue of the way documents are
communicated to teachers.
“Assessment, Recording and Reporting”, undated from the South African
National Tutors Services (B5, 6). Hayley received this during one of the
training courses. She read it but uses some parts of it. I believe it has useful
information for teachers. Again the way information is communicated to
teachers needs questioning.
“A Rubric” dated 12 September 2002 from NUE OBE Series (B5, 7). She
received this at a training workshop and finds it useful. This document had
useful information and clear examples. Again the way information is
communicated to teachers needs questioning.
“Learner’s Experience Planning Form”, undated and source unknown (B5, 8).
Hayley obtained this document at a training workshop but she did not use it.
The document had useful information on how to assess portfolios, posters,
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field trips and others. Again the way information is communicated to teachers
needs to be questioned.
“Proposed Learning Programme Design Format”, undated and source
unknown (B5, 9). Hayley obtained this document from a training workshop
but she did not use it because she did not know what to do with it. How
teachers receive information needs serious questioning.
“Guidelines for Outcomes-based assessment in all Grades in Foundation,
Intermediate and Senior Phases implementing OBE (excluding Grade 9),
dated 6 June 2002 from the provincial department of education (B5, 10). She
received this from the head of department. She found this document too
confusing therefore she did not use it.
Again the way information is
communicated to teachers needs to be questioned.
“CASS Portfolio: Generic portfolio” undated from the provincial department
of education (B5, 11). She received this from the head of department. She uses
this for her Grade 12 classes only.
Again the way information is
communicated to teachers needs to be questioned.
“Monitoring instruments for teachers”, undated from the Department of
Education (B5, 12). Hayley could not remember where she obtained this
document from but she did not use it because she did not know what to do
with it. How teachers receive information needs serious questioning.
“Cass Portfolio: Biology” November 2001 from the provincial department of
education (B5, 13). She received this from the head of department and uses it
in her Grade 12 Biology class. This raises issues regarding integration and
coherence in respect of assessment in the system.
“Natural Sciences: Draft Progress Maps” dated June 1999 from the Gauteng
Institute of Curriculum Development (B5, 14). She received this from the
head of department and finds it confusing therefore does not use it. This again
raises the issue about the way information is communicated to teachers.
“Senior Phase Policy: Natural Science” 1997 from the Department of
Education (B5, 15). She received this during training, but finds the language
too difficult to understand, and therefore struggling to use it. She therefore has
developed negative feelings towards it. This raises serious questions for the
successful implementation of both the new curriculum policy and the new
assessment policy.
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These fifteen documents collectively seem to provide a detailed landscape of the
new assessment system, and some provide guidelines for classroom practice. The
question that emerges is: Why does she not use many of these documents to
support her understanding and practice of the new assessment system?
In the next section I examine Hayley’s records (B6)
Teacher Records (B6)
Lesson Plans/Preparation (B6, 1)
Hayley had a ‘thick file’ containing all her preparation for Grade 8 Natural
Science for the entire year. She reported that she prepared her work for the grades
she was teaching the year previously when she is informed by the school
management team what grades she would be teaching (personal communication,
19 July 2002). She added that she “cannot teach without it” (ibid).
At the
beginning of her lesson preparation she had a table indicating the four themes
which she called “module/programme organiser” in Natural Science such “Life
and Living, Energy and Change, Matter and Materials and Earth and Beyond in
that order to correspond with the four terms in which each theme/module was to
be taught. In the next column the three title/unit/theme corresponding to each
module, and in the third column were the specific outcomes in line with the title
as partly illustrated below:
MODULE/PROGRAMME
TITLE/UNIT/THEME
ORGANISER
SPECIFIC
OUTCOME
1. Wonders of the living world
SO4
2. The challenge to stay alive
SO1
3. Your health is your wealth
SO5
Module 2
1. Focus on Energy
SO2
Energy and change
2. Heating things up
SO3
3. Electricity works for us
SO9
Module 1
Life and living
(Part of Hayley’s record, 19 July 2002)
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This year plan was followed by a week plan for each term. In the week plan she
had indicated activities for each day of the week.
All worksheets, practical work, assignments, projects, small test, and standardised
tests for the year were prepared. The format for recording marks was also
complete. Copies of the April 2002 and June 2002 question papers were also in
the file. She reported that she liked to be organised but leaves spaces for any
changes (personal communication with teacher, 19 July 2002).
While her lesson preparation file was impressive there were serious concerns with
regard to the new assessment policy. One was the limited use of outcomes bar the
odd mention in terms of its abbreviated form like SO in her plan indicated above.
Second, was the manner in which she used “topic outcomes” at the beginning of
each unit of work, for example, the topic outcomes for ‘knowledge’ in all the
units were in the form of: “The learner should know …”; for ‘skills’ it was in the
form: “The learners will be able to …”; and for ‘attitudes’ “The learners will
appreciate and tell other people about …” (Lesson Plan, 19 July 2002). This does
not resemble ‘outcomes’ as required in the new system, but rather resembles
‘objectives’ as used in the old system. The question is why?
I next examine her mark book/file.
Mark book/file/Recording (B6, 2)
I describe and analyse Hayley’s mark book/file/recording system that I examined.
She reported:
Basically all these things that I mark all the time, I record
them in a mark book.
(B3)
She has a comprehensive and well-organised recording system in the form of a
file. However she complained:
I’m trying out different ways to record marks but it is very
frustrating because of different requirements from the
school, the parents and the department.
(Personal communication, 19 July 2002)
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She originally started her recording process by developing an assessment form for
each student indicating the nine specific outcomes with its associated assessment
criteria, the date on which it was assessed, the assessment number and comments.
She abandoned this approach after a month because she:
[Found] it difficult because the specific outcomes and the
assessment criteria are not always correlated and don’t
know what fits where.
(Personal communication, 19 July 2002)
She then developed a template using the computer programme Excel, to record
the students’ marks for the first term. This first term record sheet contained seven
sets of marks for each student in line with the various activities including tests
completed. SO223 with marks ranging from 1 to 5 appeared in one column only.
All these marks were used to compute a final mark for each student for the first
term that had been reported in students’ first term report card (ibid).
Hayley prepared the second term record sheet similarly using Excel. Each student
had ten sets of marks made up as follows: four sets from activities, one set from a
small test, one from the first term mark, one from SO1, one from the standardised
test, one from SO2, and one from the June examination. All these marks were
subjected to special computation mechanisms to arrive at a final mark for the
second term that appeared in the second term report card (ibid).
The third term marks were similarly recorded on a form prepared by Hayley using
Excel. There were two columns, one for the specific outcomes and one for
individual work. Marks for specific outcome 2 and specific outcome 4 were
recorded for each student in the specific outcomes column. In the individual
column there were three sets of marks for worksheets, one set for a short test, one
set for an assignment, and one set for a standardised test. These different sets of
marks were subjected to special computational formulae to arrive at a final third
term mark for each student that appeared in the third term report card (ibid).
23
Specific Outcome 2
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Hayley reported that the newly appointed head of department for science had
requested her to reduce these third term marks because the average was too high
(personal communication with teacher, 9 September 2002). She looked visibly
upset when she added:
Too high compared to what norm I don’t know. How to
reduce it I don’t know.
(Personal communication, 9 September 2002)
On 11 November 2002 Hayley shared her record sheet for the fourth term with
me. Each student had five sets of marks, one set transported from the first term
mark (continuous assessment only) but converted to represent 20% of the total
(call it A), one set transported from the second term mark (continuous assessment
plus the June examination) but converted to represent 50% of the total (call it B),
one set transported from the third term mark (continuous assessment) converted to
represent 15% of the total (call it C), one set from the fourth term (continuous
assessment) converted to represent 15% of the total marks (call it D), these four
sets of marks were added (A+B+C+D) and then converted to a mark that
represent 50% of the total (call it E), and one set representing the November
examination converted to represent 50% of the total (call it F). E and F were
added (call it G) to arrive at a total promotion mark that appeared in the final
report card (personal communication with teacher, 11 November 2002).
According to Hayley this ratio is:
[The] executive’s decision. I don’t know how the executive
make the decision.
(Personal communication, 11 November 2002)
But she believes:
This is the right way to go because as long as we have
matric exams as the norm.
(Personal communication, 11 November 2002)
The analyses of these records reflect how little attention is paid to the
achievement of specific outcomes.
It also reflects how complex the recording process is. Hayley complained about
this complexity:
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I don’t have a clue how to record it. I don’t know in which
format to record it, because I have tried I don’t know how
many different types of forms to make it easier for myself to
put these things in a way that one can use, So my
frustration is how do we record and what we record. In the
beginning it was told 1 to 5, then it changed to 1 to 4. In
the beginning 1 was good and 4 was bad, this year 4 is
good and 1 is bad, now I see again on the forms there is not
a 1, 2, 3 or 4, it is now a star and a line and a tick or
something like that. So for me all this change all the time is
making the assessments a nightmare.
(B3)
An added concern is that the process, especially the continuous assessment
process, is not moderated as indicated by Hayley:
No one has ever from the district or provincial or national
looked at any of the things I have done.
(B3)
The importance of moderation should also be seen in the context of distrust
amongst educators:
One teacher cheated with learner assessment.
(Personal communication with teacher, 5 August 2002)
I don’t mean the technical and mechanical exercise of computation, but
moderating the process of how the marks are arrived at. It should not only be a
technical exercise of focusing on the ratios of continuous assessment mark and
examination mark as usually happens here illustrated by Haley:
Usually they did tell us. I don’t think anybody has ever
challenged the decision, you know. There are too many
other things to worry about. If they say this time 40/60
percent, we use 40/60 percent.
(Personal communication with teacher, 5 August 2002)
This raises many questions such as: Why is there a seemingly lack of
transparency in the school about how the ratios are determined? Why is the
teacher reluctant to find out? How could the power and influence of the
matriculation examination be addressed? Why is there no ‘real’ (not technical
computations) moderating mechanism in the school and system? Who is to
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moderate, how and when? How are students affected by the lack of a moderation
mechanism?
In this file Hayley also had forms titled: “GDE 450 A: Areas in which support is
needed” for students who needed support. She completed this form for those
students who received less than 35% (personal communication, 13 August 2002).
She had to indicate in pen the date, the description of the support needed, the
action taken and the outcomes of the action. The parent needs to comment on this
and sign it. Hayley reported that she supports all students that need extra
assistance but does not complete this form all the time because it is too time
consuming (ibid). During my visits to the school I witnessed her supporting
students during the breaks and after school on many occasions. The question is
under what conditions could this form be completed?
Does it mean that if
teachers are not filling in this form then they are not supporting students who
require extra help?
I now move to examine students’ records.
Students’ records (B7)
Students’ Notebooks (B7, 1)
I examined nine notebooks of students that I randomly selected. Students buy
their own notebooks (personal communication, August 2002). During the
observed twenty lessons every student had her/his notebook in class. Each one
had been uniformly covered with a red cover containing drawings of animals
designed and printed by Hayley. Each one was also covered in plastic as well.
Pasted at the beginning of eight of the nine books was a year plan indicating the
work for the year provided by Hayley. Each note book had extensive notes,
worksheets and handouts that were neatly pasted. The teacher had assessed every
task (twelve) that had been individually done. She wrote comments like “well
done” or “very good” or “good” where it was deserved. But the teacher initialled
other tasks, and where she observed deviations she commented like “I miss your
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plant worksheet”, or in others she commented “neat work”. Students marked
some tasks in pencil. Test question papers, including the June examination and
marked answer sheets were pasted at the back of the notebook.
The analysis of the students’ notebooks showed some correlation with the policy,
for example, evidence of achievement was collected, this evidence was evaluated,
the findings were recorded (I observed this in the teacher’s mark sheet/book), the
findings were used to assist learners develop (observed that every worksheet was
reviewed and corrected by students), the marks were used for continuous
assessment, and the results were communicated clearly and timeously (observed
marking complete within three days) to students. However it also lacked
correlation with the policy for example, there was a conspicuous absence of the
concept outcomes in the notebooks. This demonstrates that the specific outcomes
did not serve as a basis to assess students, despite agreeing to it in the
questionnaire (B1). This begs the question: Why does she not use specific
outcomes in her lessons? How did the teacher assess the progress of students’
achievement? Also the purpose of the assessments was not made clear to students
besides providing them with the topic and instructions. Again this begs the
question why. Attitudes and values were not assessed at all. The question is why?
The analysis suggests that some of her assessment practices were consistent with
the policy while others were not.
I examine the students’ assignments next.
Assignment/Portfolio (B7, 2)
I examined nine randomly selected portfolio assignments. Each student had
completed three assignments for their portfolios.
The first assignment titled “Phenomenon” was done in the first term and was very
elaborate requiring students to “1. Identify 5 phenomena (AC1 Phenomenon are
identified). 2. Choose one of the five phenomena. Formulate six questions about
your phenomena (AC2 Investigative questions are formulated). 3. Plan how you
are going to go about answering those six questions (AC3 A plan of action is
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formulated)” (emphasis in original). Hayley had assessed this plan of action.
Thereafter they were expected to “4. Collect your data needed …execute your
plan (AC4 Data are collected). 5. Analyse. …Evaluate. …Interpret … (AC5 Data
are analysed, evaluated and interpreted). 6. Communicate your findings on a A4
paper (AC6 Findings are communicated)” (emphasis in original). These
instructions and six questions were clearly typed and a rubric indicating how they
would be assessed was provided. The rubric indicated AC24 4, AC 5, and AC 6
with a scale ranging from 1 denoting low achievement to 4 denoting high
achievement. However what the ‘AC’ meant was not given in the rubric. Hayley
assessed every question against the rubric and recorded the marks.
The analysis of this assignment reveals first that Hayley used assignment or
portfolio assessment as a form of assessment as required by the policy. Second
she linked her assessment practice to the assessment policy by using the
assessment criteria and making them available to the students. Third questions
requiring the integration of knowledge, concepts and skills, and not only
memorisation of information have been assessed as required by the policy.
However the purpose of the assignment had not been clearly defined as required
by the policy; only the instructions that informed students “You need to complete
the following assignment. You will be evaluated on each of the numbered points.
Each step of the assignment needs to be handed in inside a portfolio file”.
Furthermore the specific outcome to be achieved had not been clearly defined
except the mention of the title “phenomenon” that had been clearly defined. This
is not in line with the policy. It is clear that this assignment corresponded to
specific outcome 1 requiring students to “use process skills to investigate
phenomena related to the Natural Sciences” (Department of Education, 1997: 9).
The assessment of attitudes and values has not been assessed despite the
prevailing opportunity in the assignment. The analysis therefore suggests that part
of her practice is aligned with the policy while others are not. This begs the
question: Why is Hayley unable to fulfil the policy requirements?
24
Assessment criteria
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The second assignment focused on specific outcome two. Again it was an
elaborate assignment completed in the second term. Students were expected to
complete five activities, such as making comparisons, identifying variables and
values, designing fair experiments and tests, measuring and recording, and
drawing and interpreting graphs. Hayley had provided a rubric for the assessment
of each activity using a scale of 1 denoting low achievement, to 4 denoting high
achievement. Hayley had assessed each activity against the rubric and recorded
the marks.
The analysis of this second assignment reveals first that Hayley used assignment
or portfolio assessment as a form of assessment as required by the policy. Second,
she linked her assessment practice to the assessment policy by mentioning the
specific outcome supposedly to be achieved and providing a rubric indicating the
criteria and making these available to the students. Third, questions requiring the
integration of knowledge, concepts and skills, and not only memorisation of
information have been assessed as required by the policy. However the purpose of
the assignment had not been clearly defined as required by the policy.
Furthermore the specific outcome to be achieved had not been clearly defined
except the mention of “specific outcome 2”, indicating a lack of correspondence
with the policy. It is clear that this assignment corresponded to the specific
outcome requiring students to “Demonstrate an understanding of concepts and
principles, and constructed knowledge in the Natural Sciences” (Department of
Education, 1997: 11).
The assessment of attitudes and values has not been
assessed despite the prevailing opportunity in the assignment. The analysis
therefore suggests that part of her practice is aligned with the policy while others
are not. This begs the question: Why is Hayley unable to fulfil the policy
requirements?
The third assignment had focused on specific outcome 4 that I had observed
students completing in class as discussed above (see Assignment/Portfolio, B4, 19
August 2002). Hayley had assessed each of the eight activities against the rubric
and recorded the marks in her mark sheet/book. The analysis revealed as stated
earlier that this assessment practice corresponded in many ways to the policy, for
example, assignment as a way of assessing students was used, what students were
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to learn were clearly defined, questions assessing knowledge and skills were
incorporated, questions assessing higher levels of thinking such as application of
knowledge, not only memorisation of information, had been incorporated
illustrating, criteria for assessment were provided to the students (although they
did not what it meant). But there were also instances showing no correspondence
with the policy, such as: the specific outcomes were not clearly defined, the
purpose of the assessment was not made clear, and values and attitude were not
assessed. This begs the question why.
Tests (B7, 3)
The nine notebooks that I had examined showed that students pasted the typed,
teacher-prepared question papers with their respective answer sheets at the back of
the notebook. Some were short tests (three) others were long tests (two) such as
the standardised test of the first term and the June examination. The teacher
marked these tests, and students had corrected answers in pencil indicating they
were reviewed in class. This shows a correspondence with the policy in that
assessment is made an integral part of the learning process and the achievement
results are communicated clearly, timeously and meaningfully to the students. The
first term question paper revealed varied types of questions such as multiple
choice, short questions, long questions and graphs, as well as application of
knowledge and skills illustrating compliance with the policy. But the analysis also
revealed a lack of correspondence with the policy such as that the purpose of the
assessment was not made clear, a lack of focus on the achievement of clearly
defined outcomes, the criterion-referenced approach was not used, questions
focused mainly on the memorisation of facts, specifically with the short tests. This
begs the question: Why the inconsistencies with the policy?
Reports (B7, 4)
Hayley had reported that students received four reports for the year, one per term
(personal communication, 19 July 2002). This serves to illustrate that the
reporting process seems to be an integral part of teaching and learning in
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compliance with the policy.
I examined nine randomly collected reports from
students.
First Term Report
This two-page report card had the name of the school, and was titled “Progress
Report, Term 1 2002”, with information indicating the name of the student, grade,
administration number, date of birth and days absent. It had three columns, one
indicating the “Learning Area”, one the “Rating” and the other “%”. Below each
learning area appeared “SO” (without stating what SO stood for) with a number
and what it meant, for example, below Natural Sciences there appeared three SOs,
SO1, SO2 and SO3, and next to each what it meant: “SO1: Use processing skills
to investigate phenomena related to the natural sciences”. The number of SOs
varied per learning area. The rating for each SO varied from 1 to 5 with a box at
the bottom of the report card indicating what the numbers represented: “1 - not yet
developed; 2 - Needs support; 3 – Satisfactory; 4 - Exceeds expectations; 5 Excels”. On the next page were short comments made by the Register Teacher,
who signed the report. The Grade Tutor also signed it. Below this was also a
notice written in bold print notifying parents of the date and time of the
forthcoming parents evening.
This report is in accordance with the policy requirement such as progression is
linked to the achievement of specific outcomes, comments made on the personal
and social development and attendance of the student, indicates the strengths and
developmental needs of students, and parents are offered the opportunity to ensure
the reporting process “become the focal point for dialogue between the home and
the learning site” (Department of Education, 1998: 13). However there is one
concern that I have with the report and that relates to the use of the abbreviation
“SO” for specific outcomes without indicating what SO represents. Do parents
know what it means or is it assumed that they know? Assuming they do not know
then the meaningfulness of the report is compromised hence violating one of the
requirements of the reporting process in terms of effective communication about
student achievement.
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Half-Year Report
The half-year or second term report was similar to the first term except for the
date and specific outcomes (SO) changing in some cases, for example in Natural
Science there were two SOs, SO1 and SO4, whereas in the first term there were
three SOs, SO 1, So2 and SO4. My concerns are the same as for the first term
report card.
Third Term Report
I was informed that students would not receive a report card for this term as they
usually did because not sufficient work was covered (personal communication
with teacher, 23 August 2002). This was because of the change to the school term
for this particular province that made the third term shorter than usual (ibid). The
change to the third term was a response to the World Summit on Sustainable
Development that was held in this province.
Year-End Report
This report card was different from the first and second term report cards. It was a
one-page report card with the name of the school, and was titled “REPORT,
DECEMBER 2002”, with information indicating the name of the student, grade,
administration number, date of birth and days absent. However there was no table,
but two columns, one indicating the nine learning areas and the other indicating
“O” or “A”, or “PA” or “NA” corresponding to the learning area. What each
represented was indicated in a box, for example, “O: Outstanding; A: Achieved;
PA: Partially achieved; NA: Not achieved”. There were brief “comments” made
by the Register Teacher, for example in one report card the comments were:
“Promoted to gr. 9 in 2003. N.A.S. in the following learning areas: MLMMS, NS,
AC, LO. The date when the school was to reopen in the following year was also
indicated.
The analysis presents findings that raise the following concerns. First, what is the
meaning of “Outstanding”? That is, outstanding in comparison to what? How
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would the parent, student or any relevant stakeholder make meaning of this?
Secondly, “Achieved, Partially achieved, Not achieved” what? Again what
meaning can students, parents or any relevant stakeholder make of this? Third,
what is the meaning of “N. A. S” used in the report? This seems meaningless.
Fourth, what is the meaning of the acronyms “MLMMS, NS, AC, LO”? Do
parents, students or any relevant stakeholders know what these acronyms mean or
is it assumed that they know. What if they do not know? Is the report being
sensitive to the needs of parents? I would therefore argue that effective
communication about learner achievement has been compromised, making this
report card inconsistent with the policy. Furthermore there is no comment on the
personal and social development of the student as required by the policy. Again it
shows a move away from the policy. The question is why?
I shall move on to examine the examination question papers for evidence of
compliance/non compliance with her understanding and beliefs of the policy, her
reports on her practice; the policy and the kinds of changes made if any.
Examination Question Papers (B9)
Hayley had informed me that students wrote two examinations, one in June and
one in November (personal communication, 19 July 2002).
June Examination (B9, 1)
Both Hayley and the students had copies of this question paper that was easily
accessible.
The heading on the six-page question paper indicated that it was an examination,
that is: Natural Science Exam”, and Hayley’s name appeared as the examiner. It
was a one-hour paper and carried a total of 85 marks. The paper consisted of two
sections, section A and section B. Section A consisted of one question requiring
short answers, for example multiple choice, true and false, providing correct terms
and choosing from a given list of alternatives. It required factual recall of
information and made up 25 marks. A prepared answer sheet had been prepared
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for the responses to this section. Section B had three questions, one based on a
diagram, one on an experiment and one graph, each carrying 20 marks each.
November Examination (B9, 2)
Hayley was the examiner for this one-and-half hour paper that carried 120 marks.
It had two sections, section A and B. Section A consisted of one question
requiring short answers, for example multiple choice, true and false, providing
correct terms and choosing from a given list of alternatives. It required factual
recall of information and made up 40 marks. A prepared answer sheet had been
prepared for the responses to this section. Section B consisted of two long
questions, each carrying 40 marks.
The analysis of both question papers show compliance with the policy in that
assessment was varied and balanced in terms of the different types of questions;
knowledge and skills were assessed, application of knowledge was assessed and
not only recall of information, and it seemed time efficient. However Hayley
reported that she used marking memoranda to mark students work (ibid). She did
not mention specific outcomes at all. This reveals that she did not consider the
outcomes to be achieved, contrary to the policy that emphasises: “assessment in
OBE focuses on the achievement of clearly defined outcomes” (Department of
Education, 1998: 9). This begs the question why?
Hayley informed me that the purpose of this examination was:
[To] prepare the schedule and final report and for
promotion. The following year the teachers do not use it.
Teachers do not have access to the information and no time
to look at files.
(Personal communication, 3 December 2002)
This raises the question: How could this final examination result be made use of
more meaningfully?
The analysis from all the data sources, namely, questionnaire, interviews,
classroom observations, teacher documents, teacher records, student notebooks,
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student records, and examinations suggests, first, a relationship between her
surface understanding of the policy and her assessment practice especially with
regard to the concepts ‘outcomes’, ‘criterion-reference’, ‘assessment criteria’, the
goal of assessment, and the rationale driving the new assessment system; second,
her assessment practice is weakly connected to her negative feelings about the
policy, that is despite her many negative feelings about the policy and the its
requirements she is trying to implement it; third, a mismatch between her stated
claims and her assessment practice; and fourth, some correspondence between her
assessment practice and the new assessment policy, and some lack of
correspondence between her assessment practice and the new assessment policy.
This analysis invokes the following questions: Why does she have a surface
understanding of the assessment policy? Why, despite her negative feelings about
the policy she is able to comply with some of the demands? Why is there a
mismatch between her stated claims and her assessment practice? Why are there
some connections and some disconnections between her assessment practice and
the policy? I pursue these questions in Chapter Eight.
Summary of Chapter Six
A summary of the key findings in this chapter are: Hayley has a surface
understanding of the new assessment policy, and her beliefs or attitudes towards
the new assessment policy are mostly negative, that is, she expresses negative
feelings towards the policy, for example, she reported that assessing in new ways
was a nightmare
Second her assessment practices show both continuities and
discontinuities with the assessment policy. I explore the possible explanations for
these findings in Chapter Eight.
In the next chapter I shall develop a cross-case analysis as an analytical tool to
compare Dinzi’s and Hayley’s understandings and beliefs with regard to the
assessment policy and Dinzi’s and Hayley’s assessment practices in the light of
this new official assessment policy.
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CHAPTER SEVEN
Cross-Case Analysis: Convergences and Divergences?
We need to be positive1
I think I must resign2
In the previous two chapters I analysed each case study separately, that is, I conducted
a ‘within case analysis’. In this chapter I intend to conduct a cross-case analysis of
these two teacher cases. My objective is to compare the cases systematically to see
what insights each case generates in terms of each teacher’s understandings and
beliefs relating to the new assessment policy, and the teachers’ assessment practice in
the classroom. Through this cross-case comparison, I seek to juxtapose the two
complex cases in search of patterns that illuminate the relationship between policy
and practice in the context of assessment policy change.
This cross-case analysis is designed to address the three overarching research
questions of the study:
1. What are teacher understandings and beliefs with regard to the
assessment policy?
2. In the context of official policy, how do teachers practice assessment in
their classrooms?
3. How can the continuities and discontinuities between the official
assessment policy and the teachers’ assessment practice be explained?
In this chapter I respond to the first two questions, and shall respond to the third
question in the next chapter. The two previous case studies generated rich data that
allowed me to provide preliminary responses to the two research questions. But this
cross-case analysis will not only serve to compare these findings, but more
importantly it will enable me to test my propositions about ‘deep change’ articulated
in the initial chapters of this thesis.
1
2
Quote from part of Dinzi’s interview
Quote from part of Hayley’s interview
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A Comparison of Personal, Professional and Contextual Factors:
Teacher Dinzi and Teacher Hayley
I shall compare the personal, professional and contextual differences between Dinzi
and Haley. I believe that these personal, professional and contextual factors are
fundamental in understanding teacher actions as they provide a backdrop to their
pedagogical work and its location within the assessment policy framework. I intend to
describe the significance of these factors and their differences in the next chapter.
Dinzi is a forty-year old, Black African, Xhosa-speaking, female, level one
educator/teacher with fifteen years teaching experience in the same school called
Delamani High School located in a Black township, while Hayley is a twenty-eight
year old, White, Afrikaans speaking, female, level one educator/teacher with six years
teaching experience in the same school called Higgins High School located in an
urban area still inhabited mostly by Whites. Dinzi is a formally qualified teacher
holding a Junior Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in Science and Mathematics obtained
from a college of education in the former homelands in 1977, as well as a Bachelor of
Arts degree with majors in Psychology and Sociology obtained from a university in
the former homeland in 1985. Hayley is also formally qualified holding a Higher
Education Diploma obtained from the University of Pretoria in 1996 as well as a
Bachelor of Science Degree with majors in Zoology and Physiology obtained from
the same university in 1995. Dinzi has taught Grade 8 and Grade 9 Mathematics for
the past fourteen years, while Hayley has taught Grade 8 Mathematics for 1 year,
Grade 10 Physical Science for 2 years, and Grades 10, 11 and 12 Biology for 5 years.
Both Dinzi and Hayley are currently teaching only one Grade 8 Natural Science class,
although for Dinzi this is the first time that she is teaching this learning area, while for
Hayley it is her second year of teaching this learning area in this grade. Dinzi
currently also teaches Mathematics to three Grade 9 classes, and English to one Grade
9 class and to one Grade 10 class, and is also the class teacher of Grade 10 A. Hayley
currently also teaches Biology to two Grade 10 classes, Biology to two Grade 12
classes and is the Mentor Teacher to one Grade 12 class, and is the class teacher of
Grade 12 D. Dinzi teaches thirty periods per week while Hayley teaches thirty two
periods per week although both enjoy ten periods of non-teaching time per week.
With regard to extra-curricular activities, Dinzi is a member of the Sports, Library and
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School Uniform Committee, School Development Team, School Governing Body,
and School Assessment Team while Hayley is a coach and organiser for athletics and
netball. As far as training for the new curriculum and new assessment policy is
concerned, Dinzi has received general training in outcomes-based education, in Grade
9 Mathematics, none in Grade 8 Natural Science, and very little in assessment
specifically, while Hayley has received general training in outcomes-based education,
in Grade 9 Natural Science, in Natural Science but at a very general level, and very
little on assessment specifically. Dinzi’s Grade 8 B (observed class in this study) is
constituted of fifty Black African, formally registered students (although this number
was not present in all observed lessons; the number observed varied between a
minimum of twenty eight to a maximum of forty two). Haley’s Grade 8 D (observed
class in this study) is constituted of thirty-three students of which thirty are Black
African, two are White and one is Coloured. Dinzi teaches all her classes in a normal
classroom that is small, under-resourced and educationally uninspiring, while Hayley
teaches her classes in a science laboratory that is spacious, well resourced and
educationally inspiring. Dinzi used two old and outdated science textbooks, namely,
“SEP – Physical Science Std. 6” dated 1980-1985 and “General Science in Action
Std. 6” dated 1984, while Hayley used a new science textbook titled Natural Sciences
for Grade 8: Learner’s Book. 2000. The Learning Station Series by Roodt, Whitlock,
Wessels & Ray. Haley’s students also use the same book while Dinzi’s students have
no textbooks.
