ASSESS (Active Seminar Series for Early-Career, Student and inService Teachers): Introducing a Shared Programme of Support for ‘Assessment as Learning’ Post-Pandemic for Post-Primary Student and In-Career Teachers: From Case Study to Praxis

ASSESS

The focus of teaching is helping people to learn. For this reason, theories of learning and assessment are core components of initial and continuing teacher education. It is possible to categorise three main theories of learning as follows: 1. Behaviourist theory – rote learning and memorisation of facts and information are the central tools of learning here. Assessment tends to be narrowly focused on evaluating knowledge acquisition. Feedback to students is generally corrective (Baird, 2014) 2. Constructivist theory – the development of mental schemata through connecting previous learning to new learning is the model here. Assessment is generally built around problemsolving and reflective tasks. Feedback to students is designed to improve competence in strategic thinking (James, 2006). 3. Sociocultural theory – learning how to use available cultural tools to become competent in valued social and cultural practices. Assessment is woven into the learning process to enhance students’ participation in and contribution to valued social practices (Gipps, 1998). Feedback is distributed among all participants in the learning process and is holistic in nature. It is clear from these theories that the establishment of a focus and purpose for learning is essential to the achievement of learning outcomes. Assessment and feedback are part of the process of evaluating and supporting learning. If assessment tasks are used to evaluate how well something has been learned, this is described as assessment of learning (Stiggens, 2005). However, if assessment is woven into the process of teaching and learning, and used to inform and support future learning, it is described as assessment for learning (ARG, 2002). Learning to learn is an increasingly important focus for students in post-primary education (James, 2023). This is where the concept of assessment as learning has an important role to play in the learning process. Assessment as learning takes a slightly different focus within the broader definition of assessment for learning in that it highlights the role of the student as an assessor and the consequent development of key skills such as self-regulation, metacognition and motivation in learning (Earl, 2013; Dann, 2014). Thus, learning how to learn is served when assessment as learning is part of routine classroom assessment practice. This report describes the collaborative project established between three colleagues working in initial and career-long post-primary teacher education in Ireland, North and South. We set out to explore how the concept of assessment as learning (AaL) appears in initial and continuing teacher Page 3 of 43 education in Ireland, North and South. We also aimed to examine opportunities to expand or diversify provision in teacher education in this area through the initial exploration of an online module to support student and in-career teachers to develop their assessment as learning classroom practice. The benefits of assessment for learning and assessment as learning are well documented. It provides for the sharing of responsibility for learning between teachers and students (Black and Wiliam, 2009) and activates students as teaching and learning resources for one another (ARG, 2002). It improves the overall quality of learning and teaching in the classroom (Black and Wiliam, 2009) and perhaps most significantly of all, it improves students’ capacities for autonomy, self-assessment and self-regulation in learning (Black and Wiliam, 2009). At its core is the notion of ‘support’ and ‘scaffolded learning’, an ally to the contemporary, differentiated classroom. However, the processes and practices of assessment for and as learning can be both difficult to define and execute in the reality of classroom practice (Schellekens, 2021; Bennett, 2011). Furthermore, although assessment is the jewel in the crown of the modern practitioner it is often underused (Gao et al., 2020; Stiggins, 2002), poorly practiced (Race, 2019 and Brown, 2005) or misrepresented (Dunn and Mulvenon, 2019) in teaching communities. The conflict is one of interest to teacher-education researchers and is a growing challenge, particularly post-Covid, to the modern classroom and the contemporary practitioner (Ellis and Smith, 2017; Entwistle and Ramsden, 2015; McDowell, 1995). Post-primary teacher education programmes, both undergraduate and postgraduate, pre-service and in-service, incorporate modules focusing on assessment pedagogy and the theory and practice of assessment in education. However, there is a lack of research on student and in-career teachers’ experiences and enactment of best practice in the specific area of assessment as learning. This project aimed to explore this element of assessment practice and provide the basis for the initial design of a cross-border online module for teachers across the continuum of teacher education about assessment as learning the concept, and associated pedagogical implications for teaching, learning and assessment.