Teaching Geography in Secondary Schools: A Reader

By Maggie Smith | Go to book overview

9

Using assessment to support learning
David Lambert
Introduction: assessment in education
This chapter sets out to examine the potential of 'formative assessment' to promote learning in geography classrooms (Torrance and Pryor 1998). Written by a geographer and for geography educationists, the chapter nevertheless necessarily engages in discussion at a general and often system-wide level. There is a need to experi ment with sustained effort in order to translate the general principles discussed here into effective day-to-day classroom practice. The chapter is written in the profound belief that such effort will be richly rewarded, but (to re-emphasise the point) pupils as well as teachers will be at different 'starting points' depending on the range of theoretical debate and developments in practice characterising particular system contexts. There is not sufficient space in this chapter to consider in any detail the pros and cons of formative assessment in relation to its distant relative, 'summative assessment'. Though writing from an English perspective, a system that has experienced a substantial rise in the use of external summative testing and examinations in recent years, formative assessment tends to be subservient to summative assessment the world over. The latter tends to dominate our thinking about assessment in education (Black 1998; Stobart and Gipps 1997), and it will simply be taken as read that:
• summative assessment his its place in education, mainly in the form of end-of-course tests and external examinations; but that
• it should be kept in its place, because it can exert influence that is not always educational.

In concentrating on formative assessment the chapter does not, therefore, adopt an 'anti-testing' stance, though there are certainly debates to be had over the efficacy of particular forms of external, summative assessment and the purposes to which data thus obtained are put (see Black 1998; Gipps 1994; Davis 1998, 1999). The position that is taken up here centres on the question of what balance needs to be struck between different kinds of assessment practice (Lambert and Lines 2000), and the implications for geography teachers who, in accepting the above assertions, also accept the need to raise the specifically educational functions of formative

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