Assessment tools

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Tool 5I: 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: ‘At risk of failure’ PSTs

Assessors commonly state that guiding and finally assessing and grading a border-line PST who is struggling with Professional Experience and possibly ‘at risk of failure’ can be the most challenging aspect of their supervision role. Supervising teachers and mentors often need to consider and implement relevant ‘additional support’ strategies to assist the PST within such placements. Rather than focussing only on the point of ‘failure’, educators need to consider strategies for targeted ‘additional support’ that can be put in place for the PST in a timely manner.

There is often complexity and pressure associated with supporting and assessing a PST who is struggling. Each PST, supervisory team and school placement context is different and responses in terms of ‘additional support’ need to take account of all these factors. There may be a risk of inequitable or invalid assessment judgment, as well as pressure arising from potential PST appeal processes should a failure be decided. The following are some contributing factors to the complexity around ‘at risk’ and ‘additional support’ situations:

  • challenge of developing and putting into place relevant additional support processes within a limited time frame
  • inadequate communication between educators and PSTs regarding expectations, specific aspects of professional practice that are of concern and processes to be followed.
  •  capacity of educators to clearly identify areas of concern and practical steps to support further PST development and to communicate in a timely manner
  • lack of sufficient attention to formative, guiding steps appropriate when additional support is needed at times arising from a rush to summative judgment.
  • pressure on the assessor to take account of and accommodate the complexity of mitigating factors that can impact on a PST’s capacity within a particular placement
  • lack of knowledge of a range of possible additional support strategies that can be applied to meet particular needs.

Assessment Strategy & Process


Assessment Strategies and Processes:  ‘Additional support’

A PST identified as struggling to meet the requirements of their placement (commonly termed ‘at risk of failure’) requires additional formative learning steps and support throughout the placement rather than a having a final grade ‘landed’ upon them at the end of the placement.

Additional supports need to be determined following precise analysis and communication with the PST regarding areas of concern or weakness. Supports can include:

  • clear and precise analysis of the specific areas of professional practice that are of concern and contributing to the ‘at risk’ situation.
  • a clear plan of action including precise documentation of goals, support to be provided, expectations and timelines.
  • adjusted structure of the placement including extended time, reduced teaching commitments with focus on observation of modelled teaching, part-time mode, working in a peer or group structure rather than alone.
  • additional time provision for supervision or mentoring including additional feedback and guidance information being provided to the PST.
  • additional personnel in educative and assessment team – other teachers, executive staff, peers, university curriculum specialists
  • additional use of communication documents such as rubrics, feedback and observation forms and interim reports, completed and discussed to clearly inform the PST of areas requiring additional attention and of progress made towards goals.
  • use of video to provide the PST with an additional ‘view’ of themselves as  teacher, to provide a rich resource for reflective analysis of practice.
  • video of modelled practice of peers or experienced teachers – material analysed and reflections documented
  • Use of peer and self reporting to guide reflective analysis of practice



Resources: Protocols and Rubrics

  • Documents and discussion need to provide the PST with quality feedback and 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.
  • A formal document outlining areas of concern, support strategies, expectations and timelines needs to be completed, discussed and adhered to.
  •  Observation documents or reflective journal entries from the PST, focused on particular Professional Teaching Standards, can be used by educators to provide specific feedback and feed-forward goals for further development.
  • An action plan needs to be developed 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.
  • A Evidence Guides  can be used in the production of focussed observation documents for assessors 
  • A portfolio could be used as a structuring device linked to particular placement 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.





Professional Teaching Standards

All Professional Teaching Standards can be addressed within Additional Support Strategy. However, particular aspects of practice may be focussed upon in specific stages during the placement.