The school, Delamani High School where Dinzi teaches, has forty professional staff
consisting of thirty-nine Black African, and one Indian, and six non-professional staff,
and one thousand and seventy three Black African students, while the school Higgins
High School where Hayley teaches, has forty two professional staff consisting twenty
six White, four Black Africans, four Indians, and three Coloureds, and thirteen nonprofessional staff, and eight hundred and seventy seven students, made up of 75%
Black African, 20% Whites, 3% Indian, 2% Coloureds. Dinzi’s school operates two
time tables, one for Mondays to Thursdays, and another for Fridays; school begins at
08:45 from Mondays to Fridays, and ends at 14:05 from Mondays to Thursdays, but
ends at 13:00 on Fridays. Hayley’s school operates three time tables, one for
Mondays, another for Tuesdays and Thursdays, and another one for Wednesdays;
lessons begin at 07:30 and ends at 14:00 from Mondays to Fridays, and each day
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starts with a ten-minute staff meeting from 07:20 to 07:30 in the staff room chaired by
the principal. This information is tabulated in the following pages.
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A Table Comparing the Personal, Professional and Contextual Factors of Teacher Dinzi and Teacher Hayley
Age
Race
Gender
Level
First language
Qualifications
Current formal studies
Teaching experience
Experience in teaching Grade 8
Natural
Science
(New
curriculum)
Number of Grade 8 Natural
Science
classes
presently
teaching
Other Learning Areas/Subjects
teaching this year
Class Teacher
Number of teaching periods per
week
Number
of
non-teaching
periods
Training in new curriculum and
assessment policy (note where
provided it was extremely
limited)
Extra-curricular activities
School
Dinzi
Hayley
40 years
Black African
Female
Level One
Xhosa
Junior Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in Science and Mathematics from a college of education
in Transkei, a former homeland in 1977
28 years
White
Female
Level One
Afrikaans
Higher education Diploma from the University of Pretoria in 1996
Bachelor of Arts specialising in Psychology and Sociology from a university in Transkei, a
former homeland in 1985
Further Certificate in Outcomes-Based Education at a provincial university and funded by the
provincial department of education
15 years
Grade 8 and 9 Mathematics for 14 years
Bachelor of Science with majors in Zoology and Physiology from the
University of Pretoria in 1995
No
Nil.
6 years
Grade 8 Mathematics for 1 year
Grade 10 Physical Science for 2 years
Grades 10, 11 and 12 Biology for 5 years
1 year
1 (out of 4): Grade 8 B
1 (out of 6): Grade 8 D
Mathematics: Grade 9 – 3 classes
English: Grade 9 – 1 class
English Grade 10 – 1 class
Grade 10 A
30
Biology: Grade 10 – 2 classes
Biology: Grade 12 – 2 classes
Mentor Teacher Grade 12 – 1 class
Grade 12 D
32
10
10
General in outcomes-based education
Grade 9 Mathematics
None in Grade 8 Natural Science
None on assessment
Member of Sports, Library and School Uniform Committees, School Development Team,
School Governing Body, School Assessment Team
Township – Delamani High School with Grades 8 to 12
General in outcomes-based education
Grade 9 Natural Science
General on Natural Science
Very little on assessment
Coach and organiser for athletics and netball
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Urban – Higgins High School with Grades 8 to 12
Distance from home to school
How travel to school
Staff composition
Student composition
School building
School time table
Number of students in
observed
Grade
8
Natural Science class
Classroom
where
lessons observed
Textbook
used
by
teacher
Textbook
used
by
students
Dinzi
Hayley
9 kilometres
Taxi
40 professional staff – 39 Black African, 1 Indian
9 kilometres
Own car
42 professional staff – 26 White, 4 Black Africans,
4 Indians, 3 Coloureds
13 non-professional
877 – 75% Black African, 20% Whites, 3% Indian, 2% Coloured
Attractive
3 time tables in operation
School begins at 07:30 and ends at 14:00 from Mondays to Fridays
6 non-professional staff
1073 – all Black African
Drab
2 time tables in operation
School begins at 08:45 from Mondays to Fridays
School ends at 14:05 from Mondays to Thursdays, but at 13:00 on Fridays
50 (although this number was not present in all observed lessons; between
28 and 42 observed)
All Black African
Normal classroom that was uninspiring and unattractive
33 regularly present in all observed lessons
Two outdated textbooks, namely, “SEP – Physical Science Std. 6” dated
1980-1985 and “General Science in Action Std. 6” dated 1984.
No textbook
Natural Sciences for Grade 8: Learner’s Book. 2000. The
Learning Station Series by Roodt, Whitlock, Wessels, & Ray.
Natural Sciences for Grade 8: Learner’s Book. 2000. The
Learning Station Series by Roodt, Whitlock, Wessels, & Ray
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30 Black African, 2 White, 1 Coloured
Laboratory that was very inspiring and attractive
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
In the next section I examine, compare and contrast Dinzi’s and Haley’s
understandings and beliefs with regard to the new assessment policy, in response to
the first research question given above.
A Comparison of the Understandings and Beliefs with regard to the new
Assessment Policy of Teacher Dinzi and Teacher Hayley
I draw on information from the questionnaires (A1 for Dinzi; B1 for Hayley); free
writing schedules (A2 for Dinzi and B2 for Hayley) and interviews (A3 for Dinzi; B3
for Hayley) to construct the comparative analysis of their understandings and beliefs
with regard to the assessment policy.
I shall first examine and compare each one’s responses to the Questionnaires (A1 and
B1) about each ones understanding and beliefs about the policy. I first compare their
understandings of the policy followed by a comparison of their beliefs about the
policy.
A Comparison of their Understandings of the Policy
While Dinzi claimed that the assessment policy was easy to understand, it provided
easy guidelines for implementation, and it allows for flexible implementation, Hayley
claimed that this was not so. The question that emerges is: Why are the responses
different and how would the difference influence each teacher’s assessment practice?
Both Dinzi and Hayley are in full agreement that the policy makes recording of
assessment data cumbersome, and that it provided a clear indication about how well
every outcome in the learning programmes are being taught and learned.
Both agreed that the policy provides the pedagogical basis for our new education and
training system (although Dinzi strongly agreed), that assessment should be an
integral, ongoing part of the learning process (Dinzi strongly agreed), that the specific
outcomes, which are grounded in the critical outcomes, will serve as the basis for
assessment, that learners who do not meet the criteria must receive clear explanations
with an indication of areas that need further attention, focusing on formal tests as the
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sole method of assessment should be avoided (Dinzi strongly), creates opportunity for
feedback to learners to improve learning, informs and improves the assessment
practices of educators (Dinzi strongly), makes it possible for results to be reported
both informally and formally, and it allows for the assessment of knowledge, skills,
values and attitudes. These responses invoke the question: Do these statements find
expression in their deep understanding of the policy and in their classroom practice?
They differed on a number of factors relating to the policy, for example, Dinzi
strongly agreed that the purpose of assessment should always be made clear to the
learners but Hayley was not sure; Dinzi agreed the criterion-referenced approach
should be used while Hayley was not sure; Dinzi agreed the various specific outcomes
and their assessment criteria must be available to learners while Hayley disagreed;
Dinzi was not sure that teachers have no problems implementing the new assessment
policy while Hayley disagreed; Dinzi agreed that it enables assessment results to be
communicated clearly, accurately, timeously and meaningfully but Hayley disagreed;
and Dinzi agreed that it allows the internal assessment process to be moderated
externally in accordance with specific provincial guidelines but Hayley disagreed.
These responses elicit the question: Why do they differ and how will these differences
influence their deeper understanding and implementation of the policy?
The analyses resulting from the questionnaire show both similarities and differences
in their understandings. The similarities are connected to the policy requirements.
Where they differed, some were connected to the policy while others were
disconnected, for example, Dinzi agreed that it enables assessment results to be
communicated clearly, accurately, timeously and meaningfully as required by the
policy but Hayley disagreed. I recognise that this research instrument on its own
might possibly provide limited insight into their understandings therefore I will probe
into each ones’ interview to obtain the deeper insight necessary to respond adequately
to the research question.
I now examine and compare Dinzi and Haley’s responses to the free-writing
schedules (A2 for Dinzi and B2 for Hayley) and interviews (A3 for Dinzi and B3 for
Hayley) about each ones understanding about the policy.
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With regard to the rationale underpinning the new assessment policy, Dinzi’s
understanding is as follows:
Through assessment the students’ achievement on this road to
success can be measured against the expected outcomes. It
therefore sees to it that students are given equal opportunities
to succeed by implementing different methods of assessment in
order to accommodate all the levels of abilities of students.
(A1)
While Haley’s understanding is as follows:
To vary methods used to assess learners (to give the bigger
picture) not just theoretical. To give tools to assess the weaker
learners, to credit learners at whatever rate that may have
acquired the necessary competence. To encourage life-long
learning
(B1)
The analysis suggests different understandings, but both Dinzi and Hayley know that
they need to use different methods of assessment, and both invoke the rhetorical terms
associated with the education policy agenda generally such as “students are given
equal opportunities”, “all the levels of abilities”, “at whatever rate” and “lifelong
learning”. But only Dinzi mentioned ‘outcomes’ which closely but partially resembles
the rationale as provided by the policy, namely, “both the shortcomings of the current
assessment policy, and the requirements of the new curriculum for grades R-9 and
Adult Basic Education and Training, have made it necessary to develop a new
assessment policy” (Department of Education, 1998: 8). I recognise that
interpretations of texts will differ from person to person, depending on a variety of
factors, but the issue for this study is how will this different, if not superficial
understandings between the two teachers impact each ones assessment practice.
To Dinzi the goal of the assessment policy is:
To make it possible for the learner to meet same standards in
the same grade though they may be in different schools. It then
accommodates learners even if they need transfer from one
school to another.
(A2)
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While to Haley the goal is:
To give a better reflection on a learner’s capabilities. To
continuously assess a learner’s progress. To maximise a
learner’s potential.
(B2)
While their responses seem different they cohere in the emphasis that each teacher
places on the ‘learner’ but without mentioning the ‘teacher’. Haley’s reference to
‘continuous’ assessment share some resemblance with the policy that articulates that
the goal of the policy is to “enhance the provision of education for each learner which
is continuous, coherent and progressive, making it one of the key element in the
quality assurance system. The policy introduces a shift from a system that is
dominated by public examinations which are ‘high stakes’, and whose main function
has always been to rank, grade, select and certificate learners, to a new system that
informs and improves the curriculum and assessment practices of educators …”
(Department of Education, 1998: 9-10). From this analysis it is clear that both Dinzi
and Haley have different understandings of the goal of the policy and understandings
that seem only partially connected to that given in the policy. Why? How will this
influence each ones assessment practice.
Dinzi’s general understanding of the policy is as follows:
I am not conversant about the basics. I cannot really get deep
into it. I don’t have deep knowledge about it as such.
(A3)
I understood it as the new way that was introduced by the
National Department of Education; what should be done, what
are the procedures to be taken, what forms of assessment the
people have used. What tools and techniques and what methods
should they be used, and then how much involved should a
student be in the assessment.
(A3).
But Haley’s is as follows:
I do not understand everything in these documents. I have got
all this information; I am not detailed so much in the sense of
ideas.
(B1)
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To continuously assess learners with the aid of various methods
and not just with the use of tests and exams. Not to link learners
to a percentage but assess them on “if a skill have been
mastered or not”. Learners must get the opportunity to improve
themselves. Teacher must guide learner to obtain level needed
to master the skill in question.
(B2)
By their own admission both teachers concede that they do not have a deep
understanding of the policy. Their understandings differ in that Dinzi knows that it is
related to a “new way” generally and but she focuses more on the ‘what’ of the
assessment, while Hayley on the other hand repeats ‘continuous assessment and
different methods’ in most of her responses but in this specific case she adds that the
new policy is moving away from examinations and tests and mentions skills that are
to be mastered. However both understandings are partially connected to the
assessment policy that states that the assessment practice must be compatible to OBE;
focus on the achievement of clearly defined outcomes; assess continuously; use a
variety of tools and methods to generate and collect evidence of achievement;
evaluate evidence against outcomes; record findings; use findings to assist learners
develop and improve teaching and learning and define what learners are to learn
(Department of Education, 1998: 9-14).
According to Dinzi the purpose of assessment is:
[To] make the learners to be independent, accountable and
responsible citizens
(A2)
For Hayley it is:
To give a reflection on a learner’s capability. To be able to
assess if a learner has obtained/master a skill. To continuously
assess a learner’s progress and maximise a learner’s potential.
(B2)
It is clear that their respective understandings differ from each other. Dinzi’s
understanding is very general and unrelated to that given in the policy, while Haley’s
partially resembles the policy that states the purpose of assessment is to determine
whether learning required for the achievement of the specific outcomes is taking
place; determine whether any difficulties are being encountered; report to parents,
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other role players and stakeholders on the levels of achievement during learning
process; build a profile of the learner’s achievement across the curriculum; provide
information for the evaluation and review of the learning programmes used in the
classroom and maximise learners’ access to the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values
defined in the national curriculum policy (Department of Education, 1998: 9-10).
Dinzi’s understanding of formative assessment is:
The assessment that happens during the learning process and
gives information about learner’s progress thus far.
(B2)
Haley’s understanding is:
Assessment with the use of tests and exams (tests usually based
on theory/written)
(B2)
They differ in their understandings of formative assessment as illustrated above.
However Haley’s understanding seems incorrect, while Dinzi’s has some connections
to the policy that indicates formative assessment ensures “the positive achievements
of the learner may be recognised and discussed and the appropriate next steps may be
planned” (Department of Education, 1998: 11).
Dinzi’s understanding of critical outcomes is as follows:
I am not sure about it.
(A3)
While Haley’s is:
It’s that five main ones of all subjects, if I’m correct, and that’s
like you must be able to work in a group, you must be able,
there’s five big ones that overall, that’s as far as I know. It’s
more a global view, certain things the government want each
student at the end of the schooling career, the critical things
they want a child to be able to do or the skills they might have
obtained after twelve years in school.
(B3)
Dinzi admits that she has no understanding of critical outcomes, while Haley’s
response is partially linked to the policy meaning of critical outcomes, namely “the
broad, generic, cross-curricular outcomes” (Department of Education, 1998: 19) and
that “the specific outcomes grounded in the critical outcomes will serve as a basis for
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assessment” (p.11). The questions invoked are: Why is Dinzi not sure about the
meaning of critical outcomes, a fundamental concept driving not only the new
assessment system but also the new system of education? How will this affect her
assessment practice? How would Hayley’s partial understanding of the concept
critical outcome influence her assessment practice?
Specific outcomes to Dinzi means:
What is expected of students to know at the end of each
lesson… the assessment is guided by this specific outcomes.
(A3).
To Hayley specific outcomes mean:
The skills they must have obtained while, whatever you are
doing is taking place. So that’s what they want us in Natural
Science, the specific outcomes they want at the end of the
phase.
(B3)
Their understandings differ in terms of each ones emphases, Dinzi refers to
knowledge only without mentioning skills, attitudes and values, while Hayley refers
to skills only without mentioning knowledge, attitudes and values. However they
seem to have a general but partial understanding in terms of the policy that defines
specific outcomes as that “what learners are capable of knowing and doing at the end
of a learning experience. A learner’s skills, knowledge, attitudes or values may
demonstrate the achievement of an outcome or a set of outcomes” (Department of
Education, 1998: 21). The achievement of clearly defined outcomes makes it possible
to credit learner achievement at every level, whatever pathway and whatever rate
(ibid)
To Dinzi criterion-referenced approach to assessment means:
[A] certain criteria you set when you assess the students. But
now the problem with it is that the criteria will differ from one
educator to another because it depends now on what you expect
from the students. Our criteria will never be the same.
(A3)
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Hayley reported:
I don’t know what this means. I can analyse the word and say
what I think it means, but for the rest I have not heard about
this before.
(B2)
Hayley admits that she does not know what it means. Why she does not know is
crucial to explore further. Dinzi’s explanation is not linked to that provided by the
policy, which explains it thus: “The practice of assessing a student’s performance
against an agreed set of criteria. In the case of OBE the student is assessed against
agreed criteria derived from the specific outcomes” (Department of Education: 1998:
19). The question is: How will this limited understanding affect their assessment
practices?
Dinzi’s understanding of assessment criteria is:
What do you use to assess the students? Are you going to use
question and answers or are you going to the groups
themselves to assess themselves. … I’m not sure I’m using it
correctly
(A3)
While Haley’s understanding is:
The AC’s are the ones elaborating on the SOs. That’s what they
want at the end of the day, to be able to assess underneath each
of the nine SOs we’ve got in Natural Science. Each specific
outcome has mos its assessment criteria, how you going to
assess that specific outcome.
(B3)
It seems clear that the two teachers have different conceptual understandings of
‘assessment criteria’. While Dinzi associates assessment criteria with methods of
assessment, Hayley has an idea that the specific outcomes and assessment criteria are
somewhat related in terms of its physical location in the curriculum policy. But both
explanations are not connected to that given by the policy, that is, “evidence that the
student has achieved the specific outcomes. The criteria indicate in broad terms, the
observable processes and products of learning which serve as evidence of the
students’ achievement” (Department of Education, 1998: 19). The specific outcomes
and their assessment criteria must be made available to students to inform them what
is to be assessed, and that students who do not meet the criteria must receive clear
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explanations with clear explanations with indications of areas that need further work
and must be assisted to reach the required criteria (ibid).
Continuous assessment for Dinzi is:
When students are assessed almost daily and this counts
towards their CASS.
(A2).
For Hayley it is:
To continuously assess learners on various types of activities
with the use of different methods. To continuously track a
learner’s progress, so as to identify problems early, with
enough time for corrective measures. I say the whole year and
their marks are not just based on one exam at the end of the
year. You get a picture of how strong the child actually is.
(B2).
It can be seen that Dinzi has a limited understanding of continuous assessment
compared to Hayley whose understanding closely resembles that stated in the policy,
that is: “An ongoing process that measures a learner’s achievement during the course
of a grade or level, providing information that is used to support a learner’s
development and enable improvements to be made in the learning and teaching
process” (Department of Education, 1998: 19). It is the “best model to assess
outcomes of learning throughout the system” (p9).
Dinzi’s understanding of the relationship of the new assessment policy with the
national curriculum is:
Not very sure and not conversant with the new national
curriculum.
(A3)
Haley’s understanding is:
I am not sure what the national curriculum framework means.
(B3)
Both Dinzi and Hayley admit that they do not know what the national curriculum is,
and therefore by implication they would lack an understanding of its relationship to
the new assessment policy. This relationship is clearly articulated in the assessment
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policy: This new assessment policy for the General Education and Training Band,
alongside the new national curriculum framework, provides the pedagogic basis for
out new education and training system (Department of Education, 1998: 8). This
finding invokes the questions: Why do they lack this understanding? How will this
lack of understanding influence their assessment practice?
The cross-case analysis suggests first that Dinzi’s understandings of the policy in
most instances differ from Haley’s understandings of the policy; and second that each
one has her own understanding that in most cases is dissimilar to that of the policy.
Based on this analysis I shall argue that both have surface understandings of the
policy. Why this is the case and how this would influence their assessment practice
are crucial questions to address for the policy implementation process.
A Comparison of their Beliefs of the Policy
Dinzi believes that the policy:
[Encouraged] educators to work with the learners.
(A2)
And Hayley believes that the policy helped her:
[Try] to find different ways in assessing learners. Plan
activities in such a way to be able to assess it differently.
(B2)
The analysis suggests that both Dinzi and Hayley demonstrate positive feelings
towards the policy.
While Dinzi believes that the policy:
[Is] more learner-oriented. Learners are actively involved when
you assess them.
(A2)
Hayley believes that the policy helped her:
Give a better reflection on a learner’s capability and to
maximise a learner’s potential.
(B2)
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The analysis again shows that both Dinzi and Hayley demonstrate positive feelings
towards the policy.
While Dinzi believes:
[There] is not much demand except that what we have been
doing in the past has been given new names now.
(A2)
Hayley believes:
[Definitely] a lot of new demands, for example, take a lot of
extra time (some pupils return assignments up to 5 times after
they have improved it, to be assessed again; planning, large
amounts of forms to fill in (administration), A tremendous
amount of planning, Setting activities in such a manner that it
can be assessed in different ways, A lot of stress because
instructions change, really don’t know if I am on the right track
or not. At this point I feel a bit lost. Documents too general and
confusing (too many different ones, do not know which one to
use)
(B2)
The analysis differs from the previous ones, in that it suggests that while Dinzi is
more positive towards the policy, Hayley seems less positive or maybe negative
towards the policy.
Dinzi believes that parents should be involved in the assessment process (A2) but
Hayley believes that parents should not be involved in the assessment process (B2).
The analysis suggests again that Dinzi is more positive towards the policy while
Hayley seems less positive towards the policy.
Dinzi believes:
The standards have been elevated because you associate
assignments with universities; you never thought you can give a
Grade 9 child to do a project, to go do an assignment. We’d
just give them home work; there was no emphasis to doing
these projects and assignments.
(A3)
But Hayley believes:
A university still needs to know what the child is capable of and
I don’t know how this assessment is going to help a university
to know if someone can go there.
(B3)
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The analysis shows again that Dinzi is more positive towards the policy while Hayley
seems less positive towards the policy.
While Dinzi believes:
We need to be positive; with time say in 2 years time if there
are no changes again we will make it
(A3)
Hayley believes:
The assessment for me is a nightmare.
(B3)
The analysis shows again that Dinzi is more positive towards the policy while Hayley
seems less positive or maybe negative towards the policy.
According to Dinzi:
The learners benefit because they know in detail the different
topics the educator dealt with in class (viz. the specific
outcomes)
(A2)
But for Hayley:
Only weak learners (theoretically) benefits from this way of
assessment. Learner who is very clever gets frustrated
sometimes. Parents are affected in the way that learners need
resources from different places, needs to get there and back
(for example, brochures, library, interviews, etc,) – time
consuming for everyone.
(B2)
The analysis shows again that Dinzi is more positive towards the policy while Hayley
seems partially but less positive towards the policy.
Dinzi believes
In a way I can use the policy in class with small factors being
considered like the size of the room.
(A2)
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But to Hayley:
Some methods from the policy I can use but some of the
methods are totally ridiculous.
(B2)
The analysis shows again Dinzi’s more positive disposition towards the policy
compared to Hayley who seems partially but less positively disposed towards the
policy.
Dinzi does not feel empowered and confidant to implement the policy (A3) while
Hayley believes that the policy assists those students who can work creatively with
their hands rather than ‘theoretically’ (B3). In this instance the analysis shows a
reversal from the previous analyses in that Dinzi demonstrates a less positive view
towards the policy while Hayley has a positive view towards the policy.
Dinzi believes that she is:
[Not] very conversant and don’t have a deep knowledge about
the policy.
(A3)
And Hayley believes she:
[Does] not understand everything in these documents. I have
got all this information; I am not detailed so much in the sense
of ideas. It is confusing.
(B3)
The analysis now suggests that both Dinzi and Hayley seem less positive towards the
policy.
According to Dinzi, she believes that she did not receive adequate training implement
the assessment policy (A2). Hayley believes likewise, that she did not receive
adequate training to implement the assessment policy (B2). It seems clear that both
show less positive dispositions towards the policy.
Dinzi believes that that it is difficult to assess projects and assignments because:
Learners don’t go the extra mile to and find the information
and they don’t do their work.
(A3)
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And Hayley believes that it is:
[Difficult] to assess oral work and attitudes and values.
(B3)
Both seem to show less positive views towards the policy.
The cross-case analysis suggests first that Dinzi’s beliefs about the policy in most
instances differ from Haley’s beliefs about the policy; second that Dinzi seem to
possess more positive beliefs about the policy than Hayley; third that Dinzi has more
positive beliefs about the policy than less positive or maybe negative beliefs; and
fourth that Hayley seems to have more, less positive/negative beliefs about the policy
that positive ones. Based on this analysis I shall argue that both have positive and less
positive/negative beliefs about the policy. This invokes the questions: Why do they
have less positive/negative beliefs about the policy? Will this less positive/negative
belief affect their assessment practice?
The analysis from this section suggests that both teachers have different
understandings from each other, and in most cases partially connected or surface
understandings as I call it, and in some cases disconnected to the new assessment
policy, and their beliefs with regard to the policy is both positive and negative. How
these varied and fluid understandings and beliefs shape their assessment practice in
the classroom is the focus of the next section.
A Comparison of the Classroom Practices of Dinzi and Hayley
In this section I compare the classroom practices of Dinzi and Hayley, in response to
the second research question, namely: In the context of official policy, how do
teachers practice assessment in their classrooms? I shall draw upon the following
data sources of each teacher to construct the cross-case report:
Questionnaires (A1 for Dinzi and B1 for Hayley)
Interviews (A3 for Dinzi and B3 for Hayley)
Classroom observations (A4 for Dinzi and B4 for Hayley)
Teacher documents (A5 for Dinzi and B5 for Hayley)
Teacher records (A6 for Dinzi and B6 for Hayley)
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Student notebooks (A7 for Dinzi and B7 for Hayley)
Other student records (A8 for Dinzi and B8 for Hayley)
Examination question papers (A9 for Dinzi and B9 for Hayley)
A comparison of their reported practice
I first compare their reported claims made in the questionnaires (A1 and B1).
Both Dinzi and Hayley claimed that their assessment practice mirrored the policy
requirement in terms of: assessment offers all learners an opportunity to show what
they know, understand and can do; assessment helps learners understand what they
can do and where they need to develop further; assessment is continuous; assessment
decisions are based on pragmatic, trial-and-error grounds; facts, applications and
higher order thinking skills are assessed; assessments are not restricted to tests only;
learners are involved in assessing their own work; strategies are in place which
reveals when pupils have difficulties or are not making progress; portfolios are built
over a period of time; marking focuses on the learning intentions as the criteria for
success; marking strategies help the learners understand what they have achieved and
what they need to do next; the outcomes of marking, along with other information, are
used to adjust future teaching plans; assessment achievement data communicated to
learners clearly, accurately, timeousely and meaningfully; reporting of results is both
informal, namely dialogues in class and formal, namely written reports; assessment of
learners’ learning is reported to parents/guardians in a way which identifies
achievements and what the learner needs to improve; the outcomes of assessment of
learning activities provide feedback and feed forward for learners; assessment of
learning information is used to evaluate teaching and for monitoring progress;
progress against key learning outcomes is observed, noted and recorded and reports
indicate areas that need to be developed. Dinzi makes more claims that her practice
mirrors the policy than Hayley does.
Both claimed that there was room for improvement with regard to the policy in terms
of: the key learning outcomes have been identified so that assessments made against
these can be used to help develop learning; achievement data linked to curriculum
outcomes; assessment decisions are based on thinking through the purpose and
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principles of assessment; portfolios are consistently used to confirm assessment
judgements; parents are involved in recording comments on their children’s work and
records enable reports to be written easily.
However they differed markedly in their claims of whether their assessment practice
did not mirror the policy or required re-thinking. Dinzi claimed that none of her
assessment practices deviated from the policy or required re-thinking while Hayley
claimed that many of her assessment practices did not mirror the policy or required
re-thinking such as: assessment practices are sensitive to gender; assessment practices
are sensitive to abilities of learners; assessment allow learning to be matched to the
needs of the learners; learners are involved in recording comments on their work and
reports outline strengths in all aspects of school life.
They also differed in terms of whether their respective practices mirrored the policy
or there was room for improvement, for example, while Dinzi claimed that her
assessment practice mirrored the policy in terms of: informs and improves the
curriculum and assessment practices; learners are provided with opportunities to
reflect and talk about their learning and achievement; uses a wide range of assessment
methods confidently and appropriately; assessment information is used to decide what
to do next with individuals, groups or the class; the marking process includes both
verbal and written feedback; progress against key learning outcomes feed forward
into future planning and timing of reports allow appropriate discussion and action to
take place, Hayley claimed that there was room for improvement in these aspects of
the policy. Also while Hayley claimed that her assessment practice mirrored the
policy, for example: sharing of assessment intentions with learners is routine practice,
which enables learners to understand their role in assessment process; a holistic and
best-fit approach is used; assessment informs daily and weekly planning; prompt and
regular marking occurs, and use a range of recording strategies for additional records,
Dinzi claimed there was room for improvement.
Both reported that they use the following methods, approaches and techniques to
assess learners: tests that alone set, tests set by subject teachers, standardised external
tests, peer assessment, examinations, portfolios, project work, assignments, and
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observation sheets. Both also reported that they do not use conferencing and journals
to assess their learners.
While Dinzi claimed that she uses all the methods except conferencing and journals,
Hayley indicated that she does not use informal monitoring by observation, oral
questions and answers, interviews, learner self-assessment, and self-reporting, which
Dinzi claims to use.
Both claimed that they did not have the necessary knowledge and skills, and the
necessary resources such as time, materials and capacity to implement the assessment
policy. Both also claimed that the school organisation is not conducive to the
implementation of the policy, but Hayley indicated that her school was trying.
Dinzi claimed that she changed her assessment practice by:
Giving more types of assessment to learners and doing more
group work.
