Policy incentives in Canadian large-scale assessment: How policy levers influence teacher decisions about instructional change

Derek T. Copp

Abstract


Large-scale assessment (LSA) is a tool used by education authorities for several purposes, including the promotion of teacher-based instructional change. In Canada, all 10 provinces engage in large-scale testing across several grade levels and subjects, and also have the common expectation that the results data will be used to improve instruction in classrooms. Yet despite agreement between ministries that instructional change based on LSA results is a positive development and employs data-based decision making at its heart, there remain significant differences in the kinds of incentives written into assessment policies in Canada. It is also true that implementation of the policies is less than uniform between schools and school divisions. Using mixed methods (survey data and follow-up interviews), this study examines which policy factors have the most significant impact on teacher decisions regarding the use of data. The findings indicate that highly incentivized policies correlate well to instructional change including aspects of both teaching (to) the curriculum as well as teaching to the test. Since the latter will be examined as a neither an educationally defensible practice nor a stated policy goal, the statement that ‘incentives work’ does not fully capture the nature of these impacts.


Keywords


Educational assessment, decision making, reactivity, instructional improvement, education policy, Canada

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.25.3299

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