Assessment tools

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Tool 5A: Key Challenge


Issue/Challenge: Guiding and Assessing 'At Risk' Students


Guiding and assessing ‘at risk’ pre-service teachers is frequently the most stressful and potentially challenging aspect of supervising teachers’ work in professional experience. Placements need to be supportively managed with early identification, clarification of key issues, action plans put into place and clear communication protocols.

Tool Summary:

Issue/challenge: PSTs ‘at risk of failure’

Assessors commonly state that guiding and finally assessing/ grading a border-line PST who is struggling with Professional Experience and possibly ‘at risk of failure’ can be the most stressful aspect of their supervision role. Having a Roundtable group involved in this process offers shared support to both the process, the assessors and the PST themselves.

With a single assessor, usually the supervising teacher, there is often complexity and pressure in supporting and assessing a PST who is deemed ‘at risk of failure’. There may be a risk of inequitable or invalid assessment judgment, as well as pressure from potential PST appeal should a failure be decided. The following may be contributing factors:

  • Pressure on the assessor to come to a summative judgment whilst taking account of the complexity of mitigating factors that can impact on a PST’s capacity within a particular placement eg language background, disability, personal circumstances.
  • Inadequate communication regarding expectations, specific aspects of professional practice that are of concern and processes to be followed. Clear identification of areas of concern and practical steps to support further PST development need to be communicated in a timely manner
  • Lack of sufficient attention to formative, guiding steps appropriate when additional support is needed –rush to summative judgment.
  • The impact of non ideal inter-personal dynamics between PSTs and supervisors that can shift the assessment process in negative directions
  • Inexperience of assessor
  • Possible bias of a single assessor
  • Lack of opportunity across the placement for sufficient observation by a single assessor to inform a valid judgment
  • Lack of opportunity for both school and university-based educators to inform the assessment judgment
  • Lack of opportunity to include the PST’s voice and to provide opportunity to include their reflective  comments.

Assessment Strategy & Process


Strategy and Process: Roundtable Assessment

  • 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.
  • A panel is formed to participate in the  assessment process. Essentially this involves more than one assessor, ideally both school and university-based, 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.



Resources: Protocols and Rubrics

  • A meeting timetable may be required by the university or negotiated between the potential Roundtable members. Depending on the preservice teaches areas of challenge particular educators may be selected to participate in the focussed roundtable, for example particular curriculum area specialists. Ideally the panel would meet at least twice across the placement period.
  • A document outlining areas of concern, support strategies, expectations and timelines needs to be completed and shared. See documentation.
  • An action plan would be developed from the Roundtable meeting outlining specifically the support structures to be put in place, the elements of practice to be developed and the specific evidence required to demonstrate meeting assessment criteria.
  • Documents and discussion need to provide guidance as to strategies to support the further development of aspects of PST practice that are of concern. Clear identification, steps to follow, adjustment of expectations if appropriate, timelines all need to be discussed and clearly communicated.
  • 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 goals for further development.
  • An Evidence Guide 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.


  • Visit the Project Assessment ‘sister site” – Project Evidence at
  • Click on the tab: Professional Roles

  • Scroll to: Competing demands on school based teacher educators







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.