Assessment tools

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Tool 1E: Key Challenge


Issue/Challenge: Equity and Validity of Assessment Judgement


Experienced teachers (as assessors in the professional experience/practicum period) identify that making judgments about and assessing the performance (according to criteria or graduate standards) of preservice teachers can be a difficult and lonely task. Teachers recognise that this is a process often done in isolation and may have expressed concern when making judgments about their own personal bias or ‘subjectivity’ impacting on their decision making.

Tool Summary:

Issue/challenge: Equity and validity of assessment judgment

Experienced teachers as assessors in the professional experience/practicum period identify that making judgments about and assessing the performance (according to criteria or graduate standards) of pre-service teachers (PSTs) can be a challenging and at times stressful task. Additionally, there is potential for assessment processes to be overly focussed towards reaching a final judgement and less to the formative learning potential of the placement. This is a process often done in isolation and some teachers have expressed concern when making judgments about their own personal bias or ‘subjectivity’ impacting on their decision-making.

The assessment process both formative and summative can be enriched when PSTs and their educators work in peer groups, linked within a learning community. Many professional experience programs are structured with a single PST working individually with one supervising teacher. Often professional experience assessment is heavily focussed on observed classroom teaching practice of a single PST and limited in terms of a single assessor’s awareness of the PST’s thinking and reflection about their experience. Limits of time and opportunity can narrow the sources of evidence drawn on by assessors in making judgments.

Limitations within the overall assessment process may arise through such factors as:

  • lack of opportunities to maximise the peer learning possibilities for groups of PSTs
  • lack of opportunity to include the PST’s ‘voice’ and gain an understanding of their experience and reflective analysis of their practice.
  • lack of structure to guide the  PST in formative reflection across the placement
  • limited relevant, valid and  diverse sources of evidence that could be collected during the placement period to inform the assessment judgment
  • supervisor observation largely focussed on classroom teaching practice providing a narrow lens through which to assess teaching capacity
  • lack of opportunity for the PST and assessor to collaboratively reflect on the links between teaching  practice and the Professional Teaching Standards.
  • lack of opportunity for school  and university-based educators (Tertiary Mentors) to be collaboratively involved in the assessment judgment.

Assessment Strategy & Process


Assessment Strategy and Process: Peer Groups

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 teachers’ time, working with groups can be more efficient and allow more consistent contact by educators.

Schools that host groups of PSTs generally establish a partnership with the university that allows for an on-going 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 collaborative with mentors strongly involved in early identification of PSTs needing additional support as well as assisting with the summative grading and reporting processes.

Peer group placement 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. Peer group structures, including pairing of PSTs can be employed effectively in early stage professional experience programs where co-teaching as well as structured peer observation and reflection provide more supported learning.

Teachers when more strongly supported by the university build up a stronger base of knowledge and experience regarding both the formative and summative assessment processes including working effectively with professional Teaching Standards.

The formative assessment process can be supported by the inclusion of:

  • collaborative planning and co-teaching experiences followed by feedback and evaluation by peer PSTs.
  • use of focussed observation/feedback formats, commonly structured against Professional Teaching Standards completed by PSTs observing and documenting the practice of their peers.
  •  video recording in peer structures can be employed to support feedback, analysis of teaching practice, reflective discussion and evaluation.
  • structured discussion sessions involving the PST group or additionally supervising teachers &/or mentors giving PSTs the opportunity to explore and share their experiences and reflections
  • specific tertiary mentors from the university  being allocated to the peer group allowing more consistent involvement of that mentor across the placement. Closer monitoring of the performance of PSTs is possible and the provision of additional assistance to both PSTs and their supervising teachers

 The summative assessment process can be supported due to:

  • teachers and schools within partnership structures with the university building expertise and knowledge around professional experience and its assessment practices
  • assessors accessing additional evidence such as peer observation reports, reflective discussion, peer videos, peer reports to assist the summative judgment.
  • assessors gaining greater insights (and evidence) of PST’s thinking, experiences and understandings through ‘listening in’ on the collaborative work of peers or groups
  • more than one educator/assessor can be involved in the learning community – multiple teachers and tertiary mentors thus supporting collaborative decision making in summative assessment and reporting.





Resources: Protocols and Rubrics

  • The placement when it includes peer work may be a highly defined process guided by specific proformas and communication steps with key questions to focus observations and discussion.
  • 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.
  • Specific agreements regarding the partnership expectations need to be collaboratively developed in terms of roles, responsibilities and expectations.
  • A Focussed Observation Guide  structured according to a selection of Standards and Focus Areas can be used to guide peer observation and reporting both to their peer and to their educators.
  • Video can be effectively used with PSTs recording teaching sessions of their peers with simple hand-held smart technology devices. Recorded material can then be used to guide reflective discussion and erased to guarantee privacy.
  • ICT 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.
  • 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, the final self-report and possibly the PST’s associated oral presentation. 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.