Assessment Discourses in Mathematics Classrooms A Multimodal Social Semiotic Study
Abstract: This is a study of assessment in mathematics classrooms and assessment is here regarded as a concept with broad boundaries including e.g. diagnostic tests, portfolios, and acts in teacher-student communication. The study’s purpose is to analyse and understand assessment acts in discursive practices in mathematics classroom communication in terms of affordances for students’ active agency and learning. Five mathematics classrooms are visited and the main data consists of video-recordings and written classroom material. In the study, I examine assessment acts, focuses of assessment acts, and roles of semiotic resources (symbols, gestures, speech etc.). With these findings as a basis, four discourses of assessment in mathematics classrooms are construed.A main conclusion is how the construed discourses hold different affordances for students’ active agency and learning. One discourse, “Do it quick and do it right” has similarities to a traditional discourse of assessment described in previous research. In a second discourse, “Anything goes”, students’ performances that can be regarded as mathematically inappropriate are left unchallenged. In both these discourses the affordances for students’ active agency and learning of mathematics are considered low. In a third discourse, “Anything can be up for a discussion”, the focuses of assessment acts are mainly on mathematics processes and available semiotic resources are connected to these focuses. The fourth discourse, “Reasoning takes time”, takes it one step further with a lower pace and an emphasis on mathematics processes such as reasoning and problem-solving. In these two latter discourses the affordances for students’ active agency and learning of mathematics are high.I contend that there is positive power in an increased awareness of discourses like these. The four discourses of this study can be powerful in discussions about, understandings of, and positive changes in assessment practices in mathematics classrooms.?
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