Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 17, Issue 2, Article 12 (Dec., 2016) |

In this study, the school environment was defined from an ecological perspective using Ecological System Theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1997). Teachers’ environments that are closest to them are the microsystem where all the entities in this system have great influence on teachers’ practices. Hafiz and Alif taught in the same school and were teaching Year Five science to high academic ability students. Both of them were under the leadership of a dynamic lady who welcomed innovation into her school and was keen to support and encourage her teachers to sour professionally. Despite working in similar environment, the findings revealed that these teachers’ formative assessment practices, in terms of quality of tasks and questioning techniques (Assessment) and feedback were very different. Even though both teachers used the same resource, the Teaching Courseware (TC), Alif used the TC to support his teaching whereas Hafiz used the TC as his main source of teaching. By competently pressing paused on the TC and asking students relevant questions, Alif has created opportunities to interact with his students and the subject matter (Blatchford et al., 2011). This enabled Alif to elicit more meaningful information about his students’ learning (Clark, 2015). He was able to elicit where his students lack understanding and was able to respond to his students’ learning needs (Nair et al., 2014; Wiliam & Thompson, 2007). In contrast, Hafiz rarely asked questions and interacted with his students because he had the TC on most of his lessons. He was unable to elicit students’ lack of understanding and therefore was unable to modify his teaching to cater for his students’ needs (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Robinson et al., 2014). Formative assessment encourages teachers to modify their teaching so their instruction will cater for their students’ learning needs. Since Hafiz was unable to do so, his students looked bored and some were even doing other matters not related to science.

Formative assessment requires students to take ownership of their learning so that they can become autonomous learners (Sach, 2012; Spiller, 2012). Alif had provided his students with the space to collaborate and take ownership of their learning. Alif was able to play the role of a facilitator as his students worked collaboratively in groups (Cizek, 2010). Though Alif and Hafiz had the same number of years of teaching experience and the same class size, Hafiz did not seem to allow his students to take ownership of their learning and to work collaboratively. This is perhaps due to Hafiz being unable to elicit his students’ learning progression and thus he had to rely on himself to determine the pace and flow of the lessons. Being a facilitator is one of the skills that teachers find difficult to acquire as teachers are so use to being the knowledge provider in the classroom (Brown et al., 2009; Tan & Leong, 2014).

Feedback is the heartbeat of formative assessment (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Letting students know where they are currently in their learning and how they need to progress can be done with constructive feedback (Black & Wiliam, 1998). Constructive feedback let students know their strengths and weaknesses of their work rather than simply providing the students with the right answer. The data showed that Alif was, to certain extent, able to provide constructive feedback on his students’ work but Hafiz was unable to do so. Hafiz seemed more interested in making sure his students got the right answer instead of finding out their understanding of the subject matter. Thus, Hafiz seem to provide evaluative feedback that is antithesis to the concept of formative assessment (Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Swaffield, 2011).

It was expected that since Hafiz and Alif had very similar academic qualifications, years of teaching experiences, taught in the same school, interacted with the same principal and colleagues, had similar access to the school facilities, taught students of similar academic ability and in relatively similar classroom sizes, that their formative assessment practices would lie closer along the continuum. This is because studies have shown that environment can influence teachers’ practices (Miller & Cunningham, 2011; Rivkin, Hanushek & Kain, 2005). Yet these two teachers’ formative assessment was so different and seemed to lie on opposite ends of the formative assessment practice continuum.

Copyright (C) 2016 EdUHK APFSLT. Volume 17, Issue 2, Article 12 (Dec., 2016). All Rights Reserved.