1. Ensuring equity and validity of assessment judgement
The subjective nature of assessment can undermine equity and validity. This highlights the need for the following:
- each placement should generate appropriate evidence that can be validly evaluated by the assessor with validity.
- the assessor should have the capacity to undertake informed analysis and evaluation of relevant evidence.
- there should be equitable opportunities within the placement (or alternative spaces) for the pre-service teacher to deliver relevant and authentic evidence.
- there should be explicit structures/protocols to guide evidence-collection process across the placement.
- those with assessment responsibility should have access to ongoing professional development opportunities.
2. Incorporating formative and summative steps, including explicit feedback, intothe assessment process
The assessment process needs to be focused not only towards evaluating the pre-service teacher’s performance and capacity, but also to guide each pre-service teacher’s on-going professional learning. Thus:
- the assessment process should be structured to have continuity across the placement to support the professional learning of the pre-service teacher, as well as providing opportunities for the appraisal and summative judgement of their professional capacity.
- there is a need to balance and link formative and summative assessment processes.
- communication between assessor and pre-service teachers must include explicit feedback arising from on-going informed analysis of each pre-service teacher’s professional learning needs.
- the assessor must have the opportunity and professional knowledge to explicitly analyse practice and teaching capacity and to articulate learning goals clearly (feed up).
- the assessment process must be informed by a flow of information (feedback) from pre-service teachers to assessor and a flow of information re appraisal, goals, required development from assessor to pre-service teachers (feed forward).
3. Incorporating professional teaching standards
Professional experience placements are structured, guided and assessed with respect to prescriptive professional teaching standards frameworks. This results in the following:
- there is increased pressure on assessors to make explicit assessment judgements that align with prescriptive professional teaching standards and that can be supported by documented authentic evidence.
- professional experience reports that are explicit, standards linked and require high level written articulations of practice.
- there are opportunities to provide teachers with explicit links between professional standards at graduate level and those relevant to later career stages – that is, to explore overlaps between pre-service and in-service teachers’ professional learning.
4. Addressing continuity between placements
It is common for there to be a lack of information flow regarding each pre-service teacher’s developmental learning needs between separate professional experience placements across different sites and time periods. This can be addressed by ensuring that the process of assessment is structured to support continuity for each pre-service teacher across individual placements and between placements or separate professional experience components. Key features include the following:
- a structured reporting instrument should be completed at the beginning, during and end of a placement period, or between placements.
- discussion may occur around the comments made on the completed forms, with the focus being to identify areas for professional improvement early on, and to develop explicit and systematic strategies for addressing and improving these areas before the end of the placement or in subsequent placements.
- this process is particularly appropriate for students who have been previously identified as ‘at risk’.
- a key focus of the method will be whether the pre-service teacher is able to address in the subsequent placement (and can provide evidence of doing so), the areas for improvement previously identified.
5. Guiding and assessing ‘at risk’ pre-service teacherpre-service teachers
Guiding and assessing ‘at risk’ pre-service teachers is frequently the most stressful and potentially challenging aspect of supervising teachers’ work in professional experience. Issues of equity, possible discriminatory practices, and provision of appropriate support need to be taken into account. Supporting and guiding an ‘at risk’; or ‘need for additional support’ pre-service teacher requires the following:
- placements to be supportively managed with early identification, clarification of key issues, action plans put into place and clear communication protocols
- explicit documentation of processes and communication between pre-service teachers and supervising teachers and tertiary mentors
- commonly increased involvement of the university and a more collaborative approach to both supporting and assessing the pre-service teacher.
6. Quality of professional experience 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. Significant factors include the following:
- different understandings of the expectations of the placement, the roles of the school and university-based educators and varying interpretations of the criteria for assessment
- the supervisory relationship quality can be adversely affected by such factors as time pressure, higher priority needing to be given to other professional commitments, or unexpected personal issues.
- mismatches between supervisors and pre-service teachers can arise due to differences in age, race, culture, gender or teaching philosophy/priorities, for example.
- inter-personal tensions and communication breakdowns can progressively emerge across placements when management strategies are not in place.
- tensions can also arise between supervising teachers and the university tertiary mentors, possibly around differing judgements of a pre-service teacher’s learning needs, and criteria deemed important to the assessment judgement.
- there is the possibility of discriminatory and biased attitudes and practices.
- lack of support and professional development opportunities for supervising teachers with respect to their assessment responsibilities and approaches
7. Time pressure
For all teachers and schools the added work of guiding and assessing pre-service teachers in professional experience comes on top of their existing school/teaching commitments – time pressure frequently affects the quality of mentoring provided to pre-service teachers. It is common for there to be:
- tensions between the commitment of a teacher to their students, to the pre service teacher and to their other educative roles
- increasing pressure on teachers attending to their own AITSL accreditation needs, including documentation of practice and required professional development events.
8. Integrating the work and expectations of universities and schools around professional experience.
Significant issues exist relating to the integration of work with the expectations of universities and schools around professional experience. These include the following:
- there may be challenges around communication between teacher education institutions with schools and teachers regarding guidelines, expectations, and responsibilities relevant to the assessment process.
- summative judgement of teaching performance and capacity is commonly completed at the school site by the supervising teacher, while overall academic responsibility for the unit of study grading is held by the university.
- there may be limited professional development for supervising teachers provided by teacher education institutions.
- resource and institutional factors can mitigate against university personnel having a strong presence across all professional experience sites and processes.
9. Diversity of pre-service teachers
Increasingly, pre-service teachers have diverse needs, personal backgrounds, constraints, desires and capacities. Responses to this issue may include the following:
- differentiation may be required with respect to levels of support and accommodation, forms of communication, etc., for example, with pre-service teachers from NESB, mature age, ‘at risk’, physical and psychological/mental health challenged backgrounds.
