Contextualising assessment for learning in Singaporean classrooms
There is worldwide interest in helping teachers understand and change their classroom assessment practices. In particular, researchers and policy makers are advocating new classroom assessments that will fully explore its formative function for teachers and students. Such classroom assessments include the different types of classroom activities that provide information and assist teachers, parents and authorities in responding to what students have learnt and/or how well they have learnt (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Stiggins, 2005). Different individuals in the school (teachers, students, parents, school leaders, ministry officials) might use classroom assessment information for different purposes and in different contexts. For teachers, classroom assessment, like many aspects of classroom teaching and learning, is not just an executive extension of education policy; neither is it just a systematic set of instructions or procedures to follow. Hence, middle leaders need to help their colleagues to take up the challenge to be active agents of formative classroom assessment. To do this, middle leaders need to empower teachers as active co-learners and co-creators of knowledge rather than just passive conduits of policy and research (Hargreaves, 2007; Olafson & Schraw, 2006). This is not an easy task, as teachers have to respond to pressures of accountability by adhering to school or national directives. These demands often “fly in the face” of what they feel to be possible in a classroom or in the best interests of the students. As Fullan (1993) states: “It is not enough [for teachers] to be exposed to new ideas. [They] have to know where new ideas fit” (p. 16). This may lead to superficial implementation of the new policies which results in very different applications of the innovation (Elmore, 1996).