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Pedagogies of in/equity: Formative assessment/Assessment for Learning

By John Pryor


The audience of a book written in German will obviously be mostly composed of people living and working in one of the German speaking countries. It may seem strange therefore to come across a chapter which is not only written in English but which relates to an English context. Nevertheless, the contextualization is important as the subject of the chapter, formative assessment (FA), is increasingly entering international education discourses as a good idea (see for example OECD 2004) whose conceptual development and empirical justification emanates from Britain. It relates to the theme of this book, since, from some of the claims made for it, one might assume that the practice of FA necessarily leads to a pedagogy of equity. By tracing its conceptual development within its political context, I am aiming to disrupt this assumption. I shall suggest that there is no single conceptualization of FA, but rather that its central ideas have been appropriated in different ways according to perceptions about teaching-learning and the way that educational change is enacted through the relationship of policy to research. While many advocates of Assessment for Learning (AfL) the slogan under which FA has recently become better known, contend that it is necessarily a way of improving learning, my work has suggested that this is an over-simplification. I will suggest that FA has a great deal to offer as a pedagogy of equity, but I hope to be offering my German, Austrian and Swiss readers some ideas about the condi-tions under which this may be possible and those under which it may not. As it involves teachers and students responding to students' work, FA emphasizes both interaction and the making of judgements. In this lies its power and potential for learning, but this does not accrue straightforwardly. I shall argue that the possibilities of formative assessment derive from the way that it is practised and the way that it is theorized. Because the whole paper is a tour around the ambiguities of FA as, amongst other things, a dynamic set of social pedagogic practices or a powerful educational technology, I shall not begin with a definition. Instead I will beg the reader's patience, but assure you that definitions will emerge espe-cially in the second half of the chapter, though even here the many concrete examples which I would like to have included are precluded by lack of space. I can only refer the reader to other publications cited in the chapter

Publisher: VS Verlag Wiesbaden
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1007/978-3-531-93403-7_8
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