The impact of formative assessment activities on the development of teacher agency in mathematics teachers
Although buoyed by the induction of a democratic government, and the high ideals of our constitution, the South African education system has in many ways not met the expectations of its people, in this case, the mathematics education community. With the birth of an expansive intended curriculum came the monitoring of the outcomes through systemic type testing, the so-called attained curriculum. In time, it became clear that the inevitable ‘teaching to the test’ would constitute a narrowing of the implemented curriculum. Two possible constraining influences of the systemic test were identified, namely, a narrowing of the curriculum, and reliance on only one source of external monitoring. To counteract these, a project titled Assessment Enhanced Teaching and Learning (AETL) has been initiated, involving Grade Nine mathematics teachers. The aim of the project is to provide intermittent markers of progress to the teachers and learners at strategic points throughout the year. Teacher involvement in the design and implementation of these formative assessment tasks is thus central to the project. In this paper, we report on a case study at one school in the Pretoria region, and explore the use of structured assessment tasks as an approach to professional development. The question posed here is, “How does the implementation of strategically designed assessment tasks support professional development and enable professional agency?” Our findings indicate a strong sense of agency motivated by the need to excel in systemic type testing.
Keywords: formative assessment; mathematics; professional development; teacher agency
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