Self- and Peer-Assessment as Components of LOA

According to Harlen and Winter (2004), self-assessment/monitoring is

a key aspect of learning-oriented assessment because it puts the pupils in a position to manage their learning by ensuring that they know where they are without the need for the teacher to tell them what they need to improve, (p. 404)

Self-assessment/monitoring, thus, contributes greatly to achieving learners’ autonomy. Self- and peer-assessment, though, often overlap with feedback in the context of LOA, and both share a highly significant value to students’ learning and progress. According to Sadler (1989,2010), the distinction between feedback and self-assessment/monitoring may depend on the source generating the evaluative information. When the information is generated independently by the student, it is self-assessment/monitoring, whereas it becomes part of feedback if it is generated from an external entity such as the teacher. Sadler further encourages educators and educational systems to facilitate the transition from feedback to self-assessment/ monitoring frequently and readily in educational settings.

Peer assessment, on the other hand, has major benefits for learning, as research has demonstrated. For it “encourages reflective learning through observing others’ performances and becoming aware of performance criteria” (Saito, 2008, p. 554). For self- and peer-assessment/monitoring to be effectively implemented, students must be trained first in the process (Black 8c Wiliam, 1998a; Flarlen 6c Winter, 2004). The same factor is emphasized by Hall and Burke (2003), who exhort that “learners may not necessarily possess the skills for engaging in self- and peer-assessment automatically and ... it is the teacher’s role to equip pupils with the skills and strategies for taking the next steps in their learning” (p. 53). As an integral part of this training process, “knowing the criteria for assessing their work may be essential for involving learners in assessing their work” (Harlen 8c Winter 2004, p. 404).

Involving and training students effectively in the processes of self- and peer-assessment/monitoring can yield numerous invaluable outcomes. First, those students will be more likely to “understand the main purposes of their learning and thereby grasp what they need to achieve [the goals]” (Black 8c Wiliam, 1998a, p. 10). Second, involvement in self- and peer-assessment/monitoring may “empower learners to take control and assume ownership of their learning and recognize that they themselves may ultimately be responsible for their own learning” (Hall 8c Burke,

  • 2003, p. 53). Moreover, Sadler (1998) lists other benefits including that students may be “accepting from one another criticism of their work, which they would not take seriously if made by the teacher,” that peer assessment creates opportunities for “interchange in a language that pupils themselves would naturally use,” and that peer assessment offers more learning to students “by taking the roles of teachers and examiners of others” (cited in Harlen Sc Winter, 2004, p. 405). Finally, self- and peer-assessment may enhance students’ reflection and cooperation abilities and dispositions by helping them “recognize each other[‘s]” strengths and set up situations where they can help each other” (Harlen Sc Winter,
  • 2004, p. 406).

Context of the Study

While the reform schools under investigation follow the British curriculum, they are not very different from the other schools operating in the Egyptian context from the perspective of focusing more on summative tests and the over-emphasis of the accountability function of assessment (see Gebril, Chapter 7 in this volume). Both public and private schools in Egypt follow a summative testing strategy, especially at the end of key stages, i.e., the primary, preparatory, and secondary stages. This end-of-stage rest usually weighs 100 percent of the grade, as is the case at the end of the secondary stage test Thanaweya Amma. Classwork may sometimes weigh up to 20 percent of the grade in transition years at each key stage. However, it is not well regulated, lacks clear and well communicated evaluation criteria, and the way it reflects progress and/or achievement of the learning outcomes is not lucid or validated. Therefore, the Egyptian educational context poses systematic challenges that would impact the implementation of LOA properly in a way that promotes students’ learning.

The two schools selected for exploring the implementation of LOA follow the British curriculum and have been established in collaboration with Cambridge Assessment. Hence, LOA plays a central role in the assessment of students except for the grades that have formal summative testing as per the British system. There are formal summative tests, therefore, at Key Stage 1 (G 1-2), Key Stage 2 (G 3-6), Key Stage 3 (G 7-9), and Key Stage 4 [IGCSE] (G 10-11). While LOA is also used in these key stages, the main assessment strategy is the summative test. All teachers receive training annually by Cambridge Assessment in a variety of topics including assessment. However, most training programs sway more towards a dimension of LOA, namely assessment for learning. Little evidence was found of a comprehensive LOA training program which may support a systematic LOA policy formation process and, consequently, an integrated LOA implementation in classrooms.

The study investigated two G 8 classes in each school during the period March-April 2013. There were two G8 Arabic teachers and one English teacher at the school in Obour City, with 14, 10, and 7 years of experience, respectively. There was one Arabic and one English teacher at the 6 October school6, with ten and five years of experience, respectively. Both cities are relatively new suburbs of Greater Cairo, which are about 30-40 kilometers away from the city center.

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