Conference Publication Details
Mandatory Fields
Natasha Ita O'Donoghue, Jo„o Costa
ESAI Conference 2022 - Reconstructing Education: what matters?
A Critical Exploration of the Implementation of Inclusive Formative Assessment Practices in an Irish Mainstream Primary Classroom
Optional Fields
Marino Institute of Education
Irish primary schools place the role of summative assessment into pivotal position with the Irish inspectorate recommending improvement towards formative assessment (DES, 2018). This places an onus on Irish primary teachers to explore other forms of assessment, most notably formative assessment (Black and Wiliam, 2009), emphasising the child as an active agent in the learning process. However, without an inclusionary perspective, formative assessment will be in danger of excluding those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and learning difficulties. Inclusive pedagogy frameworks such as the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) (CAST, 2018) hold underexplored potential towards enacting inclusive formative assessment for all learners. This study aimed at exploring how embedding inclusive formative assessment in a mainstream Irish primary multi-grade class (Junior Infants-1st Class) impacted the engagement and attainment (in mathematics, literacy and spelling) of children with SEN and learning difficulties. Throughout three sequential cycles of action-research, the UDL principles were merged with Black and Wiliamís (2009) formative assessment practices of: 1) learning intentions and success criteria, 2) self-assessment, and 3) feedback. Each three-weeks action-research cycle added a new formative assessment practice in light of UDLís principles of multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. A mixed-methods approach was undertaken towards obtaining a trustworthy action-research account. Pupil attainment data resulted from work samples and pre- and post-testing in literacy, spelling and mathematics. A teacher observational journal captured pupils with SEN and learning difficulties engagement with formative assessment. Student focus groups provided childrenís perceptions of formative assessment. Key findings reflected in the narrative analysis process related to pupilsí engagement with and attainment from inclusive formative assessment, referring to pupilsí autonomy, self-regulation, meta-cognition, and learning progression. An ongoing positive effect on engagement was observed from the beginning upon childrenís effort and persistence in the learning process, overcoming initial challenges with each strategy. Where once children with SEN and learning difficulties may have become disillusioned by a challenging concept, the inclusive formative assessment provided clarity to the children, leading to increased levels of concentration and a strong desire to persevere. Furthermore, pupils thrived on the sense of responsibility attained by formative assessment, which developed strong levels of self-regulation. This allowed them to gain a greater awareness as to how to develop their learning and understanding, which in turn drove pupil autonomy. Finally, the vast majority of pupils demonstrated learning progression as they grasped new concepts with greater ease and considerable progress.
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