Assessment tools

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Tool 10A: Key Challenge


Issue/Challenge: Diversity of Preservice Teachers


The teaching profession needs to better reflect the diversity of the student population. With this increasing diversity and with increasing diverse needs there emerges the need for greater communication and clarification of these needs at the beginning of the professional experience.

Tool Summary:

Professional Experience programs need to support and guide an increasingly diverse range of pre-service teachers (PSTs). PSTs may differ greatly in terms of personal and academic backgrounds, age, gender, cultural and language origins, work and family responsibilities, disability as well as attitudes arising from their own experiences with schools and teachers. Additionally, PSTs commonly vary in terms of their goals, professional aspirations and emergent educational values. However, universities and schools are often limited in the extent to which they can individually tailor placements and the learning experiences and support structures for this range of PSTs.

Ideally, a professional experience placement will take account of such individual difference, particularly in cases where such factors may impact on the PST’s capacity to successfully complete a placement. Differentiation of experience and pedagogical strategies may be required with respect to levels and forms of support as well as variations of expectations and pace/timing.   Communication can be a challenge for example with PSTs coming from anon-English speaking backgrounds, Some PSTs are particularly challenged by psychological or physical issues and disabilities which need careful accommodation.  In some cases what can emerge across a placement given such diversity, is experienced by both PSTs and supervisors as inter-personal mismatches or relationship breakdowns.

Supervising teachers involved in assessment are often challenged in judging the extent of differentiation and accommodation that needs to be included equitably within a placement to meet particular PST’s individual differences. The challenge can be increased when the PST is experiencing difficulty, needs additional support and is possibly ‘at risk of failure’.


Roundtable Assessment

  • Roundtable practices enrich the assessment process in that they involve a group of educators – both school and university-based, 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.
  • Roundtable structures can support an assessment group to collaboratively clarify issues that may impact on an individual PST’s capacity to successfully complete the requirements of the placement. Additionally, the assessment group can decide together forms and extent of differentiation and accommodation for a PST that is appropriate and equitable.
  • Educators with particular expertise – for example literacy support, curriculum area specialisation and relevant cultural and language background can assist where particular forms of support are required.  Experienced supervisors can mentor those teachers less experienced in the work of guiding and assessing preservice professional experience.
  • For summative assessment, when a range of perspectives from the roundtable group contribute to the final judgment, there is the potential for that judgment to take account of a wider range of evidence and judge its merit in a collaborative way. This can mitigate against issues arising from personal or professional ‘mis-matches’ and the pressure of sole responsibility for assessment judgment.
  • 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 between educators and PSTs and school and university-based educators.
  •  Roundtable assessment structures and processes can be a formal requirement of a specific professional experience program or be set up on an individual basis, for example for an ‘at risk’ PST, or when the supervisory relationship is stressed or under tension.

Assessment Strategy & Process

  • A meeting timetable may be required by the university or negotiated between the potential Roundtable members. Roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined and agreed upon.
  • Clear identification and documentation of areas of practice that require accommodation or particular support or which may be of concern need to be made. These need to be clearly communicated within the roundtable group and with the PST.
  • Depending on the PST’s areas of challenge, particular educators may be strategically selected to participate in the focussed roundtable, for example particular university curriculum area specialists, or teachers from particular cultural and /or language backgrounds. Ideally the panel would meet at least twice across the placement period.
  • Evidence Guides such as that produced by Project Evidence (ref???) 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. Evidence Guides can assist both educators and PST to tease out particular aspects of practice that are challenging and require appropriate responses.


  • 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   (Attach USyd at risk docs)
  • A Evidence Guides (ref) can be used in the production of focussed observation documents for assessors  (insert USyd Focussed Observation document)
  • Summative judgement links back to documents assembled in Roundtable meetings, with collaborative discussion guiding the final reporting phase.



Together, read through:

Sim, C. (2006). Preparing for professional experiences – incorporating pre-service teachers as ‘communities of practice’. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 77–83.




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.