Assessment tools

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Tool 11E: Key Challenge


Issue/Challenge: Accessing Sufficient Number of Placements


Ensuring all schools (inner city, outer uran, regional, rural and remote have the opportunity to participate in initial teacher education could help address the issues of sufficient numbers of placements - but the costs associated with students participating in schools away from home also need to be factored.

Tool Summary:

Issue/challenge: Accessing placements

Universities are under increasing pressure to access sufficient numbers of suitable professional experience placements in a timely manner. When there is difficulty accessing sufficient numbers of quality placements they are commonly organised late and there is little opportunity for timely communication and clear orientation processes. Lack of understanding of expectations can mitigate against effective and equitable assessment processes and the willingness of schools and teachers to be involved in professional experience programs.

There are complex reasons for this challenge and the following are some of the contributing factors:

  • increased enrolments of PSTs into teacher education institutions
  • increased mandated professional experience components and days required for teacher education course accreditation- PSTs in schools for longer and more frequent periods.
  • traditional professional experience model assuming a single PST working with a single supervising teacher – peer group models  limited     
  • increased pressure on the professional work of schools and teachers leading to them place professional experience support as a lower priority
  • higher expectations of teachers in the work of supervision due to impact of Professional Teaching Standards, more explicit reporting requirements
  • teachers feeling unsupported by universities in their work, professional development for their mentoring role being rare and difficult to access.
  • placement sites/schools  can have little on-going connection and thus allegiance with the university sector



Assessment Strategy & Process


Assessment Strategy and Process: Peer Grouping

By grouping PSTs the total number of placement sites required by the university can be reduced.

When PSTs undertake a professional experience placement in a pair or group structure opportunities arise to improve the quality of their professional learning and also to contribute to the assessment process. From a resource aspect, including the educator’s time, working with groups can be more efficient in sharing the educative role with other educators. PSTs, being supported by their peers can support each other’s learning when guided by the supervising teacher. When schools and teachers feel more supported and less daunted by the supervisory and assessment role they are more likely to offer university professional experience placements.

Commonly schools willing to accept groups of PSTs see a value for the school and teachers in this work and will offer a quality learning environment to the PSTs.  Schools that host groups of PSTs generally establish a partnership with the university that allows for a collaborative approach to professional experience. Teams of teachers working with academics who have consistent contact with the school form a firm basis for a community of learners. The assessment process can be also more collaborative with mentors more strongly involved in early identification of PSTs needing additional support as well as assisting teachers with the summative grading and reporting processes. Generally, less challenges arise around assessment within professional experience when schools work closely with the university in sustained relationships. Such schools are more likely to consistently host larger numbers of PSTs.

Peer grouping can lead to a more positive approach to professional experience placements through:

  • more than one educator/assessor  being involved in the learning community – multiple teachers and tertiary mentors can support collaborative decision making in summative assessment and reporting.
  • a wider group of educators involved in the assessment process can reduce time pressure and provide opportunities to attend to any relationship issues arising from particular inter-personal dynamics
  • peer group placement structures and processes can be a formal requirement of a specific professional experience program or be set up on an individual basis to respond to a specific need or assessment challenge.
  • clear guidelines need to be established as to roles and responsibilities within group/partnership structures including peer responsibilities and collaborate educative approaches
  • commonly schools open to hosting groups of PSTs have developed a partnership relationship with the university including collaboratively developed protocols, expectations, designated teachers involved as supervisors and specific mentors allocated by the university
  • ICT Communicative technologies offer the potential to increasingly employ online links such as Skype and video-conferencing to connect both on and off the placement site. These are often more time and resource effective approaches.



Resources: Protocols and Rubrics

  • Grouping PSTs generally needs to be supported by a close relationship between the university and the particular school. Specific agreements regarding the partnership expectations between school and university-based educators need to be collaboratively developed in terms of roles, responsibilities and expectations.
  • Often the increased presence of university personnel in the school supporting large PST groups provides the opportunity for professional development support for the teachers involved, such as developing their mentoring capacity. Such a contribution needs to have clear guidelines regarding communication and expectations.
  • A set of explicit guidelines for peer work needs to be developed collaboratively by educators both school and university-based, including the status of each PST’s contribution with respect to their final formal assessment and grading.
  • Evidence Guides, particularly those that flesh out the Professional Teaching Standards at Graduate level can be a valuable document to guide the PST in focussed observation and providing feedback to their peer.
  • Summative judgement may be informed by documents assembled during the placement, including those generated within the peer learning processes,. Focus is commonly not only towards the evidence selected and presented but to pertinent reflective comments.





Professional Teaching Standards

All Professional Teaching Standards can be addressed when peer grouping is part of the assessment process. However, selected Standards and focus areas may be identified as relevant to a particular group of PSTs or a specific stage. A final presentation by the preservice teachers via a (shared) portfolio when articulation of understandings and performance against Professional Teaching Standards is required, provides rich evidence to inform the assessment summative judgment.

 Standard 6, Engaging in Professional Learning is particularly apt in terms of the PST focussing on the development of their own professional learning and providing evidence of collaborating in the professional learning of peers.