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Teachers' conceptions and use of assessment in student learning

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Abstract

Education and schooling involve not only materials to be taught or how they should be taught but also how the teaching and learning are assessed. Studying teachers’ conceptions is important, as it relates to beliefs which influence teaching practices, including assessment. This article reviews several studies on teachers’ conceptions and practices of assessment conducted in six different countries. The objective of the study is to presents teachers’ conceptions of the role of assessment in teaching and learning from different contexts. Data were obtained from a careful review of international articles on the study of teachers’ conception of assessment using inclusion and exclusion criteria. The result of the review reveals that assessment relates to learning improvement and support the use of various strategies and tools in assessing students. However, the six different countries in the review interpret improvement in different ways which is influenced by several factors. Implications and suggestions for further study are also provided. Keywords: assessment, conceptions, review, improvement, accountability
Azis, teachers’ conceptions and use of assessment
40
TEACHERS’ CONCEPTIONS AND USE OF ASSESSMENT IN
STUDENT LEARNING
Astuti Azis
SMP Negeri 4 Sungguminasa Kabupaten Gowa, Sulawesi Selatan,
email: astuti.azis@vuw.ac.nz
Abstract: Education and schooling involve not only materials to be
taught or how they should be taught but also how the teaching and
learning are assessed. Studying teachers‟ conceptions is important, as it
relates to beliefs which influence teaching practices, including
assessment. This article reviews several studies on teachers‟ conceptions
and practices of assessment conducted in six different countries. The
objective of the study is to presents teachers‟ conceptions of the role of
assessment in teaching and learning from different contexts. Data were
obtained from a careful review of international articles on the study of
teachers‟ conception of assessment using inclusion and exclusion
criteria. The result of the review reveals that assessment relates to
learning improvement and support the use of various strategies and tools
in assessing students. However, the six different countries in the review
interpret improvement in different ways which is influenced by several
factors. Implications and suggestions for further study are also provided.
Keywords: assessment, conceptions, review, improvement,
accountability
Abstrak: Pendidikan dan sekolah tidak hanya melibatkan bahan ajar
atau bagaimana bahan ajar tersebut harus diajarkan, tapi juga bagaimana
proses belajar dan mengajar dinilai. Mempelajari konsepsi para guru
penting karena berhubungan dengan kepercayaan yang mempengaruhi
praktek mengajar, termasuk penilaian. Artikel ini meninjau beberapa
kajian terhadap konsepsi dan praktek penilaian para guru yang
dilaksanakan di enam negara. Tujuan tinjauan ini untuk menjabarkan
konsepsi para guru terhadap peran penilaian dalam proses belajar dan
mengajar dari konteks yang berbeda. Data diperoleh dari tinjauan
terhadap makalah internasional mengenai konsepsi guru terhadap
penilaian dengan menggunakan kriteria inklusi dan eksklusi. Hasil dari
tinjauan tersebut mengungkapkan bahwa penilaian berhubungan dengan
peningkatan hasil belajar dan mendukung penggunaan berbagai strategi
dan alat dalam menilai siswa. Akan tetapi, keenam negara yang
dipelajari dalam tinjauan tersebut menerjemahkan peningkatan dalam
belajar secara berbeda karena dipengaruhi oleh beberapa faktor. Peneliti
juga memberikan implikasi dan saran untuk penelitian yang akan datang.
Katakunci: penilaian, konsepsi, tinjauan, peningkatan,
pertanggungjawaban,
Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 2 No. 1, July 2012, pp. 41-51
41
Teaching is complex; it involves elements
such as curriculum, subject matter and
epistemology, teaching and learning, and
also assessment and evaluation. In other
words, the core process of education and
schooling engages the nature of what is
taught, how that content is taught and
learned, and how that teaching/learning is
assessed and evaluated (Brown, 2008). Thus,
the study of teaching relates to how these are
understood and applied by teachers.
The complexity of effective teaching
and learning relates to teachers‟ personal
conception and theory of teaching practice
(Kagan, 1992; Pajares, 1992). It is evident
that teachers‟ conceptions of aspects in
education process such as teaching, learning
and curricula strongly influence their
teaching and students‟ learning (Calderhead,
1996; Thompson, 1992). Conception, belief,
perception will be used interchangeably
through this review.
