A monthly update on research from the Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre
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Welcome to the second monthly newsletter of the Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre. 

Formative Assessment: Transforming Philippine Classrooms

An important change – a quiet transformation – is taking place in Philippine classrooms. One of the key components of the K-12 reform is a renewed focus on classroom assessment and, in particular, on formative assessment. In the words of DepEd Order 8, s. 2015, "formative assessment involves teachers using evidence about what learners know and can do to inform and improve their teaching." It also "enables students to take responsibility for their own learning, and identify areas where they do well and where they need help." This kind of assessment can be conducted formally or informally, through a range of strategies including questioning students to determine their level of understanding, and it can occur at any time during the teaching and learning process – before, during or after lessons. It provides students with immediate feedback and teachers with bases for making instructional decisions, but it does not contribute to grades, which are determined by summative assessment at the end of a unit of learning. The value of formative assessment lies in the information it provides to the teacher and the learner during the learning process.

ACTRC’s Formative Assessment project began in 2013 and Phase 1 of its research was conducted in classrooms in the National Capital Region in early 2014. Lesson observations and narratives were used to identify a baseline in formative assessment practice. Although this study identified some formative assessment practices in classrooms it also identified some common inhibiting factors such as large class sizes, established lesson structures – usually concluding with a formal assessment – and curriculum pressures for teachers to move on to subsequent topics. The study noted, however, that the teachers followed system-wide instructions closely, suggesting that systemic change would be achievable. This study has now been published as ‘Formative Assessment Policy and Its Enactment in the Philippines’ in D. Laveault and L. Allal (Eds.), Assessment for Learning: Meeting the Challenge of Implementation (Springer, 2016).
Following the release of DepEd Order 8, Phase 2 of the Formative Assessment project collected data in the Visayas and Mindanao in early to mid 2016. It identified the same classroom factors as were identified in Phase 1 but the observations of formative assessment practice were conducted with a new tool, developed specifically for Philippine classrooms, which identified more formative assessment practices than had been found in 2014. This finding may have been due to the intervening implementation of DepEd Order 8 or may indicate that the tool allowed existing practices to be captured more accurately. The finding shows that many teachers are identifying discrepancies between the intended lesson and different levels of student understanding and providing additional information to allow students to complete tasks. Some teachers are adjusting teaching strategies in response to student progress and directly addressing issues of conceptual understanding. Some teachers are also helping students become evaluators of their own learning and facilitators in the evaluation of their peers.

The distribution of lessons across four levels of formative assessment practice, as determined by the tool, is shown in the graph below. Lessons were classified in two ways: the level achieved and, for some lessons, the level attempted. In the graph, the 'Achieved' level shows the highest level of formative assessment observed. The 'Attempted' level indicates that some aspects of the level were observed during the lesson but not enough to consider the level to have been achieved. All the lessons could be classified as having achieved a level of formative assessment practice as described by the tool. Seventy per cent could also be classified as having attempted a higher level.
This evidence of formative assessment practices in Philippine classrooms suggests that progress is being made in this key component of the K-12 reform. Classroom assessment is being slowly transformed to include greater recognition of student progress and adaptive teaching to improve the achievement of students at all levels. We look forward to reporting on further enhancements to classroom practice in future newsletters.
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Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre · Unit 3 & 4, Ground Floor, Building 1, Centennial Dormitory, Albarracin Hall · E. Jacinto Street corner C.P. Garcia Avenue, University of the Philippines, Diliman · Quezon City 1101 · Philippines

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