Students' Perceptions of Literacy Assessment

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Gazi University]On: 02 November 2014, At: 05:15Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Assessment in Education:Principles, Policy & PracticePublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/caie20

    Students' Perceptions of LiteracyAssessmentKaren B. Moni , Christina E. van Kraayenoord & CarolynD. BakerPublished online: 09 Jun 2010.

    To cite this article: Karen B. Moni , Christina E. van Kraayenoord & Carolyn D. Baker(2002) Students' Perceptions of Literacy Assessment, Assessment in Education: Principles,Policy & Practice, 9:3, 319-342, DOI: 10.1080/0969594022000027654

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Assessment in Education, Vol. 9, No. 3, 2002

    Students Perceptions of LiteracyAssessmentKAREN B. MONI, CHRISTINA E. VAN KRAAYENOORD &CAROLYN D. BAKERFred and Eleanor Schonell Special Education Research Centre, The School ofEducation, The University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia

    ABSTRACT Students perceptions of literacy assessment processes and practices were inves-tigated in two year long case studies undertaken in two English classrooms in two state highschools in Queensland, Australia. A range of qualitative data techniques was used to collectinformation related to students previous experiences of assessment in primary school,students responses to the rst and last literacy assessment task of the school year, and theirperceptions of assessment at the end of the year. The study showed that students attitudes,beliefs, practices and understandings about assessment varied both within and across studentgroups and differences in students accounts were evident both at the start and end of theschool year. The ndings highlight the role that students play in actively constructingknowledge about literacy assessment through their prior and current experiences withassessment tasks, and in their interactions with each other.

    Introduction

    The study reported here is part of a larger project investigating constructions ofliteracy assessment by teachers and their students during the rst year of highschool. Data were collected around each assessment task in subject English duringa full school year in two Queensland high school classrooms. In this paper wespeci cally highlight students understandings of literacy and literacy assessment atthe start of the year by exploring their previous experiences of assessment in primaryschool and their responses to the rst assessment task of the school year. In thesecond part of the paper we focus on students perceptions of the last task under-taken in English in that year and consider their perceptions of assessment at the endof the year.

    Theoretical Framework

    There is a considerable body of research on how knowledge is socially constructedin classrooms among teachers and students, and student-peers during formal lessons(Collins & Green, 1990; Edwards & Mercer, 1987; Green & Dixon, 1993; Mercer,

    ISSN 0969-594X print; ISSN 1465-329X online/02/030319-24 2002 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10.1080/0969594022000027654

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  • 320 K. B. Moni et al.

    1995; Nuthall, 1997). Studies across a range of subject areas and at different levelsof schooling have found that knowledge, and particularly what comes to count asclassroom knowledge is shaped by daily interactions among teachers and students(Prentiss, 1995).Investigations of talk in classrooms in the area of literacy have shown that literacy

    is constructed through teacher-student and student-student interactions aroundtexts (Green & Meyer, 1991; Heap, 1995; Myers, 1992; Prentiss, 1995; Talty,1995). In particular, Baker (1992), and Baker and Freebody (1989) revealed howinteractions around texts constructed knowledge about how to refer to, respond to,and interpret storybooks. McCarthey (1994) showed how student writers in aprimary school setting learned about appropriate topics and ways of writing throughthe writing conferences held with their teacher. In these studies, teachers have beenidenti ed as mediators, activators and interpreters of texts and the students as activeparticipants in the construction of classroom knowledge.Edwards and Westgate (1987), however, claimed that students were positioned as

    receivers of knowledge whose participation was con ned to what was de ned by theteacher as appropriate or relevant. Previous research into students participation inliteracy assessment has tended to support Edwards and Westgates (1987) view,indicating that students play a passive role in literacy assessment activities (Valencia,1990; Graue, 1993). Recent shifts to authentic classroom-based models of assess-ment which encourage learning-integrated assessment, collaborative assessmentactivities and self-assessment (Archbald, 1991, Harrison et al., 1998; Kleinsasser,1995) suggest that students should play a more active role in constructing assess-ment.Related to this view has been the call to investigate students perceptions of

    assessment processes and in this regard there is a small, growing body of research.Much of this research has been undertaken in the USA and has focused on theimpact of standardised testing on students. One of the major ndings from thisresearch is that standardised tests affect what students learn, how students learn, andat what level they learn (Madaus, 1991). Madaus (1991) argued that successfulperformance on standardised tests comes to be regarded by students as the mainobjective in education and that students develop learning strategies whose solepurpose is to improve test performance.The second nding from the literature is that traditional assessment practices such

    as standardised testing and the subsequent reporting of grades derived from thesetests, may have negative and long-term effects on students attitudes and subsequentperformance (Paris et al., 1991; Paris et al., 1992; Roth & Paris, 1991). McAuliffe(1993) for example, described the negative reactions of a group of at risk studentsto a series of practice tests taken in readiness for formal standardised tests. Studentswere upset with the notion that the test-maker held the right answers and werereluctant to complete the tests (McAuliffe, 1993). The author concluded that thetests in which the students engaged required lower levels of comprehension and lesssynthesis of ideas than their regular classroom activities and moved these studentsaway from the empowered positions in relation to literacy that they had developed.