(A3)
While Hayley claimed that she changed:
Construct learning activities in such a manner that I can assess
in a variety of ways and not just by using worksheets and tests
…. Developed new forms to try and record assessment in an
appropriate manner. Develop assignments/projects in such a
way to be able to assess each AC of each SO (this is very
difficult for me).
(B1)
The claims and reports made above illustrate that both Dinzi and Hayley use a variety
of methods to assess students as required by the policy. However Hayley added that
the new way of recording and designing assessments and projects were difficult.
The analysis of their claims reveals some convergence and some divergence from one
another and from the assessment policy. The question is: Why the divergence and
how will the divergence impacts on their assessment practice? I follow up these
claims in the next section by examining their reported responses to the interviews (A3
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and B3) for deeper insights to enable me to construct a more meaningful and robust
comparisons of their assessment practices.
Both Dinzi and Hayley reported that they used a variety of assessment methods such
as tests, peer assessment, group assessment, portfolios, projects, class work and
assignments to assess their students continuously. These methods are consistent with
the policy requirements. However only Dinzi reported that she also uses ‘oral
assessment’ and ‘interviews’, while only Hayley reported that she uses ‘observation
sheets’ to assess. Neither reported the use of ‘conferencing’ and ‘journals’ as required
by the policy.
Both reported that they had changed their practice as illustrated by their responses.
Dinzi reported:
Well I would say I have changed because I am able to assess
the students randomly at any time. For example, I can assess
them maybe weekly or maybe daily. It’s unlike in the old time
where we had to assess only by giving the children tests,
…there is a mountain of tests. Now by even giving them class
work, there are some class work whereby you feel you assess
this one, allocate marks to that class work or homework.
(A3)
Hayley reported:
[To] assess in different ways and not just test and exams, to
continuously assess a child and not just once or twice a year.
I assess them formally in the form of tests and worksheets that I
mark. I also assess them informally in my head the whole time
that I’m working with them. With a worksheet I will have a
memo, and like when they do group work I will have a form on
which I indicate if they’re co-operative in the group, are they
participating; are they fulfilling their role that they have in the
group. I will give them a worksheet or a little test or the paper
that they must comment on and they need to fill it in, it’s
usually by writing. For me it's difficult to orally assess people
because that’s just logistically a big problem. But I think these
other assessments like debates, the child’s attitudes and values
and things, for me it is very difficult
(B3)
The analyses of their reported practice suggest firstly that their assessment practices
are similar in many ways to one another in that both claim to use a variety of
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assessment methods, and not only tests in their classroom. This is in accordance to the
policy. Secondly they also differ from one another in that Dinzi seems to be using
more methods than Hayley. Third there are disconnections to the policy in terms of
not using some methods such as conferencing and interviews.
As I had indicated in the earlier chapters, what is claimed and reported may not
necessarily be reflected in actual practice. This is not because the claims and reports
made are dishonest; on the contrary, responses are often shaped by perceptions.
People often perceive that they are doing something in a certain way but a close
analytical exploration may reveal something different. Furthermore Dinzi and Hayley
may not have been able to adequately explicate their assessment practices during the
reports. These may be revealed in realm of their actual classroom actions. Therefore I
examine their real classroom actions to compare them to one another so that I may
obtain a deeper insight into their assessment practice.
A comparison of their observed assessment practices in the classroom
I draw upon the classroom observation data to construct this comparison, (A4 for
Dinzi and B4 for Hayley). I first compare the first lesson observed in each teacher’s
classroom before making further comparisons. I observed this first particular lesson in
Dinzi’s classroom on 24 July 2002 (A4, 24 July 2002) and in Hayley’ classroom on
23 July 2002 (B4, 23 July 2002). Both lessons were single lessons.
First observed lesson
Hayley’s students were lined up quietly outside the laboratory awaiting her invitation
into the classroom. They entered in a disciplined manner, took their individual places,
placed their bags on the floor, and stood waiting for Hayley to greet them. Hayley
waited until everyone was standing in absolute silence before she greeted them. She
then requested them to sit down which they obediently did. There were thirty-three
students present, the full class enrolment.
Hayley began the lesson by informing the students of her observation that not all of
them had completed their previous work. She requested that those whose books she
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did not mark were to leave it on the front desk for marking. She wrote the date on the
board before reminding the students about the last term’s activity on specific outcome
2 done in the library. She reviewed the previous work briefly using the question and
answer method illustrated below:
Teacher:
Before we can go on, there’s just two things we must
recap. We were busy now with energy ne. Now there are
different states of energy. Yes?
Student A:
Potential energy.
Teacher:
And the other one?
Student B:
Kinetic energy.
Teacher:
Kinetic energy. Very good! Now we have different forms
of energy. Let’s see?
Student C:
Electrical energy
Teacher:
Electrical energy, and?
This review continued to the end in this manner, after which she began the day’s
lesson by informing the students:
Teacher:
Some of you have not been something yet, some of you have.
She assigned roles to different students in their groups such as ‘Leader’, ‘Scribe’,
‘Timekeeper’, and ‘Reporter’ as indicated on the handout with the heading “Group
Work: Peer Assessment” that provided the job descriptions of the different group
members (that is ‘Leader’, ‘Scribe’, ‘Timekeeper’, ‘Reporter’) followed by a rubric
with two columns, one column was for “assessment” and the other “participation”.
Each column had numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 as criteria, 1 indicated poor, 2 below average,
3 above average and 4 very good. She provided each student with a worksheet
containing a picture that she said showed “lots of people doing different things”. She
told them that each group would be given ten minutes to complete the questions. She
reminded the ‘timekeepers’ of their roles, and if they did not have watches she would
assist them. She requested each one to write the answers on their worksheet after
their discussions, and not only the ‘scribe’. The worksheet seemingly was a
photocopy from a textbook. On the worksheet was the heading in bold “Energy and
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change” and below that in bold “Find the energy source NS3 SO14:AC15; SO96:AC17;
LLC8 SO29:AC610; HSS11 SO4:AC1” (Note: what these abbreviations represented or
meant were not given on the worksheet), and below this was the instruction: “Study
the picture with a partner”. On the count of five she asked them to begin, reminding
them that they had ten minutes to complete their work. As students were working, she
walked around observing and helping them. All groups worked in a disciplined
fashion and displayed interest and focus in their work.
I focused on one particular group and observed that they seemed to be experiencing
problems interpreting the word ‘places’ in the first question: “Make a list of all the
places in the picture where energy is being used”. They seemed to have problems
relating the word ‘places’ with the word ‘items’ in the second question: “All the items
on your list get their energy from different sources ….”. They were arguing about the
correct name for the coal fireplace/heater. One said it was a “bowlah”, the others
laughed at this answer. They settled for “coal heater”. They could not find the picture
of the candle to match it with ‘wax’ given on the worksheet and were arguing about it.
They also had difficulty in answering the last question: “Where does the energy in the
source come from? Where does it go to?” One student consulted the textbook for
help. The one student instructed:
Student A:
Just think where diesel and paraffin get their energy from?
Since they could not answer the question they called the teacher for help. The teacher
asked them where petrol came from and one student answered, “Coal”. This group did
no writing but concentrated on discussions:
Student A:
Now what’s this?
Student B:
Paraffin
Student C:
Primus stove
3
Natural Science
Specific outcome 1: Use process skills to investigate phenomena related to the Natural Sciences
(Department of Education, 1997: 9)
5
Assessment Criteria 1: Phenomena are identified (ibid)
6
Specific outcome 9: Demonstrate an understanding of the interaction between the Natural Sciences
and socio=economic development (23)
7
Assessment Criteria 1: Evidence is provided of how science and technology are used in society (ibid)
8
Language Literacy and Communication
9
Specific outcome 2: Demonstrate an understanding of concepts and principles, and acquired
knowledge in the Natural Sciences (6)
10
Assessment Criteria 6:
11
Human and Social Sciences
4
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Student A:
Ja, we can just say paraffin stove
Student D:
Where’s paraffin stove?
The teacher alerted the class that they had five minutes, and had to hurry up and
complete their work. This resulted in students’ becoming a bit noisy as they rushed to
complete their work. Hayley continued to observe and help students when the buzzer
rang signalling the end of the lesson. Hayley clapped her hands as a strategy to get
students to be quiet and pay attention to her. She requested students to put their
worksheets back in their books except those students whose books were not marked,
and they left their books on the front desk as they left the classroom. Some students
cleaned the laboratory before they left.
At the end of the lesson Hayley informed me that the purpose of that lesson was “to
ensure students can work in groups, assess one another and to assess their abilities in
groups (personal communication: 23 July 2002). She added that she did not record
peer assessment exercises because the students were not as yet experienced, and that
some students would not be as honest in assessing their friends as she would have
liked them to be (ibid).
In Dinzi’s case, Dinzi and I walked into a very noisy, dusty and dirty classroom.
Students were constantly walking into and out of this classroom. Many students were
outside this classroom adding to the noise. The dusty desks were haphazardly
arranged, some were in rows, others joined for group work. Amidst all this noise, and
seeming chaos, some students were standing up to greet us, others were seated, and
others were moving into and out of the classroom. After greeting the students she
requested one student to distribute the worksheet to the students. The worksheet
seemed to be a photocopy of a page from a textbook. At the top of the worksheet was
a heading: “Programme Organiser: Matter and Materials”, below which appeared
“Sub-programme Organiser: Properties and Uses of Materials”, and below this
appeared: “Unit 13: Material Literacy”. Dinzi asked questions (I found it difficult to
hear the questions clearly because of the noise, and the audio-tape could not be
transcribed because of the noise from the class and outside the class) to elicit
responses from the student, many of who seemed to be inattentive to the lesson. Many
were talking with one another; some were looking out the window. Two were sucking
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lollipops, another three were eating potato crisps, and three were chewing gum openly
in the classroom. Dinzi seemed to be competing with the noise from both inside the
classroom and outside the classroom. The noise made it almost impossible to hear
Dinzi until she shouted: “Shut up!” After ten minutes, a student casually walked into
the classroom and seated himself. I counted thirty-eight students present in the class
from an official enrolment of fifty. Dinzi requested students to refer to the worksheet
that they had just received. She read the four questions aloud to the noisy class and
requested that they work in pairs. They did not work in pairs but in groups of varying
size depending on their choice and used this time as an opportunity to continue
making noise. The observed group of six students seemed to be having difficulty in
understanding what had been expected of them. They were concentrating on the box
containing the objectives of the lesson, namely: “In this unit you should be able to:
revise the concepts mass and volume. Investigate the phenomenon density. ….” They
were trying to read it aloud but were struggling with what seemed to be a language
problem. Only four students had their notebooks in class. Dinzi walked around the
classroom but seemed not to focus on whether students were answering the questions
or not. When she returned to the front of the classroom, she read the second question
aloud:
Teacher:
What is volume and in what unit is it measured?
She also provided the answer orally. She had repeated the third question in a similar
manner and provided the answer orally. Most of the students were not writing. They
appeared to be confused but Dinzi continued in the same mode, which is reading the
question and providing the answer orally. She did not write anything on the board.
When the buzzer rang signalling the end of the period, Dinzi requested students to
paste their worksheet in their notebooks as their homework exercise.
Both teachers used worksheets and group work as pedagogical practices in their
classrooms. Haley’s classroom was characterised by strict discipline while Dinzi’s
classroom was not. The question is: Why and how would this affect the assessment
practice of each teacher? It seems that only Hayley used the information from the
previous assessment to guide teaching and learning, and she also mentioned specific
outcomes, also specific outcomes, although in abbreviated form, appeared on the
worksheet. Dinzi on the other hand, did not review previous work and did not mention
outcomes at all, but rather used ‘objectives’ rather than outcomes to guide the lesson.
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This raises the question: Why is Dinzi using ‘objectives’ and not outcomes to shape
her lessons, and how will this influence her assessment practice? Furthermore only
Hayley allowed the students to complete their work before reviewing the answers the
following day, while Dinzi provided the answers to the questions after ten minutes
without allowing the students to complete the assigned work in class. Why? Dinzi
used questions on the worksheets that required simple factual answers from students
while Hayley used questions on the worksheet that required students to apply their
knowledge. This again begs the question: Why? In both classes the groups of students
that I had observed had been experiencing language problems. Would this affect the
assessment practices of the teachers? Both Hayley and Dinzi did not make the purpose
of the assessment explicitly clear to the students. Neither Hayley nor Dinzi assessed
this work of students formally, but perhaps may have informally assessed them
through observations. No peer assessment took place despite the fact the Hayley had
written, “peer assessment” on the worksheet and Dinzi had requested students to
“work in pairs”. This analysis shows first that similarities and differences exist in both
their assessment practices as shown above, and second that their assessment practice
seems to be weakly connected to their stated claims and to the assessment policy as
far as peer assessment is concerned. This raises the question: Why?
Lesson on practical work
I now compare each teachers’ lesson where practical work was conducted; in Haley’s
case (B4, 25 July 2002) and in Dinzi’s case (A4, 7 August 2002).
As usual Hayley started the lesson with a review of the previous work employing the
question and answer method before she provided the students with a worksheet
informing them that they were going to do practical work with the given apparatus,
namely, a torch, a lamp, a heater, a candle, an alarm clock, a kettle, a fan and a
hairdryer (teacher brought these from her home), each distributed on different
benches. She requested them to “be as precise as possible” and to tell her “the form of
energy that is in it”. She continued:
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Teacher:
You let the apparatus stand as it is, then you put it on, then you see
what you see and what you feel and all of it. Then you switch it off.
…and then underneath on that line you must tell me what type of
energy is in the source before I switch it on. Then when I switch it
on, what is going, that energy going to turn into. Ok, so you will have a
word with its arrow then some kind of energy there is
afterwards, ok?
They rushed excitedly to do the practical work in their groups. Hayley went around
observing and assisting. Some groups that I observed were working well, for example,
one switched the torch on, discussed that chemical energy was changed to heat and
light energy, and wrote it down, using arrows correctly. Another group using the
alarm clock seemed confused. One student was discussing while one was writing
without using arrows as illustrated below:
“Chemical, electrical, sound”
Some observed groups were discussing in an African language, others in Afrikaans,
very few in English. Some were fooling around, for example the one group with the
hairdryer and another group with the torch. Hayley seemed to be experiencing
problems maintaining discipline and helping students simultaneously. Students were
talking very loudly, and seemed to be experiencing problems when she intervened:
Teacher:
It is very confusing if you have the, the states of energy and the
forms of energy mixed up. Ok, now this exercise, when you read
there at the top tells you, you must tell me the different forms of
energy. Ok, so now you cannot tell me it is potential, radiant,
kinetic, that is what takes place. But you must be specific. You must
tell me what form of energy, which changed into which other form
ok. Technically, it is a long story, for the moment we will call it
mechanical energy, ok.
(Emphasis in original)
The students continued working and when they had completed their work Hayley
requested students to switch the apparatus off and take their original individual seats.
She continued:
Teacher:
I need you take a pencil in your hand. Ok, now I firstly thought that
we would mark one group the others and so forth but then you
cannot actually understand what you wrote yourself so I want you
to mark your own work.
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She used the question and answer method to review the activities orally as follows:
Teacher:
Ok, next one, the candle, yes?
Student X:
Wax
Teacher:
The wax is a form of chemical energy, Ok, next?
Student Y:
Light energy
Teacher:
Daars sy. The chemical energy will have an arrow, after the arrow
we say light energy and?
This pattern continued until the end of the lesson and end of the day. However not all
students were assessing/correcting their work. Hayley requested that they paste their
worksheet in their books and that she would check it on the following Monday (note
this was Thursday, and there was no Science on Fridays). She informed them that
they would need their books to study for “a little test for 15 marks next week
Thursday” which she added would be based on forms of energy covered in the
previous three pages of work that they did. Hayley dismissed the class.
In Dinzi’s case this was the only time during the seventeen observed lessons that the
lesson was conducted in the laboratory. While students were running around in the
science laboratory, she handed out worksheets and told them in the midst of the noise
that “we are going to find out about the topic density”. While the worksheet had the
words ‘specific outcomes’ on it, no specific outcomes were written, but the space was
left blank. She requested that they form four groups, about ten per group with a
maximum of twelve per group. When she said “one member from each group come to
the front for some apparatus, a whole group of students ran noisily to the front table.
It became extremely noisy with students not only screaming loudly across the
classroom but also dragging the laboratory stools. It made it extremely difficult to
hear Dinzi’s voice which was drowned by the students’ noise. The audiotape was
impossible to transcribe because of the noise in the class. Dinzi wrote on the board
‘pipette’ and showed them what it was. One student walked out of the laboratory
without excusing himself – Dinzi either did not notice or did not mind. The students
were moving from group to group just to chat to others. Discipline had totally
collapsed when the teacher screamed: “Quiet in your group. Shut up!” She read the
procedure aloud to them and asked one member per group to “fill the plastic basin
with water”. They did but not without throwing water onto their friends, and messing
the floor and the tables. Dinzi requested that they complete the table in their
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worksheet after they placed the objects into the water. She had to scream to get their
attention. She told them what to do and re-drew the table on the board.
The group that I observed did not know the difference between a rubber stopper and a
cork stopper as this was the first time that they saw them and their first visit to the
science laboratory. The teacher told them to place a tick in the relevant column. The
observed group threw all the objects into the water simultaneously without writing
what they observed. One student from another group asked the teacher: “What is
‘sinks’ and what is ‘floats’?” The teacher explained the concepts very briefly. The
observed group placed the cork stopper into the water, and filled in the table “cork
sinks” (when it floated) in the column ‘floats’. The teacher tried to use one group to
demonstrate to the class but was not successful because students were not paying
attention but were playing with the water and apparatus. The observed group did not
know what to do thereafter and were just playing with the water and apparatus, similar
to the rest of the class until the lesson ended.
The analysis of this lesson reveals once again that both Hayley and Dinzi used
worksheets and group work as preferred pedagogical styles, and invested much time
and effort in preparing for the lessons. Discipline in Hayley’s class is very different to
Dinzi’s class, as I have previously indicated. But in both lessons neither the outcomes
nor the purpose of the assessment were made clear to the students as requested by the
policy. Furthermore Hayley and Dinzi did not formally assess the students’ work
themselves. But in Hayley’s case, at least, she requested students to assess their work
themselves in pencil, which could be regarded as a form of self-assessment, from the
oral review of the work, although this was not formal in the sense that there were no
marks given and no recording of students’ performance. In Dinzi’s case there was no
evidence of any review of the work or assessment of the work by her or by the
students.
Individual student work
During the observed classroom lessons I had observed only Hayley conduct
‘individual’ work in class where students were required to respond to a set of prepared
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questions set by the teacher and assessed by Hayley, recorded and used as indicated
by her:
This worksheet you must do individually, remember as soon as I
mark something for marks, I need you to do it yourself because
otherwise I can’t see if the person next to you can do it. I want to
see if you understand it, as soon as you don’t understand it, then
you must put your hand up, because I am the only one that can help
you with this. Is that clear?
(Emphasis in original)
Teacher:
I have analysed this lesson in detail in Chapter Six. My purpose of repeating it here is
to show that I did not observe this kind of assessment practice in Dinzi’s classroom.
The question is: Why?
Assignment/Portfolio
Similarly I had observed only Hayley conducting an ‘assignment/portfolio’ in her
classroom. This ‘assignment/portfolio’ requested students to respond individually to a
set of prepared questions by the teacher in the form of a booklet. Students had to use
their textbook and complete the work in class time. This was formally assessed by the
teacher and recorded and used, as reflected by her:
This week we are going to do an assignment so that I can give you
marks, so that I can assess you on this work. When I assess you,
you must please remember to use your textbook. Now how we
are going to do this; this assignment is totally individual, so you
must not ask anyone around you. What is happening, there is a
paper booklet like this again; I am going to give you. Then the
instructions: I will go with all of you through the instructions, and
then I am going to ask that you only sit on your own. Just make
sure that you have enough space; I know that it is you and that you
are doing it yourself.
(B4, 19 August 2002; emphases added)
Teacher:
I have analysed this lesson in detail in Chapter 6 and will not repeat the analysis save
to state that I did not observe this form of assessment in Dinzi’s classrooms. Again it
begs the question: Why?
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Project work
I observed project work as a form of assessment in Hayley’s class only. This project
based on specific outcome 6, had been given to students at the end of the third term. It
was in the form of a booklet designed and prepared by Hayley. Students were required
to complete it in their holidays. I have provided a detailed description and analysis of
this project in Chapter Six; therefore I shall not repeat it here. The purpose of
mentioning it here is to say that I did not observe this in Dinzi’s classroom? Again the
question is: Why?
Tests
As far as tests are concerned, I had observed Hayley administer two tests, one ‘small’
and one ‘standardised’ in her class, while Dinzi administered only one, a
‘standardised’ test. The question is: Why? Hayley handed out the prepared
‘standardised test’ question papers to the thirty-three students who were absolutely
quiet and seated two to three per bench, as in examination conditions. She had
informed the students previously about the test. She requested that they hold up their
pens with their left hand until she requested them to start writing. She informed them
that they had half an hour to complete the questions, before instructing: “On your
marks, get set and go!” On the question paper appeared the name of the school, the
grade, the module, the unit and heading “TEST”. It had four questions with a total of
30 marks. It also indicated the criteria that were going to be used for marking the bar
graph (this was done in a previous assignment) and a rubric for the assessment of the
bar graph with “SO2” written next to the rubric. Each of the four questions were
different, for example, question one was based on a diagram provided, question two
was a calculation, question three had questions based on information provided in a
table and question four on the construction of a graph. Most of the questions focused
on recall of facts although there were few for about five marks out of thirty that
required application of knowledge. Hayley walked around the room invigilating.
Dinzi stood at the entrance of the classroom and had handed out the question papers to
the students as they walked in. The desks and chairs were arranged in groups and
students sat in groups on any seat. Two students reported that they did not have pens.
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I gave the one student a pen and Dinzi gave one to the other student. There were 42
students in the class joined at five-minute intervals by another two. Dinzi was
marking the register as she walked around the classroom. She called out the names
aloud and students had to reply, “present” or “absent”. I observed that students were
looking into each other’s work because the group seating arrangements encouraged
this practice, as well as Dinzi’s attention on marking the register. When Dinzi
observed students copying she requested that they separate their desks. Dinzi
interrupted the students to inform them that there was an error in question one:
Teacher:
Question one has a mistake. Volume must be in cubic centimetres. The
column is volume.
She wrote on the board: “20 cm3”
(Note that the question paper had “20 cm”)
She continued to mark the register. A student enquired about question two, and Dinzi
read the question aloud and said:
Teacher:
You must know how to answer the question. Why are
you copying the table? Don’t copy the table. You just
answer the question. Why I give you question paper if
you are going to re-write question paper? One group
did not hand in their work yesterday. I must get it after
the test.
The Teacher began writing a letter to the police. I observed students copying. One
student, who I had observed to be a clever one in the class, asked the teacher what was
required in question three.
Teacher:
Answer number 4 in question 3
(This seemed very confusing because the same question was repeated in a different
way; it seemed as if ‘a cut and paste’ method was adopted by Dinzi). Towards the end
of the lesson when she enquired how many had completed the test only five hands
were raised. She requested a student to collect the answer sheets while she was
continuing writing the letter to the police. Students were leaving the class before the
end of the period. When the buzzer rang signalling the end of the lesson seventeen
students were still writing the test. The other class (Grade 9A Maths) entered the
classroom for their lesson while the 17 Grade 8B students were still writing the test
and Dinzi continued writing the letter. Dinzi asked the Grade 9 students whether she
had given them an assignment, and they responded “yes”. She continued with her
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letter while some Grade 8B students were copying while writing the test, and the
Grade 9 students were making a noise while waiting for the teacher to start the lesson.
Dinzi then noticed that some Grade 8B students had still been writing the test and
requested that they stop before collecting their answer papers. The question paper
consisted of three questions with a total of twenty-five marks. One question was a
calculation, one was based on information from a table provided and the other was
labelling a given diagram. All three questions tested recall of information since all had
been done previously in the class.
The comparative analysis reveals the following: In Hayley’s class the students write
under examination conditions while in Dinzi’s class it is not, in fact it is under normal
classroom conditions. The question is: Why does this difference exist, and what is its
impact on their assessment practice? In Hayley’s class the question paper had no
errors and was not confusing but Dinzi’s question paper had errors that caused
confusion. Again this begs the question: Why? Hayley tested application of
knowledge while Dinzi did not. Why? Hayley provided her students with a rubric and
criteria for assessment while Dinzi did not. Why? However both Dinzi and Hayley did
not: make the purpose of the assessment clear, did not use the specific outcomes as
the basis for assessment, did not provide the students with the specific outcomes and
their assessment criteria to inform them what were to be assessed, and did not use the
criterion-referenced approach to assessment as required by the policy. This invokes
the question: Why?
General comparison of the modal patterns of the observed lessons
I shall compare the modal patterns of the observed lessons, seventeen in the case of
Dinzi (A4) and twenty in the case of Hayley (B4).
Most of the lessons of both Hayley and Dinzi were characterised by a ‘teachercentred’ approach, with the teacher standing in front of the class, engaging in whole
class instruction or using a didactic form of the ‘questions and answer’ approach;
although in Dinzi’s case she also provided the answer most times, with limited student
input as illustrated below:
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Teacher:
We want to calculate density, where do we start? Quickly, quickly.
Density is mass over volume.
After writing the formula for volume on the board and calculating the volume, she
asked:
Teacher:
What do we do with the volume?
She worked out the problem on the board and informed them what kilogram per meter
cubed meant, and said:
Teacher:
If other units given, for example, given density and volume and asked
to find mass, how do you do it?
She wrote the formula for density on the board, and used a mathematics example to
‘tell’ further by also writing on the board:
Teacher:
Density is mass over volume
(A4, 1 August 2002)
In Haley’s class, the question and answer method did invite some student participation
as shown below:
Teacher:
What kind of energy does a burning candle use?
Student A:
Kinetic energy
Teacher:
Now I want to teach you something. Next to number 1, it counts for
2 marks. This usually means that you need to name 2 things, ok, so
if you only say radiant energy I can only give you 1 mark, but what
do we know? Radiant energy is made up 2 types of energy? Yes?
Student B:
Heat energy and light energy
Oral work was more pronounced in Dinzi’s classroom than in Haley’s classroom. In
fact in Dinzi’s classroom both Dinzi and the students did very little written work.
Hayley assessed students’ work continuously, used a variety of assessment methods
such as tests, assignments, project and practical work, communicated assessment
results to students timeously, accurately and clearly, recorded students’ marks in her
mark book, made assessment an integral part of teaching and learning, and provided
assistance to those students who needed it during breaks and after school, while Dinzi
seemed not to assess continuously, used only one test as a method of assessment, and
seemed not have a mark book to record students’ marks. The question is: Why? In
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both cases, what students were to learn were not explicitly and clearly defined in most
lessons; assessment activities did not focus on the achievement of clearly defined
outcomes; the purpose of assessment was not provided; the criterion-referenced
approach to assessment was not used; peer assessment did not take place; test
questions focused mainly on factual information; and assessment of values and
attitudes did not occur. This raises the question: Why?
Evidence from documents (A5 and B5)
While Dinzi had four documents, Hayley had a ‘thick’ file with fifteen documents
related to assessment. This raises questions: Why the unequal distribution of
assessment related documents despite both teachers teaching in the same province?
How is each teacher’s assessment practice influenced by these documents? I have
provided the names of these documents and described their content in detail in
Chapter Five for Dinzi and Chapter Six for Hayley, so I shall not repeat them save to
say that the only common document that they both possess is “Circular Number
5/2000: National Assessment Policy as it relates to OBE and the implementation of
Curriculum 2005 and Assessment in GET Grades” dated 19/01/2000 from the
provincial department of education. This circular claims that it “aims to assist
educators in understanding, developing and implementing assessment practices
that are appropriate for Curriculum 2005” (A5, emphasis in original). It is detailed in
terms of what is expected of teachers (ibid). While Dinzi reported that she has read
and understood it, Hayley reported that she found it difficult to understand. The
questions that emerge are: If Dinzi understands the policy document, is she
implementing in her classroom? If the answer is no, then the question becomes why
not? Why does Hayley find the policy document difficult to understand? Does this
difficulty find expression in her assessment practice and how?
Teacher Records (A6 and B6)
Lesson preparation
While Hayley had a file containing comprehensively prepared notes, worksheets,
assignments, tests, projects, and a year plan for her class (I described and analysed
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this record in detail in Chapter Six), Dinzi did not appear to have a lesson preparation
file or book. This begs the question: Why?
Mark book/file/Recording sheet
During my observation period from July to September 2002, and follow up visits I did
not observe Dinzi’s mark book/file/recording sheet. However towards the end of
November she showed me one for the first time, with marks recorded on the same
form as the class register. I described and analysed this in detail in Chapter Five. But I
wish to reiterate my concern: How did she arriving at the ‘year mark’ or continuous
assessment mark that constituted 75% of the final mark for promotion purposes?
Hayley had a mark book/file/mark sheets from July and she used it to record students’
results. I described and analysed this in detail in Chapter Seven, so I shall not repeat
except to say that she differed markedly from Dinzi in recording students’ marks.