Conception or belief is part of the
knowledge that every practitioner needs to
have. Moreover, personal and professional
knowledge of a teacher can be regarded as
belief (Kagan, 1992). Belief also becomes
personal pedagogy to guide teachers‟
practice of teaching. It helps teachers to
define teaching tasks and organizing
knowledge and information related to those
tasks (Nespor, 1987). This implies that
teachers‟ belief or conception influences
their technique and practice of assessment
(Kahn, 2000).
Researchers define assessment in
various ways. The most general definition
states that assessment is “evidence of
performance” (Wiliam & Black, 1996, 540).
It “involves making decisions about what is
relevant evidence for a particular purpose,
how to collect the evidence, how to interpret
it and how to communicate it to intended
users” (Harlen, 2005, p. 207). More
specifically, Hattie and Timperley (2007)
defined assessment as “activity used to
assess students‟ level of proficiency” (p.
101). Thus, assessment can be grouped into
formative and summative purposes. Forma-
tive assessment aims to improve learning
and is conducted during the learning process
involving feedback to inform students‟
performance. The latter type of assessment
(summative), which aims to certify student
learning, is conducted at the end of a
learning period and involves scoring and
grading.
Whatever the differences of assess-
ment, teachers are the leading actor in the
learning process and first interpreter of
assessment information and process into
learning. Thus, it is important to investigate
teachers‟ conception of assessment and how
they make use of it. This study looks closely
at teachers‟ conception of the role of
assessment in teaching and learning.
To present evidence-based practice in
the area of teachers‟ conception and use of
assessment, I provide a review of studies on
teachers‟ conception and practice of
assessment from six different countries. The
objective of this review is to present
teachers‟ beliefs about assessment from
different contexts, how they translate their
belief into practice and what factors
influence their conception.
This review is divided into five main
sections. The first section explains the study.
The second section describes the method
used for the study, followed by an overview
of the articles. Section four discusses and
critiques the articles and closes with
summary of the review.
METHOD
The review draws attention to the need for
research that examines teachers‟ conception
and practice of assessment from different
parts of the world. In order to study this
issue, I conducted a search to find studies
investigating the conception of teachers
about assessment and the implication of this
belief for their teaching practice.
I searched the Educational Resources
Information Center (ERIC) and ProQuest
Education Complete, and used the internet
search engine and Victoria library journal
finder in the areas of belief, conceptions,
Azis, teachers’ conceptions and use of assessment
42
understanding, assessment, evaluation, test,
learning, teaching, achievement, improve-
ment, primary, elementary and secondary
school level. The various literature searches
resulted in 13 studies which led me to apply
the exclusion and inclusion criteria.
To be included in this review, the article
had to be a research study that examined
teachers‟ conceptions and use of assessment
to improve student learning. Criteria for
inclusion cover studies con-ducted at
elementary or secondary school level,
accomplished in different contexts to present
different beliefs and related factors, carried
out in language learning context and
completed within the last twenty years.
Studies that focused on impact of assess-
ment on teachers and student learning
(Journell, 2011; Amrein & Berliner, 2002;
Choi, 2008; Smith, 1991), sounded more
analytical than research (Hargreaves, 2005),
were conducted at tertiary level (Iqbal,
Azam & Abdiollah, 2009), or evaluated
subjects other than English (Adams and Hsu,
1998) were not included.
Overview of articles
From 13 potential studies, 7 studies were
excluded, leaving 6 studies investigating
elementary and secondary school teachers‟
conception and use of assessment in learning
for summary and analysis. Before presenting
the summary of the reviewed articles, it is
advantageous to distinguish among the
assessment conceptions used in Brown‟s
study, as these conceptions are the bases of
subsequent studies (Brown, Lake and
Matters, 2011; Brown, Kennedy, Fok, Chan
and Yu, 2009; and Bonner and Chen, 2009).
The Improvement conception empha-
sizes the use of information to produce valid
changes in teaching and learning (Brown,
2008). Teachers who view assess-ment in
this way believe that assessment should
improve students‟ learning and the quality of
their teaching (Black and Wiliam, 1998;
Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, & Wiliam,
2003). This conception requires teachers to
make valid, reliable and accurate
descriptions of students‟ performance
(Brown, 2002). Various strategies and
techniques used in teachers‟ practice include
informal teacher-based intuitive judgement
and formal assessment tools. These
techniques function to „identify the content
and process of student learning with the
explicit goal of improving the quality and
accuracy of instruction and/or enabling
students to improve their own learning
(Harris & Brown, 2008, p. 2).
