A study of reading assessment in the Grade 4 classrooms.
The study is part of the first phase of a broader action research project that focuses on reading at a foundational level among both adults (Levels 1 and Levels 2) and children (Grade R – 4) in both IsiZulu and English, with the purpose of promoting a reading culture among educators, learners and other stakeholders in the learning community of the school. The study focused on the assessment of reading in English among Grade 4 learners at a rural primary school in Kwazulu-Natal. This focus included the methods and techniques used to assess learners reading at Grade 4 level. Also, it focused on the skills that are being assessed in reading. The broad purpose of the study was to investigate, analyse and understand the assessment of reading and the impact it had on Grade 4 learners’ development and growth in reading. The study shared the same objective as the broader project, which was to promote a reading culture. However, in order to create a reading culture, teachers need to use appropriate forms and tools of assessment and need to understand the role of assessment in the development of reading skills among young children. The purpose of reading assessment is to monitor the development of reading skills, to observe each learner’s progression in reading, and to allow teachers to design methods to assist learners in achieving desirable reading strategies. In the light of this, the study’s purpose was to identify the methods and/or forms of assessment that a teacher used to assess reading in her classroom as the basis for an intervention to improve the culture of reading at the school. The study attempted to answer the following questions: · What forms of assessments do teachers use in their reading classroom? · What reading skills are being assessed and developed? · How does the teacher assess reading? What process is used? · What types of texts are being used to assess reading in the reading classroom? In order to answer these questions the researcher used case study as the methodology and collected data using questionnaires, observations and interviews with the Grade 4 English teacher and school principal as well as kept a personal reflective journal. The data was analysed by means of content analysis and was coded according to the themes and patterns that emerged during the transcription process. To briefly sum up the findings that surfaced from the study, it was clear that the participants were aware of the importance of teaching and assessing comprehension of reading however, these were not practised in the classroom. In other words, the teacher focused on assessing decoding, pronunciation, fluency, accuracy and book handling skills; there was no assessment of comprehension. Furthermore, reading was only reading aloud and was repetitive in that learners first listened while the teacher read the text aloud, then they read the same text together as a class aloud, they read it again in groups aloud and finally were called individually to the front of the class to read a few lines from the text aloud for assessment. This reading assessment was a formative form of assessment, however reading was also assessed on a continuous weekly basis but was informally conducted. Lastly, there was a recurrence in the way the participant assessed reading in her classroom and the way in which her teacher assessed her reading while she was at school. These findings were just a few of the many findings that have been discussed in detail in Chapter Four of the dissertation.