Assessment tools

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Tool 6E: Key Challenge


Issue/Challenge: Promoting Quality Supervisory Relationships


Challenges that arise within the complex dynamics of relationships within professional experience (pre-service teachers, supervising teachers, tertiary mentors) can lead to tensions across personal and professional dimensions - maintaining professional relationships is important and mentor teachers need to allow pre-service teachers to develop their own teacher identity.

Tool Summary:

Issue/challenge: Quality of professional experience relationships

Professional experience is characterised by complex interactions between those involved – the preservice teacher (PST), the supervising teacher(s) who is commonly the major assessor and the university mentor(s) (Tertiary Mentors). The quality of the professional experience is commonly influenced by the quality of these relationships and the communication between the parties.   

Teachers working as supervisors have the pressure of an additional adult education role and often work alone in the supervision relationship. Working with explicit Professional Teaching Standards and assessment responsibility within rigorous reporting protocols adds pressure. In some cases teachers have not been provided with supporting professional development in these areas and are left to navigate their role with little school or university support.       

Supervisory relationship quality can be impacted by such factors as the challenge for teachers taking on this additional educative role, time pressure, higher priority needing to be given to their other work commitments (teaching their own students), as well as the possible impact of unexpected personal issues that may arise. Personal and professional ‘mis-matches’ between individual PSTs and educators can arise due to issues associated with differences in age, race, cultural background, gender, experience as well as beliefs and values.   Consequently, inter-personal tensions and communication breakdowns can progressively emerge across placements.

Tensions can also arise between supervising teachers and the university Tertiary Mentors, possibly around inadequate communication, differing judgments of a PST’s learning needs or teaching capacity, as well as uncertainty regarding areas of responsibility and levels of expertise. 

Widening the learning group within a professional experience placement can support  PSTs through peer group interactions and can support  teacher assessors who can benefit from working in a teaching team.


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 the key relationships of professional experience, 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 and allow more consistent contact by educators. When the focus of the placement is not a single PST with a single educator, tensions around individual inter-personal dynamics can diminish with peer support and additional educators involved

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

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 collaborative with mentors strongly involved in early identification of PSTs needing additional support as well as assisting teachers with the summative grading and reporting processes.

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. 

Peer formative assessment processes 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

Peer summative assessment process can be supported due to:

  • 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.
  • a wider group of educators involved in the assessment process providing opportunity to attend to any relationship      issues arising from particular inter-personal dynamics
  • teachers and schools within partnership structures with the university building greater 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



Resources: Protocols and Rubrics

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Video material can assist productive discussion regarding a PST’s actual teaching expertise
  • 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.



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.