Hayley had a number of sets of marks for each student indicating the different forms
of assessment, for example marks for small tests, standardised tests, assignments,
projects, practicals, portfolios, and specific outcomes 1,2, 4 and 6. Dinzi had not such
marks. The question is why? Hayley computed all these marks to arrive finally to a
mark representing the continuous assessment mark for each student for the year. This
continuous assessment mark counted for 50% of the final promotion mark while the
written November examinations counted for the other 50%. In Dinzi’s case, the
continuous assessment mark counted for 75% of the promotion mark while the written
November examination counted for 25%. The question is: Why? Hayley complained
bitterly about how she struggled with the new recording requirements and was still
struggling with the complexities associated with recording results as illustrated below:
I don’t have a clue how to record it. I don’t know in which
format to record it, because I have tried I don’t know how
many different types of forms to make it easier for myself to put
these things in a way that one can use, So my frustration is how
do we record and what we record. In the beginning it was told
1to 5, then it changed to 1 to 4. In the beginning 1 was good
and 4 was bad, this year 4 is good and 1 is bad, now I see
again on the forms there is not a 1, 2, 3 or 4, it is now a star
and a line and a tick or something like that. So for me all this
change all the time is making the assessments a nightmare.
(B3)
This raises the question: Why did Dinzi not experience similar problems associated
with what seems a complex recording process as Hayley?
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Students’ Records (A7 and B7)
Students’ Note/Workbooks
In Dinzi’s class, not every student had a notebook in class during the seventeen
observed lessons. On any particular day only thirty to thirty five percent of the
students had notebooks in the class. In fact on one particular day not a single student
had a notebook in class (A4, 20 August 2002). Dinzi reported that the reason for this
is:
They’re just careless and lose them because the school provides
them with notebooks
(A3)
While in Haley’s class every student had a notebook in the twenty observed lessons.
This begs the question: Why do students in Dinzi’s class lose their books or do not
bring them to class regularly?
Hayley had assessed every task (twelve) that had been individually done in the
notebooks. She also wrote comments like “well done” or “very good” or “good”
where it was deserved. But she initialled other tasks, and where she observed
deviations she commented like “I miss your plant worksheet”, or in others she
commented “neat work”. Students marked some tasks in pencil. Test question papers,
including the June examination and marked answer sheets were pasted at the back of
the notebook. All this did not appear in the notebooks of students from Dinzi’s class,
except for Dinzi initialling some books occasionally. The question is: Why?
Student Assignment/Portfolio
Only students from Haley’s class had assignments or portfolios that I have described
and analysed in detail in Chapter Six. I mention it here to show that this was not
evident in the notebooks of students from Dinzi’s class. Again the question invoked
is: Why?
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Record of Tests
The students from Haley’s class had pasted all the test question papers with their
respective answer sheets at the back of the notebook. Some were short tests (three)
others were long tests (two) such as the standardised test of the first term and the June
examination The teacher marked these tests, and students had corrected answers in
pencil indicating they were reviewed in class. No such evidence appeared in the
notebooks of students from Dinzi’s class. In fact it was very difficult to locate
evidence of their past tests. Why?
Report Cards
First Term Report Cards
It is not possible to compare the first term report cards as only students from Haley’s
class brought them, while students from Dinzi’s class were unable to locate them.
Why were students from Dinzi’s class unable to produce their report cards?
Half-Year Report Card
Both report cards were titled “Progress Report”. While the report card of students
from Dinzi’s class had the space for the term and number of days absent left blank,
the report card of students from Haley’s class had it completed. The report card from
Haley’s class had the nine learning areas fully written out with their respective
specific outcomes listed below each learning area, but the report card from Dinzi’s
class had the acronyms of eight of the learning areas (Technology was written in full)
without their meanings and no specific outcomes associated with the learning areas.
The report card from Haley’s class had a “rating” next to the specific outcomes
concerned and a key to the rating appeared at the bottom of the report, for example a
rating of 1 indicated “not yet developed”, while a rating of 5 indicated “Excels”, and
next to the rating column was a column that indicated the “percentage” that the
student obtained for that particular learning area, while the report card from Dinzi’s
class had “mark achieved” next to the learning area, and next to this mark achieved
was indicated “Effort Symbols” with symbols ranging from “A, S, NAS” with a key
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at the bottom of the report indicating what the effort symbols meant, for example,
“A” represented “achieved: (50% and above)”, “S” represented “satisfactory: (33% 49%) and “NAS” represented “Needs additional Support: (0%-32%). In the
“Remarks” section of the report card from Dinzi’s class was written “Satisfactory”,
while in the “Comments” section in the report card from Haley’s class was written
“Lungiwe12 has a wonderful, quit13 way of interacting in class – truly a pleasure to
teach. Maths need special attention”. The analysis shows that the two ways of
reporting assessment information is very different. The question is why and how does
this different reporting process influence each teacher’s assessment practice?
Third Term Report Card
In both cases the students did not receive report cards for the third term because of the
shortened school term.
Year-End Report Card
In both cases the title was “Report”. The report from Dinzi’s class again had the
number of days absent left blank and acronyms of the eight learning areas as
previously stated, but from Haley’s class the number of days absent was filled in and
the nine learning areas were fully written. The report from Dinzi’s class was similar
to the second term except that “Effort symbol” was replaced with “Level Achieved”
such as “O”, “A”, “PA” and “NA” without a key to explain what they meant; but a
key did appear at the bottom of the report indicating for example, “Level 4: Excellent
Achievement (70-100%), Level 1: Not Achieved (0%-34%). The report from Haley’s
class was completely different to that of the second term; it had symbols “O”, “A”,
“PA” and “NA” with a key indicating what each represented. In the “Remarks”
section of one of the report cards from Dinzi’s class was written “Achieved”; while in
the “Comments” section in one of the report cards from Haley’s class was written
“Promoted to gr. 9 in 2003. N.A.S in the following learning areas: MLMMS”. The
analysis shows that the two ways of reporting assessment information is similar in
that levels of achievement such as “O”, “A”, “PA” and “NA” are reported, but they
12
13
Pseudonym used for the sake of confidentiality and anonymity
I believe it may be a spelling error for ‘quiet’
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are also very different in that in Haley’s class the marks achieved are not indicated.
The question is why, and how does this different reporting process influence each
teacher’s assessment practice?
Examination Question Papers
June Examinations
It is not possible to compare adequately the June examination question papers
because Dinzi did not have a copy; neither did anybody in the school, including the
Head of Department of Science. However as indicated in Chapter Five, I examined
the looses pages from students that resembled answers to the questions, and it
revealed that three questions were set and all required low level, factual, short
answers, such as “kinetic energy”, and “conductors of heat” that carried two marks
each. The paper set by Hayley consisted of two sections, section A and section B.
Section A consisted of one question requiring short answers, for example multiple
choice, true and false, providing correct terms and choosing from a given list of
alternatives. It required factual recall of information and made up 25 marks. A
prepared answer sheet had been prepared for the responses to this section. Section B
had three questions, one based on a diagram, one on an experiment and one graph,
each carrying 20 marks each. From this it seems clear that the questions set by Dinzi
are simpler, while those set by Hayley are relatively more advanced. This begs the
question: “Why the difference in the way they assess?”
November examination question paper
Dinzi’s students were expected to respond to three questions with a total of twentyfive marks in one hour. All questions were low level, factual questions, such as,
“mention three …; what are; name five; calculate the …”. Haley’s students on the
other hand were expected to respond to a one-and-half hour paper that carried 120
marks. It had two sections, section A and B. Section A consisted of one question
requiring short answers, for example multiple choice, true and false, providing correct
terms and choosing from a given list of alternatives. It required factual recall of
information and made up 40 marks. A prepared answer sheet had been prepared for
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the responses to this section.
Section B consisted of two long questions, each
carrying 40 marks. Assessment was varied and balanced in terms of the assessment of
different types of questions, assessment of knowledge and skills, and application of
knowledge was assessed. It is clear that the questions set by each teacher are
different. Hayley seems to set questions that are more varied and demand application
while Dinzi seems to set low level factual questions only with very little variations to
the type of questions. Again the question emerges: Why do they assess in different
ways?
The analysis resulting from the comparison of their assessment practices suggest first
that Haley’s assessment practice is very different from that of Dinzi; second that
Haley’s assessment practice is congruent with her surface understanding of the
policy, with her reported claims and with some of the policy requirements; third
Haley’s assessment practice is weakly linked to her less positive or negative
attitudes/beliefs about the policy; fourth that Dinzi’s reported claims do not
correspond with her assessment practice; fifth that Dinzi’s assessment practice is
linked to her surface understanding of the policy; sixth Dinzi’s assessment practice
does not correspond with her positive beliefs about the policy and with most of the
policy requirements.
Summary of Chapter Seven
In summarising this chapter I would argue firstly that both Hayley and Dinzi have
different but superficial understandings, and varied beliefs of the new assessment
policy, and secondly their assessment practices are different from each other, with
some continuity and some discontinuities with the new assessment policy. The
analysis invokes the following questions: Why do they have varied and superficial
understandings and fluid beliefs about the policy? Why despite the positive beliefs
about the policy they are unable to link their assessment practice with the
requirements of the policy? Why despite their less positive feelings towards the
policy they are able to implement some requirements of the policy? Why are there
continuities and discontinuities between their assessment practice and the policy? I
shall pursue these questions in the next chapter where I attempt to provide theoretical
and empirical explanations to this complex set of issues raised in the study.
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CHAPTER EIGHT
BETWEEN THEORY AND DATA:
Explaining the Relationship between Assessment Policy and Assessment Practice
I am not conversant about the basics. I cannot really get deep into
it. I don’t have deep knowledge about it as such.1
I do not understand everything in these documents. I have got all
this information; I am not detailed so much in the sense of ideas.2
In the previous chapters I raised a number of questions emerging from this inquiry
into teacher understandings and beliefs with regard to the new assessment policy, as
well as teachers’ assessment practices in the classroom. The pivotal question
addressed in this final chapter is: Why do teachers assess students in ways observed?
In other words: how can the continuities and discontinuities between official policy on
assessment and teachers’ assessment practices be explained? In this chapter I attempt
to provide an explanation by drawing on the evidence emanating from the two case
studies and relating this data to the conceptual framework (deep change) that framed
this research (see Chapter Three).
Education reformers have repeatedly tried to change teachers’ classroom practice
using a variety of strategies, including the introduction of new educational policies as
strategic levers for change. The success (or failure) of these strategies, including new
policies, have been subject to many empirical studies, and various theoretical
explanations were provided for its success or failure (see Chapter Four). In this
chapter I seek to add to and extend this understanding of the relationship between
policy and practice by providing a different explanation for understanding the
relationship between policy and practice. In other words I open another window on
the problem of educational change as it relates to new education policies. The window
I propose is the conceptual framework on ‘deep change’ that I developed and
described in Chapter Three. I summarise the salient features of ‘deep change’ as it
relates to the findings from the study.
1
2
A quotation from Teacher Dinzi
A quotation from Teacher Hayley
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Conceptual Framework- Deep Change
I draw widely on Fullan (1993, 1999b, 2001, 2003) in developing this conceptual
framework I call ‘Deep Change’. I distinguish between different kinds of change,
namely, (1) non-change; (2) superficial or mechanical; (3) incremental change and (4)
deep change. Non-change means there is no real change in the achievement of the
goals of the policy; superficial change or mechanical change means changes only in
the surface features of teacher behaviours where teachers go through the routines of
change without understanding or committing to the underlying rationale and
principles, or the deeper value-orientations and belief systems that underpin a new
reform; incremental change means small steps in the change processes that can be
described as evolutionary rather than sweeping, transformative changes signalled in
ambitious policies of societies undergoing radical change; and deep change means
teachers articulating meaningful understandings of a reform which in turn is reflected
in deep changes in the nature and organisation of teaching. It involves a fundamental
shift of mind in thinking about change. Deep change involves teachers altering the
underlying assumptions, goals, philosophy or belief, skills, conceptions and behaviour
regarding teaching and learning and assessment, in other words a change in culture.
It implies teachers seeking the best knowledge and ideas in order to delve deeper into
helping their students construct new meanings, solve problems, work in diverse
groups, and become proactive learners in a complex changing world. It involves
taking risks and living with uncertainty. Teachers committed to deep change see
themselves as active agents of change rather than victims of change complying
uncritically with policy reforms. It describes teachers who are able to negotiate
between top-down and bottom-up strategies for changing their practices. It involves
teacher collaboration, collaborations formed inside and outside the school. It means
teachers fusing the intellectual, political and spiritual forces of change. It also means
teachers making personal choices and commitments as well as taking personal
responsibility to disrupt the status quo with respect to teaching, learning and
assessment.
Deep change results from policymakers adopting a strong theory of education and a
strong theory of change with regard to policy, and to make them operate in tandem
(Fullan, 1999b, 2003). A theory of education includes the pedagogical assumptions,
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the substance of content and pedagogy, and associated components such as moral
purpose and the best knowledge in the policy. A theory of change includes the
strategies formed to guide and support implementation. Fullan (2003) asserts that it is
possible to have a strong theory of education but a weak theory of change, but then
the resulting change from this combination will be superficial. The outcomes resulting
from the intersections of the two types of theory of education with the two types of
theory of change (action) will result in four different kinds of change illustrated
below:
Theory of Education
Weak
Theory of
Weak
Strong
Drift
Superficial Change
Change for the sake
of change
Deep change
Change
Strong
Theory of education and Theory of change
(Adapted from Fullan, 2003: 53)
There is no single theory of change that applies equally well in all situations therefore
the change theory will need to be modified to the unique contexts of the change
(Fullan, 1999b; 2003).
I shall use this new conceptual framework on deep change to explain the relationship
between macro-level policies and micro-level practices, a relationship that is not only
non-linear, but embedded with complexity, dynamism, and unpredictability. In this
study I made three tentative propositions about deep change:
Proposition one: Teachers may not have a deep, sophisticated understanding of a new
assessment policy even if there is evidence of strong rhetorical commitment to this
policy.
Proposition 2: Teachers may not be able to reconcile their own assessment beliefs and
capacities with the stated goals of a new assessment policy
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Proposition 3: Teachers may find that traditional assessment practices (that is,
examinations and testing) hold greater efficacy in the classrooms than the
alternatives required by a new assessment policy.
I will use the findings from this study to test each of the three stated propositions. But
before I engage in that task I shall explain why each teacher practiced assessment in
the ways observed. The impact of any educational change is dependent on many and
varied factors, such as factors internal to the school as well as factors external to the
school environment. I shall focus on those factors that emerged from each case study.
Why Dinzi Implements Assessment Policy as Observed
The data from the case study on Teacher Dinzi revealed that she had a surface
understanding of the new official policy on assessment, that her beliefs about the
policy were both positive and negative, but leaning more towards the latter, and that
her assessment practices in the classroom was weakly connected, if not disconnected
from, the official policy on assessment. These findings provoke the questions: Why
does Dinzi have a surface understanding of the policy? How will this surface
understanding influence her assessment practice? Why are her beliefs mixed? How
will her beliefs affect her assessment practice? Why her assessment practice was
weakly connected if not disconnected to the official policy on assessment? In this
section I therefore seek to explain Dinzi’s assessment practices by drawing on the
both empirical evidence from this case and the theoretical claims of the
conceptual/theoretical framework on ‘deep change’.
I identify several factors emerging from the study that constrained the successful
implementation of the assessment policy by Teacher Dinzi. These are Dinzi’s
personal and professional characteristics, her understandings and beliefs of the policy,
the school context, the nature in which the policy was introduced, her knowledge and
skills, conflicting demands by educational administrators, policy conflicts and
collisions, the nature of the training, the focus on Grade 9 or exit level grades, school
based support, collaborative culture, monitoring and evaluation and ambivalence
about the policy. These factors function in concert with each other to explain the
disconnection between her assessment practice and the policy. There is also a
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profound complimentarily between surface understanding and beliefs about policy
and its implementation in practice
Dinzi’s personal and professional characteristics
Her age (forty years) and race (Black African) indicates that Dinzi has many layers of
knowledge, skills, values, attitude, understandings and experiences shaped by the
apartheid system of education, the oppressive and destructive effects of which have
been well documented (see African National Congress, 1994; Christie, 1998;
Department of Education, 1995; Hartshorne, 1992; Kallaway, 2002). These layers
include firstly, her twelve years of primary and secondary schooling, secondly her
four years of teacher ‘training’ in the homeland tertiary institutions, and thirdly, her
approximately ten years of teaching - all in the old tradition dominated by
behaviourism and fundamental pedagogics. She therefore has about twenty-six years
of formal educational experiences and understandings that framed the teacher not
only as a repository and transmitter of knowledge, but also helped frame the function
of a teacher as an evaluator who tested whether the knowledge transmitted could be
recovered from students as delivered by the teacher. In other words, it was a system
that enforced and enhanced the ideas of rote teaching and learning, as well as the
view of teacher-centeredness with students as passive recipients of the expert
knowledge of teachers. Dinzi referred to this poor standard of education in her own
background:
[Maybe] with the TED schools they are used to those terms,
they used to practice assignments and projects, whereas the
main Bantu Education had no emphasis put on these things.
(A1)
The other manifestation of this education and training legacy was her reliance on the
textbook as an anchoring resource to guide teaching and learning. In fact Dinzi’s faith
in the uncritical use of textbooks is so solid that it is reflected in her committed use of
two old science textbooks in her classroom, as discussed previously.
The new
assessment policy however requires that Dinzi make a paradigm shift from the burden
of past understandings and practices to one that is ‘student-centred’ and ‘outcomesbased’ – a system deeply different politically, epistemologically, and pedagogically
from the old system. Dinzi is expected to make a fundamental change at a level so
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deep that it would be extremely difficult to achieve except under conditions of
sustained teacher support and changes in classroom contexts.
The new assessment policy has been in operation for four years in the new education
system (1998 to 2002), and Dinzi has two years experience of it, 2001 and 2002. This
essentially means that this new policy has added another layer, a new and
paradigmatically different one, over the other layers of twenty-six years of entrenched
epistemologies and pedagogies. It seems obvious that the entrenched beliefs and
practices would remain stable since it had not been unseated or challenged by this
new policy. This layer of the past that has resulted in predictable patterns of teaching
would indeed be extremely difficult to unseat, deconstruct or reconstruct. Several
attempts to disturb this ‘grammar of schooling’ (Lortie, 1975) have affirmed stability
more often than change (see Ball, 1990, Cohen, 1990, Ball and Cohen, 1999;
Hargreaves, 1994). I argue that this patterned behaviour resulting from Dinzi’s past
educational experiences accounts for her superficial understandings of the new
assessment policy, and consequently the observed unchanged assessment practices.
She could therefore be expected to resort to the security and stability of tried and
tested behaviours and routines in her professional experiences. Evans (2001:32)
supports this argument by asserting that the tendency for people to cling to their past
competencies is natural. This particular orientation of Dinzi is not her fault, but could
be ascribed to the socio-historical legacies that she and many educators in South
Africa carry. I am not suggesting that this layer has been calcified and resistant to
change; what I am suggesting is that the effort required changing established patterns
of thought and behaviour would require sustained and systemic intervention –
something underestimated in South Africa’s post-apartheid education reformers.
Dinzi’s Beliefs about the New Assessment Policy
Teachers’ beliefs about a policy play a central role in policy implementation, and
inextricably linked to their attitude, will, and commitment towards policy learning
which in turn will influence their implementation of the policy. Dinzi displayed
mixed beliefs towards the new assessment policy, some were positive while others
were negative, but the negative beliefs outweighed the positive. Her positive beliefs
included: “portfolios are good, the standards are higher, all learners can learn” and
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that a positive disposition should be embraced. However she also had negative beliefs
such as: it involved too much paper work, required resources that the school could not
afford; that continuous assessment was complicated, assessing portfolios was
frustrating and de-motivating, the process was not well-planned, introduction was
top-down, teachers were not well-trained, facilitators were not well prepared and she
did not feel confident and empowered to implement the policy. It seems clear that if
all the negative beliefs coalesce, its combined effects on her attitude and commitment
towards change would be limiting for change. I would argue that such negative
attitudes contribute to Dinzi’s surface understanding of the policy and its
unsuccessful implementation.
In this regard policymakers and educational administrators have not taken into
account the emotional dimension of change (Hargreaves, 1998, 2002), or the
concept of emotional intelligence as being advocated by educational change
specialists (see Fullan, 1999b, 2001a, 2001b, 2003; Goleman, 1995, 1998;
Hargreaves, 2004). Educational change is not only a technical exercise about
developing capacity and providing resources, important as they are, but it is also a
moral and deeply emotional one. A teacher may be very competent and capable in
bringing about change and may have the ideal conditions to make the change work
but if the teacher is not emotionally connected to the change, the change will not
happen. It is therefore important for reason and emotions to garner the same
respect, since they are interactive and critical for deep change to be accomplished,
a view supported by Fullan et al (1999b:2):
Reconciling the respective powers of emotion and cognition
increases one’s individual and collective capacity for positive
change.
If teachers have negative beliefs about a change, they could develop deep,
negative attitudes and resistance towards the change, and getting their buy-in or
ownership of the change would be extremely difficult. Ownership is critical to
understanding and practicing something fundamentally new because:
[Shared] ownership of something new on the part of large
numbers of people is tantamount to real change.
(Fullan, 2001: 92)
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The importance of teacher ownership is supported by the study conducted by
PriceWaterhouse Coopers in Britain (Fullan, 2003:5). I do not think that Dinzi is to
be slighted for this lack of ownership or negative beliefs about the policy; it was the
way that the policy was introduced to her as well as the nature of the training, topics
which are discussed later in this section, that are some of the factors contributing to
her surface understanding of the policy and its non-implementation.
The School Context
The school context is the set of conditions under which teachers operate; and this
context is a factor in the successful implementation of change (Evans, 2001; Fink and
Stoll, 1998; Fullan, 2003). As McLaughlin (1998) puts it “to ignore context is to
ignore the very elements that make policy implementation a problem (p79).
With regard to the conditions in the school, Dinzi listed a litany of constraining
factors that prevented her from successfully practising assessment in the ways
required by the new policy. These included the lack of basic resources such as
textbooks, chalk, dusters, photocopying paper, a properly equipped library,
cupboards, and insufficient laboratories with relevant equipment, She also
complained about the small size of her classroom, the large number of students in her
class, the limited background or prior knowledge of the students, the limited English
language proficiency of the students, and the fact that many students live alone with
no parental supervision. Students are often caregivers to their siblings. Teachers have
little time and too much paperwork. Furthermore, Dinzi complained that most
students were so poverty stricken that not only were they undernourished, but also
could not afford to access important resources such as the library, computers, internet
facilities and other relevant materials to complete projects, assignments and
additional activities. These conditions, beyond Dinzi’s control, are concerns that
further explain her difficulties in practising the new forms of assessment expected
from the new policy. Malcolm Gladwell (in Fullan, 2003:27) identified:
The power of context as one of three agents of change. The
power of context says that people are a lot more sensitive to
their environment than they may seem.
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Another contextual problem reported by Dinzi was that the school had been understaffed, and this under-staffing, she indicated resulted in her teaching time being
overloaded. She reported that the provincial department of education responded to
this problem of staff shortage by first hiring temporary teachers and then firing
these temporary teachers. As discussed previously, temporary teachers were hired
in the second term as a response to teacher overload but fired in the third term, the
reasons unknown to Dinzi, the staff and the principal. This not only disrupted the
continuity of teaching and learning, but it also caused discomfort and
disappointment among the staff, including Dinzi, because they were overloaded
with class teaching again. Overload is considered one of the main enemies of
reform (Fullan, 2000). This view is supported by Evans (2001: 127) who observed
that “turnover and reassignment of personnel are among the greatest hazards to
innovation”. With regard to overload, the study by PriceWaterhouse Coopers is
instructive (Fullan, 2003: 5). PriceWaterhouse Coopers were commissioned by
the British government to study the working conditions of teachers and head
teachers. Based on their findings they concluded that if the goals of the
educational system were to be realised teachers’ workload needed to be reduced
(p.5). This school context therefore certainly worked against Dinzi practising new
forms of assessment suggested by policy even if she knew how to implement
them. The emotional frustration developed as a consequence of being overloaded
would certainly take its toll on Dinzi and the school staff because they enjoy no
autonomy over staffing which “is essential to maintaining the impetus for
innovation” (Loius and Miles, 1990:22).
Dinzi also reported burglaries in the school as a crucial problem; for example the
computer and the printer had been stolen but had since been replaced through a
fund raising campaign organised by the school.
An added contextual problem related to the large number of social problems that
teachers had to address on a weekly, if not daily basis. One common problem was
girls falling pregnant as a result of being raped by taxi drivers. Another was the
high rate of absenteeism among students. Spending time and energy addressing
these socio-economical problems could compromise the time and energy that
Dinzi could spend on implementing the new policy.
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The external context of the school had added to the internal contextual problems.
For example, the degree of poverty, the low educational levels of parents, and
parents not living with their children, limited the nature of support that the parents
could provide to students for engaging in the new assessment activities such as
projects and assignments, amongst others.
Dinzi’s understandings and practices of the new assessment policy is inescapably
constrained by her school context – one that could be viewed as uncongenial, if
not hostile to Dinzi practising assessment in ways suggested in the new policy.
Dinzi believed that the school “is not conducive to teaching and learning”
(personal communication). It is clear that the context described above together
with its established school dynamics of the past twenty-seven years would
encourage and buttress the status quo rather than disrupt it. It would generate an
inertial force opposing real and deep transformation. I support Fullan (2003) in
asserting that transformative change addresses the basic working conditions of
teachers to enable them to become fully and deeply engaged in new changes. In
other words, a fundamental transformation or re-culturing of the context of the
school needs to be achieved which is yet to happen at Delamani High School.
The way in which Dinzi was introduced to the new Policy
I will argue that the way the assessment policy and its related documents were
introduced to Dinzi could have contributed to her superficial understanding of the
policy and consequently its non-implementation.
Firstly the way Dinzi received the policy had been problematic. She reported that it
was given to her at a staff meeting but that it was not discussed properly. This could
imply that the policy was sent to the principal who in turn gave it to Dinzi. This
process of policy flow demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the assumptions policy
makers and administrators make with regard to the policy process, namely that there
is a linear relationship between the presence of the policy and its understanding, that
is, if teachers receive a copy of the policy they will understand it, and secondly, if
teachers receive the policy they can and will implement it as policy makers desire; in
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other words a direct relationship between policy and practice. The fallacy of this
assumption is well known (see Jansen, 1997, 1998, Sayed & Jansen, 2001;
Hargreaves et al, 1998). It also demonstrates their mistaken view of policy as a
mechanical device and a packaged solution for change. It seems obvious that the said
staff meeting had been an ‘information and instructions giving’ session therefore no
proper discussion took place. This demonstrates the technical way in which the policy
was introduced to Dinzi without any consideration for the conceptual development of
deeper meaning and clarity about the policy. Fullan (2001:77) observed that teachers
experienced difficulties at the implementation stage when they “find that the change is
simply not very clear as to what it means in practice”. In fact Dinzi reported it would
be valuable if:
The educators in the school come together and then look at the
documents and try to understand it.
(A3).
She reported that she does not refer to the policy constantly. I believe that she does
not refer to it because she does not understand it. And she does not understand it
because it was given to her without the necessary opportunity to engage with its
contents to develop the kind of deep meaning and purpose required for its successful
implementation.
The way the other policy-related documents are received by Dinzi and the school is
instructive in understanding why Dinzi has a surface understanding of the policy and
unable to implement it as intended by the policy makers. I will provide quotes from
the interviews (A3) to illustrate the way she received information:
What we get is just documents.
Given documents on what is to happen.
They sent us the assessment sheets with instructions ‘this is
what we are expecting from you’, so you have to get your own
learning.
Well usually they send a circular.
They circulate how many projects, investigations, experiments,
assignments and so on”.
You are told today by a circular then tomorrow this is needed.
(A3)
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This last quotation illustrates the kind of unreasonable pressure exerted on teachers that
force them to engage in practices antithetical to the policy requirements, for example
when Dinzi was requested to submit portfolios at short notice she reported:
It was so sudden, it means daily tests.
(A3)
Yet portfolios are supposed to include more than just tests. But teachers cannot be
blamed for resorting to practices contrary to policy requirements if educational
administrators place unreasonable demands on them. The quotations illustrate that the
documents containing information regarding the policy are either handed out at
workshops or sent to the schools for teachers to use and implement without any
discussion of its underlying rationale, whether teachers understand it or not and
whether conditions are conducive for its implementation. I call this a ‘posting’ model
of policy that is devoid of any empirical or theoretical evidence to support it. This
‘posting’ of the policy is alien to any notion of professional involvement, commitment
and responsibility, elements critical for deep change. Hargreaves (personal
communication, February, 2004) refers to this form of delivery of policy documents
as the “wheel-barrow model” to illustrate the filling of the documents into a
receptacle and delivering it to the schools. This ‘posting’ or ‘wheelbarrow” model
reflects the importance that school administrators pay to the technical issues of policy
implementation rather than to conceptual issues of clarity so critical for deep
understanding and implementation of fundamental change. Having access to
information is clearly not the same as understanding the information or developing
clarity about its ideas. Dinzi confirmed her lack of clarity:
I find that now some terms given were not clear or not yet
shown to be clear
(A3)
I discussed previously that she did not have clear conceptual understandings of
critical and specific outcomes, assessment criteria and criterion-referenced
assessment among other fundamental concepts relating to the new assessment policy.
And the way the policy and its related documents were received is partly to blame for
this ‘unclarity’. Fullan (2001: 77) reminds us that “the more complex the reform the
greater the problem of clarity”. The new assessment policy is not only complex but
the changes demanded are overwhelmingly deep for most teachers – a ‘deep
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assessment paradigm’ where achieving clarity of the policy is crucial. And a lack of
clarity:
Represents a major problem at the implementation stage;
teachers and others find that the change is simply not very
clear as to what it means in practice.
(p.77).
A consequence of a lack of clarity could also have contributed to the development of
“false clarity” (p.77) where Dinzi reported that the changes involved changes in terms
only, and that she had been doing similar forms of assessment before the new policy
had been introduced. She obviously is interpreting the policy in an oversimplified way
thus leading to false clarity, which translates to surface understanding of the policy
and it’s weak if not non-implementation.
