Perceptions, Policies and Practices: AfL in the Singapore Context

Project Number
OER 12/15 CCD

Project Duration
July 2015 - January 2018


Assessment for learning (AfL) is of critical importance in developing innovative educational engagements and learner capacity. Impact of AfL may be exhibited in a number of ways. These include promoting learning, developing students' capacity for accurate self-assessment and facilitating adjustment of instruction for enhanced outcome achievement (Black et. al., 2004). Research demonstrating the merits of AfL has led to enthusiastic promotion and adoption of AfL-informed policies, worldwide and in Singapore. AfL significantly influences current Singapore educational policy and planning initiatives. At the primary level, a Holistic Assessment approach calling for assessment to support students' learning is being progressively introduced in all primary-school classrooms (PERI, 2009). At secondary level, considerably less empirical research has been conducted. However, the recommendations of the Assessment Review Corporate Planning Team (ARCPT) call for increasing the presence of AfL to produce balanced assessment, in which Assessment for and of Learning (AfL/AoL) function sympathetically (Leong & Tan, 2014). Additionally, AfL is being promoted at the secondary level through professional development targeted at relevant assessment practices (Leong & Tan, 2014). Adoption and practices of AfL, however may vary significantly from intentions expressed through policy and promotion. One factor is the complex dynamic that assessment change, policy, development and practice exist in (Deneen & Boud, 2014; MacDonald & Joughin, 2009). There is also significant variation in understanding what, precisely constitutes AfL (Taras, 2010). There is corresponding variation in how different stakeholders perceive AfL and how they generally conceptualize the purposes and merits of assessment (Brown, 2011; Deneen & Brown, 2011; Fulmer, 2013). These factors all exist in relationship to particular contexts. In Singapore, the context of high-stakes testing and assessment-driven meritocracy impact how people perceive, interact with and practice assessment (Tan, 2011; Tan & Deneen, forthcoming). Therefore, understanding how intentions and perceptions of AfL relate to practices requires accounting for a complex set of factors and their inter-relationships. As Singapore moves forward with AfL changes, it is imperative that research be conducted towards achieving these understandings, especially at the secondary level. The aim of the proposed study is to establish a systematic understanding of AfL in the Singapore secondary context that may inform research, policy, practice and development. This will be accomplished through meeting the following objectives: - Explain relationships among AfL policies, perceptions, practices and contexts. - Develop and validate a model that accounts for these factors and relationships. - Present analytical findings that may inform theoretical and practical understandings of AfL in the Singapore secondary and global contexts. A complementary (qualitative and quantitative) methodology will be used. Data collection will be carried out in two phases. Means of data collection will consist of large-scale survey distribution, stakeholder focus groups/interviews, and classroom observations. Factor analysis, ANOVA and MANOVA will be applied to survey data. Qualitative data will undergo inductive, iterative coding (Miles & Huberman, 1999). Initial and full results will be shared via two sharing seminars for MOE, NIE and schools. Results will be framed several ways, including: - A theoretical model of AfL in the Singapore context. - School-based case studies. - A comparative analysis of participating schools. - A policy-practice relationship analysis. Research results shall inform several specific outputs, including several tier-one journal articles, a policy recommendation document for Singapore MOE, two sharing seminars and participation in international conferences by the investigatory team.

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