The relationship between textual and contextual knowledge in assessing and developing literary literacy

Submitted by: Elias Heikkonen
Abstract: The relationship between textual and contextual knowledge in assessing and developing literary literacy
Literature education faces a perennial challenge in the summative assessment of students’ literary literacy, especially when conducted on a regional, national or even international level. Two central reasons for this are the variety of textual practices in different literary texts and the unlimited variety of contexts texts can be related to. Depending on the task and the form of assessment this variety requires different amounts of textual and contextual knowledge from the student.
Assessment institutions manage this challenge through different approaches to both the tasks and their assessment: for example by defining a canon of literary texts, giving local freedom to the selection of literary texts for the tasks or by de-emphasizing the meaning of contextual knowledge and focusing on assessing textual knowledge.
Different approaches not only entail different conceptions of assessing literary literacy, but also the nature of literary literacy itself. They also have impact on literature education because high-stakes assessment affects teaching through its institutional importance and because of the general requirement for reciprocity between teaching and assessment.
Assessment in general can be examined from the properties of 1) validity 2) reliability 3) impact and 4) resources required (Harlen 2007). These properties also interact with one another: changes in one affect changes in one or more of the others. Examining how these properties are valued in relation to one another can provide insight when comparing different approaches to literary literacy assessment
In this paper I will examine through document analysis how upper secondary educational institutions in Finland and elsewhere approach literary literacy assessment in L1 from three aspects:
a) managing the relationship between textual and contextual knowledge
b) valuing the different properties of assessment
c) defining (explicitly or implicitly) literary literacy itself
My goal is to show that these aspects are interdependent on one another and a change in one can have an important effect on the others. Another goal is to show that because of the assessment’s wider impact on literature education all three aspects should be sufficiently taken into consideration when developing the assessment of literary literacy.

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Fiebich, Peggy – Thielking, Sigrid [Hgg.] (2010): Literatur im Abitur – Reifeprüfung mit Kompetenz? Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag.
Harlen, Wynne (2007): Assessment of Learning. SAGE Publications ltd.
Leutner, Detlev, - Fleischer, Jens - Grünkorn, Juliane - Klieme, Eckhard (2017): Competence Assessment in Education : Research, Models and Instruments. Cham, Switzerland : Springer.

Keywords: literature education, literary literacy, assessment of literary literacy, textual knowledge, contextual knowledge