Knowledge and Skills
Dinzi reported that she assessed the students’ notebooks, projects, assignments,
practical work, and portfolios, and engages in continuous assessment of students’
work but my seventeen classroom observations revealed none of this. Her students
also reported that they did none of these activities. She is aware of what to do but
does not have the kind of deep knowledge and skills necessary to enable her carry out
these different forms of assessment activities expected by the new policy.
She
conceded to her lack of knowledge and skills to implement the new policy:
Not yet, more training is still needed and support from GDE3.
(A3)
And this is lack of knowledge and skills are no fault of Dinzi. The way the new policy
with its ambitious deep changes expected of teachers had been introduced to her as
discussed, and the nature of training provided, which I take up later in the section,
were wanting in providing the opportunity for her to develop this deep knowledge
and skill base necessary for her to practice the new kinds of assessment.
3
Meaning the provincial Gauteng Department of Education
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Elmore (2003:7) puts it more bluntly:
Can people in schools be held accountable for their effects on
student learning if they haven’t been provided the opportunity
to acquire the new knowledge and skill necessary to produce
the performance that is expected of them?
I would argue that the reason Dinzi did not practice assessment in the ways stated
was that her information about the change was not translated to knowledge. I
concur that
[Information] becomes knowledge only through a social, i.e.
interactive process. ….
Envisioned change will not happen or will not be fruitful until
people look beyond the simplicities of information …to the
complexities of learning, knowledge, ….
(Brown and Duguid in Fullan, 2003:47, emphasis in original)
Dinzi was aware of or informed about certain aspects of the policy such as using
different assessment methods, but she lacked the deep knowledge and skills
fundamental for its successful implementation.
Conflicting demands by the educational administrators
While the policy demands the implementation of the continuous assessment model
by teachers, this mark combined with the examination mark is reduced at the end
of the year to different symbols indicating levels of performance that could cause
confusion in the minds of teachers, For example, for Grade 8 students, the
provincial department of education requires teachers to indicate on the
“Summative Record Sheet” symbols such as “-” for level not achieved, “/” for
level partially achieved, and “*” for level achieved in respect of each learning area
for each students. But in the “Progression Schedule” they expect teachers to use
the symbols “O” for outstanding, “A” for achieved, “PA” for partially achieved’
“NA” for not achieved, and “NAS” for needs additional support in each learning
area for each student. However, for the “Progression Schedule for the Grade 9”
students on the other hand, the provincial department requires teachers to use
marks ranging from 0 to 10 to 20 up to 100 marks as well as numbers “4” for
achieved with excellence, “3” for achieved, “2” for partially achieved, and “1” for
not achieved. It is not surprising that the teacher complained:
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The documentation and demands from the department causes
stress and pressure.
(Personal communication with teacher, 2 December 2002)
This conflicting demands made by the educational authorities could cause
confusion in understanding the policy and consequently compromise its effective
implementation.
Policy conflicts and collisions
Her superficial understanding of the rationale underpinning the new policy discussed
previously could account for her unchanged assessment practice. Her superficial
understanding is shaped I believe, by Dinzi implementing two different, disconnected
and conflicting assessment policies simultaneously, one old and one new. As
previously indicated Dinzi did not know that the major shortfall of the old/current
assessment policy commonly known as NATED 550 was one of the two reasons that
underpinned the development of the new assessment policy. In her grade 10 class the
old NATED 550 policy was in operation while in Grades 8 and 9 the new outcomesbased assessment policy that was responding to the weaknesses of NATED 550 was
in operation. These two policies with different and disconnected expectations from
teachers could obviously cause confusion if not chaos that could contribute to surface
understandings and unsuccessful implementation of the new policy. Confusion could
lead to unhealthy levels of frustrations, anxiety and stress that could result in extreme
difficulties of responding and adapting to change appropriately. Therefore the
confusion emanating from the expectations of the two conflicting policies could be
profound and should not be underestimated as a powerful constraining factor to
developing a meaningful understanding of the new change and its successful
implementation. Fullan (2001b: 27) concludes:
If there was ever a problem of meaning, it is amply
demonstrated by the miasma of innovations and their sources.
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Nature of training/professional development
The nature of the training experienced by Dinzi also accounts for her surface
understanding of the new policy and her consequential weak implementation of it.
Dinzi reported that the only form of training she received had been in the form of
workshops that were general in nature as it related to OBE. These were one-day
workshops conducted away from school. But she received no training specifically for
assessment, but she estimated about two days of training for assessment incorporated
with the other training in the course of the year. Two days training to understand the
contents and learn how to implement the ideas of a new, complex and deeply changed
assessment policy is clearly inadequate. Dinzi confirmed that it was not sufficient
(A3). Therefore she regarded it as a crash course (ibid). The limitations of ad hoc and
discontinuous workshops have been extensively criticised (see Fullan, 2001b). It is
important for training to be continuous because it provides:
[Opportunities] for teachers to consider, discuss, argue about,
and work through the changes in their assumptions. Without
this, the technical changes they are exposed to during the
training are unlikely to make a deep lasting impact on their
practice.
(Evans, 2001: 65)
This opportunity to discuss, argue and debate was unfortunately not provided to Dinzi
at the training sessions. The importance of providing such an opportunity becomes
even more profound in terms of Dinzi’s personal and professional experience and
beliefs discussed previously.
The contents of the workshop also seemed problematic because they discussed the
what and how of it, not the why (A3). In addition when you have a problem with
another lesson they didn’t give you an example. Well they just tell you what to do.
Full stop. It was not helpful because we were instructed what to do (ibid). Her reports
illustrate that Dinzi was not provided with the opportunity to engage and interact with
the ideas in the new policy to enable her to develop the deep conceptual
understanding and productive learning necessary to make fundamental changes in
practice. It rather encourages learning that is superficial, narrow and prescriptive. This
is consistent with the claims made by Hargreaves (in Fullan, 2003: 7):
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Teachers and schools in poorer communities are being
subjected to a form of performance training that provides
intensive implementation support but only in relation to highly
prescriptive interventions.
The cascade model is not working as illustrated by Dinzi:
I think we are not properly work-shopped from the top to the
down to educators. Only one or two educators have attended
and they give us wrong information.
(A3).
The pedagogical inadequacy of the cascade model for teacher training has also been
sharply criticised and rightly so, by the Review Committee on Curriculum 2005
(Chisholm, 2000). It fails to develop the kind and quality of expertise required for the
implementation of our new transformative policies because it is riddled with
conceptual and practical faults, such as not modelling the basic tenets and principles
of outcomes-based education, and democracy.
The timing of the training had also been problematic. As reported previously, Dinzi
received most of her limited training and associated documents in 2002 for
implementation in 2002. Clearly this is unacceptable and inadequate to enable Dinzi
to understand a new policy with major and deep demands and implement it.
The facilitators responsible for training were not adequately prepared as reported by
Dinzi:
The facilitators conducting the training did not know their work
and the district officials are confused.
(A3)
This situation could only build scepticism and cynicism on the part of educators,
rather than their commitment and confidence essential for change. Scepticism and
cynicism can lead so easily to demoralisation and demotivation, which would be
extremely difficult to restore in order to make the policy work.
The nature of the training provided described above clearly cannot be called
development for deep change - development in this instance would think that
development:
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[Consists] of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that
leave people with little choice and little opportunity of
exercising their reasoned agency. The removal of substantial
unfreedom is constitutive of development.
(Sen, 1999: xii, emphasis in original)
On the contrary, the training that Dinzi received adopted a myopic view of training
that led to her surface understanding of the policy and non-fulfilment of its goals.
Focus on Grade 9 – exit level students
The Department of Education had exerted an unusual amount of pressure on schools
with regard to Grade 9 students who would be completing their compulsory phase of
schooling, if they were successful. This resulted in Dinzi focusing more attention to
the Grade 9 classes than to the observed Grade 8 class. This I would argue contributed
to the non-implementation of the assessment policy in this class.
During my first visits to the school I had observed a document referring to Grade 9
work as indicated in Chapter Two. The Assessment Guidelines prepared by the
Department of Education (undated) targeted Grade 9 only. The training provided had
been targeted at Grade 9 teachers as indicated by Dinzi:
In Grade 9 they have special training in assessment. But there
is no special training for assessment in Grade 8.
(A3)
Other assessment related documents such as recording and reporting sheets were
focused on Grade 9 only. I had observed Dinzi (A4, 14 August 2002) in her Grade 9
mathematics class discussing the department’s requirements for portfolios for Grade 9
and she informed them:
You must keep a file for maths. The District officials and the
national officials from the Department of Education will also
check your files.
(A4, 14 August 2002)
On the first day of the fourth term Dinzi informed me:
This term would be very hectic because of Grade 9 portfolios
and Grade 9 examinations.
(A3)
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This illustrates the pressure that Dinzi experienced to focus on a grade that was to exit
the specific education band, hence her focus on Grade 9 classes at the expense of her
Grade 8 class.
School-based support
The observed conspicuous absence of classroom-based support from the science head
of department, the principal and educational administrators, I will argue, could have
contributed to Dinzi’s the superficial understanding and weak/non-implementation of
the new assessment policy. Classroom-based support could provide what Christie
(1999: 288) calls “a steady engagement at the school level”. Deep learning on the job
is necessary for successful change (Evans, 2001). Support is key for success (Fullan,
2001b). But support needs to be balanced with pressure for success (p.91) because
“support without pressure leads to drift or waste of resources (p.92). The importance
of school-based support is to prevent Dinzi feeling the way she expressed below:
We are not sure whether we are doing the right thing or the
wrong thing.
Our department, the senior officials must sometimes come and
listen and see the problems that we are experiencing in school.
When the assessment facilitators are supposed to come and
help us they don’t come.
(A3)
The nature of the school-based support is essential. It should not be technically seen
as a control mechanism as indicated by Dinzi:
Facilitators visit school to check if they had a school
assessment policy.
Even when the people from the district come they check what is
in paper not what happens in the classroom.
(A3)
Collaborative Cultures or Professional Learning Community
During my six-week observation period and consequent visits to the school I did not
see any professional collaboration amongst the science teachers or other teachers.
Each appeared to be working in isolation, the antithesis of a learning community
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(Fullan and Hargreaves, 1992). This lack of a collaborative culture or professional
learning community in the school and science department could account for Dinzi
having a surface understanding of the policy and its weak implementation. This was
evident at the staff meeting discussed below, the different way that Dinzi claimed she
constituted her marks at the end of the year compared to that of the science head of
department (discussed previously), and her fragmented understanding and practice of
assessment. She was unable to see the connections between assessment in Grade 9
and Grade 8 despite both constituting the same phase. In fact she believed that there
was a “Grade 9 world and a Grade 8 world” (A3). I do not blame Dinzi for this but
rather the working conditions of the school that may prevent this kind of collaboration
needed for deep change to occur. Researchers concur that it is the working conditions
in the vast majority of schools that prevent teachers from working collaboratively
(See Fullan, 2001; 60). Collaborative cultures are important because they are
constantly converting tacit knowledge into shared knowledge through interaction
(ibid: 47). It is also important to note:
Collaborative cultures are innovative not just because they
provide support, but also because they recognise the value of
dissonance inside and outside the organisation.
(Fullan, 1999b: 27).
Monitoring and evaluation
I had observed a clear lack of monitoring or evaluation mechanism in the school. This
lack of an accountability system could account for Dinzi having a superficial
understanding of the new policy and her weak implementation of the policy. The
manifestations of this absence of monitoring was observed first, when Dinzi did not
have the continuous assessment mark sheet for her Grade 8 B class at the end of the
third term and it seemed to be accepted without any questions being asked by the
science head of department or the deputy principals or the principal, second, when her
mark sheet was not ready for moderation by the science head of department who went
to mark matriculation examination papers without moderating the mark sheet in
November. If monitoring did take place the situation that I witnessed in the staff
meeting could have been avoided. At this staff meeting (only one held in six week
period) the science head of department who was teaching one class out of the four
Grade 8 Natural Science classes informed Dinzi (who taught one Grade 8 class) and
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the other teacher who was teaching the other two Grade 8 Natural Science classes that
the following day all four Grade 8 Natural Science classes would be writing a control
test on density. The teacher who was teaching two Grade 8 classes responded that he
had not taught density but another section, namely ‘matter, atoms and molecules’. The
science head of department decided that her class and Dinzi’s class would write the
control test, and the other two classes would write the test in the following term. We
are reminded and I agree:
The profession must have a clear and effective arrangement for
accountability and for measuring performance and outcome.
(Fullan, 2003:10)
This monitoring and evaluation or accountability could be viewed as pressure that is
both positive and essential for opposing the forces that maintain the status quo. For
change to be successful both pressure and support are required because “pressure
without support leads to resistance and alienation” (Fullan, 2001b: 91).
Monitoring and evaluation is a built in attempt to learn and improve as you go, an
essential requirement for successful change.
Ambivalence
Dinzi’s response to the new assessment policy was ambivalent. On the one hand
she felt that the new methods of assessment proposed by the new policy:
Quite advantageous because you don’t have to stay for the
whole month, to give a test. …You were able to pick up very
quickly if they don’t understand.
Well firstly I noticed it was exciting for the students, for me as
well. Well if it is exciting for the students then they put more
effort into doing it. Then it is easier for them to learn about
whatever you are teaching them.
(A3)
Her optimism towards the new policy is backed by her assertion “we need to be
positive” (ibid). On the other hand she asserted:
It was not much change; just new terms…I don’t know where
they did their research to find that. I think we’re doing what
we’ve been doing all along.
(A3)
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This demonstrates a sense of negativity or resistance towards the policy.
She also reported on the one hand that she changed as a result of the policy, but on
the other hand she reported that her role as a teacher did not change.
This ambivalence and ambiguity or duality of meanings makes it difficult to
ascertain whether Dinzi was resistant to the new policy per se or not. I did not
experience any overt resistance on her part but if there are covert forms of
resistance I shall respect and attend to it as a necessary part of the change process.
I adopt this stance because I agree:
[Any] transition engenders mixed feelings. Understanding
these feelings is vital to the successful implementation of
change.
(Evans, 2001: 26)
Furthermore Maurer (in Fullan, 2003: 22) observed:
Resistance is an essential ingredient of success.
Often those who resist have something important to tell us.
…They may understand problems about the minutiae of
implementation that we never see from the lofty perch atop
Mount Olympus.
This ambivalence could have contributed to her surface understanding of
the policy and its non-implementation.
I now explain why Teacher Hayley implemented assessment in ways that I had
observed.
Why Teacher Hayley Implemented the Assessment Policy in the way observed?
This case study revealed that Hayley had a surface understanding of the new official
policy on assessment, that she had both positive and negative beliefs about the policy
although more negative than positive, and that some of her assessment practices were
linked to the official policy on assessment while others were not. These findings
invoke the question: Why? I respond to this question by constructing the analytical
links in my explanation by drawing on the empirical evidence from the study and on
theoretical evidence from the conceptual framework of deep change.
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I identified similar factors to those identified for Dinzi in Hayley’s case. These are:
Hayley’s personal and professional characteristics, beliefs about the policy, the school
context, nature of policy introduction, knowledge and skills, policy conflicts and
collisions, nature of the training, focus on exit level examinations, school-based
support, collaborative cultures/Professional learning communities, monitoring and
evaluation, and ambivalence. These factors function interactively and in combination
to determine the successful implementation of the policy.
Hayley’s personal and professional characteristics
Her age (28 years) indicates that she would have had about sixteen years of
experience in education driven by the principles of Christian Fundamental
Pedagogics. There is quite a vast literature on this subject and I shall not dwell on this
except to emphasise that it valued the uncritical use behavioural objectives and
encouraged the use textbooks as the most important guide to teaching. It promoted
didactic teaching and learning. Of her five and half years teaching experience, four
years have been in the old system and one and half in both the old and new. The past
patterned social forces could influence her way of thinking and behaving. She thus
could possess her own cherished cultural ideals about education, and a general
philosophy underlying this adulation of traditionalist teaching, learning and
assessment. She may invariably invoke her ideas of practice and use her past
experiential reasoning in deciding how to assess. And now she is expected to make
this huge, deep shift to a new system that is driven by outcomes, a concept she has a
surface understanding of, expecting her to use ‘learning programme’, a concept of
which she has limited understanding, and to become a ‘facilitator’, a concept of
which she also claimed to have no idea. It seems clear that under such conditions she
would resort to her past knowledge and practices that provided her with the security
and certainty she so desires. In fact her observed reliance and her reported use of the
textbook is a stark reflection of her resorting to the comfort of her past practice. She
attests to this:
I found my way to do it and to still survive with all this.
(B3)
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I am in no way slighting Hayley for this but believe it is the short sightedness,
misguided assumptions, and/or misconceptions of the policy makers and education
administrators who did not provide her the kind of support and professional
development so essential for making the kind of deep changes demanded by the
policy. I therefore argue that it is the security and certainty of her past experiences,
acts that are normal and understandable (see Evans, 2001), coupled with a lack of
appropriate support and professional development, topics I pursue later in this section
that could account for the disconnection between her assessment practice and the
policy.
Another example that illustrates her reliance in her past tried and tested activities is
her report that she uses the criteria of the matriculation Biology syllabus to set the
question paper for June and November examination question papers (3 December
2002). The matriculation examination is not driven by outcomes but rather by
objectives. The power of the past reliance on the use of objectives had also been
demonstrated in her preparation file discussed earlier. She also relies on using
marking memoranda, a dominant practice of the past, to assess her students’ work.
She is one who respects authority and therefore does not challenge the principal or
management (personal communication, 23 August 2002). This is a reflection of her
past where a submissive and compliant posture by teachers was promoted and
encouraged. This posture would not enable a teacher to take risks, or to disrupt the
status quo, fundamentals required to fulfil the policy demands.
Her first language is not English. This could account for her lack of understanding of
the policy. This is reflected in her report: I don’t understand the English so well (B3).
It seems obvious that if she cannot understand the language in which the policy is
written she would lack clarity about its meaning and goals. Being clear about a
reform is a fundamental requirement for successful implementation (Fullan, 2001b).
The changes that the new assessment policy expects of teachers are complex and
therefore understanding its contents is crucial for its successful implementation. It is
therefore likely that Hayley’s difficulty in understanding the new assessment policy,
which is written in English, could account for her lack of deep understanding of the
assessment policy and its subsequent superficial implementation. I should add that
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despite this shortcoming, Hayley tried to implement some of the new assessment
practices, such as portfolio assessment.
I believe that this power of the past is unlikely to be washed away by policy. The
conservative impulse and the cumulative impact of culture and past learning are too
strong to permit change by policy alone. I am in no way suggesting that change is not
possible; I am suggesting that the kind of initiatives required to disrupt established
patterns of thought and behaviour of teachers, or the status quo if you like, would
require systemic and sustained efforts yet to be developed for the desired policy goals
to be realised at the level of the classroom. I shall also argue that there were many
factors that could account for those times where she was able to satisfy the policy
requirements, for example assessing continuously, as well as assessing tests,
assignments, practical work, and projects (although with some limitations). First
because of her race, being white she had the privilege of attending schools where
such work was expected of her as a student as she reported:
I remember what my teachers did …and actually lots of things
that I do, I still go on what I remember on what they did.
(B3)
Also as a white teacher in a white school this was expected as she had indicated
during the interview: “I have always done it with all my grades” (B3), so these
activities were not totally new to her though the fundamental philosophies and
principles were now different. Second she was in a school where resources were not a
problem. She did not mention resource constraints at all in any interview, and neither
did I observe such constraints. In fact her lessons are conducted in a large, wellresourced laboratory, she is assisted by a laboratory assistant, as well as an assistant
to make copies of worksheets, and an assistant to complete the administrative side of
recording her marks. Third she is committed to her work. This assertion is based on
my observations: all her work such as worksheets and marking was always complete,
her lessons always started on time, she supported students during the breaks and after
school, and staying in to prepare lessons. A further illustration of her commitment to
teaching was demonstrated when I went to the school on the last day of the fourth
term, when students and most teachers had left, Hayley remained in school to prepare
her work for the following year since she had been informed what classes she would
be teaching the following year (3 December 2002). It is this commitment that I
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believe contributes not only to her being very organised, disciplined and generally
well prepared for her lessons, but to her trying to change as reflected in her report:
What I am doing at the moment I am taking a piece of work and
I am trying to see how many different other methods of
assessment can I fit in here, is of such a nature that I can
actually use another way of measurement.
(B3)
Beliefs about the policy
The role of beliefs cannot but be crucial for understanding and implementing policy.
Her beliefs or attitudes described previously reflect her deep negativism towards the
policy and that is summarised cogently by her:
To be honest the assessment for me is a nightmare. Some of the
methods are totally ridiculous.
(B3)
Changes in beliefs are very difficult because they challenge the core values held by
people regarding educational change (Fullan, 2001b). While beliefs are generally not
made explicit or discussed, Hayley was forthright about how she felt about the new
assessment policy. Such deep negative emotional effects may not encourage a teacher
to make efforts to understand and implement the policy. And it was seen that the
teacher merely files the policy related documents away without any serious attempts
at discussing it with other teachers to make sense of them. These deep negative
beliefs or attitude could also account for the lack of deep understanding about the
policy and its superficial implementation.
But I should add that despite the negative feelings, Hayley tried to implement the
policy in some ways described earlier. I think that might be due to many reasons,
such as, her commitment to teaching that I have discussed earlier; her entry into the
teaching career in 1997 when the drums of change generally and outcomes-based
education specifically was so loud, she could have expected change; the supportive
role of the principal who she reported she respected for the support she provided, and
her faith in God who she reported provided her the strength to go on teaching. In fact
she reported that she and a group of teachers in the school prayed regularly in a
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classroom as a way to cope with the stresses of teaching (personal communication,
August 2002). I had observed the teachers praying during my visits to the school.
The school context
The school context plays a crucial role in policy implementation because it provides a
world of conditional possibilities and impossibilities to teachers.
The school’s executive make decisions without providing reasons for the decisions
except to instruct them to follow the decisions, for example the cases given
previously regarding the instruction by the head of department for Hayley to reduce
her continuous assessment marks; the other example is when the school executive
instructed teachers to use specific ratios for the December mark sheet, and yet another
was when teachers were instructed to use comments on students’ reports from a list
provided by the school’s executive. This traditional management style may be
inconsistent with the new thinking on management that would encourage and support
teachers to explore new ways of teaching, learning and assessing. This traditional
management style may likely promote and value traditional norms and mores. A
traditional environment may promote traditional pedagogical practices, rather than the
new pedagogical practices demanded from new policies. This traditional school
management environment could account for weak implementation of the policy.
With regard to the students in her class, Hayley reported that:
Learners have attitudes towards tasks, many they just don’t
care and not motivated.
(B1)
They keep jumping up and flying in one another’s hair. How on
earth am I going to have class in front of me and trying to
assess a debate?
(B3)
Hayley also reported that students experience problems related to language. Their
first language is not English and this affects the new assessment practice. I believe
that policy makers make assumptions about learner attitude, values, competencies and
behaviour with regard to implementing the new policy and these assumptions need to
be challenged. The demands made by a variegated student population, and learner
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ability, attitude and behaviour would account for Hayley’s inability to achieve many
of the goals of the new assessment policy.
Tests are written every Wednesdays reflecting the ‘testing culture’ in the school.
Hayley reported that the reasons for these tests were to ensure that children are
continuously busy with the work and to prepare students for examinations because
there is still a strong examination system prevailing (B3). However she tries to
combine the old system focusing on content with the new system focusing on skills
but in the tests:
It tests someone’s theoretical knowledge. You can get a normal
test, you study this and you give it back like in the old way.
(B3)
This testing culture reinforces the traditional pedagogy that ill serves the new
assessment system. Hence it could account for the weak implementation of the new
assessment policy that requires less emphasis on tests and rote learning and teaching.
The added demands placed upon Hayley would add to her weak implementation of
the policy, for example the school has a ‘double assessment system’ as reported by
Hayley:
So we are going at the moment on two paths.
(B3)
The two systems are:
All the worksheets and the practicals and the projects and
assignment still goes on, and then we have a special portfolio
project and assignment and worksheet.
(B3)
She complained:
It puts a big load on the teacher if you are assessing all the
time and marking all the time.
(B3)
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Hayley bemoaned the lack of time to implement the new assessment policy. She
complained that she did not have sufficient time to:
[See] the learners long enough. Have to still teach all my other
grades and do extracurricular duties. I can’t master content of
all the different documents I receive. Not enough time to
develop materials fully.
(B1)
The overloaded demands placed on Hayley resulted in insufficient time for her to
respond to the added demands of the new assessment policy. This could contribute to
the weak implementation of the policy. Shortage of time repeatedly appears as one of
the chief implementation problems (see Hargreaves 1994). Scarcity of time makes it
difficult for teachers to plan more thoroughly, to commit themselves to the effort of
the innovation, to work collaboratively with colleagues, or to reflect on their practice
(p. 15). How much time teachers get away from classroom duties to work
collaboratively with colleagues, or to reflect individually is a vital issue for matters of
educational change (p.15). Policymakers may have overlooked or underestimated the
extra time that would be required by teachers to respond to the new assessment
policy. This is because:
Teachers and administrators perceive time in teaching and
change very differently. These differences are rooted in how
teachers and administrators respectively are located in relation
to the structure of teachers’ work. And they … can lead to
profound misunderstandings and struggles about teaching,
change and time…
(p. 15)
Hargreaves (p.16) uses the “intensification thesis: to explain that “teaching is
becoming more compressed with worrying consequences”. The consequence could
be seen in this case that Hayley was unable to implement the new assessment policy
at a deep level because of the time constraints imposed by education policymakers
and administrators. This is to say that having good ideas is not good enough,
policymakers need also to take cognizance of the “implementation dip”, that is, “a dip
in performance and confidence as one encounters an innovation that requires new
skills and understandings” (Fullan, 2001a: 40).
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Those times when Hayley was able to link her assessment practice somewhat with the
new assessment policy was probably due to the evaluation system of teachers in the
school, as well as the strict disciplinary rules that were consistently enforced in the
school, for example, there was an internal system of evaluating teachers by the head
of department of a specific subject discipline. The head of department would
administer a set of prepared questions, accepted by the staff, orally to the students.
The students had to respond by a show of hands after the head of department read
each questions aloud. After analyzing the responses, the head of department and the
teacher concerned would meet to discuss the findings. The purpose was
developmental (personal communication with the principal). The observed culture of
discipline in the school was most impressive. The internal evaluation system and the
culture of discipline could have contributed to the establishment of conditions
conducive to implementing certain aspects of the new assessment practices by
Hayley.
Nature of introducing policy and related documents
The way Hayley received the new policy and other documents related to the new
system of assessment, I argue, may possibly also accounted for her surface
understanding of the policy and consequently its weak implementation.
Hayley reported that she received the policy and related documents mostly through
her pigeonhole in the staff room, or given to her by the head of department without
discussing it. This surely is no way of introducing a policy that theoretically and
conceptually departs deeply from the past. It would be difficult as reflected by
Hayley:
It is a lot of thinking. It doesn’t come naturally because none of
us was brought up in this way.
(B3)
It is seems clear that the way the policymakers and educational administrators
approached the implementation of the policy was problematic as reflected by the
teacher:
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The way the department has approached OBE with the
teachers, there’s lots of teachers that left teaching because of
the way it was dealt with.
(B3)
She also added:
I’ve got two of these thick files full of different types of
documents and things they suggest and then they suggest it
differently but I really don’t know what to use anymore. So I’m
really doing at this point in time what I think in my brain. I now
make my own things….
(B3)
Documents make me feel overwhelmed. Too much information
in a short space of time, don’t know which one to use. It is
easier if one document came; we master it and in a years time
another one.
(Personal communication, 19 July 2002)
This clearly illustrates that the way she received these documents force her to resort
to her old ways of assessing and this accounts for her lack of deep understanding of
the policy and its non-implementation.
In August 2002 while I was in the chemical room of the laboratory with Hayley, we
observed a document titled “Curriculum 2005: Assessment Guidelines: Natural
Science: Senior Phase from the Department of Education but it was undated. Hayley
reported that this was the first time she has seen this document and that by default.
However she reported that another Grade 9 teacher had told her that she had heard
about this document from her friend of another school. But since the school did not
have the document she did not pursue the matter. This method of ‘hearing’
information about policy is further illustrated by Hayley:
So basically what I am doing is all these things that I have
heard somewhere along the line.
(B3)
This further illustrates the faulty way of teachers’ contact with the policy related
documents.
Added to this is her ‘hearing’ about the revised curriculum policy:
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I think they are reducing the specific outcomes for each
learning area in a revised one that is only going to be
implemented later on.
(B3)
It seems clear that the nature of introducing the policy to Hayley by policy makers did
not provide her with the substantial opportunities to learn the practices proposed by
the new assessment policy, a fundamental condition for successful educational reform
(see Cohen and Hill, 2001), and it prevented her from challenging her acceptance of
and comfort with the status quo, that is persuading her why it is necessary to change
(see Evans, 2001). It is illusory to think that policy will be read and understood once it
reaches the teacher’s hand. It is equally illusory to think that teachers would build
commitment to the reform because they have received it from higher authorities.
Those claims seem quite unjustified and reflect the breathtaking simplicity of rational
choice thinking by policy makers and education administrators. I argue that this
unswerving consistency of brutal and theoretically obtuse procedures of introducing
teachers to a reformed policy would clearly contribute to their superficial
understanding of it and consequently its lack of implementation.
