Grade 9 teacher attitudes towards common tasks for assessment (CTA) : a case study of economic and management sciences (EMS) in two schools.
Sithole, Alec Wittie.
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This study examines the standardised tests as administered in Grade 9 in the form of Common Tasks for Assessment (CTA). The main focus of the study was to understand the attitudes of Economic Management and Sciences teachers toward the CTA (EMS) and how they were engaging with the CTA (EMS) during the ‘normal’ course of curriculum development. The study was undertaken in response to my observation of the negative attitude of EMS teachers toward the CTA (EMS) during the EMS workshops. The literature revealed that standardised tests have negative consequences such as the narrowing of curriculum, over-reliance on tests preparation materials, unethical test practices, unfair test results, unintended bias against population subgroups, increased tension and frustration in schools, increased grade retention, and regression of pedagogical practice. In responding to the pressure and stress associated with the standardised tests, teachers end up leaking test papers prior to test writing and gave answers to learners during the writing of tests. Teachers in ‘high-stakes testing’ environment tended to feel more pressure to increase test scores than their counter-parts in low- or moderate-stakes testing environments. The data was generated through semi-structured interviews, document analysis and lesson observations. Purposive sampling was used in the selection of the participants. Results indicated that: (1) teachers and learners experienced problems with the language used in the CTA (EMS); (2) the content of the CTA (EMS) was biased; (3) CTA (EMS) put pressure and stress on EMS teachers; and (4) the CTA imposed unfair curriculum expectations on EMS teachers. These problems made EMS teachers develop a negative attitude toward the CTA (EMS). It was also found that EMS teachers had difficulty in engaging CTA (EMS) during the ‘normal’ course of curriculum development. It is recommended that policy makers should regularly interact with schools in order to acquaint themselves with teachers’ experiences during CTA (EMS) administering. Furthermore they should take the views of the teachers into consideration during the policy formulation on CTA (EMS) administering. If the policy makers continue to ignore the concerns of the EMS teachers and to distance themselves from the reality in schools as far as the CTA (EMS) administering is concerned, the implementation of assessment policy will remain an elusive reality.