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  • Students Perceptions of Literacy Assessment 321

    The author suggested that for these students the value of information from standard-ised testing would be questionable.Research, including that of McAuliffe (1993), described above, has shown that

    students respond affectively to tests and that these reactions are often accompaniedby responses such as withholding participation. The research has also shown thatbeyond the actual testing situations students also react emotionally and cognitivelyto the feedback they get from teachers. For example, Sperling and Freedman (1987)investigated one ninth-grade students understandings of her teachers writtencomments on her assignments over a seven-week period. They found that under-standing the teachers comments involved the student in complex problem solving.If the student wanted to achieve a good grade for her work she was required, in someinstances, to accept the authority of the teacher even when the teachers values wereclearly different from her own. This study also revealed that the student persistentlymisunderstood the teachers values even as she engaged with his interpretation ofher work.Morine-Dershimers study (1982) of interactions in ve third and fourth grade

    primary classrooms focused on students perceptions of praise. She found thatstudents were able to differentiate three main purposes for positive oral feedback.First, over half of the 165 students believed they were praised when their answers toquestions were right or good. Second, praise had an instructional function, servingto encourage students to learn; and third, praise was a way of supporting studentswho participated in discussions. The author concluded that students perceived andused praise in complex ways. First, praise acted to reinforce the learning andparticipatory behaviours of the recipients, encouraging them to participate furtherand consequently receive more praise. Second, praise was perceived to be instruc-tional by students who had low status in the classroom. These students did notparticipate as often, receiving less praise. In turn, their low status was reinforced. Ina study of primary teachers and their students understanding of literacy assessmentinteractions in two Year 5 classrooms, Af erbach and Moni (1995) found thatteachers and their students developed a similar range of understandings about themeaning of OK as used in oral feedback. However, these authors reported that in19% of the 43 instances of OK analysed, student interpretations were not the sameas those of their teachers. The ndings of these studies indicate that studentsunderstand feedback in different ways, and that misinterpretations of the teachersintentions occur in oral feedback as well as in written feedback.Another form of assessment information which students obtain from their teach-

    ers is grades. Grades can comprise a letter grade (A to E), a number (for example,percentages), or a rating (very high achievement). For many students, gradesrepresent the only formal feedback they receive from teachers about the quality oftheir work and about their progress in a given subject. Consequently studentsperceptions of grading have been of interest to researchers. Evans and Engelberg(1988) used a questionnaire to survey 304 students in six year levels (Years 4 to 11)about their attitudes, understandings and attributions regarding grades. They re-ported that whereas primary school children had positive attitudes towards grades,older students reported more dissatisfaction and cynicism related to grading prac-

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  • 322 K. B. Moni et al.

    tices. While older students had a better overall understanding of grading systemsthan younger students, their understanding of complexities such as grade pointaveraging and weighted grading was limited. Younger and lower achieving studentsattributed good grades to external factors such as teacher and task factors, whileolder and higher achieving students attributed good grades more to their own effort.Much of the previous research on students perceptions of literacy assessment

    both in Australia and overseas has been conducted in primary schools or in thesenior years of high school (Af erbach & Moni, 1995; Evans & Engelberg, 1988;McAuliffe, 1993; Morine-Dershimer, 1982; Van Kraayenoord & Moni, 1997).These studies found students attitudes towards assessment affected their partici-pation in assessment, and the value they placed on assessment methods and tasks.Second, students developed a range of understandings about teachers written andoral feedback which were not always congruent with the teachers intentions; andthird, as students progress through school, many became both increasingly negativeabout assessment and concerned about the assessment process. The informationderived from these studies about how students construct assessment, their percep-tions of their roles in assessment and how these perceptions affect their attitudes andpractices related to assessment suggests that further examination of students per-ceptions of assessment, speci cally in the lower grades of high school is needed.In the part of the study reported in this article the following research questions

    relating to Year 8 students perceptions of literacy assessment in English during oneschool year were investigated:

    1. What do Year 8 students think, feel and value about literacy assessment whenthey start Year 8?

    2. Are students thoughts, feelings and values when they enter Year 8 the same ordifferent from each other?

    3. As students progress through Year 8 do students thoughts, feelings and valueschange and are they the same or different from each other?

    Method

    Year-long case studies were undertaken in two classrooms in two schools in a largecity on the east coast of Queensland. Participants in the study were two Year 8English teachers and three mixed-gender friendship groups in each of the twoclassrooms. In both classrooms each teacher selected a student, one for each of thethree groups needed. Then these students in turn selected three peers, whichresulted in a mix of males and females across the student groups. Friendship groupswere chosen to provide insight into the perceptions of sub-groups of students in theclassroom, to assist in making students comfortable in discussion situations, and tofacilitate sharing of previous and current experiences.The groups from School 1 have been called the Pragmatists, the Enthusiasts, and

    the Gang. In School 2, the groups have been called the Quiet Achievers, the Friends,and the Rebels [1]. Group...

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