Knowledge and skills
In the section described previously I described Hayley’s lack of knowledge of
fundamental concepts such as critical outcomes, assessment criteria, criterionreferenced, underpinning the policy as described earlier. She also reported:
I have no idea how to link the SOs with the content
(Personal communication, 23 July 2002)
Don’t know how to manage portfolio files
(Personal communication, 23 July 2002)
Don’t know how to record information in a useful manner
(Personal communication, 23 July 2002)
This lack of knowledge I would argue contributed to the weak implementation of the
policy. She confirmed:
I still don’t know how to do that. My own knowledge maybe
wasn’t big enough.
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(B3)
She reported her role has changed in that she has lots of paper work (B3). This clearly
illustrates her lack of conceptual knowledge about the policy except in the technical
and administrative domain. In fact she admitted:
It is a very administrative thing at the end of the day.
(B3)
Hayley also complained that she lacked the skills to record marks in the new way
expected, and to assess attitudes and values (personal communication, 23 August
2002). Knowledge and skills is related to capacity to understand and implement the
policy. Hayley reported that she did not have the capacity to implement the policy
because:
We are overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done. To
add more will be fatal.
(B1)
The importance of building the capacity for change and development at both the
classroom and school levels has also been underscored by Harris (2003). Successful
implementation of change also requires teachers to move from old knowledge and
skills to new competence and capabilities. And when the scope and sophistication of
such change go far beyond minor modifications, that is, they seek deep changes, the
transition is especially challenging for teachers (see Evans, 2001). I argue that this
lack of knowledge and skills, or capacity, may account for her surface understanding
of the policy and its weak and/or lack of implementation.
Conflicting demands by the educational administrators
As indicated for Dinzi above, the same conflicting demands were made on Hayley
with regard to the various documents. Her response to this was:
I was saying to the teacher next to me: ‘I can’t believe that
everything ends like this’. It actually feels like why did, we do
all of this, this year; you have all these forms and SOs and ACs
and all of that, here we end up with an ‘A’ or an ‘O’ and it’s as
if it4 never happened.
(B3)
4
Meaning assessment as she practised including continuous assessment
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This conflicting demands made by different documents from higher authorities could
cause confusion and dissonance in Hayley’s mind, preventing her from seeing any
coherence in the assessment system. The importance of coherence is regarded as
crucial for successful policy implementation initiatives (see Evans, 2001; Fullan,
2001a, 2001b, Hargreaves, 1994). The conflicting demands and lack of coherence
amongst the various assessment related documents could have contributed to
Hayley’s surface understanding of the assessment policy and its less than optimal
implementation.
Policy conflicts and collisions
The confusion caused by the two different educational systems working
simultaneously is a factor that may also account for Hayley’s surface understanding
of the policy and its weak implementation. For example the requirements for Grade
12 driven by NATED 550, is different from the requirement for Grades 8 and 9
driven by outcomes-based education. Hayley illustrated this:
So there is lots of contradictions at the moment because they
said for portfolios the child (grade 8 and 9) must choose their
best…. In matric we use all the things that they did the whole
year.
(B3)
Hayley reported that she uses group work in her class and does have:
[A] bigger picture of the child that I can see but I’m not writing
it down anywhere because the report that the department at the
end of the day wants, there’s no space to write any of that
down.
(B3)
This illustrates conflicting requirements by the department of education. This
conflicting demand could account for her surface understanding of the assessment
policy and her superficial implementation of the new policy.
She also reported that she received so many different documents:
Every time it was something different. I get confused.
(B3)
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Another source of confusion was when the department changed their requirement
regarding levels of achievement from 1 to 5 they originally requested to 1 to 4
(personal communication, 26 November 2003). An added source of her confusion
came from the educational administrators. They instructed teachers to indicate only
levels achieved by students in students’ report cards, in contradiction to continuous
assessment model. For example the “Summative Record Sheet” from the provincial
department of education, required Hayley to indicate students progress by indicating
whether students had “achieved, partly achieved, not achieved” the specific outcomes
and assessment criteria using specific keys (personal communication, December
2002). The school on the other hand required the use of specific outcomes and
continuous assessment, while parents wanted to see percentages. The changing
requirement expected by the education administrators is captured in her report:
Interestingly suddenly the department wants portfolios for
grade 9’s that contains no assessment of SO’s but just % for
different activities.
(B2)
This multiple and varied demands, with conflicting ideas could have added to her
confusion and resulted in weak/lack of implementation of the policy. It seems that
educational administrators see this method as a pure time-maximisation process,
which leaves out much reach for the fulfilment of the new assessment policy goals.
Nature of training
I believe that how teachers are prepared/trained can be particularly crucial for the
cogency and reach of policy goals. Therefore the nature of the training received
would definitely account for her surface understanding of the policy and its
consequential weak/non-implementation. All her reports on the nature of training, in
terms of timing, time, content, size of groups of teachers, approach and competencies
of the facilitators leave much to be desired in terms of achieving the fundamental
goals of the policy.
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Hayley reported:
Training was not covering assessment in detail, maybe seven
minutes was spent on it.
(B2)
She added:
Our training wasn’t sufficient enough. I wasn’t trained
properly. None of them was specifically on assessment.
(B3)
The miniscule time spent on training on assessment is not only insufficient, but
absurd to expect teachers to learn the new and deep meanings embedded in the
reformed policy.
The content of the training sessions were also problematic. Hayley complained:
Just theory, no modelling new assessment practices of
assessment. We sit and listen and I have forgotten.
(B3)
Subverting the views of teachers is a grave mistake. I would like to underscore the
point that the underlying constructs of policy may be invested with diverse meanings,
that is official policy may acquire multiple meanings in daily practice. The fact that
discussions were reportedly absent during the training demonstrates that diverse
meanings were not elicited, encouraged and interrogated, a process so fundamental in
a multilingual society. I would see it as a practice of silencing teacher deliberations,
which undermine open and free debate so fundamental for shared understandings and
examination of policy assumptions. This approach reflects not only the lack of a
foundational understanding by the facilitators about how teachers learn and change
but also their hostility to pedagogical engagement. The nature of training is seemingly
the enemy of principles of outcomes-based education and reflects a misunderstanding
of the nature of its principles. They also obviously did not pay special attention to
create conditions for informed understanding and enlightened discussion, an approach
whose central idea is that of the teacher as an active participant in change, rather than
a passive and docile recipient of instruction. I believe that there is a strong need for
policy makers and educational administrators to go beyond this rather limited and
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circumscribed role of teachers in understanding development of teachers towards
policy and educational change.
The timing of the training seemed problematic. For example Haley reported that she
was orientated to ‘portfolio assessment’ for the first time in February or March 2002
(she could not remember) while portfolios were supposed to be implemented in 2001
in Grade 8. Hayley was the moderator for Grade 9 work including assessment.
Obviously with just an orientation to a method of assessment that was totally new
could only but contribute to a surface understanding of it, and its poor
implementation.
She also complained that the facilitators at the training workshops did not know their
work because they could not provide answers to questions posed by teachers since:
They were just trained to do this by someone else. Lots of the
people there don’t have the background.
(B3)
This illustrates first, the use of the cascade model of training, one so deeply limited
that it has come under wide criticism (see Chisholm, 2000); second, the facilitators
are incompetent.
Hayley reported that how she assessed some activities this year was different to the
previous year because:
I think you learn as you go along what works and what does
not work
(B3)
This experience from classroom and school practice is seemingly ignored at the
training workshops where information and instructions are handed out. Many scholars
have critiqued this traditional paradigm of teacher development or ‘training’ or
workshops and suggested different more promising approaches to professional
development of teachers (see Ball & Cohen, 1999; Darling-Hammond & Sykes,
1999; Harris, 2003; Hiebert, et al, 2002; Kirtman, 2002; Leat, 1999; McKenzie, 2001;
Smyth, 1998).
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Focus on exit level examinations
I will argue that the focus of the teacher on the exit level examinations, namely grade
9 and grade 12 would compromise her deep understanding of the policy and its
effective implementation. Hayley confirmed this when she reported that she was
focusing on moderating the Grade 9 portfolios and “pay more attention to grade 10
but particularly to grade 12 (personal communication, August 2002).
The fact that only teachers of Grade 9 were given orientation/training for assessment
and especially portfolio assessment in 2002 (personal communication, August 2002)
is a clear reflection of the focus on exit level grades and examinations. During my
visits to the school in July to September 2002 I had observed the Grade 9 teachers in
frenzy, literally, regarding the Grade 9 requirement for portfolios and ‘common tasks
of assessment’ from the education department. Even Hayley’s attention had moved
towards the Grade 9 portfolios that she was moderating.
Hayley reported that when she enquired from the OBE coordinator of the school what
the department of education requires of her for Grade 8, the OBE coordinator
responded:
There is nothing definite they want from us for grade 8.
(B3)
This illustrates how grades where exit examinations are not written are marginalized.
Classroom-based support
During my visits to the school there was a conspicuous absence of classroom-based
support, either from the other science teachers, the school management team, or
educational administrators. This classroom-based support I believe is crucial;
especially for the implementation of an ambitious new policy like the assessment
policy. Hayley reported that she gets no support regarding implementing the policy
in school. She complained:
They just give us circulars. There was no other support.
(B3).
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It is this lack of classroom support that contributes to Hayley’s difficulty in using
specific outcomes as intended by the policy. She reported:
To determine which SO I’m doing at the moment is very
difficult. At the end of the day I guess, yes, let’s make this SO1.
(B3, emphasis added)
I argue that it is this lack of classroom-based support that accounted to her surface
understanding of the policy and its weak/lack of implementation.
Collaborative cultures/Professional learning communities
The importance of a collaborative culture in learning or professional learning cultures
is well documented (see Fullan, 2001a, 2001b; Hall et al., 2001; Hargreaves, 1994,
2004). During my twenty–week observation period and consequent visits to the
school I did not see Hayley collaborating professionally amongst the science teachers,
or other teachers. What I did observe was a very negative ‘OBE facilitator’ who had
been nominated by the school to attend ‘OBE meetings’, dishing out information,
or/and documents, or/and instructions to the teachers in the staff room. This was
returned with an equally visible and audible negative response. I observed Hayley
usually working alone in her classroom and ‘gave’ her worksheets to the other
science teachers to use. I did not observe them discussing the work professionally. I
do not blame Hayley for this, but rather the working conditions she is exposed to that
provide her with no time to collaborate with other teachers.
Hayley’s report is evidence of her individualist working culture:
[To] try and get assessment in different ways and develop it by
yourself, that is tough.
(B3, emphasis added)
She also confirmed:
I don’t have a lot of contact with them. We haven’t shared.
(B3)
This lack of a collaborative culture of learning or professional learning community in
the school could account for Hayley’s surface understanding of the policy and its
weak/lack of implementation.
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Monitoring and evaluation
With the exception of the evaluation of the teacher by the head of department one day
in the year, a process that I believe is flawed anyway, (questions are read aloud very
fast because it has to be complete in thirty minutes, and students respond by show of
hands, it is counted, analysed and report made on teacher) there was a clear absence
of any monitoring or evaluation mechanism in the school. I will argue that this lack of
an accountability system in the school contributed to Hayley’s superficial
understanding of the policy and its weak implementation. An accountability system is
crucial for addressing issues such as reported by the OBE facilitator that no student
should get level 1 or 2, because that would reflect the inefficiency of the teacher. If
this were the case then teachers would just shower students with levels 3, 4 and 5, not
an indication of authentic student achievement but of teacher efficiency. And this is
highly likely in the current climate where students work is not moderated save the
mark, not how the mark was arrived at. Thus monitoring is critical in view of
Hayley’s remark:
Some people will make the story up. It is too easy to just put a
cross on a block
(B3)
The crucial importance of monitoring and evaluation becomes more important in the
context of the following report by Hayley:
The HOD was very much a statistician. The mark sheets had to
have an average.
(B3)
This type of mechanical and technical moderation would compromise the
implementation of the new policy that is criterion-referenced rather than norm
referenced.
Hayley reported that the OBE facilitator in the school responded to her assessment
query:
You do what you do.
(B3)
If this is the case I believe the goals of the policy will not be achieved, therefore
monitoring is critical.
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Monitoring and evaluation must be seen in the context of Hayley’s concerns:
The whole time it feels like as if you are not doing your job
properly. Now you might do what you think is correct because
you don’t actually know what you are supposed to do
(B3)
A lack of a monitoring and evaluation system shows an over-reliance on individual
conduct, and leaves spaces or openings for actions that could conflict with the goals
of the policy. An effective monitoring system could avoid deliberate inaction so that
the desired policy change is induced and achieved. Hall et al (2001) make a similar
argument for the importance of monitoring implementation because they argue “the
change journey is not without bumps and detours” (p.111). Monitoring is important
because data gathered during implementation could be analysed, interpreted carefully
and used to guide subsequent interventions (p.112).
Ambivalence
I find it difficult to determine whether she was resistant to the policy or not. In fact I
think she was ambivalent because she reported that the policy was both good and
bad. (B3). She reported that the policy is good because it enabled her to:
Get to know the child better, more holistic manner, and give
weaker child creative ways, not only black and white on paper.
(Personal communication, December 2002)
She said that the new policy:
Help learners to be more creative and to think more for
themselves. So I think that’s a big advantage.
Continuous assessment is very good because it is unfair that
only big tests and exams are used to evaluate.
(B3)
On the other hand she had negative feeling towards the policy as well as described
earlier. She also reported that she changed as the result of the policy. But the reason
for her change reflects a compulsion to change rather than a personal and professional
attraction towards the policy. This lack of ownership towards the policy is reflected
by her comment on why she changed:
[That] is what they expect of me; if I want to have a job I will need
to change with the system.
B3)
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This ambivalence and lack of ownership could account for her surface understanding
of the policy and its weak/non-implementation.
I now attempt to provide an explanation for why there are differences between the
observed practices between Dinzi and Hayley.
Why does Dinzi and Hayley assess differently?
A conspicuous difference in their observed assessment practice was that Hayley used
a variety of ways to assess her students, such as assessing their worksheets completed
in class, assignments, projects and portfolios, as well as tests and examinations; she
also used rubrics to assess some tasks, and developed new forms to record students’
assessment marks. Her record sheet indicated all the various types of assessed
activities for each student from the beginning of the year, and these marks
corresponded with the students’ records. Dinzi on the other hand used only test and
examinations as a method of assessment, did not use rubrics to assess the learners, she
did not have a record sheet to indicate students’ marks from the beginning of the year,
but produced one at the end of the year just indicating marks but how the marks were
arrived at was not indicated, and no evidence of assessed student work. The question
this raises is about the reasons for the differences, which I explain below.
Understandings and beliefs
Both Dinzi and Hayley held surface understandings of the policy, and both had mixed
beliefs about the policy, although in both cases there were more negative beliefs
about the policy, for example both believed that the training associated with the
policy was insufficient. I wish to argue that it was the collective effect of the surface
understanding and mixed beliefs about the policy could account for the weak link
between their assessment practice and the assessment policy.
Personal and profession factors
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The differences in their personal and professional characteristics could offer a
possible explanation for their different understandings and beliefs and their
differences in assessment practices.
Dinzi is Black, who studied in a Black school, college of education and university, all
governed by the Bantu Education System, the weaknesses of which have been well
documented. She began teaching in and is still teaching in the same Black township
school. The combined experience of being schooled in a weak system for sixteen
years and teaching in a township school for fifteen years would possibly make it very
hard for Dinzi to shift from the traditional educational practice dominated by
behaviourist psychology and fundamental pedagogics to a radically new system
driven by outcomes. The effort, energy and time that Dinzi has to make would be
enormous to narrow if not eliminate the pedagogical gap created between her
experience of education and the new educational system. Whereas for Hayley, being
White, and schooled in the White system of education with the perceived advantages,
change would be easier because the pedagogical gap between her educational
experience and the new educational system would be narrower. In fact Hayley
indicated that while she was studying to become a teacher in 1996, she had been
prepared by her lecturer to teach in a way that challenged the traditional norms,
although it as not labelled OBE. She stated:
The whole way I was taught in my diploma to become a teacher
in HED5, my lecturer was totally OBE based, although he
didn’t call it OBE. At that point he was just talking about
‘maximizing a student’s potential’ and you know let them think
more and do all these learning activities; you’re a facilitator of
the learning activities. I was never trained in how to teach in
the old way.
(B3)
This teacher preparation programme would clearly place Hayley at an advantage
compared to Dinzi in making the change towards outcomes based education.
5
Higher Education Diploma
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Contextual factors
There is clearly a contextual gap between the two teachers. Hayley is teaching in an
attractive, well-resourced school, situated in an urban area that is middle class with
mostly middle class students, she teaches thirty three Grade 8 Natural Science
students in a well-resourced laboratory, and she and her students have new textbooks,
while Dinzi on the other hand is teaching in a drab, under-resourced school situated in
a township characterised by socio-economic deprivation, she teaches fifty Grade 8
Natural Science students in a small classroom, and she and her students do not have
new textbooks. The contextual advantage that Hayley has over Dinzi is clear, and
therefore could account for the differences in their assessment practices. It is a
combination of the personal and professional gap and the contextual gap where
Hayley seems to be at an advantage that enabled Hayley to make some shifts in her
assessment practice in line with the new policy while Dinzi’s assessment practice
seemed untouched by the new policy initiative, despite the fact that Dinzi is in her
second year of study towards a Further Certificate in Outcomes-Based Education,
while Hayley I not engaged in any formal studies.
I next attempt to construct analytic links between the data or findings from this study
and the theory on deep change.
COMPARING THE THEORY WITH THE DATA
In this section I shall examine the data and the propositions I make in this study
within the context of the conceptual framework of deep change described earlier in
order to understand the linkages/no linkages between the theory and the data. This
analytical engagement should enable me to hold up the three propositions about
change for theoretical interrogation, and gain new insights into the relationship
between macro-level policies and micro-level practice.
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Understandings and practice
I will examine and explain specifically the two teachers’ understandings of the policy.
By their own admission each conceded that they do not have deep understandings of
the policy. I repeat it her as a matter of emphasis. Dinzi conceded:
I am not conversant about the basics. I cannot really get deep
into it. I don’t have deep knowledge about it as such.
(A3)
And Hayley admitted:
I do not understand everything in these documents. I have got
all this information; I am not detailed so much in the sense of
ideas.
(B3)
This means that each has a superficial understanding of the policy, rather than the
deep, sophisticated meaning of the policy. According to the conceptual framework on
deep change a relational link exists between the surface understanding of the policy
and the kind of change that teachers make in their practice. That means that each
teacher may change only the surface features of their behaviour in the classroom. This
change in the surface features of each teacher’s behaviour in the classroom found
expression when I observed each teacher conducting the practical lesson described
earlier. Each teacher had students working in groups, but no assessment took place.
This activity provided the opportunity for peer assessment to take place but the
teachers did not or could not capitalise on the opportunity. This possibly could be
ascribed to the superficial understanding of the policy. Peer assessment is a new
pedagogical activity and was not part of teachers past traditional assessment
repertoire; hence it could be seen as an example of deep change embodied as the new
theory of education implicit in the new policy. In order to achieve this deep change in
practice, a deep understanding should precede the assessment practice. The point I
want to make here is that here are two teachers with completely different personal,
professional and contextual backgrounds but they cohere in possessing similar
superficial understanding of the policy. This raises a fundamental question for the
successful implementation of the policy, that is, why do these two different teachers
have a superficial understanding of the new assessment policy? The reasons may be
many and varied. One, revealed by the study, could be the manner in which each
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teacher received the new policy. As indicated earlier, Dinzi received the new
assessment policy at a meeting, but it was not discussed and Hayley received it in her
pigeonhole in the school staff room and the policy was not discussed as well. This
approach which I call the ‘posting model’ and Hargreaves (2004) calls the
‘wheelbarrow” model could possibly account for their surface understanding of the
policy and consequently its superficial or non-implementation. This ‘posting’ model
point to some assumptions policymakers make, first, maybe they assume that a direct
relationship exists between the possession of the policy by teachers and its deep
understanding and consequent implementation. In other words, their theory of change
would read like this: if they (policymakers) have posted the policy to the teachers then
the policy would be read, understood and implemented. In adopting this view
policymakers may have overlooked the notion that teachers need to first understand
the policy and construct deep meanings of the policy before implementation. The
findings from this study show that this deep understanding of the policy did not occur,
thereby highlighting the weakness of the assumption and the theory of change of the
policy makers. It seems that policy makers clearly overlooked the importance of the
teachers actively engaging with the contents of the policy in order to construct
meanings from their personal, professional, political, economical and social
standpoints. The approach adopted by the policy makers of ‘posting/sending’ policy
documents may have been politically and economically expedient but their
assumptions that teachers would read and construct deep meanings of the policy
process seems flawed. By political and economic expediency I mean a belief that
policy makers may hold that since they have posted the policy to teachers the
responsibility of policy makers’ end there. In fact the same process of ‘posting’ is
being adopted with the current Revised National Curriculum Statement where the
‘package/box’ containing the policy documents have been posted to each school for
every teacher in the education system This further reflects the confidence that policy
makers have in this process of posting policy documents to teachers for them to
implement. Another assumption could be that policymakers at the national level may
assume that the provincial officials would provide opportunities for discussion and
sense-making of the policy, while the provincial authorities in turn may assume that
the district officials would provide the opportunity, and the district officials in turn
may assume that the principal of the school would provide the opportunities for
discussions. And none of this happened in the two case studies, showing that
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assumption to be flawed, and their approach theoretically unfounded. This approach
of posting could possibly be seen to signify that the intent of the policy makers was
only to ensure that all schools and teachers possessed the policy thus satisfying the
equity issue, but not necessarily the understanding of the policy by teachers, since that
may not have been the intention of the policymakers. It is no wonder that the two
teachers did not have the deep understanding necessary to implement the policy. It is
unrealistic to expect teachers to deeply understand a policy that is philosophically,
epistemologically and pedagogically different from their past experiences, on the
basis of merely possessing the policy, especially in the context where the language
capital of the teachers is not the same as that of the policymakers. English is the
second language of both teachers in this case study. Teachers cannot simply be seen
as recipients of the policy in this manner, but they must be seen as active policy
partners in the process of change; they must be provided with opportunities to discuss
the contents of the new policy, challenging their own understandings, ideas, beliefs
and assumptions, and challenging themselves to rethink their teaching and assessment
practice, and thereby developing a deep understanding of the reform. The teachers had
not been given the opportunity to get involved in open, reflective dialogue about why
they should assess differently, about what it meant to assess differently as
professionals, to take professional responsibility and to have the pedagogical power to
act – in other words they were not provided with the opportunity to become agents of
change but instead were seen by policymakers as targets for change. This ‘posting’ of
policy orientation of the policy makers may also reflect the hierarchical relationship
between policy makers and teachers, where teachers are seen as peripheral to the
policy change process, and may also reflect a dichotomous view between policy and
practice, thus making it difficult for policymakers and teachers to work together in
developing a shared and deep meaning of the policy that could end up in teachers’
showing ownership, commitment and confidence towards the policy, factors that are
fundamental for the successful implementation of policy. This method of
communication, of posting the policy to teachers could reflect a view of policy
makers that Marris (1975, in Fullan, 1993:23) states well:
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They express a profound contempt for the meaning of lives
other than their own. For the reformers have already
assimilated these changes for their purposes, and worked out a
reformulation which makes sense to them, perhaps through
months or years of analysis and debate. If they deny others the
chance to do the same, they treat them as puppets dangling by
the threads of their own conception.
If they do not deeply understand the policy teachers may not be able to call on it as a
source of authority to guide their decision-making as far as assessment is concerned.
Instead they may be forced to either call on their old tried and tested experiences in
the classroom to guide them, or/and they may read the policy and adopt and adapt
what they recognise, which could lead to surface learning of the policy and
consequently superficial change resulting in inadequate implementation. For new
ideas to be effective, deep understanding is a prerequisite (Fullan, 1993). Conversely,
I argue a superficial understanding may contribute to compromising the achievement
of the policy goals. I therefore argue, based on the empirical evidence of the study and
the theoretical framework that both teachers have a superficial understanding of the
policy. This supports the first proposition that I make in this study, namely, teachers’
may not have a deep, sophisticated understanding of the purpose or meaning of the
proposed change but rather a superficial understanding of what the change in
assessment is about. And I also argue that it is not the fault of the teachers that they
have this superficial understanding of the policy, but the way it was introduced to
them by the policy makers, an approach I call “the posting model” that represents a
weak theory of change, where teachers were not provided with the opportunity to
engage with the contents of the policy to develop the deep sophisticated
understandings inherent in the policy.
The data also reveals, as indicated in the previous chapter, that each teacher also has
somewhat different general understandings of the policy. This difference in
understandings is dependent on each teacher’s interpretation of the policy.
Interpretations are not neutral processes, but shaped and influenced by personal and
professional histories, experiences, values, purposes interests, knowledge, and
motivation. This assertion is supported by Allington (2000), Darling-Hammond
(1998), Elmore (1983), Looney (2001) and Mc Laughlin (1998). In other words,
interpretation of policy is not devoid of politics, power, competing interests and
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conflicting struggles (see Jansen, 2002:271). The personal, professional and
contextual realities of each teacher are very different as I have indicated earlier. The
interplay of these different personal, professional and contextual realities could
account for the different understandings of the policy by each teacher. These realities
may not necessarily help the teachers in their struggle to make sense of the policy. It
is possible that the realities mentioned could act as obstacles to understanding the
policy, for example, if the teachers experienced assessment as testing and examination
only, and did not experience the new kinds of assessment they are expected to use.
And so a paradox emerges. These very teachers are themselves the products of the
very system they are now requested to change. A complex process with complex
consequences as far as understanding is concerned. It is this complex difference of
each teacher’s understanding of the policy based on the interplay of their varied
personal, professional and contextual realities that policymakers underestimate in the
policy ‘posting’ process. The latter could also probably reflect that policy makers
assume a homogenized understanding of the policy by all teachers in line with that of
the policy makers. This again demonstrates the policy maker’s weak theory of change.
Beliefs and capabilities
The data shows that each teacher evoked beliefs about the policy that were
simultaneously positive and negative, or appealing and unsettling. The positive beliefs
about the policy included both indicating the policy helped them to get to know their
students better. But this positive belief about the policy was tempered with negative
beliefs, for example Dinzi believed that the policy was not well planned while Hayley
believed that the policy was a nightmare. In both cases the beliefs leaned more
towards the negative. When teachers hold positive beliefs about the policy they
probably would develop shared ownership and commitment towards the reform.
Shared ownership and commitment, also affective components of change, are crucial
for understanding and practicing something fundamentally new as the new assessment
policy. The importance of beliefs in teacher learning and change is supported by
Borg, (2001), Dunn (2003), Richards, et al. (undated) and Woods (1996).
Policymakers and educational administrators seem to have given insufficient attention
to this affective or emotional aspect of change. The importance of the emotional
dimension of change or ‘emotional intelligence’ as it is often referred to, is rapidly
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gaining currency in the educational change literature (see Fullan et al, 1999; Goleman
1995, 1998; Hargreaves, 1997, 1998, 2004). In this view educational change is seen as
a moral and a deeply emotional one, and therefore positive beliefs about the policy by
teachers would seem crucial for the deep understanding and effective implementation
of the policy.
Related to the affective aspect of educational change is the cognitive aspect relating to
knowledge and skills or capacity to bring about the change. In this study each teacher
showed poor knowledge and skills relating to the policy, in other words their capacity
to implement the policy is weak. Policymakers again underestimate the phenomenal
leaps that teachers need to make in order to construct deep knowledge and skills or
strong capacities to implement the new ideas embodied in the policy. The nature,
content, and timing of training providing in the form of one-shot workshops described
earlier is certainly inadequate for teachers to develop the new kind of capacity
demanded by the policy. As I had indicated earlier, these workshop settings did not
provide teachers with opportunities to overtly articulate their beliefs and capacities
regarding the goals of the policy. The workshops did not provide teachers the
opportunity to challenge and maybe change and develop their beliefs and capacities,
and develop new ways of thinking about assessment. Skills, creative thinking and
committed action really matter for the complex goals of policy (McLaughlin, 1998).
This study revealed that the workshops were ‘telling sessions’ where teachers were
treated as victims of change, expecting them to comply uncritically with the policy,
and not as agents of change. Workshop facilitators and by implication policymakers
may not have realized that “you cannot make people change (Fullan, 1993: 23,
emphasis in original). You cannot tell and compel teachers to develop new capacities
and beliefs. It is no denial that unless teachers’ beliefs and capacities are developed
and changed in deep ways in line with the goals of the policy, impact may be limited.
And the workshops prevented the teachers from developing the beliefs and capacities
necessary to achieve the new and complex goals of the policy. This finding seems to
support my second proposition, namely, Teachers may not be able to reconcile their
own assessment beliefs and capacities with the stated goals of the new assessment
policy. The reason for the teachers’ inability to reconcile their own assessment beliefs
and capacities with the goals off the policy could possibly be due to the ineffective
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nature of the training that they received, another example of the weak theory of
change employed by policymakers to bring about change in teachers.
I experiment with the idea of intersecting teacher beliefs about the assessment policy
with their capacity to change their assessment practice to examine the kind of change
that emerges. I regard teachers’ beliefs of the policy to be positive when they say
positive things about the policy as indicated above, and negative when negative
expressions are made about the policy as indicated above. Capacity could either be
strong or weak as indicated above. I propose that when teachers’ beliefs about the
policy are positive and their capacity to implement the policy strong then deep change
would result, and this deep change would possibly lead to deep, sophisticated
understanding of the policy and its successful implementation, but if beliefs are
negative and capacity weak then no real change would take place, meaning that
understanding of the policy may be minimal and implementation unsuccessful. I
illustrate the intersections of beliefs with capacities and the resulting changes below:
Beliefs about policy
Weak
Positive
Negative
Mechanical change
No change
Deep change
Superficial change
Capacity to
implement policy
Strong
Dinzi did not use different methods of assessing such as assignments, projects, and
portfolios as required by the policy; they were not evident in the observed lessons and
follow up visits. This means that changes expected by the policy in this aspect did not
take place. Both teachers did not use oral assessment, self-assessment, peer
assessment, interviewing and journals as required by the policy. Again this shows that
no change took place towards achieving the goals of the policy. This observation that
no change took place in the teachers’ assessment practice in terms of the policy goals
is not a reflection of each teacher’s deficiency but rather of the weak theory of change
adopted by policymakers, such as one-shot workshops that were inadequate and
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ineffective, the way the policy is communicated to teachers, the ‘posting’ method, and
others which I refer to later in the chapter. According to this model deep change will
be the consequence of combining positive beliefs about the policy with strong
capacity to implement the policy. And by implication, if teachers change deeply they
may be able to successfully implement the policy.
