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Title: Assessment for Learning (AfL) in one Maltese state college
Author: Said Pace, Doreen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 752X
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2018
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Assessment is a complex landscape. Debates about whether summative or formative assessment, or a combination of both, offers the best approach to assess students’ learning have been dominating international and local literature for years. This study seeks to further enrich these discussions by looking into the relationship between the beliefs and practices about Assessment for Learning (AfL) of Maltese state primary school teachers in one college. A college is a cluster of primary, middle and secondary schools within a particular geographical region. Furthermore, this study takes a step forward in investigating the influence of a collaborative action research approach on the teachers’ beliefs and practices about AfL. Throughout the study, positivism is resisted and the guiding theoretical framework is social constructionism based on an interpretive paradigm. This investigation was carried out in two phases over the span of one year, the first phase in May-June 2014 and the second phase from September 2014 to June 2015. The first phase consists of collecting data from two open-ended questionnaires with eighty-five teachers and eight Heads of Schools. The second part of the study consists of a nine-month long study with three teachers who were new to AfL. These participants took on the role of action researchers to improve their class situations by embedding a set of AfL strategies in their lessons. Multiple data sources including group discussions, individual feedback sessions, record-keeping booklets, semi-structured interviews with the teachers and their students and teachers’ self-written stories were utilised. Both research phases generated rich qualitative data which were analysed from a qualitative content analysis lens. Data coding and analysis were assisted by NVIVO. Findings of the first phase indicate that the overarching situation consists in a positive level of thought, which is accompanied by a limited understanding and a higher degree of mechanical AfL practice. Thus, the relationship is a divergent to a convergent one, therefore a complex one. This link transcends into degrees of semi-complex (Early Years) to a complex (Junior Years) relationship at the particular year group levels. Findings from the collaborative action research part show that this mode of teachers’ professional learning had an overall positive influence on the beliefs-to-practice relationship, albeit to different degrees of improvement. Nonetheless, the participants still ended with a wobbly belief about AfL having the same effect on all the students. This thesis argues that the belief about the pedagogy is also underpinned by the teachers’ perceptions of the students’ attitudes and motivation towards learning. Thus, the teachers’ perceptions of the students are affecting their expectations and perspectives of the success, or otherwise, of AfL. Hence, the belief to practice relationship is a matter of degree.
Supervisor: Runswick-Cole, Katherine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available