Mathematics teachers' classroom assessment practices : a case study in a Maltese sixth form college
This study explores the classroom assessment practices of twelve teachers teaching Pure Mathematics at Intermediate Level in a Maltese sixth form college. Apart from identifying the participants’ assessment views and practices (including how they explain their practices), the focus is on examining the implications that these views and practices have for leaning. In order to gain deeper insights into the underlying issues, the researcher - who is also a colleague of the participants - assumed the additional role of ‘thirteenth participant’. This duality proved particularly useful in understanding how the links between classroom assessment and learning can be strengthened. Using a methodological approach that draws on ethnography, the data was collected over a three-year fieldwork period through documents, observations and semistructured interviews. In the course of this reflective and reflexive research journey, characterised throughout by an understanding of the subjectivity of meanings, every effort was made to observe the canons of qualitative research. The analysis of the data, which began germinating in the very entries of the fieldwork journal, was carried out by themes. Initial efforts aimed at submitting the emerging themes from the research to the participants in order to check on the interpretations made and to generate further insights had to be discontinued. The research evidence suggests that, in spite of the chorus of voices and policies clamouring for the strengthening of the formative dimension of classroom assessment, the classroom assessment practices of the teachers studied are still very much grounded in the traditional assessment paradigm. It is subsequently argued that this continuing emphasis on assessment as a form of measurement for managerial and accountability purposes weakens the learning aspect – inside classrooms. In the search as to how classroom assessment can become more supportive of learning, three levels of difficulties – namely, the teacher, school and national contexts – were identified. The study finally suggests how the principles that underline the emerging assessment paradigm can start gaining roots within the complex realities that teachers face.