Brown‟s School accountability con-
ception is used to account for the teacher‟s
schools, or a system‟s use of society‟s
resources. This assessment imposes con-
sequences for reaching or not reaching
required standards (Firestone, et al., 1998). It
also demonstrates whether school or teachers
are doing a good job (Butterfield, et al.,
1999). To this end, teachers who equate
assessment with school accountability
emphasize two rationales: demonstrating
school and teacher quality instruction (Smith
& Fey, 2000) and improving the quality
instruction (Linn, 2000).
The Student accountability conception
holds students individually accountable for
their learning. Grading and scoring, criterion
reference tests, awarding certificates or
qualification based on performance are
examples of this assessment in practice
(Harris, & Brown, 2008). To fulfil the
purpose of student accountability, certifi-
cation of attainment is needed, which reveals
that this conception is more about placing
student through high stakes consequences
such as graduation, selection or public
reporting (Guthrie, 2002).
The conception of irrelevant is held
when teachers reject assessment for a
number of reasons. In these cases, assess-
ment is seen to be separated from the
teaching and learning process (Harlen,
1998). Teachers with irrelevant conceptions
may feel that, assessment affects their
autonomy and professionalism negatively
and narrows the purposes of learning (Smith,
1991). Teachers may also believe that
assessment is less valid and unreliable
(Brown, 2002; Shohamy, 2001).
Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 2 No. 1, July 2012, pp. 41-51
43
These four purposes of assessment
underpin Brown‟s TCoA, which has
subsequently been used and adapted in
several countries. Among them were
conducted in Queensland (Brown, et al.,
2011), Virginia, USA (Calaveric, 2010),
Ankara, Turkey, (Vardar, 2010), Hong Kong
(Brown, et al., 2009), and China (Li and Hui,
2007).
The following is the summary of the
topic, participants, methods and main
findings for each of the six included studies.
Brown, Lake and Matters (2011) conducted
a study on Queensland teachers‟ conceptions
of assessment. The participants of the study
came from primary and secondary school
teachers. Total partici-pants were 1398
teachers from 92 state schools in Queensland
Australia. Most teachers participating in the
study taught at levels 1-10 (elementary)
where no high-stakes test was applied. In
short, the participants were 784 primary
teachers and 614 secondary teachers. 65 of
the participants had 4-5 years teaching expe-
rience and 52% of them had graduate
diplomas. A questionnaire-based survey was
the method of data collection and was
conducted in 2003. The survey examined
teachers‟ attitudes, beliefs and practices in
the areas of curriculum, pedagogy and
assessment. The instrument used was a 27-
item conception of assessment inventory
which was wrapped in a positively packed
agreement rating scale with two negative
options and four positive options. In
addition, the study used four conceptions of
assessment as the framework reflecting three
purposes and one anti-purpose of
assessment, namely assessment for im-
provement, assessment for school
accountability, assessment for student
accountability and irrelevant. This frame-
work was supported with components
clarifying the conceptions of assessment.
The study found that primary school
teachers agreed more than secondary
teachers that assessment improves teaching
and learning while the latter agreed more
that assessment makes students account-
table. It also contended that irrelevance and
students accountability conception were not
related for primary school teachers. The fact
that Queensland primary schooling was free
from high-stakes test influenced teachers‟
conception of assessment. However, all
participants contended that improvement
conception was the opposite of irrelevant
conception. It implies that assessment is bad
if it is focused on students‟ accountability
and is inaccurate to reflect students‟ learning
or school accountability. The study also
found that improvement was positively
associated with demonstrating the school
accountability and showed no systematic
relationship with student accountability. The
study concludes that teachers in this research
believe in assessment as a tool to improve
learning. The relationship is supported with
the context of low-stakes assessment
designed to improve classroom practice
which allows teachers to improve learning in
a self-manage manner. The study indicates
that in the context of low-stakes test, teacher
perceived assessment as improving learning
and relied more on the practice of formative
assessment where teachers can use numbers
of assessment format and provide feedback
to students.