Continuous assessment
Each teacher in the case study is at a different place as far as continuous assessment is
concerned. As is evident in each of the cases, Hayley seemed to have moved towards
using the continuous assessment model as required by the assessment policy while
Dinzi seemed not to. However, in using the continuous assessment model, Hayley
seemed to have reflected some of principles of the continuous assessment model but
deflected others, as I had indicated in summarizing the modal patterns of the twenty
observed lessons. I shall highlight the salient points to show the reflections and
deflections. By reviewing the assessed activities she ensured that the results of
assessment were fed back into and allowed for improvements to be made in the
teaching and learning process; she did not merely use a series of traditional tests but
various forms of assessment such as projects, assignments, and portfolios as required
by the policy. However she struggled with assessing outcomes and values and
attitudes in her assessment practice. This may be ascribed to several factors. One is
the fact that she is so used to the traditional method of assessing that she may find it
difficult to assess using the new continuous assessment model that focuses on the
achievement of clearly defined outcomes, including the assessment of attitudes and
values. Her historical experience and present experience as a senior Biology teacher
seemed to add to her difficulty and struggles, because for most activities she had
developed detailed marking memoranda indicating right and wrong answers, and she
reported that she used marking memoranda to mark. Even with setting question
papers she reported that she tested different cognitive levels, a process used for
Biology testing. She also reported that she used the textbook to set questions rather
than using the outcomes stipulated in the curriculum and assessment policy. Second,
her school culture is characterized by the writing of tests every Wednesdays, the
purpose of which is:
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At the end of the day they are going to be expected to write a
formal matric exam like what we’ve had all the years. So this is
to prepare them for that. But I make it more OBE like by
adding the rubrics. So basically what we’re doing is we are
really combining OBE with the old system to still give the child
the best benefit so that they will be able to complete the matric
final exam.
(B10)
I provide this lengthy quotation to show how strong the emphasis is on the
examination and testing, which the continuous assessment model seems to be moving
away from. Even with the half-year and final examination papers she reported: it’s
exactly like the Biology final exam paper (ibid). This experience as a senior Biology
teacher and the school’s testing culture could be contributing factors for Hayley
struggling to use the continuous assessment model effectively. With reference to
continuous assessment she said:
We work ourselves into a coma and mark ourselves into a
coma. I do it because the school executive expects us to do it
and we are following what the department wants from us.
(B3)
Although Hayley works very hard to prepare all her work, is well organized, is a
dedicated teacher who cares for her students and is passionate about teaching, and is
held in high regard by the principal, staff and students, I think when it comes to
continuous assessment I would like to posit that her changes are mechanical, that is,
she goes through the routines because it is expected of her but without committing to
the deeper value orientations and belief systems that underpin the model. And this is
not because she is deficient in any way. It could be ascribed to her superficial
understanding of the policy, to the way the policy had been introduced discussed
previously, the nature of the workshops also discussed previously, and I add two other
factors that emerged from the study, namely a lack of a school-based support
infrastructure and a lack of a monitoring or accountability mechanism.
In Dinzi’s case I had only observed one test and one final examination being
administered, with no evidence of continuous assessment as indicated in her case
study report. The purpose of the final examination was for promotion purposes only
as indicated by Dinzi. In her case I would posit that she made no real change in the
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desired direction of the reform. And this is no fault of Dinzi, but to, as indicated for
Hayley, the combined lack of a school-based support infrastructure and a lack of a
monitoring or accountability mechanism. This again illustrates the weak theory of
change employed by the policy makers. Policymakers seem to pay little attention to
the unfamiliarity of this new type of continuous assessment compared to the past
system where simple knowledge is much easier to assess. From years of precedence
and practice, traditional pen and paper assessments generate reliable, valid and
generalizable results that would understandably be more favoured by teachers. The
new approaches to assessment, especially continuous assessment embodied in the
policy do not easily fit traditional classes or traditional thinking. Continuous
assessment is not only hard and complex for the teachers; it takes courage and
involves risks. Teachers must be adventurous and willing to experiment and try things
in a context that has not typically rewarded deep change. Teachers are expected to
fight the stasis created by traditional tests and examination. Disturbing the status quo
of tests and examinations could cause anxiety, fear and inadequacy in teachers. It is
for this reason that a balanced combination of pressure in the form of monitoring or
accountability and school based support is needed to guide and assist teachers make
the shift from tests and examinations towards continuous assessment.
Although both teachers seem to be at different positions of change when it comes to
continuous assessment the finding seems to support my third proposition, that is,
Teachers may find the traditional assessment practices (that is, examinations and
testing) to hold greater efficacy in the classrooms than the alternatives required by a
new assessment policy.
I illustrate how support for change could interact with pressure for change by
monitoring or accountability to produce deep change necessary to achieve the
intentions of the assessment policy:
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Pressure for change
Weak
Support
Weak
Strong
No change
Mechanical change
Superficial
change
Deep change
for change
Strong
I showed that Hayley displayed mechanical change because of the strong pressure
from the education administrators and the school executive but a clear lack of support,
while Dinzi did not change because both pressure for change and support for change
were weak or lacking. According to this model, deep change may ensue by
accompanying strong pressure for change with strong support for change. This means
that if teachers change deeply they may be able to implement the policy successfully.
Policy conflicts and collisions
The data in both case studies showed very little if any use of outcomes in the observed
practices of the teachers. Hayley used outcomes in two of the twenty observed lessons
while Dinzi did not use outcomes in any of the seventeen observed lessons as
discussed earlier. Since this is discontinuous with the outcomes-based policy, that
emphasizes the use of outcomes to assess students, I would argue that the teachers
made no change in this direction of the policy. The reason for this is not that they
overtly rejected or resisted the idea of using outcomes, this rejection and resistance
did not emerge in the study, but I would argue in addition to the other factors
mentioned previously, for example, their surface understanding of the policy, the way
the policy was introduced, the ineffective workshops, their lack of capacity and their
negative beliefs about the policy, it may have been caused by the confusion and
collisions caused by the policies and mixed messages by the education administrators.
Both teachers are expected to simultaneously implement two different policies as I
have discussed previously, the old policy known as NATED 550 for Grades 10, 11
and 12 and the new policy for Grades 7, 8 and 9. The new policy is responding partly
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to the weaknesses inherent in the old policy. The old policy is not outcomes based and
therefore may possibly conflict and collide with the requirements of the new policy. I
argue that it may be possible for this conflict, collision and contradiction that
contributed to the teachers not using outcomes in their assessment practice as required
by the policy. Hayley illustrated this conflict:
[There] is lots of contradictions at the moment because they6
said for the portfolios the child7 must choose their best …. In
matric we use all the things that they did the whole year.
(B3)
Policymakers may have under-rated the difficulties teachers would experience
implementing two seemingly contradictory policies simultaneously. This could be a
reflection of their weak theory of change. The difficulty experienced by teachers is
exacerbated in a context of poor or no classroom based support and surface
understanding of the new policy by the teachers. In experimenting with the idea of the
relationship between policy conflicts and surface understandings of the policy, I
develop different kinds of change as illustrated below:
Understanding of change
Policy conflicts
Policy coherence
Deep
Superficial
Mechanical
change
No
change
Deep
change
Surface
change
In the discussion above I showed that both teachers did not change in respect of using
outcomes in their classroom practice, and the explanation for this probably is a
combination of their surface understanding of the policy and the policy conflicts
emanating from the simultaneous use of two policies. It can be seen that both deep
understanding of the policy and policy coherence is required for deep change to take
6
7
Referring to the policymakers and educational administrators
Referring to Grade 9
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place. This means that if teachers change deeply that may be able to successfully
implement the policy.
Using the conceptual change framework on deep change I have shown that teachers
may have to change deeply in order to realize the goals or intentions of the policy.
I shall examine the theory of education implicit in the policy before I relate it with the
policymakers’ theory of change or action.
Theory of education implicit in the official policy on assessment
This section is premised on my understanding that the new educational system, that is
outcomes based, is a radical and deep departure from the past system of education that
was mainly content driven. I follow Fullan (2003:53) in understanding a theory of
education to encompass the pedagogical assumptions, the substance of content,
pedagogy, moral purpose and best knowledge about the policy. It is with this lens that
I examine the theory of education implicit in the new official policy on assessment.
The policy makes pedagogical assumptions with regard to the new curriculum and
institutional contexts. By asserting that “this new assessment policy … alongside the
new national curriculum framework, provides the pedagogic basis for our new
education and training system” (Department of Education, 1998: 7), the policy
assumes that educators understand the new curriculum. This research study revealed
that the two teachers’ understanding of the new curriculum was limited. Second by
asserting that the policy will “become a vital instrument for shaping educational
practice in the thousands of sites of learning across the length and breadth of our
country” the policy assumes uniform institutional or school contexts. In other words
the different biographical, historical, political and contextual realities in different
schools seem to be overlooked. And this study has shown that these biographical,
historical, and contextual differences may have contributed to the different assessment
practices of the two teachers. However in terms of content the policy seems very
clear, first providing a rationale for the policy, the purpose of assessment, the what of
assessment, the different types and tools of assessment, the principles of assessment,
and recording and reporting procedures. The content seems to be aligned with what
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Brown, et al (2003) call ‘transformative assessment’ and seem to embody the best
knowledge and theory about assessment (see also Black, 1998; Gipps, 1994; Lambert
and Lines, 2000; Mc Kellar, 2002; Spillane et al 2002). The pedagogy of the policy
calls for the integration of curriculum, instruction (teaching and learning), assessment,
and professional development of teachers thereby reflecting a deep change orientation
to educational change (Fullan, 1999b). Its moral purpose may be reflected in its
political and legislative legitimacy, its wide consultative process and in its ambition to
improve the lives of all students without prejudice. Based on these observations I
argue that the policy embodies a strong theory of education that represents a major
and deep shift from the previous conceptions and processes of assessment. However
policy is not contagious, in other words, the ideas of the policy would not diffuse on
its own to teachers who are expected to implement the ideas in the policy. There
needs to be a strategy to enable the policy ideas to be enacted by teachers in their
classroom - that is, a theory of change (or action) is required.
Theory of change or action
If the assessment policy underpinned by a strong theory of education is to serve the
engine of transformation and to change teachers deeply, its theory of change should
be equally strong. This is the logic of the conceptual framework on deep change
described above. The theory of change should make the theoretical premises of the
policy less amorphous and more concrete, and should be designed to facilitate rather
than restrict the implementation of the policy. This study has shown that the two
teachers did not make deep changes, although Teacher Hayley made superficial
changes and Teacher Dinzi no changes in aligning their assessment practices with the
policy requirements. The hindrances to deep change and implementation success I
will argue is due to the weak theories of action of the policy makers. Their weak
theories of change emanating from the data include: avoiding or giving minimal
attention to the deep analytical challenges associated with personal transformation of
teachers, such as its inherent emotive nature, the emphasis on personal self awareness
and the need to resolve past life issues, under-recognition of the professional
characteristics of the teachers, under-valuing the beliefs and capacities of the teachers,
paying insufficient attention to contextual realities of teachers, the ‘posting’ of policy
to the teachers, insufficient recognition given to the conflicting and contradictory
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demands made by two simultaneous policies on the work of the teachers, providing
ineffective training to teachers, under-valuing the force that exit level examinations
exert on teachers, no attention paid to classroom-based support, under recognition of
the role of collaborative cultures or professional learning communities, insufficient
attention given to monitoring or accountability, and the lack of attention given to the
creation of an infrastructure for reform in each school. The theory of change seemed
to underestimate the complexities and subtleties of teacher change at the level of the
classroom It is this weak theory of change, I argue, that could account for the
superficial understandings of the policy by the teachers, the different beliefs about the
policy, and the continuities and discontinuity between the new assessment policy and
the assessment practices of the teachers.
This study tested the three propositions and found the following:
Proposition one:
The two case study teachers did not have a deep, sophisticated understanding of a
new assessment policy even if there is evidence of strong rhetorical commitment to
this policy.
Proposition 2:
The two case study teachers were not able to reconcile their own assessment beliefs
and capacities with the stated goals of a new assessment policy.
Proposition 3:
The two case study teachers found that traditional assessment practices (that is,
examinations and testing) held greater efficacy in the classrooms than the alternatives
required by a new assessment policy.
I wish to restate that the two case study teachers were unable to make deep changes as
required by the radical, and ambitious official policy on assessment because the
theory of change adopted by policymakers were weak, and not because the teachers
are deficient in any way and need to be ‘fixed’. While I argue for a strong theory of
change, I wish to underscore the importance of a strong theory of change that is
realistic, resourced and resilient or flexible. The theory of change should also
recognise the non-linearity, complexity, dynamism and unpredictability of the
educational change process.
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This brings me to the next section, namely the implications arising out of this study.
Implications of this study
The study has identified and explained various factors that shaped teachers’
assessment practices in their classrooms. The point made was that the teachers did
not change deeply in line with the changes reflected in the new assessment policy.
The study argued that for teachers to change deeply, reformed policies need to be
informed by strong theories of education and accompanied by equally strong theories
of change. This argument points to the implications of the study for:
•
Teacher learning;
•
Professional development of teachers; and
•
Future research.
Implications for teacher learning
The study has shown that when policy and related documents had been posted or
merely given to teachers with limited or no discussions, learning occurred mostly at a
superficial level. It therefore raises important issues about the nature of introducing
teachers to new policies and about the resulting nature of learning. This implies that
for deep teacher learning to take place, appropriate conditions should be provided for
discussions, debates, and clarifications of ideas contained in the policy. This
opportunity should be provided close to where teachers do their work; in other words,
learning closer to teachers’ context. Equally important is for teacher learning to occur
closer to teachers’ cognition in terms of how they understand their work. This
contextually-based teacher learning could possibly assist teachers in addressing the
multiple realities they face such as conflicting demands made by educational
authorities as well as by different policies. Paying deliberate attention to teachers’
contexts and teachers’ cognition in the policy learning process seems critical for
teacher learning that is deep rather than superficial.
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Implications for professional development of teachers
This dissertation has fore-grounded the personal and professional characteristics of
teachers, the understandings and beliefs of teachers towards the new policy, as well as
the context in which teachers work. It is recognition of this wealth of biographical
experiences and school contexts that matter in bringing about deep change in teachers
for the successful implementation of reformed policy goals. When providing
professional development opportunities for teachers, policy makers should be
sensitive to, and take cognisance of these factors in the policy change process. A
range of opportunities need to be provided for the articulation of teachers’
understandings, beliefs and assumptions about new policies. The professional
development programme should include a system for school-based support and a
mechanism for monitoring policy implementation. The professional development
programme is one forum to present a powerful theory of change that demonstrates
how the personal and professional characteristics of teachers, their understandings and
beliefs of reformed policies, and the school context intersect to enable and empower
to teachers to change deeply in order to realise the transformational goals of new
policies.
Implications for further research
In this section I highlight a number of questions invoked by this study that could serve
as a springboard for further research. The questions are:
•
Will a strong theory of change coupled with a strong theory of education result
in deep change? In other words, if all the conditions indicated in the study
were present, would this result in deep change among teachers?
•
How can deep change be effected in teachers firstly in a rapidly transforming
country like South Africa, and secondly in a developing country like South
Africa with limited human and fiscal capacity?
•
“What would a strong theory of change look like in a rural school, in a
township school, in an urban school, and in a private school?” This question
arises from my recognition that there cannot be a one-size-fit- all theory of
change. This is supported by Fullan (2003) who asserts that the change theory
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should be modified and contextualised. This question is especially relevant in
South Africa where the geopolitical, social and economic unevenness or gaps
are still part of life.
•
Is the theory of education implicit in the policy too ambitious for the South
African context where most teachers have been educated in the old system?
•
How can deep understanding of a policy be developed especially in a context
where the language capital of teachers differs from that in which the policy is
written?
•
Why did policymakers employ a seemingly weak theory of change?
In this study I present the argument that if the intentions of policies are to be realized
at the level of teachers’ classroom practice, teachers need to change deeply. In other
words, if teachers do not change deeply the achievement of policy objectives may be
compromised. Deep change in teachers may possibly be achieved when policymakers
have developed policies that are underpinned by a strong theory of education and
driven by an equally strong theory of change or action. Compromising on either the
theory of education or on the theory of change would prevent deep change in teachers,
which in turn would hinder the successful implementation of the policy.
I have provided a broader theoretical lens into understanding the relationship between
policy and practice. While the findings from the study provide a policy picture that is
less than ideal, I would cautiously follow the injunction made by Bengu8 (1998:7):
[The] transformation of established assessment practice
involves a lengthy process of learning and professional
development.
This process of learning and professional development hopefully would embrace a
strong theory of change for policy implementation to be successful. Over the next
decade, policy makers and policy researchers may want to consider how investments
in strong theories of change accompanied by strong theories of education could assist
in achieving reformed educational goals successfully. This is especially important
now when teachers and schools are being asked to change in unprecedented ways and
at unprecedented speed, in other words, to change deeply. It is time for education
policy reform to go not only wider, but also deeper.
8
First democratically elected Minister of Education in South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
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LIST OF APPENDICES
A
Letter to provincial Head of Department
B
Letter to principal of School A
C
Letter to principal of School B
D
Summary of critical research questions and methods
E
Summary of value of research methods
F
Questionnaire 1
G
Free writing schedule
H
Interview schedule 1
I
Analysis of the new official assessment policy
J
Questionnaire 2
K
Interview schedule 2
L
Classroom observation protocol
M
Analysis of teacher and student documents and records
N
Contact summary form
O
Document summary form
P
Contextual Information on the School
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix A
Ms S D Bhikha
P O Box 2345
Brooklyn Square
Pretoria
0075
Fax: (012) 323 4751
E-mail:[email protected]
15 July 2002
Mr Petje
Superintendent-General: Education
Gauteng Province
P O Box 7710
Johannesburg
2000
By fax: (011) 333 5546/8
Dear Mr Petje
Permission to conduct research in schools for PhD studies
I am studying towards a PhD. in Policy Studies at the University of Pretoria. The
focus of my study is implementing policy in a reforming, developing country context
such as ours. As part of the research I need to collect data from schools. The data
collection in two schools will involve questionnaires for Grade 8 science teachers,
interviews with these teachers, observing their classrooms and document analysis.
The results of the research will inform both policy and practice.
I have discussed this with some school principals who have given in-principle
support. I therefore seek your permission to collect data from two schools as part of
my doctoral studies. I promise to abide by the principles of anonymity and
confidentiality.
The Department of Education employs me as a Chief Education Specialist in the
office of Mr Duncan Hindle, the Deputy Director-General for General Education and
Training.
Thank you,
Yours sincerely
S D Bhikha
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix B
Ms S D Bhikha
P O Box 2345
Brooklyn Square
Pretoria
0075
Fax: (012) 323 4751
E-mail:[email protected]
18 July 2002
Mr Smit1
Principal: Delamani High School2
Gauteng Province
Dear Mr Smith
Permission to conduct research in schools for PhD studies
I am studying towards a PhD. in Policy Studies at the University of Pretoria. The
focus of my study is implementing policy in a reforming, developing country context
such as ours. The specific policy that is the focus of my study is the new assessment
policy. As part of the research I need to collect data from schools. The data collection
in your school will involve a Grade 8 science teacher answering structured
questionnaires, my observing the said teacher’s classroom and interviewing the said
teacher. I will also need to look at records/documents of the teacher and learners with
regard to assessment. The results of the research will inform both policy and practice.
I therefore seek your permission to collect data from your school as part of my
doctoral studies. I promise to abide by the principles of anonymity and confidentiality.
Thank you,
Yours sincerely
S D Bhikha
1
2
Pseudonym for sake of anonymity and confidentiality
Pseudonym for sake of anonymity and confidentiality
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix C
Ms S D Bhikha
P O Box 2345
Brooklyn Square
Pretoria
0075
Fax: (012) 323 4751
E-mail:[email protected]
18 July 2002
Ms Zuma1
Principal: Higgins High School2
Gauteng Province
Dear Ms Zuma
Permission to conduct research in schools for PhD studies
I am studying towards a PhD. in Policy Studies at the University of Pretoria. The
focus of my study is implementing policy in a reforming, developing country context
such as ours. The specific policy that is the focus of my study is the new assessment
policy. As part of the research I need to collect data from schools. The data collection
in your school will involve a Grade 8 science teacher answering structured
questionnaires, my observing the said teacher’s classroom and interviewing the said
teacher. I will also need to look at records/documents of the teacher and learners with
regard to assessment. The results of the research will inform both policy and practice.
I therefore seek your permission to collect data from your school as part of my
doctoral studies. I promise to abide by the principles of anonymity and confidentiality.
Thank you,
Yours sincerely
S D Bhikha
1
2
Pseudonym for sake of anonymity and confidentiality
Pseudonym for sake of anonymity and confidentiality
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix D
Summary of Critical Research Questions and Methods
CRITICAL RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Critical question 1:
What are teacher understandings and
beliefs with regard to the assessment
policy?
•
•
•
Sub question: How do teacher
understandings of the assessment policy
compare with the contents of the
assessment policy?
•
•
•
•
Critical question 2:
In the context of official policy, how do
teachers practice assessment in their
classrooms?
•
•
•
•
Critical question 3:
•
How
can
the
continuities
and
discontinuities between official policy on
assessment and teachers’ assessment
practice be explained?
•
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METHODS
Questionnaire containing both open
and closed ended questions to elicit
teachers understanding of the
assessment policy (Appendix E)
Free writing schedule for teachers
(Appendix F)
Interview 1 with classroom teachers
before classroom observations
(Appendix G)
Questionnaire, as above
Free writing schedule, as above
Interview 1, as above
Analysis of the assessment policy
(Appendix H)
Questionnaire containing both open
and closed ended questions to elicit
teachers responses of their assessment
practice (Appendix I)
Interview 2 before classroom
observations (Appendix J)
Classroom observation protocol
(Appendix K)
Analysis of documents and records
(Appendix L)
Interview with teachers after
observations (unstructured, depended
on responses to interviews and
classroom observations)
Theoretical analysis
Appendix E
Summary of value of research methods
CRITICAL RESEARCH
QUESTIONS
Critical question 1:
What are teacher
understandings and beliefs
with regard to assessment
policy?
METHOD
VALUE
Questionnaire
This questionnaire will enable me to elicit the teacher’s understandings of the new assessment policy. This questionnaire
contains both open and closed-ended questions and this is valuable in that the respondents are given the opportunity to select
from listed alternatives as well as provision has been made for respondents to express their views freely.
This will enable me to gain face or unstructured responses of teachers on the meanings they assign to the new assessment
policy.
This will provide me with in-depth information into teachers’ understanding of the new assessment policy. It will complement
the data obtained from the questionnaire and free writing schedule hence enabling me to triangulate data.
This will allow me to establish the match or mismatch between teacher understandings of the policy and the policy requirements
and questions
This questionnaire will enable me to elicit the teacher’s responses to how they implement the new assessment policy. They
contain both open and closed-ended questions and this is valuable in that the respondents are given the opportunity to select
from listed alternatives as well as provision has been made for respondents to express their views freely. This information will
provide the basis for developing follow-up interviews.
I will be able to understand more about how teachers practice assessment in their classroom. I will be able to find out their
experiences, the difficulties they encountered, as well as the rewards. This data together with data from the other data sources,
namely questionnaire, classroom observation protocol and analysis of documents and reports, will enable me to construct a
picture of teachers’ assessment practice in their classrooms.
The classroom observations will enable me to obtain behavioural data on how teachers practice assessment in their classrooms.
It will also contribute to my understanding of how policy is being played out in practice. The observation data will allow me to
link and triangulate data from the teacher questionnaire, interviews, and analysis of documents and records.
From the documents and records of both teachers and learners I will be able to obtain more evidence on how teachers actually
practice assessment in their classrooms. It will allow me to compare the data received from the other data sources named above.
I will be able to elicit from teachers why they practised assessment in the ways observed.
Free Writing schedule
Interview schedule
Document Analysis schedule
Critical question 2:
In the context of official
policy, how do teachers
practice assessment in
their classrooms?
Questionnaire
Interview schedule
(pre classroom observations)
Classroom Observation
Protocols
Critical question 3:
How can the continuities
and the discontinuities
between official policy on
assessment and teachers’
assessment practice be
explained?
Analysis of documents and
records
Interview schedule
(post classroom observations)
Theoretical analysis
This analysis will enable me to make links between teacher understandings of the policy and their assessment practice. I will
locate this analysis within the context of the propositions I make with regard to deep change as well as the indicators of change
stipulated in the new assessment policy.
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix F
Questionnaire 1
PREFACE: The purpose of this questionnaire is to collect information about
teachers’ understanding of the Assessment Policy.
The information you supply will be treated with absolute confidentiality and will
be used for research purposes only.
PART A
TEACHER/EDUCATOR INFORMATION
PLEASE FILL IN OR CROSS (X) THE APPROPRIATE OPTION
1.
Designation of educator
Teacher level 1
2.
Other (specify)
Technical/
Skills
Languages
Commerce
Humanities
Other
(specify)
25-29
30-34
35-40
40-49
50-59
Teaching experience in years
0-5
5
Principal
Age
Under 25
4.
Deputy
principal
Main teaching subject area
Maths/
Science
3.
Head of
Department
6-10
11-15
16-20
Gender
Male
Female
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
6
Formal qualifications (completed)
2 year
diploma
only
7.
3 year
diploma
only
Degree only
More than
one degree
Other
(specify)
Type of school
Primary
8.
Degree and
diploma
Secondary
Combined
Description of the school
Urban
Rural
Not sure
PART B
The “Assessment Policy in the General Education and Training Band, Grades R
to 9 and ABET” came into effect in 1999 in grades 1 and 2, and progressively
across all school grades in the General Education and Training (GET) Band.
The questions below inquire about the information available to you about the
Assessment Policy.
PLEASE FILL IN OR CROSS (X) THE APPROPRIATE OPTION.
1.
Are you aware of the policy document on assessment?
Yes
2.
No
Was the document made available to all educators in your school?
Yes
3.
If yes, please state how?
Workshop
4.
No
Circular
Conference
Other (specify)
Do you have a personal copy of this policy document on assessment?
Yes
No
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
5.
How did you first become aware of the policy on assessment?
I read the policy document
I was told by the Head of Department
I was told by the principal
I was invited to a workshop
It was discussed at a staff meeting
Other (specify)
PART C
PART C RELATES TO THE ASSESSMENT POLICY
Yes
No
Not sure
1. It is easy to understand
2. It provides clear guidelines for implementation
3. It allows for flexible implementation
PART D
What are your views about each of the following statements with regard to the
assessment policy?
PLACE A CROSS (X) IN THE APPROPRIATE BLOCK.
Strongly
agree
1. The policy must be viewed in relation
to our larger agenda of reconstruction and
development
2. The policy provides the pedagogical
basis for our new education and training
system
3. The policy serves as a vital instrument
to shape my educational practice
4. One of the principal aims of the policy
is to enhance the provision of education
for every learner
5. The purpose of assessment should
always be made clear to learners
6. The criterion-referenced approach
should be used
7. Assessment should be an integral,
ongoing part of the learning process
8. The specific outcomes, which are
grounded in the critical outcomes, will
serve as the basis for assessment
9. The various specific outcomes and
their assessment criteria must be
available to learners.
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agree
not
sure
disagree
Strongly
disagree
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Strongly
agree
10. Learners who do not meet the criteria
must receive clear explanations with an
indication of areas that need further
attention
11. Focusing on formal tests as the sole
method of assessment should be avoided
12. Assessment should be used only to
rank, grade, select and certificate learners
13. Teachers have no problems
implementing the new assessment policy
14. The new assessment policy creates
anxiety and stress amongst educators,
including myself
15. Creates opportunity for feedback to
learners to improve learning
16. Creates opportunity for parents’
active involvement in their children’s
education
17. Creates opportunity for teachers to
improve teaching and learning
18. Creates opportunity for feedback to
the school, and other stakeholders about
the schools performance
19. Provides a clear indication about how
well every outcome in the learning
programmes are being taught and learned
20. Informs and improves the assessment
practices of educators
21. Has been introduced because of poor
matric results.
22. Makes recording of assessment data
cumbersome
23. Enables assessment results to be
communicated clearly, accurately,
timeously and meaningfully
24. Makes it possible for results to be
reported both informally and formally
25. Enables the reporting process to be
used as a focal point of dialogue between
the home and the school
26. It allows for the assessment of
knowledge, skills, values and attitudes
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agree
not
sure
disagree
Strongly
disagree
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
PART E
How often do you use the following methods, tools and techniques of assessment?
Please give reasons for your response.
Often
Seldom
Never
1. Informal
monitoring by
observation
2. Formal use of
standardised tests
3. Oral questions
and answers
4. Conferencing
5. Interviewing
6. Self-assessment
7. Self-reporting
8. Peer assessment
9. Portfolios
10. Observation
sheets
11. Journals
12. Tests
13. Project work
14. Assignments
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Reasons
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
PART F
IT IS CLAIMED THAT THE ASSESSMENT POLICY IS DEVELOPMENTAL
RATHER THAN JUDGEMENTAL. PLACE A CROSS (X) ON THE
RESPONSE YOU CONSIDER MOST APPROPRIATE.
