Formative assessment and feedback in the primary classroom: An interplay between teachers' beliefs and practices
This study explores the interplay between teachers’ beliefs and practices in understanding and implementing formative assessment and feedback to enhance student learning. Particularly, it explores teachers’ conceptions of effective formative feedback strategies, and the role they should play in their classroom practice. The context for this investigation was writing lessons in three primary classrooms, and included examination of three cases of primary teachers in the greater Wellington Region, New Zealand. Sadler’s (1989) theory of effective formative assessment and feedback provided the theoretical framework informing both data collection method and the analysis of data. Analysis of classroom observations, teaching documents and field notes revealed that teachers have adopted many strategies associated with good feedback practice. It was revealed, however, that the influence of teachers’ beliefs in the implementation and enactment of formative feedback and the interplay of their beliefs and practices affected their practices. These teachers’ conception and beliefs on how formative feedback should be practiced varied, as did their assumptions about their students’ abilities. These inconsistencies were further influenced by a range of contextual factors, including the diversity of students’ needs, differing collegial support, the structure of school writing programmes, teachers’ limited professional development and/or learning about formative assessment and feedback, and teachers’ learning having been undertaken in an era that favoured behaviourist practices. This research revealed the need for the provision of ongoing professional learning and development in writing instructions and formative assessment and feedback strategies. This would address the apparent inconsistencies between teachers’ conceptions and beliefs regarding effective formative assessment and feedback and their practices. As a result, this would help to promote Sadler’s (1989) formative assessment and feedback strategies to achieve more effective classroom teaching and learning practice. Implications for teachers, schools and professional learning and development are outlined and suggestions for further research included.