Assessment tools

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Tool 6A: Key Challenge

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Issue/Challenge: Promoting Quality Supervisory Relationships

Summary:

Challenges that arise within the complex dynamics of relationships within professional experience (pre-service teachers, supervising teachers, tertiary mentors) can lead to tensions across personal and professional dimensions - maintaining professional relationships is important and mentor teachers need to allow pre-service teachers to develop their own teacher identity.

Tool Summary:

Professional experience is characterised by interactions between those involved – the preservice teacher (PST), the supervising teacher(s), commonly the major assessors and the university mentor(s) (Tertiary Mentors). The overall quality of the professional experience is commonly influenced by the quality of communication between these parties.         

Teachers working as supervisors have the pressure of an additional adult education role on top of classroom teaching responsibilities. Additionally they need to work with explicit Professional Teaching Standards and fulfil assessment responsibility within rigorous reporting protocols. In some cases teachers have not been provided with supporting professional development in these areas and are left to navigate alone their role with little school or university support.  

Supervisory relationship quality can be impacted by such factors as the challenge for teachers taking on this additional educative role, time pressure, higher priority needing to be given to their other work commitments (teaching their own students), as well as the possible impact of unexpected personal issues that may arise.

Personal and professional ‘mis-matches’ between PSTs and educators can arise due to issues associated with differences in age, race, cultural background, gender, experience as well as beliefs and values. Consequently, inter-personal tensions and communication breakdowns can progressively emerge across placements.

Tensions can also arise between supervising teachers and the university Tertiary Mentors, possibly around inadequate communication, differing judgments of a PST’s learning needs or teaching capacity, as well as uncertainty regarding areas of responsibility and levels of expertise. 

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Assessment Strategy & Process

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Strategy and Process: Roundtable Assessment

  • Roundtable practices enrich the assessment process in that they involve a group of educators supporting the learning of the PST as well as supporting each other as assessors. The group can provide a range of perspectives, experiences and voices as well as guiding targeted assessment steps.
  • Commonly roundtable processes lead to more explicit communication (verbal and document-based) regarding processes and expectations due to the need to develop shared group understandings. This can mitigate against commonly experienced deficiencies in communication and relationships between PSTs and school as well as university-based educators. Experienced supervisors can mentor those teachers less experienced in the work of guiding and assessing preservice professional experience.
  • Roundtable assessment structures and processes can be a formal requirement of a specific professional experience program or set up on an individual basis to respond to a specific need or assessment challenge, for example with an ‘at risk’ PST or when difficulties emerge around supervision relationships.
  • A panel is formed to participate in the assessment process. Essentially this involves more than one assessor and      ideally both school and university-based educators, concurrently engaged in the assessment process. It therefore supports effective communication between all parties involved in the placement. It allows collaborative      approaches and the inclusion of multiple and possibly specialist perspectives in both feedback and assessment processes. It may also include the preservice teacher’s active involvement.
  • This process has the potential to widen the range of perspectives, experiences and voices involved in the assessment process. This can mitigate against circumstances of supervisor/PST mis-matches. However, this may process present challenge to both universities and schools in terms of coordination, communication as well as availability of time and resources.
  •  Roundtable process meetings need to set clear guidelines as to their purpose and expectations of all participants. Professional Teaching Standards can provide a valuable framework for this work. It may be a highly defined process guided by specific proformas and communication steps with focus and key questions to be included in discussion.
  • Clear identification and documentation of areas of practice that are of concern need to be made arising ideally from observations made by more than one of the Roundtable assessment group.
  • Roundtable processes can be effectively employed in both formative and summative phases. Particular Roundtable meetings may have a formative focus and occur within the placement period or be at the summative stage to allow collaborative decision-making regarding the final grading and reporting.
  • Structured observations by assessors, of the preservice teacher’s practice aligned with Professional Teaching Standards ideally inform the explicit feedback which underpins productive formative steps. Observation documents or reflective journal entries from the PST focused on particular Professional Teaching Standards can be used by      Roundtable educators to provide specific feedback and feed-forward and goals for further development.
  • Evidence Guides such as that produced by Project Evidence provide explicit guidelines for both key learning      experiences as well as relevant identifying valid forms of evidence that support assessment judgments with respect to particular Standards and Focus Areas.
  • ICT offer the potential to increasingly employ online links such as Skype and video-conferencing to connect Roundtable participants both on and off the placement site. These are often more time and resource effective methods of communication.
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Resources

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Resources: Protocols and Rubrics

  • A meeting timetable may be required by the university or negotiated between the potential Roundtable members. Ideally this would include meeting (face-to-face or online) at least twice across the placement period.
  • A document outlining areas of concern, support strategies, expectations and timelines  
  • A Evidence Guides can be used in the production of focussed observation documents for assessors 
  • Summative judgement can link back to documents assembled in Roundtable meetings, with collaborative discussion guiding the final reporting phase.
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Standards

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Professional Teaching Standards

All Professional Teaching Standards can be addressed within a Roundtable Strategy. However, particular aspects of practice may be focussed upon in specific Roundtable meetings  during the placement. For example in an initial Roundtable meeting discussion of expectations would be outlined, and a timetable of meetings agreed to. Early formative meetings could focus on the preservice teacher’s understandings around the specific context, class, routines etc.

A portfolio could be used as a structuring device linked to particular Roundtable stages. A final presentation by the preservice teacher possible via a portfolio but requiring articulation of understandings would provide rich evidence to inform the assessment summative judgment.

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