Formative Assessment as a Cultural Practice: The Use of Written Formative Assessment in Samoan Science Classrooms

  • Desmond Lee Hang
  • Beverley Bell


In this chapter, we locate formative assessment within the sociocultural theorising of teaching and, in particular, teaching as a cultural practice. We discuss the use of culturally appropriate formative assessment in some Samoan secondary science classrooms.

In Samoa, silence is a cultural practice which is often practised by students in response to being questioned by the teacher. It is not just a matter of the students being shy or lacking confidence in voicing their ideas for fear of being embarrassed if they are wrong. The silence is a cultural practice for communication. The silence needs to be addressed if the Western practice of verbal formative assessment is wanted to be done by the teacher in the classroom. This chapter reports on research done on the use of written worksheets to give feedback and feedforward in the Samoan context.


Science Teacher Student Teacher Formative Assessment Science Teacher Educator Responsive Teaching 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (2011). Samoa country brief. Accessed 9 Nov 2011.
  2. Bell, B. (2011). Theorising teaching in secondary classrooms: Understanding our practice from a sociocultural perspective. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, B., & Cowie, B. (2001). Formative assessment and science education. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  4. Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T., & Teddy, L. (2009). Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Maori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5), 734–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, T., Devine, N., Leslie, E., Paiti, M., Sila’ila’i, E., Umaki, S., et al. (2007). Reflective engagement in cultural history: A Lacanian perspective on Pasifika teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 15(1), 107–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carless, D. (2006). Differing perceptions in the feedback process. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 219–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clarke, S., Timperley, H., & Hattie, J. (2003). Unlocking formative assessment: Practical strategies for enhancing students’ learning in the primary and intermediate classroom. New Zealand version. Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett.Google Scholar
  9. Cowie, B. (2000). Formative assessment in science classrooms. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Waikato, Hamilton.Google Scholar
  10. Day, R. R. (1981). Silence and the ESL child. TESOL Quarterly, 15(1), 35–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Delpit, L. D. (1998). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. Harvard Educational Review, 58, 280–298.Google Scholar
  12. Department of Education. (1995). Western Samoa education policies 1995–2005. Apia: Department of Education Printery.Google Scholar
  13. Furtak, E., & Ruiz-Primo, M. (2008). Making students’ thinking explicit in writing and discussion: An analysis of formative assessment prompts. Science Education, 92, 799–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kalavite, T. (2010). Fononga ‘A Fakahalafononga: Tongan students’ journey to academic achievement in New Zealand Tertiary Education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Waikato, Hamilton.Google Scholar
  16. Lee Hang, D. (2011). Fa’afatāmanu talafeagai mo lesona fa’asaienisi: O le tu’ualalo mo a’oga a faia’oga saienisi fa’aōliōli. A culturally appropriate formative assessment in science lessons: Implications for initial science teacher education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Waikato, Hamilton.Google Scholar
  17. Marlina, R. (2009). “I don’t talk or I decide not to talk? Is it my culture?” International students’ experiences of tutorial participation. International Journal of Educational Research, 48, 235–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. May, S., & Sleeter, C. (2010). Introduction: Critical multiculturalism. In S. May & C. Sleeter (Eds.), Critical multiculturalism: Theory and praxis (pp. 1–16). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Moli, S. (1993). Towards a relevant science education for Western Samoa: A’oa’oga tau saienisi mo Samoa i Sisifo. Unpublished MEd dissertation, University of Waikato, Hamilton.Google Scholar
  20. Muralidhar, S. (1992). Learning science in a second language: Problems and prospects. Directions, 14(1), 14–28.Google Scholar
  21. New Zealand Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.Google Scholar
  22. New Zealand Statistics Department. (2011). Accessed 9 Nov 2011.
  23. Nieto, S. (2000). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (3rd ed.). White Plains: Longman.Google Scholar
  24. Nieto, S. (2010). The light in their eyes: Creating multicultural learning communities (10 anniversaryth ed.). New York: Teachers College.Google Scholar
  25. Pereira, J. A. (2005). Aspects of primary education in Samoa: Exploring student, parent and teacher perspectives. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Otago, Dunedin.Google Scholar
  26. Pongi, V. (2004). The role of assessment in improving quality in education: The shift from assessment of learning towards assessment for learning. Unpublished discussion paper prepared for the Forum Education Ministers’ meeting held on January 28–29, 2004, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Apai.Google Scholar
  27. Sadler, R. (1989). Formative assessments and the design of instructional systems. Instructional Science, 18, 119–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tanielu, L. (2001). Pacific vision international conference – A society of learners. Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.Google Scholar
  29. Wendt, A. (1996). Tatauing the post-colonial body. Span, 42–43, 15–29.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ScienceNational University of SamoaApiaSAMOA
  2. 2.University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations