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Using formative assessment despite the constraints of high stakes testing and limited resources: A case study of chemistry teachers in Anglophone Cameroon

Dissertation
Author: George Viche Akom
Abstract:
Formative assessment, as a strategy used to improve student learning, encounters several obstacles in its implementation. This study explores changes in teachers' views and practices as they are introduced to formative assessment in a high stakes testing and limited resource environment. The study examines the extent to which teachers use the technique of formative assessment to engage students in authentic learning even while not sacrificing high test scores on summative assessments. A case study methodology was employed to address the research topic. Science teachers in the West African country of Cameroon were engaged in a process of lesson planning and implementation to collaboratively build lessons with large amounts of formative assessment. Qualitative data from written surveys, group discussions, classroom and workshop observations, and from teacher reflections reveal the extent to which lesson fidelity is preserved from views to planning to implementation. The findings revealed that though the teachers possess knowledge of a variety of assessment methods they do not systematically use these methods to collect information which could help in improving student learning. Oral questioning remained the dominant method of student assessment. The study also showed that the teachers made minimal to big changes depending on the particular aspect of formative assessment being considered. For aspects which needed just behavioral adaptations, the changes were significant but for those which needed acquisition of more pedagogic knowledge and skills the changes were minimal. In terms of constraints in the practice of formative assessment, the teachers cited large class size and lack of teaching materials as common ones. When provided with the opportunity to acquire teaching materials, however, they did not effectively utilize the opportunity. The study revealed a need for the acquisition of inquiry skills by the teachers which can serve as a platform for the implementation of formative assessment. Another implication of the findings is for teacher professional development to be on-going and classroom-based providing opportunities for teachers to experience and try new teaching methods.

TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii LIST OF TABLES xi LIST OF FIGURES xiii CHAPTER I. ABOUT THIS STUDY 1 Introduction 1 Background of the Study 1 What is Formative Assessment? 2 Cameroon: Brief History and Geography 5 General Education in Anglophone Cameroon 6 Secondary Teacher Training in Cameroon 8 Statement of the Problem 10 Research Questions 13 Significance of the Study 14 Overview of the Methodology 15 Conclusions 16 II. LITERATURE REVIEW 18 Introduction 18 Assessment and Formative Assessment 18 Formative Assessment: Differences with Summative Assessment 20 iii

Table of Contents—continued CHAPTER Models of Formative Assessment 25 Methods of Collecting Information about Student Learning 28 Feedback in Formative Assessment 33 Obstacles to the Use of Formative Assessment 37 Improving Formative Assessment Practice 39 Reducing Obstacles 39 Involving Students in the Assessment Process 40 Changing Teachers' Formative Assessment Practice 43 Professional Development and Formative Assessment Literacy 43 Conclusion 48 III. METHODOLOGY 49 Introduction 49 Research Paradigm and Methodology 49 Study Participants 50 Research Procedure 52 Questionnaire 53 Group Discussion 53 Lesson Observation and Interviews 53 Assessment Workshop 55 Lesson Planning and Implementation Process 59 iv

Table of Contents—continued CHAPTER Follow-up Study 61 Data Analysis 62 Questionnaire 62 Group Discussion, Lesson Observations, and Individual Interviews 62 Assessment Workshop 63 Research Lessons, Post Lesson Discussions, and Reflections 64 Follow-up Study (Lesson Plans, Implementation, and Reflections) 65 IV. FINDINGS 66 Introduction 66 Assessment Questionnaire: Teachers' Views of Assessment 66 Collection and Use of Assessment Information 69 Teacher Feedback 72 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 74 The Final Eight Participants of the Study 75 Group Discussion: Teachers' Views of Assessment 76 Collection and Use of Assessment Information 77 Teacher Feedback 84 Involving Students in the Assessment Process 84 Summary of Teachers' Views from Questionnaires and Group Discussion 87 Lesson Observations and Interviews 88 v

Table of Contents—continued CHAPTER General Lesson Format 88 Collection of Assessment Information 90 Use of Assessment Information 95 Teacher Feedback 96 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 97 Assessment Workshop: Teachers' Views and Shifts in Views 98 Classroom Vignettes Activity 101 Questioning Activity 102 Interpreting Students' Work and Giving Feedback Activity 104 Teacher Feedback 105 End-of-Workshop Reflections 106 Lessons Learned from the Workshop 107 Summary of Views and Practice from Observed Lessons and Workshop 112 Lesson Planning and Implementation 113 Lesson Observation: Group 1 - Lesson 1 113 Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 113 Collection of Assessment Information 114 Teacher Feedback 115 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 116 Post-Lesson Discussion 117 VI

