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Making room for formative assessment processes: A multiple case study

Robert E McEntarffer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This qualitative instrumental multiple case study (Stake, 2005) explored how teachers made room for formative assessment processes in their classrooms, and how thinking about assessment changed during those formative assessment experiences. Data were gathered from six teachers over three months and included teacher interviews, student interviews, participant-observation notes, videos of classroom experiences, and classroom artifacts. These data were analyzed using a category construction method (Merriam, 2009) that involved open coding, axial coding, and finally a cross-case analysis that grouped axial codes according to themes relating to the two research questions. Four case studies describe the process of co-created work with teachers and descriptions of axial codes that emerged during this work. The cross-case analysis revealed two major themes that influenced and reflected how teachers made room for formative assessment processes (trust/community and freedom/enthusiasm) and three major themes that describe how assessment thinking changed during the work (defining `successful' learning, grouping students, and mindset). These themes suggest that both teacher "assessment scripts" (Ayala, 2008) and trust and autonomy aspects of the classroom community influence teachers' abilities to make room for formative assessment processes. Conclusions from this study imply that discussions about formative assessment processes need to honor and attend to issues of teacher autonomy and beliefs about learning. Discussions about formative assessments processes necessarily involve foundational issues about teaching and learning. This study indicates a reciprocal relationship between the formative assessment process and these foundational issues: as teachers made room for formative assessment processes, their thinking about teaching and learning changed, and these changes in assessment scripts created more room for formative assessment processes in their classrooms.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Education Policy|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

McEntarffer, Robert E, "Making room for formative assessment processes: A multiple case study" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3549958.