Strongly
agree
Agree
Uncertain
Disagree
Strongly
disagree
1. It will enable teachers to use
assessment information to assist
learners’ development and improve the
process of teaching and learning
2. It makes it possible to credit
learners’ achievement at every level,
whatever pathway they may have
followed, and at whatever rate they
may have acquired the necessary
competence
3.It requires the use of tools that
appropriately assess learner
achievement and encourages lifelong
learning skills
4. It allows the internal assessment
process to be moderated externally in
accordance with specific provincial
guidelines
5. It encourages me to prepare learners
for the General Education and
Training Certificate
PART G
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MAIN REASONS WHY THE NEW
ASSESSMENT POLICY HAS BEEN INTRODUCED IN OUR SCHOOLS?
Please write clearly.
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
PART H
WHAT OLD UNDERSTANDINGS AND BELIEFS DID YOU HAVE TO
CHANGE WITH REGARD TO ASSESSMENT
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
PART I
WHAT NEW UNDERSTANDINGS AND BELIEFS DID YOU ACQUIRE
WITH REGARD TO THE NEW ASSESSMENT POLICY?
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
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_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
PART J
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES BEING EXPERIENCED IN
ATTEMPTING TO UNDERSTAND THE NEW ASSESSMENT POLICY IN
SCHOOLS.
Please write clearly.
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
PART K
WHAT ARE YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS WITH REGARDS TO A
BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE POLICY
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix G
Free Writing Schedule for Teachers
1. When did you first start teaching?
2. How long have you taught this subject and grade?
3. What is your understanding of the new assessment policy?
4. In your view, why was there a need for a new assessment policy?
5. What do you believe are the main goals of the assessment policy?
6. Do you believe that the assessment policy makes new demands on your role as an
educator? If yes, what are they and how do you feel about it?
7. How do you expect learners to benefit from this policy?
8. How do you expect to benefit from the policy?
9. What outcomes will persuade you that the policy is a success?
10. What do you understand to be the broad purpose/s of assessment?
11. Do you think that whenever you assess learners, the purpose of the assessment should
be given to learners? Why?
12. With regard to the concept of ‘criterion-referenced’ approach to assessment?
What is your understanding?
What is its purpose?
How would you describe your interests and abilities towards it?
What are its drawbacks?
13. How often do you think learners should be assessed? Why?
14. What do you understand by the concepts:
•
Continuous assessment?
•
Formative assessment?
•
Summative assessment?
•
Diagnostic assessment?
•
Evaluative assessment?
15. Do you believe that internal continuous assessment should be externally moderated?
Why?
16. What do you understand by ‘different methods of assessment’ as indicated in the
policy?
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
17. The assessment policy states that assessment must be:
•
authentic
•
multidimensional
•
objective
•
multi-dimensional
•
fair
•
varied
•
valid
•
balanced
•
time efficient
•
bias-free
•
sensitive to gender, race, cultural background and ability.
How would you interpret each concept, in other words, what does each concept mean
to you?
18. Do you think that learners should be involved in the assessment process? Why and
how?
19. Should parents be involved in the assessment process? Why and how?
20. It is stated that the assessment process should involve partnerships. What are your
views on this? Who do you think would be the relevant partners in the assessment
process?
21. Comment on your understanding with regard to recording of assessment information,
that is, where recorded, what is reflected, how often recorded, any other relevant
details?
22. What do you think about the reporting of assessment results. Comment in terms of
frequency, what is communicated, how communicated, and whether learners and
parents are encouraged to comment?
23. Did you receive any training with regard to the new assessment policy? If yes, when,
for how long, by whom, where and comment on the nature and value of the training?
24. What effect did this new assessment policy have on you?
25. How do you think this new assessment policy has affected learners and their parents?
26. Is there anything else about the assessment policy that you would like to write about?
Please write it.
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix H
Interview Schedule 1 (Pre-classroom observations)
1.
What is your understanding of the new assessment policy?
2.
Why do you think there was a need for a new assessment policy?
3.
What in your opinion are the main goals of this policy?
4.
How does the policy position you, in other words, what do you see as your role?
5.
It is stated that this policy provides the pedagogic basis for our new education and
training system. What does this mean to you?
6.
In the new assessment policy, assessment defined as “ the process of identifying,
gathering and interpreting information about a learner’s achievement, as measured
against nationally agreed outcomes for a particular phase of learning”. What are
your views about this definition?
7.
How does this policy serve as a vital instrument in shaping your educational
practice?
8.
How do you collect evidence of learner achievement?
9.
What is your understanding of the ‘criterion-referenced’ approach to assessment?
10.
What is your understanding of ‘continuous assessment’?
11.
What is your understanding of the following with regard to assessment:
Assessment must be:
•
Authentic:
•
Multidimensional:
•
Objective:
•
fair:
•
varied:
•
valid
•
balanced
•
time efficient
•
bias-free
•
sensitive to:
gender
race
cultural background
ability
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
12.
How do you see the relationship between the new assessment policy and the new
National Curriculum Framework?
13.
What old beliefs and understandings did you have to change as a result of the new
policy?
14.
What new beliefs and understandings did you acquire as a result of the new
assessment policy?
15.
What do you see as the major possibilities or opportunities for the successful
implementation of this assessment policy?
16.
What do you see as the major constraints or limitations for the successful
implementation of this assessment policy?
17.
What are your suggestions for the effective understanding of this policy?
18.
What are your suggestions for the effective implementation of this policy?
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix I
Analysis of the Assessment Policy (Department of Education, 1998)
Foreword by Prof Bengu (p7):
• Purposes of new assessment policy:
Together with new national curriculum will provide the pedagogic
basis for our new education and training system
Guide provincial departments of education to design their own
assessment policies
Provide a vital instrument for shaping educational practices in
learning sites of our country
• Carries wide support and legitimacy because of consultation
• Expected Levels of Performance (ELPs)
Determine progression between grades and phases
Provide vital yardstick to identify learning difficulties
Enable remedial actions to be taken
ELPs and the new reporting requirements ensure parents and learners
will have accurate information on which to base their own assessment of
learning progress
• New reporting requirements introduced in this policy, parents and learners
will have accurate information on which to base their own assessment of
learning progress.
• The new policy is already being practiced in many learning sites.
• Teachers and professionals (sic – teachers not professionals?) are
undergoing professional development
• Over the next many years we will promote this policy and provide the
professional development
• Transformation of established assessment practice involves a lengthy
process of learning and professional development
P 8: WHY NEW ASSESSMENT POLICY?
• This policy has been developed in response to a need to phase in assessment
practices that are compatible with the newly introduced outcomes-based
education, and
• The shortcomings of the current assessment policy, A Resumē of
Instructional Programmes in Public Schools, Report 550 (97/06), namely,
Prescribes a complex set of rules and regulations for subject groupings
and combinations, which formed the basis for matric certification and
qualifications for entrance into higher education
Lack of transparency
Lack of accountability
Inadequate assessment practices
Inappropriate use of tests and examinations – contributed to high
repetition and drop-out rates
Absence of meaningful feedback to learners
Absence of support for learners who may require learning difficulties
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
And the requirements of the new curriculum for Grades R-9 and Adult Basic
education and Training have made it necessary to develop a new assessment
policy.
•
Both the shortcomings of the current assessment policy and the requirements
of the new curriculum have made it necessary to develop a new assessment
policy
DEFINITION OF ASSESSMENT:
Process of identifying, gathering and interpreting information about a learner’s
achievement as measured against NATIONALLY AGREED OUTCOMES for a
particular phase of learning.
4 STEPS INVOLVED.WHAT TEACHERS EXPECTED TO DO:
1. Generate evidence of achievement
2. Collect evidence of achievement
3. Evaluate evidence against outcomes
4. Record findings
5. Use findings to assist learners develop and improve teaching and learning
ASSESSMENT IN OBE (Philosophy?): (p9)
• Learner centred
• Result-oriented
• All learners can and need to achieve their full potential bur in different ways
and different times
IMPLIES/TEACHERS SHOULD: (p9)
• Define what learners are to learn
• Base learners progress on demonstrated achievement
• Use multiple assessment tools to accommodate each learners needs
• Provide each learner time and assistance to realise her/his potential
ASSESSMET IN OBE FOCUSES ON THE ACHIEVEMENT OF CLEARLY
DEFINED OUTCOMES – that makes it possible to credit learner achievement at:
• Every level
• Whatever pathway
• Whatever rate
TEACHERS expected to:
Use TOOLS that:
• Appropriately assess learner achievement
• Encourage lifelong learning
Use COUNTINOUS ASSESSMENT MODEL
WHY? because:
It is the best model to assess outcomes of learning
throughout the system
Enable improvements to be made in the learning and
teaching process
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
HOW to be used:
Support learners develop
Feed back into teaching and learning
Not to be used as a series of traditional test
results
WHO (p11): Internal CA administered and marked by educators
MODERATED: Internal assessment process should be moderated
externally, for example, professional support services
within the guidelines set by the provincial department
of education
AIMS of policy:
• Enhance the provision of education which is continuous, coherent and
progressive, for each learner
• Key element in the quality assurance system
• Introduces a shift from a system that is dominated by public examinations
which are high stakes, and whose main function has been to rank, grade, select
and certificate learners, TO A NEW SYSTEM THAT INFORMA AND
IMPROVES THE CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT PRACTICES OF
EDUCATORS, … (p9-10)
TEACHERS expected to: (p10)
• Use diverse modes of assessment
• Improve their expertise in:
Designing appropriate assessment instruments
Developing appropriate assessment instruments
Using appropriate assessment instruments
MODERATION:
WHY? To ensure that appropriate standards are being maintained in the
assessment system
HOW On a sample basis at different levels of the system
Moderation mechanisms at school, provincial & national levels
WHO ETQA responsible
PRINCIPLES/TEACHERS EXPECTED TO:
• Make the purpose of assessment clear - transparent
• Use criterion-referenced approach
• Use assessment that is:
Authentic
Continuous
Multidimensional
Varied
Balanced
• Make assessment an on-going integral part of the learning process
• Ensure assessment is:
Accurate
Objective
Valid
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Fair
Manageable
Time efficient
Match the FORM, CONTEXT and METHOD of assessment to:
What is being assessed
Needs of learners
Match the METHOD and TECHNIQUE of assessment to:
Knowledge, skills, attitudes to be assessed
Age of learners
Developmental level of learner
Ensure assessment is:
Bias free
Sensitive to:
- gender
- race
-cultural background
- ability
Communicate assessment results:
Clearly
Accurately
Timeously
Meaningfully
Link progression to the achievement of specific outcomes
Ensure progression is not rigidly time-bound
Use evidence of progress in achieving outcomes to identify areas where
learners need support and remedial intervention
PURPOSE OF ASSESSMENT (p10-11)
1. Determine whether learning required for the achievement of the specific
outcomes is taking place
2. Determine whether any difficulties are being encountered
3. Report to parents, other role players and stakeholders on the levels of
achievement during learning process
4. Build a profile of the learner’s achievement across the curriculum
5. Provide information for the evaluation and review of the learning programmes
used in the classroom
6. Maximise learners’ access to the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values
defined in the national curriculum policy
TYPES OF ASSESSMENT:
1. Formative:
so that positive achievements of the learner may be recognised
and discussed and the appropriate next steps may be planned
2. Summative: for recording of overall achievement of a learner in a systemic
way
3. Diagnostic: through which learning difficulties may be scrutinised and
classified so that appropriate remedial help and guidance may
be provided
4. Evaluative: to compare and aggregate information about learner
achievements to assist in curriculum development and
evaluation of teaching and learning
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
WHAT IS ASSESSED (p11):
• The specific outcomes grounded in the critical outcomes will serve as
basis for assessment
• Focus of assessment shall be on the progress learners make towards the
achievement of the outcomes
• The specific outcomes and their assessment criteria must be made
available to learners to inform them what is to be assessed. This
transparency of the outcomes makes explicit which was formerly
only implied or assumed.
• Learners who do not meet the criteria must receive clear explanations
with clear explanations with indications of areas that need further work
and must be assisted to reach the required criteria.
WHO ASSESSES (p12)
• Educators have overall responsibility to assess achievement of specific
outcomes
• Partnership between – educators
- learners
- parents and
- education support services
METHODS, TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES OF ASSESSMENT (p12)
(to measure performance against or achievement of specific outcomes)
• Use variety of METHODS:
Informal monitoring by observation
Formal use of appropriate and approved:
Standardised tests
Oral questions and answers
Conferencing
Interviewing
Self-assessment
Self-reporting
Peer-assessment
• Use a variety of TECHNOQUES (ALL EDUCATORS should have a sound
knowledge of what each technique offers, and use it in a balanced, fair and
transparent way )
Portfolio assessment
Observation sheets
Journals
Tests
Project
assignments
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
RECORDING (P12)
• Cumulative records:
Cumulative evidence of learner achievement must be recorded which
should accompany learners throughout their learning paths
These record should include information on the holistic development
of the learner such as: - values
- attitudes
- social development
• Portfolios:
Should be built over a period of time and retained as visible proof of the
development and improvement of learner achievement
Include samples of learners’ work that show they are able to integrate
knowledge, concepts, and skills, and not been assessed only on
memorisation of information
REPORTING (p12-13)
• Effective communication about learner achievement is a prerequisite for the
provision of quality education
• A report must convey through the educator’s comment:
A clear impression of personal knowledge of the learner
Summarise achievement and progress
Useful feedback to evaluate and improve teaching and learning
• Comments from parents and where practicable, from learners should be
encouraged
• Reports should be signed by the head of the institution or other appropriate
person with an overview comment when this is necessary
• The reporting process shall:
Serve as opportunity to provide regular feedback to learners as
part of everyday teaching and learning process
Provide an accurate description of progress and achievement
Allow for comment on the personal, and social development
and the attendance of the learner
Give an indication of the strengths and developmental needs
and identify follow-up steps for learning and teaching
Encourage learning through a constructive approach
Become a focal pint for dialogue between home, learning site
Enhance accountability
Must be sensitive to the needs and responsibilities of parents
• Reporting must be seen as an integral part of teaching and learning
• Formal reporting on learner assessment will be done at regular intervals as
determined by provincial policy, or at the request of a learner, parent or
prospective employer
• Reporting may include:
Formal meetings
Written reports
• Less formal reporting include dialogue either individually or in groups
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
ASSESSMENT IN GRADE R – 9 (p13-14)
• The curriculum for each of 3 phases is organised within learning programmes
• In Senior Phase 8 learning programmes, one of which is Natural Science
• These learning programmes will serve as a basis for assessment in each phase
• Assessment must provide a clear indication about how well each and every
outcome is being taught and learned
• Learners must show evidence of progressing towards achieving all the
outcomes, to ensure that the essential skills, knowledge, understanding,
attitudes and values are demonstrated
• Learners will progress with their age cohort
• Where it is felt that a learner needs more or less time to demonstrate
achievement, decisions shall be made based on the advice of the relevant role
players, e.g.: - educators
- learners
- parents
- education support services
• If a learner needs more time to achieve particular outcomes s/he may not be
retained in a grade for a whole year
• No learner should be stay in the same phase for longer than 4 years, unless the
provincial Head of Department has given approval based on specific
circumstances and professional advice.
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix J
Questionnaire 2
PREFACE: The purpose of this questionnaire is to collect information about how
teachers practice assessment in their classrooms.
PART A
PLEASE READ EACH OF THE STATEMENTS BELOW WITH REGARD TO
YOUR CURRENT ASSESSMENT PRACTICE AND PLACE A CROSS ON THE
NUMBER OF THE RESPONSE YOU CONSIDER MOST APPROPRIATE.
How does your current assessment practice match each of the
following statements?
Mirrors the Room for
statement
improve
ment
1. Assessment involves generating and collecting
evidence of achievement, evaluating this evidence
against the outcomes, recording the findings of the
evaluation and using the information to assist
learners’ development and improve the process of
teaching and learning
2. Assessment informs and improves the curriculum
and assessment practices
3. Assessment offers all learners an opportunity to
show what they know, understand and can do
4. Assessment helps learners understand what they
can do and where they need to develop further
5. Assessment practices are sensitive to gender
6. Assessment practices are sensitive to abilities of
learners.
7. The key learning outcomes have been identified so
that assessments made against these can be used to
help develop learning
8. Assessment is continuous
9. Achievement data linked to curriculum outcomes
10. Assessment decisions are based on pragmatic,
trial-and-error grounds
11. Assessment decisions are based on thinking
through the purpose and principles of assessment
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Does not mirror
the statement/
requires rethinking
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Mirrors the Room for
statement
improve
ment
12. Assessment scores are used to promote learners to
the next grade
13. Sharing of assessment intentions with learners is
routine practice, which enables learners to understand
their role in assessment process
14. Facts, applications and higher order thinking
skills are assessed
15. The criterion-referenced approach to assessment
is undertaken
16. Assessments are not restricted to tests only
17. Assessment is always undertaken for a specific
purpose
18. The current requirements and guidance for
statutory assessment are understood and followed
19. A holistic and best-fit approach is used
20. A range of assessment information is used in
making judgements against expected levels of
performance
21. Learners are involved in assessing their own work
22. Learners are involved in assessing the work of
their peers
23. Learners are provided with opportunities to
reflect and talk about their learning and achievement
24. A wide range of assessment methods are used
confidently and appropriately
25. Assessment informs daily and weekly planning
26. Assessment allow learning to be matched to the
needs of the learners
27. Strategies are in place which reveals when pupils
have difficulties or are not making progress
28. Assessment information is used to decide what to
do next with individuals, groups or the class.
29. Portfolios are consistently used to confirm
assessment judgements.
30. Portfolios are built over a period of time and
retained as visible proof of the development and
improvement of learner achievement
31. Prompt and regular marking occurs
32. The marking process includes both verbal and
written feedback
33. Marking focuses on the learning intentions as the
criteria for success
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Does not mirror
the statement/
requires rethinking
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Mirrors the Room for
statement
improve
ment
34. Marking strategies help the learners understand
what they have achieved and what they need to do
next
35. The outcomes of marking, along with other
information, are used to adjust future teaching plans
36. Assessment achievement data communicated to
learners
clearly,
accurately,
timeousely and
meaningfully
37. Reporting of results is both informal, namely
dialogues in class and formal, namely written reports
38. Assessment of learners’ learning is reported to
parents/guardians in a way which identifies
achievements and what the learner needs to improve.
39. The outcomes of assessment of learning activities
provide feedback and feed forward for learners
40. Assessment of learning information is used to
evaluate teaching and for monitoring progress
41. There is a whole-school agreed set of
achievement information, which is recorded
42. Beyond whole school records, teachers decide
what to record
43. Teachers use a range of recording strategies for
additional records
44. Progress against key learning outcomes is
observed, noted and recorded
45. Progress against key learning outcomes feed
forward into future planning
46. Learners are involved in recording comments on
their work
47. Parents are involved in recording comments on
their children’s work
48. Records are useful,
clear and
easy to interpret
49. Records enable reports to be written easily
50. Reports outline strengths in all aspects of school
life
51. Reports indicate areas that need to be developed
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Does not mirror
the statement/
requires rethinking
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Mirrors the Room for
statement
improve
ment
Does not mirror
the statement/
requires rethinking
52. Timing of reports allow appropriate discussion
and action to take place
53. Statutory requirements for reporting are met
54. Core assessment data on each learner is updated
each year
and passed to the receiving teacher or school
to aid future planning
55. Moderation mechanisms are in place at
School level
Provincial level
National level
PART B
WITH REGARD TO THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT, PLEASE PLACE A
CROSS IN THE RELEVANT BLOCK YOU CONSIDER MOST APPROPRIATE
AND EXPLAIN WHY (REASON) YOU INDICATED YES OR NO.
I use the following methods, approaches and techniques to
assess learners:
Yes
No
Reason
1.Informal monitoring by
observation
2.Oral questions and answers
3. Tests that I set alone
4. Tests set by subject
teachers
5. Standardised external tests
6. Interviews
7. Learner self assessment
8. Peer assessment
9. Self-reporting
10. Conferencing
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Yes
No
Reason
11. Examinations
12. Portfolios
13. Journals
14. Project work
15. Assignments
16 Observation sheets
PART C
IT IS STATED IN THE NEW ASSESSMENT POLICY THAT ASSESSMENT
SHOULD BE ACCURATE, FAIR, MULTIDIMENSIONAL, VARIED, BALANCED,
VALID, MANAGEABLE, TIME-EFFICIENT, BIAS-FREE, AND SENSITIVE TO
GENDER, CULTURAL BACKGROUND, EHTNICITY AND ABILITY. PLEASE
COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING TABLE BY EXPLAINING HOW YOU ENSURE
EACH IN YOUR ASSESSMENT PRACTICE.
Accurate
EXPLANATION
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
Fair
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
Multidimensional
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
Varied
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
Balanced
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
Valid
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Manageable
EXPLANATION
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
Time-efficient
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
________________________________________________
Bias-free
Sensitive to:
• Gender
•
•
Cultural
background
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
Ethnicity
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
•
Ability
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
Any comments that you would like to add with regard to Part C?
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
PART D
PLEASE ANSWER THE FOLLOWING THREE QUESTIONS WITH REGARD
TO IMPLEMENTING THE NEW ASSESSMENT POLICY?
1. Do you think that you have the necessary knowledge and skills to implement the
new policy? Please give reasons.
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
2. Are resources in terms of time, human capacity and materials sufficient to
implement the new policy? Please explain.
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
3. How compatible is the school organisation for the implementation of the new
policy?
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
PART E
WHAT NEW APPROACHES OR CHANGES DID YOU MAKE IN
IMPLEMENTING THE NEW ASSESSMENT POLICY?
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
PART F
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES/ PROBLEMS YOU FACE IN
IMPLEMENTING THE NEW ASSESSMENT POLICY?
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
PART G
SUGGEST WAYS IN IMPROVING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW
ASSESSMENT POLICY
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix K
Interview Schedule 2 (pre-classroom observation)
1.
What do you want to accomplish when you assess learners?
2.
How do you assess learners?
3.
How do you:
•
Generate evidence of achievement?
•
Collect evidence of achievement?
•
Evaluate this evidence?
•
Record the findings of the evaluation?
•
Use the findings?
•
Make assessment an on-going integral part of the learning process?
4.
What assessment methods, new to you do you use?
5.
From what you have learnt with regard to the new assessment policy, what
are ways in which you changed your assessment practice?
6.
What assessment tools do you think are successful in getting real time,
authentic feedback about learners’ achievement?
7.
Name the type of assessment strategies that you used and worked?
8.
Name the type of assessment strategies that you used but did not work?
9.
Name the different types of assessment strategies that you would like to try
in the future?
10.
How do you ensure continuous assessment of learners?
11.
Do you think that the policy’s emphasis on continuous assessment is
changing learning? How?
12.
How do you feel assessment should be used?
13.
How do you use assessment?
14.
What are the main assessment methods you are using and why?
15.
How often do you assess learners?
16.
The policy advocates assessment that is criterion-referenced. Have you
employed the “criterion-referenced” approach to assessment? Why and
how? Do you find it useful? Explain further.
17.
What do you see as the major obstacles to the “criterion-referenced”
approach of assessment?
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
18.
In your view, what is the most effective way to assess learners?
19.
Do you assess learners in this way? If no, why not?
20.
Do you think that the new way of assessing is making a difference in the
way learners are taught? Explain further
21.
What do you think that learners have learned as a result of the assessment
exercise? How you do know/What demonstrates that they have learnt?
How well have they learnt/What is the level of competence?
22.
How do you come to a cumulative/summative judgement about learners’
achievement?
23.
How do you use learners’ achievement information to assist the learner’s
development?
24.
How do you use learners’ achievement information to improve teaching
and learning?
25.
How do parents respond to the new ways of assessment?
26.
What did you find rewarding in implementing the new assessment policy?
27.
What were your frustrations in implementing the new assessment policy?
28.
In what circumstances do you feel that the implementation of this policy is
most likely to succeed?
29.
The Review Committee on Curriculum 2005 reported that teachers
struggled with issues on assessment. Will you please elaborate on this
finding?
30.
Are moderation mechanisms in place at school, provincial and national
levels? Explain.
31.
Is there anything else you would like to tell me about on the
implementation of the new assessment policy that I haven’t asked you
about?
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Appendix L
Classroom Observation Protocol
Teacher:
School:
Date:
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Nature of use
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
Purpose of assessment made clear to learners
Learners involved in the assessment
Clearly defined outcomes assessed
Who assesses? Teacher, self, peer,
What is assessed? Facts
Application of knowledge
Higher order thinking skills
Attitudes
Values
Criterion-referenced approach used
Informal monitoring by observation
Oral questions and answers
Formal use of tests set by teacher
Formal use of tests set by subject teachers
Formal use of standardised external test
Examination
Interviewing
Self assessment
Peer assessment
Self-reporting
Conferencing
- 351 -
No
Yes
No
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Nature of use
No
No
Portfolios
Journals
Project work
Assignments
Observation sheets
Assessment data recorded orally
Assessment data recorded in writing
Achievement data communicated to pupils
verbally and in writing
Achievement data communicated to pupils
clearly
Achievement data communicated to pupils
accurately
Achievement data communicated to pupils
timeously
Achievement data communicated to pupils
meaningfully
Achievement data used to praise learners
Achievement data used to identify strengths
and weaknesses
Achievement data used to support those
learners requiring help
Achievement data used to plan/ improve
teaching
COMMENTS:
- 352 -
No
No
Appendix M
Analysis of Teacher and Student Documents and Records
Criteria
Test
Books of
learners
Reports of
learners
Other written
records of
learners e.g.
Portfolios
Facts/memorisation of
information assessed
Clearly defined outcomes
Application questions
Higher order thinking
skills
Criterion-referenced
Norm-referenced
Achievement data linked
to curriculum outcomes
Integration of
knowledge, concepts and
skills
Marking is prompt and
accurate
Results recorded in
writing
- 353 -
Mark
book of
teachers
Other assessment
records kept by
teachers
Comments
Criteria
Test
Books of
learners
Reports of
learners
Other written
records of
learners e.g.
Portfolios
Comments included by
Teacher
Learner
Principal/HOD
Parent
Cumulative evidence
recorded
Records include
information on the
development of values,
attitudes and social
development
Results communicated
clearly
Results communicated
timeously
Results communicated
meaningfully
Results used:
To assist learners
development,
Improve learning,
Improve teaching
COMMENTS
- 354 -
Mark
book of
teachers
Other assessment
records kept by
teachers
Comments
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix N
Contact Summary Form
Contact type:
Visit: _______________
Phone: _______________(with whom)
Written by: __________________
Site: ______________________
Contact date: ______________
Today’s date: ______________
1.
With whom did you meet?
2.
What were the main issues or themes that struck you in this contact?
3.
Summarize the information that you got (or failed to get) on each of the target
questions you had for this contact?
4.
Anything else that struck you as salient, interesting, illuminating or important
in this contact?
5.
What new (or remaining) target questions do you have in considering the next
contact with this site?
CONCERNS OF THE RESEARCHER AND EDUCATOR
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix O
Document Summary Form
Site: _______________________________________
Document number: __________________________
Date received or picked up: ____________________
NAME OR DESCRIPTION OF DOCUMENT:
EVENT OR CONTACT, IF ANY, WITH WHICH DOCUMENT IS
ASSOCIATED:
Date:
SIGNIFICANCE OR IMPORTANCE OF DOCUMENT:
BRIEF SUMMARY OF CONTENTS:
Note: If document is central or crucial to a particular contact (e.g., a meeting agenda
discussed in an interview, etc) make a copy and include with write-up. Otherwise put
in document file.
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
Appendix P
Contextual Information on the School
The observation checklist will be used in order to collect contextual information on the
school for the purpose of compiling the school profile and providing the reader with a
thick rich description of the case study school.
To be completed by the researcher/teachers in the school
PLEASE FILL IN OR PLACE A TICK IN THE APPROPRIATE COLUMN
1.
Type of building
1. Building designed as school
2. Prefab
3. Teacher training college
4. Other (specify)
2.
School building
1. Number of blocks
2. Number of storeys
3.
Condition of school and furniture
1. Roof
2. Windows
3. Doors
4. Walls
5. Furniture
6. Floors
7. Toilets
8. Ceilings
9. Other
(specify)
Type of
structure:
Specify
(e.g., brick
wall, tile
roof, etc)
No
maintenance
needed
Fitted
Not fitted
Need
maintenance
- 357 -
Beyond
Need
maintenance repair
& structural
repair
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
4.
Number of toilets for teaching/administrative staff
1. Male staff
2. Female staff
3. Out of order
5.
Number of toilets for learners
1. Males
2. Females
3. Out of order
6.
Power and energy supply
1. Wired & supplied with electricity
2. Wired but not supplied with electricity
3. Not wired and/or & no electricity available
4. Generators
5. Other (specify)
7.
Overall condition of building
Very weak (not
suitable for
occupation)
8.
Weak (structure Needs paint &
needs attention) minor repairs
Good condition
Excellent, no
foreseeable
repairs
Safety
1. Building is completely fenced with security at the entrance
2. Building is completely fenced without security at the entrance
3. Building has been fenced but fence is damaged
4. No fence
5. Other (specify)
9.
Office space
Adequate
Inadequate
1. Offices for
management
2. Offices for
admin staff
- 358 -
None
Estimated
shortfall
number
University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
10.
Access roads
Good condition
Poor condition
1. Tar road
2. gravel road
11.
Please provide a general description of the overall surroundings
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
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University of Pretoria etd – Hariparsad, S D (2004)
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