Ontario Elementary School Teachers' Approaches to Mathematics Assessment for Diverse Students
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Classroom assessment has evolved into a dynamic context-dependent social practice, but teachers’ approaches to assessment for diverse students have yet to be adequately explored in the literature. Consequently, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore Ontario elementary school teachers’ approaches to mathematics assessment regarding the diverse groups of students in their classrooms. Two research questions guided this study: (a) How do approaches to mathematics assessment compare across elementary school teachers? and (b) How do approaches to mathematics assessment within elementary school teachers adapt in response to diverse students? A case study methodology was used, and data sources included interviews, direct observations, survey responses and artifacts. Fourteen teachers participated in the interviews and observations, 69 teachers responded to the survey questions, and 192 artifacts (80 learner profiles, 84 samples of student work, and 28 teacher reflections) were collected. Data analysis was conducted from a joint sociocultural and dialogical perspective and followed the constant comparative method for inductive analysis as outlined in Thomas (2011). Findings suggest that elementary school teachers approach mathematics as a distinctive context for assessment, that their approaches to mathematics assessment are shaped by layers of external influence, and that approaching mathematics assessment in a way that responds to the needs of diverse students is more readily enacted in Kindergarten than in Grades 1-8. Particularly important considerations for approaching mathematics assessment for diverse students are the use of learner profiles, encouraging multiple ways to demonstrate learning, building confidence, redefining success, planning activities that explicitly consider the assessment of diverse students, and maximizing formative assessment opportunities. Key contributions of this research include: (a) providing further depth and complexity around how the contextual factors influencing teachers’ approaches to mathematics assessment interact in the minds of teachers, (b) providing a conceptual model for future research to continue exploring teachers’ approaches to mathematics assessment as a multiplicity of dialogical positions and, (c) providing recommendations for teachers, and a basis for future research, to work towards a more coherent system of assessment by leveraging reflection, consistent terminology, and student engagement.