Applying the same instrument to a
different context, Brown, Kennedy, Fok,
Chan and Yu (2009) revealed dissimilar
findings in the second study. The re-
searchers examined Hong Kong teachers‟
perceptions and practices of assessment.
Two hundred and eighty-eight primary and
secondary school teachers from 14 schools
participated in the study. 80% of them were
female and 87% were primary school
teachers. More than half of teachers had
taught for more than 10 years. Genera-
lization of the study is limited to teachers
who participated in APL (Assessment for
Productive Learning) project developed by a
team of researchers at the Hong Kong
institute of education. Similar to Queens-
land‟s study, the research also used self-
administered questionnaires with close-
ended rating scales of two constructs:
conception of assessment and assessment
practice. The different context where the
Azis, teachers’ conceptions and use of assessment
44
study was carried out required the
researchers to translate the framework and
questionnaires into Chinese. This transla-
tion was reviewed and validated by a team
of expert panel to ensure any technical terms
had the right equivalent to English. The
finding reveals that teachers believed
assessment as improving learning. This
exactly fits with findings from the previous
study conducted in Queensland. Hong Kong
teachers also perceived that students‟
accountability was related to learning im-
provement. However, the correlation bet-
ween improvement conception and stu-
dents‟ accountability conception was inter-
preted differently between the two groups.
The low-stakes assessment context in
Queensland supported teachers to use
feedback in formative assessment practice.
On the contrary, Hong Kong created a high-
stakes assessment context which encouraged
teachers to rely on test and examination as
measurement of improvement. Hong Kong
teachers believed that examination was the
mirror of student competence. This issue is a
culturally embedded value shared among
Chinese and those with Confucian heritage
among the Asian region. The value might
become the constraints of assessment reform
in this context. This report describes
different conceptions of assessment which
tells that different contexts might view
assessment in different perspectives.
Cultural factors and policy systems seem to
be crucial components in forming people‟s
belief and conception.
The third study investigates teachers‟
perception about teachers‟ assessment in
relation to grading practices and learning
views (Bonner and Chen, 2009). The
participants were teacher candidates who
were enrolled in 3 courses offered at the
Hunter College City University New York.
The total numbers of the participants were
222, which was representative of teacher
candidates in the university in terms of
gender, and ethnic diversity. Similar to
previous studies, this research also used
survey to probe teachers‟ concept of
assessment practices and views of learning.
The survey examined teachers‟ perception
and actual practice and asked teachers to
reflect on the basis of final semester grades
in a single class. In addition, the question-
naires focused more on perception rather
than on practice. The study suggests that
elementary and secondary school teachers
were not supporting lax grading approach
but supported the academic enabling
approach to grading that relied on alternative
assessment. However, elementary school
teachers endorsed a constructivist approach
more and believed in alternative assessment
such as portfolio and project work as the
source of information for students‟
performance. Conversely, secondary school
teachers supported the behavioural
management approach to grading and used
more traditional approach and traditional
management approach. This finding implies
that secondary school teachers sometimes
used assessment to punish their students.
Interestingly, these teachers reported that
they tended to change their perception of
assessment after participating in assessment
training. The findings reveal different
conceptions and views of learning between
elementary and secondary teachers in New
York.
Conceptions of assessment held by
trainee teachers who attended a post-
graduate certificate in education at the
University of Cambridge were also inves-
tigated in UK (Winterbottom, Brindley,
Taber, Fisher, Finney, & Riga, 2008). Two
hundred and twenty secondary trainee
teachers participated in the study. Using 31-
item questionnaire with Likert, the research
found three major conceptions of assessment
reported by participants. They were: (1)
making learning explicit; (2) promoting
learning autonomy; and (3) gaining better
performance. The first two conceptions were
related to learning improvement and rated as
the most important purposes of assessment.
However, although the third conception
ranked lowest, participants reported that this
purpose was the strongest feature of their
practice. The findings revealed that there
was a huge awareness among participants of
Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 2 No. 1, July 2012, pp. 41-51
45
the importance of assessment for improve-
ment. However, the learning environment
and high-stakes policy system caused them
to ignore their beliefs which Brown (2002)
would describe as their holding irrelevance
conceptions. This study reveals that although
all teachers held and wished to practice
improvement purposes of assessment, the
difference in the teaching focus between the
secondary schools and elementary schools
tended to block their intention. Again, it is
the matter of policy and educational system
that teachers need to agree with and follow.
