Grade 9 learners experiences of the common tasks for assessment in mathematics literacy, mathematics and mathematical sciences.
This was a qualitative study carried out with one Grade 9 MMLMS class. The purpose of the study was to explore the experiences of the learners with respect to the CTA that they completed for their summative assessment. The methods of data collection were classroom observation, document analysis and interviews. Data was gathered from 4 classroom observations, a document analysis of the 2005 CTA instrument, the detailed responses of 3 learners to the CTA as well as a focus group interview with the 3 learners. The document analysis was done against a framework of moderating criteria identified by the moderating board of the eTA. The 4 lessons were video taped while the researcher was a participant observer in the classroom. The transcription of the tapes, the field notes and observation schedules were analysed with the intention of providing answers to the main research question. Similarly the interviews were video taped, transcribed and then analysed to provide further insight into the research question. Finally the learners' responses to certain items were scrutinized for further details. The findings revealed that the task design, which relied on grounding each task within one context, was problematic for the learners. The learners struggled with the language used in the tasks and often could not pick out crucial information from all the details associated with the contextualization. The language of the tasks was set at a high level of readability, higher than the average Grade 9 level. Furthermore, the teacher's interventions often seemed to hinder rather than facilitate their understanding of the mathematics. The results of the study have implications for teachers (to be careful of how they mediate the tasks), curriculum developers (to take note of the criticisms levelled at assessment tasks set in real life contexts) and mathematics educators (to voice their concerns about national assessment instruments which may themselves not be valid indicators of what learners can and cannot do).