Table of Contents—continued CHAPTER Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 117 Information Collection Methods 117 Teacher Feedback 118 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 119 Lesson Observation: Group 1 - Lesson 2 120 Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 120 Collection of Assessment Information 120 Teacher Feedback 122 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 122 Lesson Observation: Group 2 - Lesson 1 122 Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 123 Collection of Assessment Information 123 Teacher Feedback 124 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 125 Post-Lesson Discussion 125 Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 125 Collection of Assessment Information 126 Teacher Feedback 127 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 127 Lesson Observation: Group 2 - Lesson 2 127 vii

Table of Contents—continued CHAPTER Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 127 Collection of Assessment Information 128 Teacher Feedback 129 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 130 End of Cycle Discussion 130 Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 130 Collection of Assessment Information 131 Teacher Feedback 132 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 133 End of Cycle Reflections 134 Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 134 Collection of Assessment Information 136 Teacher Feedback 137 Difficulties 138 Teacher Recommendations 140 Summary of Lesson Planning and Implementation Process 142 The Follow-up Phase 143 Lesson Plans 143 Lesson Observations 144 Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 144 viii

Table of Contents—continued CHAPTER Collection of Assessment Information 148 Teacher Feedback 149 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 150 Teachers' Individual Reflections on the Follow-up Lessons 151 Use of Formative Assessment Cycle 151 Collection of Assessment Information 153 Teacher Feedback 155 Student Involvement in the Assessment Process 156 Summary of Follow-up Phase.. 160 IV. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS 162 Introduction 162 Revisiting the Research Problem 162 Conclusions to Research Questions 164 Teachers' Initial Views and Practice with Respect to Assessment 164 Changes in Teachers' Views and Practice with Respect to Assessment.. 166 Difficulties Encountered by Teachers and Help Needed 169 Conclusions about Research Problem 170 Implications for Theory, Practice, and Policy 173 Formative Assessment within the Inquiry Cycle 173 Professional Development for (Formative) Assessment Literacy 177 ix

Table of Contents—continued Policy and Implementation of Formative Assessment 180 Limitations 182 Further Research 183 REFERENCES 185 APPENDICES 191 A. HSIRB Approval Letter 191 B. Consent Form 1 193 C. Consent Form 2 196 D. Assessment Questionnaire 198 E. Classroom Vignettes 200 F. Classroom Vignettes Activity Sheet 203 G. Hinged Mirrors and Floating Eggs Activity Instruction Sheet 205 H. Student Work Samples: Sound 207 I. Comparing Generic and Specific Indicators of Ideas 209 J. Student Work Sample: Crayfish 211 K. Assessing Ideas Activity Sheet 213 L. Effective Feedback Activity Sheet 215 M. Some Do's and Don'ts of Evaluating Student Work 217 N. Follow-up Study Questionnaire 219 x

LIST OF TABLES 1. Main Differences between Formative and Summative Assessment 24 2. Summary of Classroom Assessment Options 29 3. Question Types 31 4. Categorizations of Feedback 34 5. Feedback Sub-categories 35 6. Summary of Data Collection Procedure 52 7. Data Collected 54 8. Summary of Lesson Planning and Implementation Process 59 9. Methods of Assessment 67 10. Information Collected 70 11. Use of Assessment Information 71 12. Feedback Type 72 13. Peer and Self Assessment , 74 14. Summary Table of Final Eight Participants 75 15. Assessment Methods Used by the Teachers 77 16. Ways in Which Assessment Information is Used 81 17. Summary of Classroom Vignette Responses 99 18. Subject-centered Questions 103 19. Person-centered Questions 103 20. Process-centered Questions 103 xi

List of Tables—continued 21. Interpretation of Students' Work , 104 22. Teachers' Written Feedback 105 23. Lesson Learned from Assessment Workshop 107 24. Specific Assessment Aspects to Use 108 25. Reasons for Using Aspects of Formative Assessment 109 26. Possible Obstacles/Difficulties in Using Formative Assessment 110 27. Teachers'Needs and Support 110 28. Aspects of Oral Questioning Group 1: Lesson 1 114 29. Aspects of Oral Questioning Group 1: Lesson 2 121 30. Aspects of oral Questioning Group 2: Lesson 1 124 31. Aspects of Oral Questioning Group 2: Lesson 2 129 32. Formative Assessment Aspects Learned 135 33. Difficulties Expressed by the Teachers 138 34. Recommendations 141 35. Summary of Lesson Plans 145 36. Observation of Individaul Lessons 146 37. Aspects of Oral Questioning from Individual Lessons 149 38. Summary Table of Teachers' Reflections on Follow-up Lessons 158 xii