The influence of policy and education
system was also captured in a qualitative
study to seven upper secondary school
teachers of different subjects in Finland
(Degbey, 2009). The focus of the study was
exploring teachers‟ conceptions of
assessment tools such as portfolio, perfor-
mance-based assessment, self and peer-
assessment and observation. Teachers stated
that these assessment tools had a positive
effect on students‟ learning, motivation,
performance and personal development.
However, they also contended that preparing
student for the school leaving examination
contributed greatly to their teaching
practices. These teachers held both
improvement and accountability conceptions
but needed to prepare their students for
examination. Participants in the study
preferred the assessment strategies and
techniques suggested for improvement
purposes; however, practices were inhibited
to fulfil the policy demand for examination.
This indicates that these teachers‟
conceptions related to the Finnish
educational system and external assessment
policy demands (Barnes, Clarke & Stephens,
2000). Their conceptions might have also
been shaped by culture as those indicated by
the study in Turkey (Vardar, 2010) and
Hong Kong (Brown, et al., 2009).
The final study used in this review
focused on upper primary level teachers‟
conception of assessment in Asian country.
Noor, Muniandy, Krishnan and Mathai
(2010) raised the issue of English oral
assessment in Singapore. Similar to Finnish
study, this is also a qualitative research
involving only 10 teachers who were
teaching at primary 5 and 6 levels. These
teachers were the examiners of English oral
assessment in PSLE (Primary School
Leaving Examination). Data were collected
mainly through semi-structured interviews
and were recorded. Before conducting the
real interview, the researchers piloted the
interview questions to validate them. The
interview was conducted 2 weeks after the
PSLE oral assessment. The questions mainly
focused on teachers‟ conception of important
components for oral skills, challenge in
conducting PLSE oral assessment, and PSLE
assessment format. In addition to the
interview, teachers‟ confidence and
competence in conducting oral assessment
were also rated using a 5-point Likert scale.
The study showed that there was variance in
teachers‟ beliefs and perceptions of the
extent that the PSLE English oral assessment
is reliable to measure students‟ oral
competence. The participants argued that
PSLE only measured general pupils‟ oral
skills and reflected the gap of oral
assessment to assess students‟ life
experience. The results also assert that the
teachers had various perceptions of the
challenges they faced in conducting PSLE,
among those were unresponsive pupils and
different interpretation of descriptors and
rubrics between the examining partners.
Remarkably, although the teachers perceived
that PSLE was not reliable, they gave no
specific suggestion on how to improve the
test. This study confirmed that PSLE, which
was summative in nature, although it did not
reflect improvement in student learning, had
an important position in describing student
achievement. This was due to the policy of
placing a high-stakes examination as the
indicator of students‟ performance. Again,
the conception of assessment reflects the
cultural embedded values shared among
people in the Asian region.
Azis, teachers’ conceptions and use of assessment
46
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
This review focuses on elementary and
secondary school teachers‟ conception and
use of assessment in student learning from
several contexts. All these studies were
published between 2009 and 2011. Summary
of these studies reveal that assessment
relates to learning improvement. It meets
the basic purpose of assessment in education
to support learning (Black and Wiliam,
2006). The study by Brown et al. (2011) and
Bonner and Chen, (2009) indicated that
teachers used several assessment tools and
focused more on formative purposes of
assessment practice. They used feedback to
inform students‟ performance, share the
learning goals in teaching, and involve
students in assessment. Teachers reported
that these active-ties were conducted
frequently and that these were how they used
assessment to improve learning. The
conception and practice of assessment in the
two studies (Brown et al. 2011 ; Bonner &
Chen, 2009) reveal that assessment is
something to do with and for students and
not to students (Green, 1998). It also
matches with Hattie and Jaeger‟s (1998)
claim that “assessment needs to be an
integral part of a model of teaching and
learning” (p.111). Adversely, the dominant
use of high-stakes assessment especially in
higher level such those reported in Finland
and UK tend to influence teachers to hold
irrelevant conception. In addition, studies in
Hong Kong and Singapore lead teachers to
conceive that an examination or test is the
appropriate tool to measure students‟
achievement. Ranking and competition
derived from examination are believed to
increase students‟ tension and ego as well as
motivate them to study harder to be
recognized as good students. That is how
assessment is perceived to improve learning.
