'The Inside View' Investigating the use of Narrative Assessment to Support Student Identity, Wellbeing, and Participation in Learning in a New Zealand secondary school.

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Theses / Dissertations
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Doctor of Philosophy
University of Canterbury. School of Educational Studies and Leadership
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Guerin, Annette Patricia

New Zealand education policies and documents (Ministry of Education, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011a, 2014a) situate students at the centre of assessment processes that are underpinned by the New Zealand Curriculum. They identify building student assessment capability as crucial to achieving improvement in learning. Documents recognize the impact of quality interactions and relationships on effective assessment. However these core beliefs about assessment are not observed to guide teaching practices for all students. Disabled students remain invisible in assessment data and practices within New Zealand secondary schools. There appears to be little or no assessment data about learning outcomes for this group of students. This thesis investigates possible ways to recognize the diversity of student capability and learning through the use of narrative assessment. It challenges the absence of disabled students in assessment landscapes as educator roles and responsibilities within assessment, teaching and learning are framed within an inclusive pedagogy.

This research project focuses on how a team of adults and two students labeled as disabled make sense of assessment and learning within the context of narrative assessment in the students’ regular high school. The project examines the consequences of narrative assessment on student identity, wellbeing and participation within learning. The study offers opportunities to observe how specialists from outside of the school respond to the use of narrative as they work with the two student research participants.

This study undertakes a critical inquiry that recognises the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi – partnership, protection and participation – as pivotal to inclusive practice where all students are valued as learners. It investigates how narrative assessment can honour these principles in everyday teaching practice.

The project aims to inform education policy and practice, with a view to enriching learning outcomes and opportunities for disabled students who are frequently marginalized by inequitable assessment processes.

It is argued that narrative assessment can support the construction of student identity and wellbeing. It can support the recognition of disabled students as partners in their learning. However the value of narrative assessment can be undermined by the responses of educators and other professionals who continue to work within deficit models of assessment, teaching and learning.

Within this thesis adult participants from family and education contexts have clear ideas about the value and validity of assessment practices and processes that do not respect a presumption of competence or a need to establish a relationship with a student being assessed. Their views challenge everyday practices that fulfill assessment contracts, but ignore Treaty of Waitangi and New Zealand Curriculum commitments. Their views can inform better ways of working between specialists and schools supporting disabled students.

assessment, inclusion, secondary school, disability
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ANZSRC fields of research
Copyright Annette Patricia Guerin