Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Critical, Analytical and Reflective Literacy Assessment: Reconstructing Practice

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Critical, Analytical and Reflective Literacy Assessment: Reconstructing Practice

Article excerpt


Knowledge management in the 'Information Age' of the 21st century brings with it exciting and challenging dimensions related to literacy assessment and reporting. Students' rights to know about their own literacy learning achievements is still the most salient reason for the assessment and reporting processes used in teaching and learning educational environments. However, there are many other knowledge-users who want to know how students are progressing.

Literacy abilities are so fundamental to lifelong learning it is only natural that as parents, teachers, principals and educational system personnel, we need to know whether students are progressing in a manner which will:

* build on success as they progress throughout their schooling

* provide information to support the provision of funds for staffing or resource allocation to facilitate particular change management strategies

* document innovative and effective literacy practices in our schools.

This dual function of assessment provides both micro and macro demands on literacy assessment and reporting processes in a society.

In ascertaining the multiliteracies (multidimensional and multimodal) capabilities of students, naturally the first point of reference, and the most important, are the students' teachers. They will know the expectations for each student at each Year Level or Stage in the curriculum being used within each school system.

Current context of micro and macro assessment in Australia

In relation to the micro-orientation of the individual student, most school systems in Australia require teachers to have two reporting requirements for students and parents. Two formal written assessment reports about the progress of each student are sent home to students and parents. Most systems have one parent-teacher interview--some have two--where parents and students come to the school and informally talk with all the relevant teachers. These sessions give parents and teachers the chance to share information and ask questions about a particular student's progress, acknowledge the successes, clarify issues of concern and discuss the curriculum plans for the student for the next one or two terms.

However, in relation to the macro, or 'big picture', information the assessment processes vary between states and territories. Table 1 is a snapshot of the educational system level of literacy assessment implemented across Australia.

Reconceptualising literacy assessment practices

Ideologically, literacy expectations in the 21st century have not changed. For example, in relation to reading the development of independent, fluent and critical reading with understanding is a goal that we still want all readers to achieve. The difference for the 'new learner' is that we are no longer narrowly focused on the written text as the main source of this success. The Information Age has heralded in an Information Communication Technology (ICT) world for our new learners.

   Accessing information requires identifying and finding printed,
   oral, and graphic information; gaining information requires
   comprehension, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation; transforming
   information requires writing, speaking, and representing; and
   transmitting information means publishing or disseminating
   transformed knowledge. (Kibby, 2000, p. 380)

Literacies, multiliteracies and communication (where communication means any form of semiotic meaning-making systems) are the concepts we are now dealing with as teachers in the Information Age (Anstey & Bull, 2003; Bull & Anstey, 2003; Earl, 2003; Ruddell & Unrau, 2004; Unsworth, 2001). We need to be acutely aware that our students are communicating via new languages:

   SMS (short message system). For example, lol means 'laugh out
   loud', brb--'be right back', cya--'see you', t4y--'time to talk
   to you', g2g--'got to go', and code 9 means 'change the topic an
   adult is here'. … 
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