Enacting and experiencing formative assessment from a sociocultural perspective : a case study in a Year 4 classroom

Herron, Sheena Rosemary (2012). Enacting and experiencing formative assessment from a sociocultural perspective : a case study in a Year 4 classroom. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000c002


The claim for formative assessment is that it supports significant gains in children's measured achievements. The literature however reveals significant gaps in that there is little practitioner-based research, a lack of theoretical justification for formative assessment practices with sociocultural approaches underrepresented, and younger children neglected. The purpose of the study was to develop and enact a sociocultural pedagogy and explore how formative assessment is understood and enabled, in this approach to teaching and learning. It was carried out in a Northern Ireland primary school, exploring, from a practitioner's perspective, the potential of formative assessment to support young children aged 7-8 years becoming writers. An approach to writing was developed that viewed it as an element in the larger project of narrative construal (Bruner, 1996). Cook and Brown's (1999, see Figure 2 below) proposition of four distinct and co-equal forms of know ledge: explicit, tacit, individual and group, distinguished from knowing - that which emerges in interaction with the social and physical world, was used to understand how in the interplay of knowledge and knowing new knowledge and ways of knowing are generated. The metaphor of formativity (Murphy, 2009) was found helpful to capture the nature of what teachers need to attend to in supporting the process of 'bridging epistemologies' within this 'generative dance'.

Ethnographic methodology was used: this involved a hybrid, mediational case study involving three cases of Year 4 classes to allow dialectical relationships among different planes of mediation to be taken into account (Lave, 1988; Rogoff, 1995). Main sources of data were observation, field notes, informal interviews and reflective journal writing which served as a dialogic tool (Wells, 1999). The fmdings reveal how 'formativity' emerges in the jointly negotiated reification of the community (Wenger, 1998). It is from this shared resource, that teachers and learners appropriate whatever is formative for them to progress deeper into practice. Reconceptualising writing outside of the narrowly focused schooled curriculum liberated the children to write in response to their own interest and purposes, making it possible for them to develop identities as writers. The research also revealed that fundamental change in teachers' practice requires associated change in institutional cultures and practices and policies that empower, inspire and treat teachers and children as knowledgeable and trustworthy.

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