These four studies contend a huge gap
between east and west, which needs further
investigation.
It is evident in some countries that
summative assessment results in negative
impact such as lowering teachers‟ capability
to teach content and to use methods and
materials that are incompatible with test
format (Smith, 1991), creating gaps between
high and low achieving students (Paris,
Lawton, Turnet & Roth, 1991), and not
really affecting student achievement
(Amrein & Berliner, 2002). The condition
motivates most western countries to focus
more on formative assessment. However,
this evidence is insufficient enough for an
eastern context in terms of changing
people‟s beliefs of the importance of
examination to measure students‟ perfor-
mance. Furthermore, the practice of
feedback is hardly adopted in Asian classes
due to the large number of students in one
class (34-40) compared to smaller sizes in
western countries. These differences imply
that assessment provides tools that can be
used in a variety of ways. However, the
choice and deployment of the tools and the
interpretation of the results depend on
educational system, public and political
influences (Black and Wiliam, 2005).
It is not reasonable to judge that one
practice of assessment is better than the
other. Great inequality between eastern and
western in terms of teaching framework
should be considered. Both areas adopt
different views of learning as can be seen in
the application of product approach versus
process approach, learning by understanding
versus learning by doing and focus on form
versus focus on meaning (Senior & Xu,
2001). These differences significantly lead
to different beliefs and practices and also
systems of assessment.
The strong bond in culture is another
issue in forming teachers‟ conceptions of
assessment. The influence can be seen from
Hong Kong study that, although the country
was colonized by British, and English is
emphasized in the language curriculum, the
English education system had a very little
influence on teachers‟ practice (Sweeting &
Vickers, 2007). The huge numbers of
refugees moving from China to Hong Kong
after the Civil War in China in 1949 caused
Hong Kong to adopt a screening mechanism
for schooling (Berry, 2011). Up until now,
Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 2 No. 1, July 2012, pp. 41-51
47
teachers, education officials and parents
have believed that examination is the best
qualification indicator and the main deter-
minant for admission to either secondary or
tertiary education in Hong Kong (Choi,
1999). As a result, even though Hong Kong
for almost eleven years now has taken
assessment for learning seriously, the high-
stakes social function of assessment, either
in teachers‟ conceptions or practice, tends to
block the reform agenda (Kennedy, Chan,
Fok & Yu, 2008; Brown, et al., 2008).
Lessons from these studies suggest a
gap between interpretations of assessment in
English speaking countries and non-English
speaking countries and signify that the
culture in different sites may contribute to
dissimilar conceptions and practice of
assessment. In response, Brown et al. (2009)
have suggested that to be effective, a policy
initiator should identify and respond to
teachers‟ conceptions before implementing
new plans for educational reform. Cultural
factors may hold particular relevance given
that assessment values among Confucian
peoples and European countries may differ
from those held in the West (Kennedy et al.,
2008).
The studies in this review involved 2145
people in total. Participants were elementary
and secondary school teachers and mostly
had 5 years or more teaching experience.
One of the studies had more than one
thousand participants, three studies involved
hundreds of participants and two other were
small scale case studies involving only
seventeen teachers. It implies that four
studies were quantitative and two were
qualitative. The large numbers of
participants in the first four studies indicate
the use of survey design and questionnaires
as the appropriate instrument to use.
McMillan and Schumacher (2010) argued
that survey research presents accurate
information from a large number of people.
Moreover, survey research is the procedure
to obtain description of attitudes, beliefs,
values, behaviours, opinions, characteristics
and other types of information of the
population (Creswell, 2005; MacMillan and
Schumacher, 2010). To this end, survey
research reflects the appropriate choice in
investigating teachers‟ conceptions of
assessment. In spite of this, a pilot test is the
big concern in conducting survey research. It
gives the researcher opportunity to revise the
instrument and make it understandable,
clearer and not ambiguous (Creswell, 2005).
