Support for learning, and comparison
The Finnish assessment culture is strikingly different to the assessment culture of many Asian countries, for example. In Finland, the focus of assessment is not on testing and control, but rather on personal growth, learning, and positive feedback.
“Many parents emphasised even the ethical role of assessment in supporting pupils' participation, and they hoped that children wouldn’t have to act in a certain, adult-dictated manner, simply for the sake of assessment,” Nieminen says.
On the other hand, parents also wished for more numerical assessment and less pupil-oriented methods, because they felt that “a number speaks a thousand words” – to both children and adults. Parents also regarded numerical assessment as an easier way to compare children with each other, and as something that motivates the child.
“However, I dare to say that comparing children and adolescents who are in a sensitive age is not really helpful or motivating”, Atjonen says.
Parents play a role in the assessment process
Based on their findings, the researchers propose that schools should engage in an increasingly close dialogue with parents.
“Many of the recent changes in basic education assessment require that schools keep parents informed of current issues, but that is not enough. Assessment should be discussed face-to-face because it clarifies many things and increases mutual understanding. The results of this study, too, show that parents have many pedagogically important messages to schools,” Atjonen points out.
In the future, research could focus on developing teachers’, pupils’ and parents’ shared assessment competence.
“In order to achieve this, assessment should be made more visible to homes. Some schools have succeeded in this with, e.g., digital solutions, but we need research-based knowledge on other good practices as well,” Atjonen says.
Nieminen, J. H., Atjonen, P., & Remesal, A. (2021). Parents’ beliefs about assessment: A conceptual framework and findings from Finnish basic education. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 71, 101097. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2021.101097