د/ايمان زغلول قاسم

استاذ تكنولوجيا التعليم المساعد بكلية التربية بالزلفي

book B94

7.1.2 Learning Theories and the Role of Feedback
It is remarkable that most literature about assessment approaches rarely makes explicit
the theoretical assumptions about learning (Stobart, 2008). For example, the results of a recent
review on formative assessment suggest that the studies which clearly relate formative
assessment to a learning theory are scarce (Sluijsmans, Joosten-ten Brinke, & Van der
Vleuten, submitted). Implementing a system-wide formative assessment approach requires an
alignment of assessment practices, which starts with an understanding of the learning theories
behind currently dominant approaches (Elwood, 2006). We considered five learning theories
relevant to our comparison of the three assessment approaches, as these are most prominent in
the current assessment literature: Neo-behaviourism, cognitivism, meta-cognitivism, social
cultural theory, and (social) constructivism (Boekaerts & Simmons, 1995; Stobart, 2008;
Thurlings, Vermeulen, Bastiaens, & Stijnen, 2013; Verhofstadt-Denève, Van Geert, & Vyt,
2003).
The formative concept originates from neo-behaviourism, as introduced by Bloom,
Hastings, and Madaus (1971). Starting from the 1930s, this had been the dominant theory of
learning, which has focused on behavioural rather than cognitive mechanisms of learning
(Stobart, 2008; Verhofstadt-Denève et al., 2003). Assessment emphasises memorisation of
facts, and feedback is intended to reinforce correct recall of these facts (Hattie & Gan, 2011;
Narciss, 2008). These facts are seen as independent of the context in which they have been
taught (Stobart, 2008).
On the contrary, cognitivists such as Piaget focus on changes in cognitive structures
rather than in behaviour (Verhofstadt-Denève et al., 2003). Cognitivism highlights
information processing and knowledge representation in the memory, rather than learning
mechanisms (Shuell, 1986). Because the outcome of learning is still behavioural change, the
accompanying assessment and teaching practice are primarily of a retroactive nature, meaning
that remediation is used to redirect the learning process and promote learning (Stobart, 2008).
Feedback is often intended to correct incorrect responses (Kulhavy & Stock, 1989; Thurlings
et al., 2013). However, the characteristics of the learner and the task are taken into account.
An expert usually provides the feedback to a passive learner (Evans, 2013).
In meta-cognitivism, the emphasis is on learning how to learn and regulating the
learning processes by regularly providing feedback (Butler & Winne, 1995). Assessment is
aimed at metacognitive knowledge and skills. The feedback message is usually about how the
learner learns, rather than about what the learner learns (Brown, 1987; Stobart, 2008).
Vygotsky (1978) introduced the social cultural theory of learning, in which feedback
in the form of scaffolding is the most important learning mechanism for acquiring knowledge
and skills. Scaffolding is the mechanism in which sociocultural environments facilitate
learners‘ use of knowledge and skills, which they are not yet able to apply on their own.
Through social interactions and dialogues between the learner and the teachers, or his or her
peers, the learner internalises the knowledge and skills. Vygotsky believed that to promote
student learning, assessments should focus on what students are able to learn, rather than what
they have learned so far (Verhofstadt-Denève et al., 2003). Although Vygotsky‘s theory
resulted in an international shift in teaching practices, retroactive assessment practices, which
focus on remediation, have remained popular (Elwood, 2006; Stobart, 2008). Thus, although
Data-Based Decision Making, Assessment for Learning, and Diagnostic Testing in Formative
Assessment
159
learning is seen as a sociocultural interactive activity, assessment remains mostly an
individual activity.

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