In Uruguay, student learning at primary school level is assessed in different ways. Traditional summative practices coexist with practices aligned with the concept of formative assessment or the idea of assessing for learning. Academic freedom and solid teacher training in Uruguay – teachers are either graduates from official or accredited institutions – make it possible to use and design both assessment modalities.
Beginning in 2007, driven by a progressive government and because education in our country  is organised independently, formative assessment increasingly became a systematic practice in primary education.
Initially, the System of Learning Assessment (SEA) was comprised of groups of assessment specialists and teaching staff who developed items and organised tests for assessment that were applied using the Plan Ceibal  technology resource. In doing so, all teachers in the country had the opportunity to understand and assess their students’ knowledge, identify possible reasons behind their mistakes, understand the reality of their group, and engage in conversations with other teachers based on information from the assessment.
These were the first steps, and they marked the beginning of a process where significant progress was made on the professionalisation of teaching staff. Spaces were created for people to reflect collectively, and paid working time was specifically set aside for them to analyse, discuss, and build collective didactic knowledge. This led educational institutions, which traditionally operated hierarchically, to embark on different processes that opened up opportunities for all teaching staff to participate. The Early Childhood and Primary Education Programme  itself allowed these approaches to be adopted because it defines teachers as intellectuals capable of transformation. It also promotes and values pedagogical dialogue from the point of view of didactic communication at the institutional level. " Teachers are intellectuals who use their knowledge to problematise and question their own practice and that of others, analysing the assumptions on which it is based and revealing them. This revelation is not an individual or individualistic activity but a collective and cooperative activity that establishes itself as an institutional model."(p.36)
The opportunity to meet around a table, analyse students' work, listen to different arguments and compare them, and exchange ideas with colleagues with such rich and varied educational backgrounds meant teachers had to turn to theoretical foundations so they could discuss and make progress on building subject-based didactic knowledge in different areas of expertise.
Formative assessment, or assessment for learning, thus became an opportunity to promote students' learning based on their knowledge, mistakes, and assumptions. It also enhanced the growth and development of teaching staff who became agents of change for their own practice and for institutional practices that had often been implemented without critical examination or the opportunity to review them.
The strengthening of professionalism and empowerment of teachers led to a change in leadership styles, both in the classroom and at institutional level. In the classroom, teachers implemented what Perrenoud called "differentiated pedagogy" , turning themselves into democratic leaders. They listened to students and facilitated their participation in the collective process of building the kinds of knowledge that guarantee access to culture and ensure they have ownership of its benefits. At the institutional level, there was a shift from a managerial, authoritarian leadership style to the practice of more democratic and participatory styles, where listening, debating ideas, putting arguments forward, and building collectively were valued.
Unfortunately, these processes, which were highly appreciated and defended by teachers, have slowed down and have been rolled back. As a result of a change in government, which began in 2020, authoritarian leadership styles were reintroduced, limiting teacher participation in several areas and their ability to make decisions, as well as restricting their professional development opportunities. For example, Early Childhood and Primary, Secondary and Technical-Vocational Education Councils were no longer comprised of teacher representatives, changing them from bodies made up of several people to General Directorates comprised of one person. Input from Technical-Teaching Assemblies as technical advisory bodies was minimised, and we went back to a system where teachers were merely informed of decisions that had already been made.
However, we know the tracks of the previously travelled path run deep. Hence, taking part in the "Teacher-led Learning Circles for Formative Assessment T3LFA" project was an opportunity for a small group of teachers to get back on track with discussions, reflection, participatory leadership and, above all, building collectively.
Limiting teacher participation in the decision-making process on matters of education and disregarding their right to professionalisation are very real ways in which these groups are being attacked. Nevertheless, the paths travelled and the search for alternatives are the tools that will allow them to continue making progress even in the most challenging times.
Law 18437. Título III Sistema Nacional de Educación Pública Capítulo I Title III National Public Education System Chapter 1
Executive Decree 144/007 Creation of the Ceibal Project “Educational Connectivity for Basic ICT for Learning online”
ANEP (2008) Early Childhood and Primary Education Programme
Perrenoud, P. (2007) Differentiated pedagogy . From intentions to actions. Madrid.
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