Exploring formative assessment practices, strategies and tools used by university academics in facilitating a first year accounting module.
This project will explore formative assessment practices, strategies and tools used by university academics in facilitating a first year accounting module. Accounting is about recording, preparing and interpreting business transactions and enables businesses to keep track of their money. Bisman (2009) suggests that facilitating accounting should be driven by fostering lifelong learning, and the focus should be in developing critical thinking skills, creating a climate of enquiry, encouraging divergent thinking, providing feedback, focusing on process not on content, and designing assessment that reflects higher order problem solving. Assessment of students in accounting allows students to demonstrate reasoning, and provides students with experience in applying and further developing generic skills, meta-cognitive skills, analysis, critical thinking and reflective learning (Bisman, 2009). Students and facilitators are provided with resources to use in order to assess themselves and provide clarity and accuracy. The focus of this study is to explore formative assessment practices, strategies and tools used by university academics when facilitating a first year accounting module. The purpose of the study is to identify formative assessment strategies and tools that the accounting university facilitators use in assessing students, and to critically analyse how they employ them to assess students in accounting. This is a case study of one university in South Africa, exploring the practices of formative assessment strategies and tools by accounting university facilitators in assessing first year accounting students. Participative observation, document analysis and interviews were identified as appropriate data generation methods for this qualitative research. The researcher has chosen this study guided by personal interest and experience of teaching and learning accounting. Purposive sampling has been used to decide on the relevant participants for this study. The researcher has studied and taught accounting for a number of years and observed that not many students succeed to the highest level in accounting, for instance obtaining an accounting degree. It is of paramount importance to conduct this study as it may contribute towards addressing this problem. Too much attention is attributed to summative assessment while formative assessment could have instructional benefits and may contribute towards the objective of developing facilitators’ practical action in the classroom / lecture theatres. It may also contribute towards identifying teaching strategies that can be used to identify the gap between what is achieved and what had been intended to be achieved. This study will explore how similar professional development experiences can potentially improve everyday formative assessment practices in the classroom. Wiliam and Black (2003) argued that the development of formative assessment depends on the development of new resources. Formative assessment strategies are dominated by learning outcomes, therefore it is important to explore formative assessment practices, strategies and tools with reference to them. The findings of this study suggested that facilitators use a variety of formative assessment strategies and tools to assess first year accounting students. University academics use exercises, questions and answers, research projects, research assignments, concept tests, unseen questions, homework written reports, peer assessment, group work, case studies and problem-solving. Using a variety of formative assessment strategies helps facilitators and students identify difficult areas in the subject accounting to the students. Research has been guided by conceptual framework as it is exploring the formative assessment strategies and tools. The researcher employed grounded theory to analyse data generated where open coding was used to identity themes and categories which were interpreted by the researcher and presented as a case study. Formative assessment practice is planned prior to facilitation and there are different reasons and significant impact of assessing students during facilitation. There are formative assessment strategies and tools that are critically important in assessing students. The facilitator should be clear about learning outcomes to be achieved or attained by students. Formative assessment in accounting is dominated by exercises from the question book. According to McLaney and Atrill (2012) there are interspersed assessment material that is designed to stimulate the sort of quick-fire questions the facilitator might throw during the lecture, and the aim to is to check whether the students understood what has been covered. It is obvious that the facilitator must be clear about assessment strategies and practices in terms of why a particular formative assessment strategy or tool is used. This encourages aims of the facilitators and the learning outcomes because assessment is trying to identify what the student can and cannot be able to do. Modules like Accounting 101 encourages student centred learning therefore facilitators are encouraged to give students activities and task to do individually and in groups. There should be reproducibility and repeatability as conditions for consistency between the assessment tasks and between assessors (Stokking, Schaaf, Jaspers and Erkens, 2002). It is acknowledged that facilitators need to be more creative when designing formative assessment strategies and tools to used in assessing the variety of students.