University of Cambridge > > Science & Technology Education Research Group ( S &TERG) > STeM Seminar: Playing the levelling field: Teachers’ management of mathematics assessment in English primary schools

STeM Seminar: Playing the levelling field: Teachers’ management of mathematics assessment in English primary schools

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School assessment in mathematics is well-researched, but largely in relation to teaching and learning and especially ways in which it might help raise pupils’ attainment (e.g. Hogden & Wiliam, 2006). Whilst this is important, assessment plays a wider role in terms of accountability, particularly in a high-status subject such as mathematics. In a market-driven school system, pupil outcomes are increasingly used as a proxy measure for the educational ‘success’ of teachers and schools, creating new pedagogical dynamics within schools (Pratt, 2016). I report here on a small-scale study using semi-structured interviews with 12 Key Stage 2 teachers in the south west of England. This examined the way in which assessment is used to manage the success of teachers’ own work as professionals. The analysis uses Bourdieu’s (1986, 1998) capitals and teachers’ habitus in the field of primary schooling; as well as ‘illusio’ to explain investment in these forms of professional activity. In particular, I focus on the ways in which assessment acts differentially on pupils, promoting some and potentially marginalising others. Whilst it is already clear that schooling acts this way on pupils, this work illuminates the mechanisms by which assessment makes which this happen. Finally, the project has led to a collaboration with Julie Alderton here in Cambridge and we will briefly bring things up to date reporting on our more recent work looking at how primary teachers have managed the transition from mathematics national curriculum levels to a new era without them. Again, our focus is on the work that teachers have had to do to reorganise their acquisition of professional capital in light of these changes, and the role of technologies – especially pupils tracking software – in doing so.

About the speakers: Nick Pratt works at the Plymouth University Institute of Education where he leads the EdD programme and PG Certificate in Post-16 Mathematics Education. His research focuses on ways in which policy and practice interrelate in teaching, in particular how assessment acts as a driving force in the production of what it means to teach successfully. He is a member of Plymouth’s Leadership and Policy Research Cluster working on comparative research as a method for understanding teaching ‘expertise’ as a socioculturally situated activity.

Julie Alderton is a University Lecturer within the Faculty’s STEM centre. Her areas of research include discourses, gender, inclusive education and identities in relation to mathematics education. She is primarily interested in social theory to inform analysis.

  • All very welcome to attend, however, there is no parking available at the Faculty. Please contact JS440 if you need directions or any additional information.

This talk is part of the Science & Technology Education Research Group ( S &TERG) series.

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