Challenges for assessment policy on formative assessment: A multilingual classroom perspective

P Rea-Dickins, A Oksana, NR Ingram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Research in formative assessment underscores the essential role of feedback, and the engagement of learners within the feedback loop, in rendering an assessment formative such that an activity supports teaching and learning goals. To date, formative assessment research has generally assumed teacher feedback through the medium of one or a dominant language. However, a significant number of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are studying through the medium of a second or even a third language. This raises questions about the impact of feedback on both content learning and language development in bilingual or multilingual classrooms: do learners understand the feedback and how do they act upon it? What differences might there be in terms of student uptake on feedback when the L1 is used rather than the L2 or the L3? These are some of the issues that will be explored through two different types of analyses. The empirical data come from a bilingual classroom context where teachers and their students shift seamlessly in and out of two languages – Kiswahili and English - in the teaching of core curricula subjects (Maths, Chemistry, Biology). The first set of analyses focuses on the kinds of feedback subject teachers provide to their learners in both the L1 and L2 and how the differences observed impact on - in the sense that formative learning opportunities are either created or missed as a result of the language used to engage the learners - formative learning opportunities. This research has identified some of the qualitative differences in what teaches focus on in their feedback through the two languages and also on how students engage with this feedback.   The second part of this paper investigates opportunities for English language development, i.e. English as the official medium of instruction, in the context of secondary classrooms described above. Lessons across the three core curricula subject areas form the basis for this analysis. The findings highlight the following issues: (a) frequency of (English) language support provision, (b) quality of language support, (c) sources of language support – teachers or students, and (d) effects of language support. The findings from both analyses are then discussed in relation to the wider body of research in these areas. Implications for future research are suggested, as are implications for professional practice and curriculum policy with specific reference to multilingual contexts.
Translated title of the contributionChallenges for assessment policy on formative assessment: A multilingual classroom perspective
Original languageEnglish
JournalLanguage Assessment Quarterly
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Title of Publication Reviewed: Challenges for assessment policy on formative assessment: A multilingual classroom perspective
Author of Publication Reviewed: Pauline Rea-Dickins, Oksana Afitska, Neil Ingram


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