The fact that only two studies followed the
procedure should suggest reflection for
further research. In addition, the small scale
studies in Finland and Singapore also mirror
the right option of using interviews to collect
data for measuring teachers‟ conception.
However, it might be insufficient to echo the
practice of assessment. Creswell (2005)
asserted that “survey only describes trends in
the data rather than offers rigorous
explanation” (p. 351). He also insisted that
Observation provides the opportunity to
record information as it occurs in a setting
(p. 211). Moreover, observation is needed to
ensure that participants‟ statements match
with what their action (Johnson and
Christensen, 2008). Thus, more qualitative
studies are needed for further research in the
field as well as the use of observation and
document analysis to support the interpre-
tation of the result of the study.
The identification of themes and
methodological issues in the studies of this
topic suggest further investigation in eastern
context, especially in the Asian region. Very
limited study has been conducted within the
area. Also, putting attention on certain levels
of schooling will be beneficial to interpret
data compared to analyzing it from both
elementary and secondary schools. The latter
issue is important because elementary and
secondary schools applied dissimilar
policies, which influence the different
conceptions and practices of assessment and
lead to difficulties in generalization and
interpretation of data.
In terms of educational implication, this
review suggests the importance of
maintaining teachers‟ commitment to use
assessment to improve learning. It also
informs that teachers‟ conceptions of belief
significantly relate to teaching practice.
Azis, teachers’ conceptions and use of assessment
48
Furthermore, the different findings resulted
from different contexts should encourage
policy makers to revisit their policy.
Queensland and New York governments
should stimulate teachers with a robust
conception that assessment improves
teaching and learning and demonstrate
accountability. Furthermore, more careful
consideration in the intervention of a new
assessment concept is needed by policy
makers in Hong Kong. This issue is crucial
due to the fact that broader cultural norms
and school culture might become the main
hindrance factor for assessment reform in
the region. In addition, there should be more
rooms provided for feedback in English oral
assessment like PSLE in Singapore.
Assessment reform should also involve all
elements in education system in order to
produce friendly and effective assessment
system. Overall teachers need continuous
support and training on assessment.
CONCLUSION
This literature review presents teachers‟
belief about assessment from different
contexts, how they translate their beliefs into
practice and factors that influence their
conception. It found that all participants
conceived assessment as improving learning.
However, this alignment was interpreted
differently in practice.
Western context (represented by US,
Queensland, UK and Finland) believed in
the need of low-stakes assessment to meet
the purpose. Furthermore, they also suggest
that different curriculum level may lead
teachers to have different conception due to
different policy implemented in each level.
On the other hand, Hong Kong and
Singapore, which represent eastern context,
imply that high-stakes assessment test
informs students achievement. Therefore,
the examination is the appropriate
instrument to measure student learning. This
important difference entails that context,
culture, view of learning and policy are
factors that manipulate teachers‟ conceptions
and practices of assessment.
This simple review is definitely
insufficient to generalize the issue of
conception and practice of assessment that
further and deeper exploration in the field is
needed to address. Learning from the studies
presented in the review, conducting similar
research in the qualitative paradigm and
using various data collection methods such
as observation and document analysis seem
to be useful to present more accurate data.
In summation, the literatures on
teachers‟ conceptions of assessment suggest
that teachers believe both that assessment
improves learning, and that assessment
relates to school accountability. Beliefs that
assessment improves learning may lead
teachers to the practice of formative
assessment. However, where teachers report
a strong belief in high-stakes examination,
they may adopt different assessment
practices. Remarkably, from the six studies
reviewed, two of them attributed
government policy on education and
examinations as the main contributors to
teachers‟ conceptions. Some of the studies
reported that a teacher‟s level of teaching
(elementary and secondary or early year and
final year) was also crucial in shaping
teachers‟ belief of assessment. This may be
the result of policy which directs teachers to
a different focus of teaching and if there is a
highly mandated examination conducted in
students‟ last year of schooling.
Another important note from these
studies is how the experience of teachers
may determine their beliefs and concep-
tions. Involvement in professional develop-
ment program is reported by teachers as
contributing positively to their conceptions
and practices. Overall, a key difference from
the studies found that culturally embedded
assessment practices and educational
policies determined teachers‟ beliefs about
the purposes of assessment.
Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 2 No. 1, July 2012, pp. 41-51
49
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