Promoting Proximal Formative Assessment with Relational Discourse

R. E. Scherr, H. G. Close, and S. B. McKagan, "Promoting Proximal Formative Assessment with Relational Discourse," C. Singh, M. Sabella, and Engelhardt (Eds.), AIP Conf. Proc. (2011 Physics Education Research Conference)


The practice of proximal formative assessment – the continual, responsive attention to students’ developing understanding as it is expressed in real time – depends on students’ sharing their ideas with instructors and on teachers’ attending to them. Rogerian psychology presents an account of the conditions under which proximal formative assessment may be promoted or inhibited: (1) Normal classroom conditions, characterized by evaluation and attention to learning targets, may present threats to students’ sense of their own competence and value, causing them to conceal their ideas and reducing the potential for proximal formative assessment. (2) In contrast, discourse patterns characterized by positive anticipation and attention to learner ideas increase the potential for proximal formative assessment and promote self-directed learning. We present an analysis methodology based on these principles and demonstrate its utility for understanding episodes of university physics instruction.