This paper is a contribution to the discussion of what function assessment of students has in everyday practice. What consequences do increased control of students’ knowledge have in teachers choices of teaching contents and methods, and thereby for what students are given the opportunity to learn.
An increasingly test-driven educational culture is now reality in many parts of the world (Broadfoot & Black 2004). There is also an ongoing discussion about the effects of national tests and research show that there are certainly both positive and negative outcomes from these sorts of testing (eg. Cimbricz 2002). Wales has for example abandoned the national testing system that England and Wales were a part of (Collins, Reiss & Stobart 2010). Implementation of national tests is found to have different consequences for teachers teaching and assessment practice and there is a need for investigating and nuance what these consequences are (Boesen 2006, Maier 2009). National tests in biology, physics and chemistry in year 9 in Swedish comprehensive school was introduced in spring 2009. The purpose of these tests are to raise the standards, make more students reach the goals by strengthen the follow-up of student knowledge, serve exemplary for teachers teaching and at the same time create a more equal and fair assessment and grading of students. This is described as necessary since Swedish students’ results are cut back in national assessments and they achieve lower scores relatively to students in other comparable countries (eg. TIMSS).
The aim of the study presented is to investigate if and in which way the introduction of national tests in science education influences teachers’ opinions of what is "good" science education and how this effects the teachers’ instructions and assessment in their teaching practice. This study is part of a bigger project. In one part of the project a survey identifying different teaching traditions among Swedish science education teachers has been performed (Lidar et al, unpublished). From the results of the survey, teachers from four different teaching traditions have been selected for interviews.
The theoretical framework is built foremost from Douglas Robert’s categorisation of science education content into curriculum emphasis (1982). Curriculum emphasis is defined as a coherent set of messages about science rather that within science and those messages are said to accompany the teaching of science subject matter. Roberts in Canada and Leif Östman in Sweden found seven different curriculum emphasis in textbooks, in-service training literature and syllabuses; correct explanation, structure of science, solid foundation, scientific skill development, self as explainer, everyday coping and science, technology and decisions (Roberts & Östman 1998). The results will also be analysed and discussed in relation to scientific literacy, starting in Roberts’ (2007) concepts, vision I and vision II. The most obvious distinction between Vision I and Vision II has to do with how the character of socio-scientific issues and problem is conceptualized and experienced in education.
The empirical material consists of telephone interviews with 30 teachers categorized within the survey study into four different teaching traditions. Each interview lasted approximately 45 minutes. The analyses from the interviews aim at identifying what is considered to be important knowledge in the teachers’ teaching, ways of using assessment in teaching and foremost how the national tests have influenced the teachers’ assessment and choice of subject matter in everyday practice. In a first step we identified the teachers’ utterances within the different categories of curriculum emphasis. In order to refine and qualify these categories we made further analyses within these categories, focusing on statements describing actual actions in the classroom. The interviews were semi-structured to both enable the teachers to prepare before the interviews and for us as researchers to be able to ask other questions depending on how the respondents answered (Kvale & Brinkman 2009).
The study show systematic differences in teachers’ answers about teaching and assessment practices, in relation to the implementation of national tests. The interviews confirm the correlations from the survey study regarding the categorisation of teachers as belonging to different teaching traditions. The results also show important nuances within the teaching traditions. Most of the teachers stresses that the national test is only one of many ways off assessing the students, it is important not to forget what the student perform over a longer period of time. Though the results from the study show that the teachers can be categorised into different teaching traditions based on their expressions about different aims and goals with their teaching. Still most of the teachers express that they do not need to change their teaching a lot, they already teach in line with the content included in the tests. We will discuss potential explanations to the results and also highlight the results in relation to research on scientific literacy.
ECER (European Conference on Educational Research), September 18-21 in Cádiz, Spain