Assessment tools

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Tool 5J: 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, assessing and 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. Ideally, such PSTs are identified at an early stage in a placement as ‘in need of additional support’ and targeted support strategies put in place to assist their professional learning.

PSTs ‘in need of additional support’ frequently do not have a clear understanding of the assessment criteria, including the meaning of particular Standards, what would be valid demonstrations of their attainment, and ways in which their own practice is not meeting particular assessment criteria. Some supervising teachers and mentors are challenged in communicating clearly what is required and what needs further development. Explicit feedback and feed-forward to PSTs that arises from informed observation and analysis is often assisted by more explicitly structured and documented steps as well as reference to Evidence Guides and specific rubrics.

It is commonly assumed that the Professional Experience Handbook and Evidence Guides alone can establish shared understandings and effective communication and that these documents will provide specific enough information to guide assessment judgment. However, it is not unusual when questions are asked concerning the appropriateness of an assessment judgment, that communication and expectations across the placement have not been sufficiently clearly understood, documented or shared. Providing additional support to an‘at risk’ PST commonly involves tightening the communication protocols and including additional and explicit documentation. The pressure on judgment at both formative and summative stages can be lessened if the processes are guided by explicit or structured communication guidelines and protocols.  These provide both the assessor and the PST with a shared understanding of step-wise processes and expectations commencing at the orientation phase.


Assessment Strategy & Process


Assessment Strategy and Process: Structured Communication and Orientation

When a PST is experiencing difficulty with professional experience, a key issue is the need for a set of explicit and shared communication protocols and structured meeting steps to more explicitly guide the Professional Experience placement. This will assist both assessors and PSTs in making more equitable and valid judgments. Each professional experience placement needs to outline explicit steps and questions to be asked/discussed at each agreed stage of the placement

The orientation phase when PSTs are introduced to the school context, their supervising teacher, and the expectations of both the school and the university is a crucial step. An Orientation program is assisted by:

  • early organisation of placements allowing time for effective communication and ideally meetings
  • the PST completing a Personal Professional Experience Profile  (or similar) to document and communicate with educators their prior learning and goals for the placement as well as areas that may need additional assistance
  • a context-specific orientation document prepared by each school that outlines key  information relevant to that school setting, such as particular routines, policies, roles and responsibilities

Formative steps during the placement, particularly when a PST has been identified as ‘at risk’, can include:

  • clear identification and documentation of areas of practice that are of concern. This process will be clear and transparent if rubrics outlining elements of practice are used as communication tools.
  • an action plan  developed to outline 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. Evidence Guides can contribute to this discussion.
    • support for developing the PST’s capacity to self analyse teaching practice (past and present)  and to document and discuss their reflective evaluations.
    • set meeting protocols including specific guiding question and the co-completion of documents appropriate to the stage of the placement. Tertiary Education institutes can outline a prescribed set of steps with associated communication requirements.
    •  a prescribed number of Focussed Observations to be documented by supervising teachers and Tertiary Mentors and discussed with their preservice teacher.
    •  generic formats  and rubrics provided as guidelines, then ‘customised’ with respect to the specifics of the placement: the preservice teacher’s needs and capacities, the placement context, the stage of professional learning etc



Resources: Protocols and Rubrics

Examples of communication protocols include:

-         An orientation to placement set of guidelines, including selected policies, resources, routines relevant to the school context. Additionally expectations for the placement need to be discussed and shared understandings developed.

-         A contract document that specifically outlines areas of concern, support strategies, expectations and timelines   (Attach USyd at risk docs). Such a document needs to be formally shared by the PST, the supervising teacher and the university.

-         An explicit program for the placement giving details of expectations for each stage/week of the placement. This would include designated meetings, tasks to be completed, key questions to be addressed, documents to have been completed for discussion.

-         PST Personal Profile – documenting the PST’s prior experiences, goals, specific interests, support requested, then discussed with supervisors and mentors prior to the placement commencing.

-         Focussed observation formats – outline focal points for observation and analysis for example when observing teaching – can be structured against the National Teaching Standards. These formats can vary depending on the stage of the placement, particular context, PST’s learning needs.

-         A set of key questions to guide discussion and reflection associated with each placement step and possible meeting. This could be linked to a series of required documentation steps including reflective writing by the preservice teacher.

-         Interim Report formats – commonly aligned with the structure of the summative report but designed to give formative feedback at for example the mid point ogf the placement.

-         Evidence Guides – clear articulations of relevant evidence for each Standard and Focus Area that can be discussed, structured into assessment rubrics, and referred to in summative assessment phases.




Professional Teaching Standards

All Professional Teaching Standards can be addressed. 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.