Berry, Vivien and Sheehan, Susan (2017) Exploring teachers’ language assessment literacy: a social constructivist approach to understanding effective practice. In: ALTE 6th International Conference - Learning and Assessment: Making the Connections, 3th-5th May 2017, Bologna, Italy. (Unpublished)

Jones and Saville (2016) assert that the two key purposes of assessment are to promote learning and to measure and interpret what has been learned. In terms of classroom assessment, this implies that teachers have a central role to play in planning and/or implementing appropriate assessment procedures to monitor and evaluate student progress in their classrooms. But teachers’ attitudes and beliefs, based on their own experiences of assessment, exert a powerful role in shaping their decisions, judgements and behaviour (Borg, 2006). Exploring teachers’ levels of assessment literacy in terms of their own assessment experiences may help teacher educators to better understand the factors which promote or prevent effective assessment, thus contributing to more targeted and empowering teacher education. The research to be discussed in this presentation adopts a social constructivist model of learning and meaning-making, with the language classroom representing the community of practice. Drawing on Davies’ (2008) components of assessment literacy Skills, Knowledge and Principles, Phase 1 of the project consisted of interviews with teachers in which they were invited to estimate their understanding of the individual components of the assessment process and indicate how much they would like to learn about each. Classroom observations then took place which focused on teachers' actual assessment practices, followed by post-observation, reflective interviews. Finally, focus group discussions were conducted with further groups of experienced teachers, which confirmed the findings from Phase 1. Four key findings will be presented relating to teachers’: 1) previous training in assessment; 2) attitudes to language testing and associated theory; 3) understanding of assessment in its broader sense; 4) understanding of ‘language assessment literacy’. It would seem that there are considerable differences in understanding between teachers and those who research and write about language testing/assessment, which may have important implications for the development of future teacher education courses.

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