LIST OF FIGURES 1. Geographical Location of Cameroon 5 2. Anglophone Cameroon Education System 7 3. Formative Assessment Cycle 22 4. Summative Assessment 23 5. Planned Formative Assessment 27 6. Interactive Formative Assessment 27 7. Wait Time 1 and 2 32 8. Feedback Continuum 36 9. Lesson Study Process 47 10. Outline of Formative Assessment Workshop 57 11. Summary of Data Collection and Analysis 65 12. The Learning Cycle 175 13. Formative Assessment within the Learning Cycle 176 14. Phases of the Change Process 179 15. Proposed Trajectory of Teacher Formative Assessment Change 180 16. Suggestion for Attainment of Assessment Literacy in Cameroon 182 xiii

1 CHAPTER I ABOUT THIS STUDY Introduction This chapter provides the background of the study. It presents an overview of the concept of formative assessment and its importance. The context of the study is outlined by presenting a brief history and geography of Cameroon, the general system of education in Anglophone Cameroon, and models of secondary teacher education in Cameroon. The chapter also discusses the research problem, states the main research questions as well as the significance of the study. Background of the Study Educational researchers (e.g. Angelo, 1990; Atkin, Black & Coffey, 2001; Harlen, 2003; Chappius, 2005; Leahy, Lyon, Thompson & Wiliam, 2005) generally agree that in order to promote learning, teachers and learners need to have an idea of what their goals are, where they are in the process of achieving these goals, and what strategies they can use to progress towards these goals. Knowing about students' existing ideas and skills, and recognizing the point where they are in development and the necessary steps to take (Harlen & James, 1997) constitutes what has been termed classroom assessment, formative assessment or assessment for learning. For the context of this study, the preferred term will be formative assessment though it may be used interchangeably with assessment for learning. Formative assessment is valuable in that it provides information on how students are progressing. This makes it possible for teachers to adjust their

2 teaching and also helps students realize where they are in terms of their desired goals and how to work towards them. Many teachers, for a number of reasons discussed later, do not practice formative assessment. This results in many missed opportunities to enhance student learning. Educational researchers (e.g. Stiggins, 2002) have called for more investments in formative assessment in order to make assessment balanced. In Cameroon, with the presence of high stakes testing, limited teacher training, and teaching and learning resources, the situation may be further complicated. This study examines the changes and adaptations that chemistry teachers in Anglophone Cameroon, who are faced with such constraints, make as they introduced to the concept and practice of formative assessment. The study also looks at the difficulties and constraints that these teachers face in their practice of formative assessment with a view of guiding future efforts in teacher professional development. What is Formative Assessment? Formative assessment, when used appropriately, is incorporated into classroom instruction and aims at enhancing student learning. It stands in contrast to other types of assessments which are primarily used to assign grades or meet certain accountability demands of an external body. According to Angelo (1990), assessment for learning is a straightforward, learner-centered approach that uses assessment to improve teaching and learning in the classroom. Black and Wiliam (1998b) use the term formative assessment which they define as, "all those activities undertaken by teachers and their students [that] provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities

3 in which they are engaged" (p. 7). Harlen (2003) refers to formative assessment as the "gathering and use of information about students' ongoing learning by both teachers and students to modify teaching and learning activities" (p. 7). From these definitions, and other formative assessment literature, key elements of formative assessment include: • agreement by both teachers and students on learning goals, and criteria for achievement, • active engagement of students in their own learning, • provision of effective feedback to students, • and adjusting teaching strategies to take account of identified learning needs and strengths (Black & Wiliam, 1998b; Steadman, 1998; Shepard, 2000; Stiggins, 1992; Marshall, 2005). The value of formative assessment has been well documented. Research has shown that the use of formative assessment increases student achievement and closes the achievement gap amongst students (Black & Wiliam, 1998b; OECD, 2005; Marshall, 2005) more than other factors such as class-size reduction or increases in teachers' content knowledge, and at a fraction of the cost (Wiliam, 2007; Wiliam & Thompson, 2007). Black and Wiliam (1998a) reviewed 250 articles and chapters on formative assessment research and found that there was evidence that formative assessment is directly linked to learning gains and that the gains are "significant and often substantial" (p. 3). From their research, they concluded that formative assessment "helps low achievers more than other students and so reduces the ranges of achievement while raising achievement overall" (p. 3). Formative assessment help students' develop "learning to learn" skills by involving students as partners in the learning process and

