Different Assessment Cultures in Three Icelandic Upper Secondary Schools

This study addresses students´ perception of different assessment cultures in Icelandic upper secondary schools. The focus of this study is on assessment for learning (AfL) and feedback in different context of assessment. Feedback is considered a fundamental property of assessment. Birenbaum (2014) defines assessment culture as “the school’s culture which, when examined through an assessment lens, varies from a grading oriented, testing culture to a learning-oriented, assessment culture” (p. 286). In recent years, students´ reception of feedback in different assessment cultures has been given growing attention. The methodology used in this project is based on mixed methods and consists of two different layers, a survey, and focus groups. Schools with a different emphasis on assessment policy were purposefully chosen for this study. The findings from the survey document a substantial gap in how teachers and students experience feedback and assessment. This gap seems to be related to schools´ different assessment cultures. Preliminary findings from the focus groups show that students in schools with strong AfL culture report active teacher-student dialogue and learning oriented assessment practices. However, students in schools with weaker AfL culture communicate assessment as test and grade driven. The current study should shed light on the perceived feedback and assessment practices in three Icelandic upper secondary schools and is the first study of its kind in Iceland. In addition, the findings cast light on how prevailing assessment cultures impacts students learning, which could provide a baseline for further discussion in Iceland and elsewhere about implementing policy of AfL.

Assessment for Learning Feedback, Culture of Assessment

Assessment and Evaluation

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

  • Ivar Jonsson
    • Adjunct, Department of Education, University of Iceland, Iceland Iceland