The influence of formative assessment on secondary school students’ autonomous motivation for biology
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This mixed approach study focusses on the influences of teacher’s formative assessment (FA) practices on secondary school student’s autonomous motivation for biology. Using the five key strategies of FA, feed-up, feedback, feed-forward, peer-feedback and self-assessment, as described by the Assessment for Learning discourse, three biology teachers were observed in class on their use of these strategies. A broader questionnaire was also administered to compare the teachers’ use of FA to that of the average of Dutch secondary school teachers. To assess developments in student motivation in line with the Self-Determination Theory framework, a Self-Regulation questionnaire on distinct motivational constructs was administered at the start and end of the three month study period in the five observed classes (students aged 12-15). FA-effects mentioned in teacher interviews and student focus groups were coded in terms of being supportive or thwarting of the three basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness, required to become autonomously motivated. Results show individual differences between teachers in their use of FA strategies, although feedback is clearly used most often by all three. Findings from interviews and focus groups indicate that use of formative assessment strategies in secondary biology education, especially feedback, supports the psychological needs for competence and autonomy. However the students’ score on motivational constructs (i.e. controlled vs. autonomous) did not change significantly over a three month time-span. The findings are discussed on their implications for educational practice and future research.