4 emphasizing peer-assessment and self-assessment skills (OECD, 2005). Marshall (2005) sees formative assessment as benefiting not only students but also teachers and administrators as "teachers can monitor the effectiveness of their instruction and adjust their work based on solid student achievement data" (p. 3) while administrators can use formative assessment "to monitor individual school performance and provide assistance and intervention as necessary" (p. 3). Formative assessment requires that teachers must know what their students are to learn and how they should go about teaching it. Teachers should, therefore, have an understanding of the discipline, how to organize its concepts and what tools to use (Jones and Moreland, 2005). Teachers need to know if the students are reaching the set learning goals. This implies making judgments of students' work (where they started from, where they are and where they need to be). Teachers, therefore, need to notice, recognize and respond to students thinking during classroom interactions. To make valid judgments about students' work, teachers need to interpret the information they are able to gather about student learning. A good knowledge of the conceptual terrain becomes very important at this point. Teachers' knowledge of the subject matter guides them on what to focus on in their teaching. It also affects the decisions they make on what pedagogical strategies to use (Jones and Moreland, 2005). This is important since each subject has its peculiarities. According to Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, & Wiliam (2004) even aspects such as questioning and interpreting of students responses require a detailed knowledge of the subject as well as an understanding of the kinds of difficulties that students might have. Thus, the general principles of formative assessment apply across all subjects but may manifest themselves

in different subjects in different ways. Teachers, therefore, need to have a clear knowledge of the concepts they are exploring and also a pedagogical understanding of how to help the students learn them. With sufficient content and pedagogical knowledge, teachers can notice, recognize and respond to students work in a productive fashion. Cameroon: Brief History and Geography This study will take place in the context of teacher professional development in Cameroon. Cameroon is located in 'Central-West' Africa (Figure 1), and is commonly described as "Africa in miniature" because it exhibits most of the major climates and I G E R I CENTRAL AFRI CAN REPUBLIC Tikft. .Douala ®YAOUNDE ifctwa ,' Kiibi EQUATORIAL S'UIMEA lGABON REP, CP THE CONGO J Figure 1: Geographical Location of Cameroon (The World Fact Book, 2008)

6 vegetations of the continent. Cameroon lies between latitudes two degree north and longitudes nine degrees east and sixteen degrees east of the Greenwich Meridian (UNESCO, 1995). The land surface is about 475,000 square kilometers, and is covered by diverse landscapes, fauna and flora (UNESCO, 1995). The population is estimated at 18.5 million (The World Fact Book, 2008). A former German colony, annexed in 1884, Cameroon became two mandated territories governed by France and Great Britain under the supervision of the League of Nations and later became trusteeships under the United Nations. After Independence in 1960 for French Cameroon and 1961 for British Cameroon, both sectors were reunified under a Federal system of government. Later through a referendum in 1972 a unitary government was formed. Cameroon is divided into ten administrative regions, with Francophones (eight of the regions) constituting about 71% while the Anglophones (two of the regions) make up the remaining 29%. Economy-wise, Cameroon's oil resources and favorable agricultural conditions helps in ranking her among the intermediate states in Africa (Tchombe, 2001) with a per capita GDP of about 2300 US dollars in 2006 (AfDB/OECD, 2007). General Education in Anglophone Cameroon Two distinct systems of education (Francophone and Anglophone systems) exist in Cameroon with two different sets of structures, programs, and examination practices modeled after the French and British educational systems. In Anglophone Cameroon, with respect to general education, there is a 6-5-2 system, with six years in primary school, five at the secondary level and two in high school (Figure 2). Up to the third year

7 of secondary school all the students take every subject but from the fourth year the students choose a science or an arts concentration. Higher Education (Professional Schools and Universities) Senior Secondary Education (High School) Upper Sixth Form Lower Sixth Form Secondary Education Primary Education Form 5 Form 4 Form 3 Form 2 Form 1 Class 6 Class 5 Class 4 Class 3 Class 2 Class 1 Figure 2: Anglophone Cameroon Education System Evaluation and certification at the end of each level of education requires students to sit for certificate examinations. At the primary level Anglophone students take the First School Leaving Certificate (FLSC) examination while at the secondary level they sit for the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level (GCE "O" Level) and General

