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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Formative Assessment, Equity, and Opportunity to Learn

  • Author(s): Hilberg, Soleste
  • Advisor(s): Wells, Gordon
  • et al.

This dissertation presents three studies that were designed to examine formative assessment from a sociocultural perspective. The first study presents the development, inter-rater reliability, and use of the Formative Assessment and Interaction Record (FAIR), which is a measure for documenting teachers' use of formative assessment and additional research-based instructional strategies. The FAIR was created to serve several interrelated purposes: (a) to document teachers' strategy use, (b) to allow teachers and schools to set specific goals for changes in instruction and to provide a means to document those changes, (c) to provide a tool for principals to use in their efforts to develop professional learning communities focused on equity in achievement, and (d) to encourage collaborative reflection and dialogue that is focused on the use of research-based strategies as a means to extend students' opportunities to learn. The goal of this study was to construct a reliable tool that could support district administrators and site principals in their collaborative efforts to increase teachers' use of formative assessment and equity-focused strategies.

The second study is a qualitative investigation of collaboration between site and district leaders to engage teachers in inquiry and analysis of teacher performance data and student assessment results, with a focus on formative assessment practices and their relationship to equity and opportunity to learn. Interviews were conducted with principals from six elementary schools in a district serving a diverse student population with 49% socioeconomically disadvantaged students and 38% English learners. Results describe: how principals used teacher performance data to increase teachers' use of research-based formative assessment practices, the means by which principals facilitated the formative use of assessment data through teacher inquiry, and principals' perceptions of how this work relates to their goals of increasing achievement, equity, and opportunity to learn.

The final investigation is a case study of teacher-student dialogue in the context of a whole-class peer assessment activity to demonstrate how such formative assessment activities support the use of dialogic instruction. While numerous studies have documented the positive effects of dialogic instruction on student learning, little is known about the variety of classroom contexts that might prove more or less conducive to dialogic instruction. The research question addressed in this study was: Can formative assessment support a dialogic lesson structure? It was hypothesized that teacher-student interactions in the context of student assessment would include authentic, high-level teacher questions, high-level teacher responsiveness, a substantial proportion of time devoted to discussion, broad participation by students, and longer student responses than what is commonly associated with typical teacher-student dialogue. Results indicated that the whole-class peer assessment activity was consistent with features of dialogic instruction.

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