Assessment tools

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Tool 6G: 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:

Issue/challenge: Quality of professional experience relationships

Professional experience is characterised by interactions between those involved – the pre-service 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.

Supervisory relationship quality can be impacted by complex inter-personal and inter-professional dynamics. A ‘whole school approach’ to a professional experience placement can improve the quality of PST professional learning as well as offering individual teachers the support of working in a group. Teachers can feel alone, time challenged and unsupported when required to work with explicit Professional Teaching Standards and carry an 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 their role with little school or university support. Individual 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 for individual teachers and PSTs.

The common model for a professional experience placement is a single pre-service teacher (PST) placed with one supervising teacher, with their experience focussed on single or a limited number of classes and teachers. This may result in a narrow learning experience for the PST, a lack of exposure to both students and teachers in specialist teaching areas and an overly single class focus as opposed to the development of a whole-school awareness.

From the teacher’s perspective, a single focus can add pressure to the work of supervision. Experienced teachers (as assessors in the professional experience/practicum period) identify that when they work alone, making judgments about and assessing the performance (according to criteria or graduate standards) of preservice teachers can be a difficult task. Teachers recognise that when assessment is done in isolation this may result in their own personal bias or ‘subjectivity’ impacting on their decision-making. A team of teachers working collaboratively to guide a PST’s learning in a range of school contexts can address many of these challenges.

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Assessment Strategy & Process

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Assessment Strategy and Process: Whole-school approach

A whole school placement alters the structure of the professional experience as well as the assessment method and aims to broaden the focus of the learning experience.  Essentially, the PST rather than working with an individual supervising teacher and single class(es),  is attached to the whole school and supported by a team of teachers from across the school. This allows the PST to access diverse teaching contexts, teachers and experiences across a section of or the entire school. This potentially provides PSTs with diverse opportunities to address the range of professional learning areas needing to be considered within the assessment process.

Whole school placements also have the potential to involve a group of teachers in the assessment process thus assisting with issues of equity and validity of assessment that can arise with an individual assessor. It provides the opportunity for shared approaches to supervision and collaborative professional judgments and assessment approaches such as Roundtable (see Strategy A: Roundtable). Commonly a team of teachers as a supervision group can accept more than one PST thus also providing the opportunity for paired or group PST placements and the potential for maximising peer learning opportunities (See Strategy E: Peer Grouping) 

A whole-school approach could assist the PST to gain understanding of and experience within:

  • a range of classes that include different age groups, curriculum areas, specialist focus and support unit classes
  • whole school programs and teaching responsibilities such as sport, student welfare, acceleration programs, special needs programs.
  • work with a range of teachers including specialists in areas such as languages, science, library, ICT specialists, additional learning support, sport and special education.

A whole school approach can assist teachers in:

  • working with a collaborative team of teachers
  • diminish the potential for inter-personal tensions or mis-matches that can undermine the relationships around professional experience
  • undertaking an assessment approach informed by a range of teachers’ perspectives, specialist areas and forms of evidence

Specifically, this assessment method can be used to assess how PSTs understand, plan for and meet the different learning needs of particular groups of culturally, linguistically, intellectually diverse students, and how to adapt existing learning approaches in light of identified student needs.

Additionally, it can provide evidence to support assessment of whole school understandings and responses including policies, structures and community relations.

A whole school placement would need to involve:

  • negotiation  to occur between the university’s placement officers and the school to guide the formation of the teachers’ team that will act as a supervisory group. This may involve negotiations around adjusted supervisory payment schedules to individual teachers.
  • communication and negotiation to occur within the supervisory team to clarify individual roles and responsibilities for aspects of the placement and in particular completion of tasks, observation schedules, feedback processes.
  • specific criteria and expectations for learning experiences to be developed by the university in collaboration with schools to delineate relevant whole school or specialist area points of focus. Additionally adjustment may need to occur regarding the amount of specific classroom teaching undertaken by the PST to accommodate the PST’s involvement in a wider range of whole school experiences.
  • clear guidelines shared with PSTs to be developed as to how the final grading and reporting requirements would be met. Ideally, these processes should be collaborative so that whilst one teacher may take a coordinating responsibility, all members of the ‘whole school’ team would have input into the assessment processes both formative and summative.
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Resources

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Resources: Protocols and Rubrics

  • An outline of roles and expectations associated with the ‘whole school’ program would need to be developed and shared. A meeting timetable may be required by the university or negotiated between the potential ‘whole school’ team members. Ideally this would include meeting (face-to-face or online) at least twice across the placement period.
  • A set of explicit questions, possibly linked to Professional Teaching Standards to guide discussion may be developed to support both formative and summative processes.
  • Development and presentation of a portfolio by the preservice teacher that documents the diverse experiences, observations and activities undertaken in various contexts and specialist areas within the school would provide valuable evidence to guide PST learning and support the assessment process. 

 

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Standards

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Professional Teaching Standards

All Professional Teaching Standards can be addressed within a Whole school Strategy. However, some standards present more difficulty for PSTs to access when placed on an individual class. As examples:

Standard1: 1.3.1, 1.4.1, 1.5.1, 1.6.1. These Focus Areas requires PST observation of and experience across students from a wide range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds as well as ability levels.

Standard 2: 2.4.1. Many single classes may not afford the opportunity for PSTs to deepen their understanding of educational approaches relevant to Indigenous students.

Standards 3 & 4: 3.4.1, 4.5.1. Exposure to specialist ICT teachers, spaces, strategies, resources can often be met more effectively on a ‘whole school’ basis.

Standard 6.  6.3.1. The opportunity to work with a range of teachers and develop a capacity for professional communication and teamwork are well met by a whole school approach.

 

 

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