Critical reading of a research article - Scaife, J. and Wellington, J. (2010) Varying perspectives and practices in formative and diagnostic assessment: a case study. Journal of Education for Teaching

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EDU202 Understanding Education: Research and Researching

Assignment 2:- Critical reading of a research article:-

Scaife, J. and Wellington, J. (2010) Varying perspectives and practices in formative

and diagnostic assessment: a case study. Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol.

36(2), pp.137–151

7 December 2012

Word Count: - 1941


For my critical reading review I have chosen to look at and analyse the journal article regarding formative and diagnostic assessment, written by John Scaife and Jerry Wellington.  I have chosen this particular reading as I teach adults within my job role and carry out formative and diagnostic assessments as part of the teaching process, so I have a personal interest in this particular topic and article.  The authors are both experts within the field of research methods and researching and have a number of years’ experience within this area.  They are both currently working and lecturing at the University of Sheffield.  


The authors aim is to show the varying views and practices regarding the understanding of the terms used to describe forms of assessment this quote from Black & Wiliam (1998) describe formative assessment as “encompassing all those activities undertaken by teachers, and/or by their students, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged”.  I think this for me sums up exactly what formative assessment is.  Diagnostic and peer assessment is also investigated and views of staff and students gathered in terms of how these forms of assessment are acknowledged and valued.

The study also suggests that formative assessment is now on the decline within higher education compared to in schools, even though students who took part in the case studies highly valued this unmarked form of assessment.  

Key Findings

From staff interviews these are the key findings taken from the journal article:-

  • Staff agreed strongly that the outcome of an assessment is an indication of a student’s attainment, not their ability.  I also agree with this as a diagnostic assessment takes place to assess a learner’s current knowledge and skills giving you a platform for what needs to be taught and learnt next.

  • The majority felt that students have time to do work that will not be graded, and that staff should devote time to providing non-graded feedback on that work.  This fits in with the recommendations put in place for the two stage submission of assignments an idea already practiced in other universities.
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  • Staff felt strongly that students need guidance on how to make good use of formative assessments and those students do need induction into different processes of assessment and the value of formative assessment, self-assessment and peer assessment.  Again this provides the basis on what needs to be taught and where to concentrate teaching on aspects of the course that learners don’t already know rather than covering topics that they do.

  • The majority felt that it would be valuable to have both formal arrangements and informal times and spaces for staff to share and discuss assessment practices.

Methods and ...

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