[Assessment 1265] Formative Assessment in Adult Literacy Education: A Special Topics Discussion

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David J. Rosen djrosen at comcast.net
Wed Feb 20 11:00:23 EST 2008


Beginning on Monday, February 25th, the Special Topics list will hold
a discussion on formative assessment, a set of classroom practices
that substantial research in England has shown to positively affect
elementary and secondary level student learning outcomes. Not a term
widely known in the U.S., formative assessment refers to what
teachers and learners do in the classroom to assess learning
progress. An assessment is _formative_ when information gathered in
the assessment process is used to modify teaching and learning
activities. It's an assessment _for_ learning, not just _of_ learning.

A just-published study sponsored by the Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD), Teaching, Learning and Assessment
for Adults: Improving Foundation Skills < http://tinyurl.com/2dksn5 >
looks at formative assessment practices in adult foundation skills
(basic skills) classes in several countries among which were the U.S.
and England. We will have as our guests the researchers who did the
studies in these two countries. OECD researchers who studied adult
formative assessment practices in other countries may also
participate in the discussion.

In my opinion, not an unbiased one as I was an OECD researcher in
this study of practices in Flanders Belgium, the study could have an
important impact on adult literacy education practices in North
America, and formative assessment could -- as has been shown in K-12
and higher education studies -- make an important difference for
students' learning.

I hope you will join my esteemed guests for this discussion.

To subscribe to the discussion, go to
http://www.nifl.gov/mailman/listinfo/specialtopics .
You can unsubscribe after the discussion by going to the same web
page or, if you prefer, you can stay subscribed for the next
discussion, Transition from Corrections to Community Education.

Formative Assessment Guest Experts

Janet Looney
Janet Looney is the project leader of the Centre for Educational
Research and Innovation program known as What Works in Innovation in
Education. Since 2002 its focus has been on formative assessment.
Between 2002 and 2004, the What Works program explored formative
assessment in lower secondary classrooms in eight international
systems. [See Formative Assessment: Improving Learning in Secondary
Classrooms (2005)]. OECD has just published the second study
addressing formative assessment for adult basic skill learners, whose
web page was provided above.
Earlier in her career Janet taught ESOL in Japan for over two years,
and at the YMCA in Seattle Washington.

John Benseman
John Benseman has been involved in adult education and literacy for
over 30 years working as a practitioner and program administrator,
but mainly as a researcher and evaluator. He started his working life
as a primary (elementary) school teacher, but “became disillusioned
with the task of constantly trying to motivate reluctant learners and
became much more interested in working with adults who were much more
motivated”. After a year of studying adult education in Sweden, he
worked in continuing medical education, followed by seven years of
running a community-based adult education organization and a similar
period of self-employment as a researcher. After 12 years of teaching
adult education at the University of Auckland, he moved last year to
the Department of Labour to run a national workplace literacy
project. The aim of this project is to identify best practice in
workplace literacy by evaluating 15 diverse programs throughout New
Zealand. They are about halfway through and should complete it late
next year. To date they have interviewed about 250 learners and are
just starting to get their first post-program data. They expect to
have data on about 500-600 learners when it is finished.
John’s PhD was an analysis of New Zealand as a learning society. In
addition to a "zillion" reports, he has edited a book on New Zealand
adult education and two weeks ago, another one (with Alison Sutton)
on New Zealand adult literacy. He “mainly works from home in a study
that looks out on to beautiful native bush, including a stream and
lots of native birds”. He says "It’s summer here, so life includes
jaunts to the beach, enjoying family life, frustrated attempts to
lower a very average golf handicap and riding a motorbike to beat the
Auckland traffic. My current project also includes a lot of travel
round the country to interview people – a duty that I am even paid to

With John Comings, John Benseman did the formative assessment
research in the U.S., sponsored in part by the National Institute for

John Comings
Dr. John Comings was director of the National Center for the Study of
Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) during its 11 years of funding
from the US Department of Education. He is currently Senior Research
Associate and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
and a consultant on adult education in the U.S. and other countries.
His research focuses on the impact of adult literacy programs and
ways to support persistence of adult learners.

John Vorhaus
Dr John Vorhaus is Associate Director, Research, at the National
Research and Development Centre in Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC)
at the Institute of Education. He is also Director of the Centre for
Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning.

John has directed numerous projects on adult literacy, language and
numeracy, many of these focused on teaching and learning practices,
and also on disadvantaged groups such as offenders, ethnic minority
groups and people who are not in education, training or employment.

On-going research is taken up with persons with profound and multiple
learning difficulties and disabilities; their political status, the
question of whether and how they are shown respect, and an
examination of the teaching and learning practices best fitted to
their needs and abilities.

John has taught philosophy at the Universities of Bristol and London,
and also in prison, adult and further education, and he continues to
publish in the areas of political philosophy, philosophy of law and
philosophy of education.

David J. Rosen
Special Topics Discussion Moderator
djrosen at comcast.net

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