8 Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE "A" Level) at the end of high school. The system of education in Cameroon is therefore highly examination oriented with teachers teaching specifically for examinations (Tchombe, 2001). This greatly influences teaching and learning and it is these examinations that form the basis for making value statements about educational outcomes. Secondary Teacher Training in Cameroon As concerns secondary teacher education, Tambo (1995) identifies two major models in Cameroon: the non-formal and the formal models. Tambo (1995) describes the non-formal model as being similar to in-service education in the United States. It is different, though, in that it is the effort by the Cameroon Government to meet the short- term needs of secondary schools in terms of teacher supply. Over the years, the acute shortage of qualified teachers in secondary schools resulted in the government recruiting university graduates with bachelor's degrees in specific subjects to teach in secondary schools. This means they begin teaching with almost no pedagogic training. However, there exist professional teacher associations in different subject disciplines in which these teachers can participate in seminars and workshops organized by government inspectors and various teacher groups. Therefore, for many teachers, the bulk of their teacher education follows employment and is through participation in the activities of these professional associations in their respective disciplines and their personal efforts. Tambo (1995) describes the formal model as based on the initial education program at Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS), (Higher Teachers' Training College). Selection of students into the first cycle of ENS is by an entrance examination which is

9 taken by holders of the GCE "A" Level, and between the ages of 17 and 30 years. For the second cycle, the candidate must be a holder of a bachelor's degree or equivalent from a recognized university and should be between the ages of 20 and 32 years. The training program consists of theory or content acquisition in the student's discipline or specialization, pedagogy, and psychology, as well as field experiences or teaching practice in schools. The program lasts three years for the first cycle and two years for the second cycle. At the end of these respective periods, the candidates are required to take a final examination in their areas of specialization. They are also examined for teaching skills by their professors, government inspectors, and selected classroom teachers in the secondary schools in which the students are doing their teaching practice. In addition, second cycle students are required to submit a thesis. The successful candidates at the end of this process receive certification for teaching at their respective levels at the secondary school and are duly posted to the different schools where they begin teaching. Private schools (which include both denominational and lay private schools) also rely heavily on university graduates with no training in teaching. Just like with the other teachers in the government schools they have to rely on some form of in-service training. According to Tambo (2001) the situation is even worsened by the reluctance of church education authorities to employ teachers trained by public training institutions. The Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) and the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC) in co-operation with the German Development Service (DED) have in recent years developed a more elaborate in-service training program for secondary school teachers.

10 The program which initially started as an in-service training program for secondary science teachers has been extended to other subjects. Statement of the Problem From formal to non-formal teacher training, assessment training is generally focused on preparing and grading of tests and examinations. In formal training, this is usually in the form of a single course on measurement and evaluation or as part of course in curriculum and instruction. This means not enough time is devoted to helping teachers develop the type of skills that will enable them help students acquire deep learning. Opanya & Toure (2003) report that, even in cases where teachers are trained, classroom activities are still characterized by some form of "rigidity" whereby teachers are dominant and the pupils are passive. According to Opanya & Toure (2003) the situation is made more complicated by large and unmanageable classes and the unavailability or poor quality of material resources. Kellaghan & Greaney (2004) reports the situation in Tanzania and other countries where little or no homework was assigned due to the lack of textbooks. Large class size made it difficult for teachers to look at students' work and subsequently no comments were provided or problems were not identified in the students' work. An additional problem is the constraint imposed by high stakes testing systems such as that of the GCE in Cameroon. In a review paper on assessment and examinations in Africa, Kellaghan & Greaney (2003) enumerate some of the following problems which are associated to high stakes examinations in African countries, Cameroon included:

11 • Assessment is largely limited to assessing lower-level skills with the result that teaching follows the same path especially as teachers may not be adequately prepared to teach in ways that will facilitate the development of higher-order and transferable skills especially in the science curriculum. • Examination statistics are published for each school and zone making it possible for schools to see where they are with respect to other schools in the same area. Parents use this information to "shop" for good schools for their children using the performance of each school in the examinations as "evidence". • By focusing on what is examined, curriculum areas that are not examined receive less attention when it comes to teaching leading to a narrowing of the curriculum. • Teaching and learning strategies are fashioned so as to achieve the best results on these examinations. Teachers tend to rely on drill methods which promote rote learning and are generally encouraged to do so because their reputations depend on how well their pupils perform in their subjects in the examinations. Faced with such constraints as high stakes testing, large class size, and inadequate material resources, teachers fail to systematically collect information about students' learning and are unable to help students move towards deep learning. Teachers hardly use high stakes examinations as a means of improving instruction and learning as they serve mostly for the purposes of accountability. Many teachers hold beliefs about assessment, developed during their times as students (Marsh, 2007), which may influence their assessment practices. According to Pajares (1992), clusters of beliefs around a particular situation, in this case assessment, form attitudes which become action agendas that guide

