Formative assessment practices in collaborative task design: constraints and affordances

Crossouard, Barbara (2010) Formative assessment practices in collaborative task design: constraints and affordances. In: European Conference for Educational Research (ECER), 23-27th August, Helsinki.

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This paper discusses data arising within a recent research project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (Grant 08-0406) into formative assessment practices in Scottish primary schools. In more detail, it focused on the formative assessment practices arising within ‘challenges’, these being complex, open-ended problem-solving tasks that pupils tackle collaboratively in groups. Typically, after working in groups for an extended time, each group presents their work to the class, thus creating considerable opportunities for peer and teacher formative assessment of their work and their group processes. The research questions included:
• What formative assessment practices does this approach to task design facilitate?
• How do these affect learner attainment and learner dispositions?
• What are the implications for curriculum design and assessment?
• What issues would merit further research and development?

The research context was identified as being of particular interest because the Scottish government is developing a new ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. This conceptualises learning as going beyond the acquisition of content. Instead, it seeks to provide a ‘coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18’, within which pupils are supported in developing four ‘capacities’, of being successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2009; Reid, 2008); Scottish education systems also acknowledge the impact of social equity issues upon different pupils’ educational outcomes (OECD, 2007). Finally, its approach to assessment in primary schools emphasises teacher assessment rather than national testing (Bryce, 2008). The research drew on the theoretical framework of convergent and divergent assessment (Torrance and Pryor, 1998; 2001). As two poles on a continuum of practice, convergent assessment addresses the successful completion of the task in hand, and whether students can do a specific thing. Its primary concern is for the relay of the curriculum. Divergent assessment has a more open concern for the learner’s agenda, and typically involves a more dialogic, conversational form of language. This socio-constructivist approach to formative assessment was later developed within socio-cultural learning theories, including Cultural Historical Activity Theory (Pryor and Crossouard, 2008; Crossouard 2009). In Crossouard (2009), challenges were seen as a task design which could generate useful opportunities for both convergent and divergent assessment. Their open-ended tasks created opportunities for ensuring tasks had relevance to pupils’ worlds, thus creating openings for divergent assessment. The task design also paid explicit attention to division of labour issues associated with formative assessment, for example in positioning the teacher as playing mainly an observer role during the elaboration of the challenge, although moving into a position of greater authority during the plenary presentation phases, when offering convergent formative assessment comments. Crossouard (2009) recognized that the combination of challenges and formative assessment merited further exploration however. This paper reports on key aspects of the research project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation that was secured to do this, focusing particularly on the constraints of the assesment vocabularies teachers had at their disposition, as well as the affordances of using digital photography as 'feedback' within classroom assessment.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Depositing User: Barbara Crossouard
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:56
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2012 08:17
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