Assessment for Learning Explored in Grade 9 Applied Mathematics Classrooms
Despite the focus on assessment for learning (AfL) across Canada, the use of AfL across classrooms is not routine practice. Existing literature has found that secondary mathematics teachers implement AfL strategies along a continuum, from no implementation to deep integration in the classroom. AfL is valuable for all students, and in particular, struggling students may be the strongest beneficiaries of AfL. As a result, my dissertation explored secondary mathematics teachers’ use of AfL strategies with students who may struggle in mathematics, and the extent that there exist systematic differences in the integration of these strategies across classrooms of varying school-achievement results. Three research questions guided this study: (a) What is the nature of teachers’ AfL strategies? (b) What are the relationships between teachers’ AfL strategies and AfL conceptions? and (c) What are the relationships between teachers’ AfL strategies and mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT)? Across Southern Ontario, a teacher questionnaire was administered (N = 131) and case studies (N = 4) were conducted with teachers of Grade 9 applied mathematics (G9APM). The schools in which these teachers taught were categorized as one of three achievement categories—high, average, or low—based on their school-achievement results. School-achievement results were either determined by a school’s average Education Quality and Accountability Office result for students in G9APM or a self-reported measure. Data analyses included the use of descriptive and inferential statistics, correlational-based analyses, and deductive and inductive qualitative thematic analyses. Research findings illustrate: (a) no differences in teachers' AfL strategies, AfL conceptions, or MKT, across school-achievement results; (b) teachers commonly implemented the letter of AfL and had a teacher-centric conception of AfL; and (c) AfL strategies are connected to MKT. Specifically, MKT supported AfL practices, namely identifying and sharing success criteria, engineering effective classroom discussions and tasks that elicit evidence of learning, and providing feedback that moves learners forward. Findings highlighted that teachers require domain specific pedagogical support in implementing the spirit of AfL.
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