12 teachers' classroom decisions and behavior. In some cases, the teachers do not even possess the knowledge needed to carry out formative assessment. Stiggins (2002) provides an explanation of the state of assessment which he refers to as a crisis in assessment: Student achievement suffers because once-a-year tests are incapable of providing teachers with the moment-to-moment and day-to-day information about student achievement that they need to make crucial instructional decisions. The problem is that teachers are unable to gather or effectively use dependable information on student achievement each day because of the drain of resources for excessive standardized testing. There are no resources left to train teachers to create and conduct appropriate classroom assessments. For the same reasons, administrators have not been trained to build assessment systems that balance standardized tests and classroom assessments. As a direct result of these chronic, long-standing problems, our classroom, school, and national assessment systems remain in constant crisis, and students suffer the consequences (p. 2). Stiggins (2008) asserts that though teachers and administrators alike, need to know and understand how to assess effectively, no teacher or administrator training program includes this kind of training. Stiggins (2008) states that "tools" are now readily available to change this and teach sound assessment practices by modeling these tools. The problem this study will be addressing is that of the absence of formative assessment and teachers' lack of formative assessment skills which hampers learning in science classrooms in Anglophone Cameroon. The study explores science teachers' initial views and practices as related to classroom assessment as well as the changes they undergo through professional development as they plan and implement lessons. This has not previously been done in a context like Cameroon with the significant constraints of high stakes testing, large class size, and inadequate material resources. The study identifies the strategies that the teachers adopt in their use of formative assessment in their classrooms when faced with these constraints. The study also identifies the

13 challenges they face during the course of this process and the possible support needed by the teachers in order for them to succeed. This project takes a knowledge base approach to professional development. With knowledge base approaches to professional development, teachers draw from their shared knowledge base to improve their practice. Together they examine their students' learning of the curriculum, interpreting their students' conceptions and misconceptions, and plotting their students' learning trajectories, or devise alternative teaching practices that are more effective in helping their students master the curriculum (Hiebert, Gallimore & Stigler, 2002). Lesson study, an example of the knowledge base approach, is a professional development process initiated by teachers during which they systematically examine their practice, with the goal of becoming more effective (Chokski, 2002). Teachers choose goals that focus on skills or dispositions that they want to foster in their classrooms, and in a particular content area. Teachers then generate research questions, which have to do with exploring how to develop these skills or dispositions. Alongside these skills and dispositions, specific content goals are also articulated for each study lesson. Lesson study may take on somewhat different forms and characteristics (Lewis, Perry & Murata, 2006). The professional development used in this study employed a variety of aspects from lesson study that involved teachers choosing, planning and teaching lessons in small groups. Research Questions The study will be guided by the following research questions:

Full document contains 240 pages
Abstract: Formative assessment, as a strategy used to improve student learning, encounters several obstacles in its implementation. This study explores changes in teachers' views and practices as they are introduced to formative assessment in a high stakes testing and limited resource environment. The study examines the extent to which teachers use the technique of formative assessment to engage students in authentic learning even while not sacrificing high test scores on summative assessments. A case study methodology was employed to address the research topic. Science teachers in the West African country of Cameroon were engaged in a process of lesson planning and implementation to collaboratively build lessons with large amounts of formative assessment. Qualitative data from written surveys, group discussions, classroom and workshop observations, and from teacher reflections reveal the extent to which lesson fidelity is preserved from views to planning to implementation. The findings revealed that though the teachers possess knowledge of a variety of assessment methods they do not systematically use these methods to collect information which could help in improving student learning. Oral questioning remained the dominant method of student assessment. The study also showed that the teachers made minimal to big changes depending on the particular aspect of formative assessment being considered. For aspects which needed just behavioral adaptations, the changes were significant but for those which needed acquisition of more pedagogic knowledge and skills the changes were minimal. In terms of constraints in the practice of formative assessment, the teachers cited large class size and lack of teaching materials as common ones. When provided with the opportunity to acquire teaching materials, however, they did not effectively utilize the opportunity. The study revealed a need for the acquisition of inquiry skills by the teachers which can serve as a platform for the implementation of formative assessment. Another implication of the findings is for teacher professional development to be on-going and classroom-based providing opportunities for teachers to experience and try new teaching methods.