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Just assessment in school: Pupils´ conceptions in Sweden and Germany. Patterns of interactional justice.
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of pedagogy.
2015 (English)In: ECER 2015, Education and Transition. Contributions from Educational Research, Network: 7. Social Injustice and Intercultural Education, 2015Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

For pupils, being assessed and receiving grades is an everyday experience. At the same time, it is one of the most relevant sources of perceived injustice at school (Fan, Chan 1999). Besides the pedagogical purposes of pupil assessment grades are used for selection purposes when it comes to the distribution of access to further educational opportunities. Pupils use and need grades, summarized in certificates, in order to compete for e.g. access to further educational opportunities or attractive employment. In this way, school certificates and grades are exchanged for life chances (Waldow 2010). The grades’ relevance for the further life chances becomes most obvious at certain transition points within the educational system. For example, in Sweden, pupils´ grades at the end of lower secondary schooling are important in terms of which further upper secondary schooling track pupils can attend – an academic track that qualifies for higher educational studies or a vocational track that qualifies for non-academic employment.

Therefore, school achievement, expressed in grades, as an indicator for supposed qualification is used to legitimize the selective distribution of life chances (Hadjar 2008). This is common to meritocratic societies that follow the normative ideal of distribution by merit, as it is considered illegitimate letting ascriptive criteria like e.g. gender and sociocultural background steer the distribution. 

Though western societies strive for the distribution of life chances on the basis of merit, research shows that ascriptive criteria and non-performance criteria matter in teachers´ assessment practice (Lindahl 2007). This fact raises the question about justice and how assessment and grading are perceived by those who are directly concerned with the consequences - the pupils. Too little is known about how pupils perceive assessment and grading (Brown 2008), particularly when it comes to the dimension of justice. There is a need for more detailed knowledge about which justice conceptions pupils hold regarding assessment and in how far contextual aspects matter.

This paper will present the objectives and the approach of an ongoing study on “Just assessment in school – pupils´ conceptions in Sweden and Germany”. The project investigates which justice conceptions pupils from both contexts hold regarding assessment, what can be seen as the relevant aspects and conditions of perceived (in-)justice and why just assessment in general is perceived as important.

The paper will present the study along with some preliminary results based on six Focus Group Interviews with Swedish pupils attending grade nine, focusing on the role of interaction for pupils´ justice conceptions (Bies, Moag 1986).

Method

Due to the explorative character of the study and the assumed contextuality of pupils´ justice conceptions, the study that is presented is on the one hand framed by the principles applying for contextual comparative educational research (Steiner-Khamsi 2010) and on the other hand by those which apply to qualitative educational research in common and Grounded Theory Methodology (Glaser, Strauss 1967; Strauss, Corbin 1990) in particular. It is assumed that the diverging contexts in which Swedish and German pupils´ assessment experiences are embedded have an impact on their justice conceptions (Greenberg 2001). Therefore, the comparison has to be done in a contextually sensitive way (Steiner-Khamsi 2010). This should also help the researcher to avoid oversimplifications through comparison. The aim of the study is to develop a middle-range theory about pupils´ justice conceptions that is grounded in data (Glaser, Strauss 1967; Strauss, Corbin 1990). The research process is an iterative one, where the researcher is constantly moving back and forth between data collection and analysis, successively developing theoretical abstractions. As the end of lower secondary schooling marks an important transition point in both countries, where grades play a vital role, the sample includes pupils attending this level in both countries. The data are collected through Focus Group interviews (Krueger 1994; Morgan 1988), meaning that data are collected where the issue is normally discussed – in the peer group.

Expected Outcomes

The comparative study is expected to provide a theory about pupils´ justice conceptions regarding assessment that allows us to understand more about how pupils perceive assessment and grading in terms of justice and which conditions contribute to a perception of (in-)justice. As the study is still ongoing, first preliminary findings about Swedish pupils´ justice conceptions will be presented.

References

Bies, R.; Moag, J. S. (1986): Interactional justice: Communication criteria of fairness. In Roy Lewicki, Blair et al (Ed.) Sheppard (Eds.): Research on negotiation in organizations, pp. 43–55. Brown, Gavin T. L. (2008): Conceptions of Assessment: Understanding What Assessment Means to Teachers and Students. New York: Nova Science Publishers. Fan, Ruth M.; Chan, Silver (1999): Students’ perceptions of just and unjust experiences in school. In Educational and Child Psychology 16 (4), pp. 32–50. Glaser, Barney G.; Strauss, Anselm L. (1967): The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine Pub. Co. Greenberg, Jerald (2001): Studying Organizational Justice Cross-Culturally: Fundamental Challenges. In International Journal of Conflict Management 12 (4), pp. 365–375. Krueger, Richard A. (1994): Focus groups. A Practical Guide for Applied Research. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications. Lindahl, Erica (2007): Gender and ethnic interactions among teachers and students: Evidence from Sweden. IFAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation (25). Available online at http://www.ifau.se/Upload/pdf/se/2007/wp07-25.pdf, checked on 23/11/2014. Morgan, David L. (1988): Focus Groups as Qualitative Research. Newbury Park, Calif: Sage Publications. Steiner-Khamsi, Gita (2010): The Politics and Economics of Comparison. In Comparative Education Review 54 (3), pp. 323–342. Strauss, Anselm L.; Corbin, Juliet M. (1990): Basics of Qualitative Research. Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. 3rd ed. Los Angeles, Calif: Sage Publications. Waldow, Florian (2010): Bedömningens roll i fördelningen av livschanser i Tyskland och Sverige. In Folke-Fichtelius, Lundahl (Eds.): Bedömning i och av skolan. Praktik, principer, politik. 1st ed. Lund: Studentlitteratur AB, pp. 111–128.

This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
Keyword [en]
justice, assessment, conceptions, interaction
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences, Pedagogics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-46325OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-46325DiVA: diva2:854109
Conference
European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Budapest, September 7-11, 2015
Available from: 2015-09-15 Created: 2015-09-15 Last updated: 2015-10-20Bibliographically approved

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