Formative assessment in accounting : exploring teachers' understanding and practices.
Ngwenya, Jabulisile Cynthia.
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This study notes the relationship between changing conceptions and focus of Accounting as a discipline and its influence on the changed South African school education curriculum. The study probes whether these above conceptual and curricular changes influence teachers’ understandings of their daily practices as Accounting teachers or not, especially with regard to formative assessment and the selected pedagogy of their classrooms. In particular, the study was interested in exploring the practices of rural teachers, a relatively under-explored area of South African educational research. The study utilised a case study design focusing on one rural school in Umgungundlovu District in KwaZulu-Natal. This qualitative, interpretive inquiry was characterised by multiple data collection methods. Three Accounting teachers who were teaching Accounting in the further education and training band were purposively selected at the school, based on their experience and expertise in Accounting. Data were collected from interviews, lesson observations and document analysis to respond to the key research questions of the study. Field-notes were used to elaborate further on the data produced from interviews and lesson observations. The critical research questions explore teachers’ understandings of formative assessment and their use of it in their classroom, attempting to explain why they understand and apply formative assessment in the way that they do with respect to Accounting teaching in their specific contexts. The study revealed that teachers ostensibly seemed to know about the changes in the official curriculum expectations of the new educational policy. However, these shifts in understanding were relatively superficial and procedural; hence the teachers were not able to translate them into any deep cognitive level in their teaching practice. Their changes in practices were also marginal and limited with respect to the nature of the reconceptualisation of Accounting as a discipline. This was reflected in simple operational level of implementation of the specified curriculum requirements. Their practices placed their learners and their backgrounds as central to their selected teaching choices, instead of the nature of their rural schooling context. Findings of this study revealed that the over-specification of the formal curriculum, teachers’ under-developed understandings of the discipline and the new curriculum and their interpretation of contextual pedagogical responsiveness appear to be possible impediments to teachers’ practices. In an attempt to cope with these challenges teachers devised their strategies to sustain their practices. What emerged from the study is a kind of ‘communal pedagogy’ which teachers developed through their practices in a rural context. Although these practices are not regarded as of a qualitatively sophisticated progressive kind of pedagogy, teachers see contextually appropriate value in them. The study emphasises the need to look beyond the overt practices of rural school teachers, and instead to focus on what informs these practices. While the study is not celebratory of the communal pedagogy, it does attempt to shift the thinking about these practices by focusing on understanding what they are trying to respond to. The study therefore highlights the need to understand teachers’ own explanations of their practices, rather than condemning them. The study suggests that the teaching practices within rurality should not be judged and pathologised because of their specificities of responsiveness to highly contextualised and more likely appropriate factors.