- judging the extent of the differentiation and accommodation that needs to be included within a placement in order to assist pre-service teachers is a challenge, particularly when there are issues that affect the potential of the pre-service teacher to demonstrate required professional capacities. Questions around the type of differentiation required in assessment practices and evidence collection may arise at this point.
10. Placement site limitations
Each placement site has restrictions on the experiences and opportunities it can provide to a pre-service teachers. It is common for there to be a lack of opportunities within any one particular site for a pre-service teacher to develop and demonstrate all aspects of professional capacity required within the professional standards framework. Common limitations include those relating to access to the following:
- Indigenous students and students of minority cultures and languages
- metropolitan and rural school contexts
- single-sex schools
- particular stages and curriculum areas
- a range of SES impacted schools
Challenges arise relating to the extent to which the demonstration of particular elements of practice needs to be evident, versus proxy forms of evidence or valid assumptions arising from indirect sources.
11. Pressure to access sufficient numbers of suitable placements in a timely manner.
It is often difficult to find enough suitable placements in a timely manner. Placement sites may be distant from the university, and may not be linked in an on-going partnership structure to the university. Consequently, it is common for:
- some placement sites to have little early and on-going connection with the university
- pre-service teachers to be placed individually in sites rather than in peer groups
- there to be a lack of opportunity to include orientation steps for both the pre-service teachers and the supervising teacher to establish communication and clear shared understandings before the placement commences (last-minute placements)
- there to be a lack of consistent control of the quality of mentoring and assessment provided.
12. School and community relations.
It is challenging for pre-service teachers to professionally engage with the school, with the students’ community, and with parents and caregivers across the placement, and thus to develop and demonstrate capacity in this area of a teacher’s practice (Standard 7).
A. Round table assessment.
Round table assessment essentially involves more than one assessor concurrently engaged in the assessment process. It allows collaborative approaches to both feedback and assessment and may include the pre-service teacher’s active involvement in the assessment process. Key features of round table assessment are as follows:
- assessors are selected for the panel so that each contributes a different perspective (e.g. school-based, university-based, pre-service teacher’s perspectives).
- the panel may meet and assess at different points across the placement.
- There may be explicit protocols to guide each of the different steps in the assessment process – sessions may have a specific focus.
- summative assessment may be a collaborative outcome from the round table group.
- this process may focus around the production and discussion of a portfolio of evidence.
- this process has the potential to address some equity and validity concerns that may arise with a single assessor.
- this process provides the opportunity to focus on the pre-service teacher’s reflections relevant to their experience and professional learning.
- round table assessment may provide additional support for both pre-service teachers and assessor in ‘at risk’ circumstances.
B. Portfolio assessment
Key features of portfolio assessment are as follows:
- the pre-service teacher is required to compile a portfolio of evidence, collected during the placement period that demonstrates teaching capacity in a selected area(s) of practice.
- commonly, the pre-service teacher is provided with scaffolded documentation to guide the evidence-collection process, often aligned with a professional teaching standards framework.
- the portfolio commonly includes reflective comments, providing the pre-service teacher with the opportunity to provide a context for each piece of evidence and to make links to standards.
- it is common to include a variety of evidence forms, such as video, annotated video, photos, reports, lesson plans, etc.
- the pre-service teacher may be required to present this evidence to a round table assessment panel.
- the pre-service teacher may also need to annotate their evidence to demonstrate links between university study (theory) and teaching practice/experiences, and how evidence addresses the specific requirements of the graduate teaching standards.
C. Video reflection and icts
A basic video recording is taken of the pre-service teacher can record their own practice and that of their peers or experienced teachers. Video equipment can be on a stand or hand-held, and may include small easily accessed devices, such as smart phones and flip video devices. The video material produced can be used in a variety of ways, namely:
- as a focus for reflective discussion with supervising teachers and tertiary mentors and between peers
- as an artefact that can be annotated and analysed to support productive professional discussion
- as an item of evidence within a portfolio, possibly, electronic form annotated against an assessment rubric such as a professional teaching standards framework to include reflective comments.
D. Self reporting
Using reporting instruments developed by the university, pre-service teachers can complete their own formal professional experience report and submit it to their supervising teacher/assessor as evidence of their ability to evaluate their own capacity. Key features include:
- pre-service teachers could be required to provide clear evidence for the claims made in their self-reporting.
- the pre-service teacher report, when submitted to the supervising teacher, can be the basis of discussion to inform the development of the final professional experience report.
- there is the potential within the collaborative assessment approach to delineate learning goals for the next placement based on the current reporting/discussion process.
E. Peer grouping within assessment – creating a learning community
Peer grouping within assessment involves paired or larger grouping of pre-service teachers within a placement site, aligned with notions of a collaborative learning community. Peer grouping may:
- incorporate peer observation, collaborative planning, co-teaching, and peer-assessment opportunities
- incorporate video recording in peer structures to support reflective discussion and evaluation
- employ focused observation frameworks to support analysis and feedback around peer teaching practice
- incorporate grouping supervising teachers and mentors to further the learning community processes
F. Rubrics and evidence guides
To strengthen the explicitness of guidelines and assessment criteria, rubric structures are created comprising explicit frameworks of indicators of practice and associated forms of relevant evidence. A rubric may:
- provide the framework for explicit evidence production and collection
- be developed specifically for a particular pre-service teacher’s context, aspect of practice, etc.
- be developed by the university, supervising teacher, individually or collaboratively, as well as by the pre-service teacher.
- provide a structuring framework for a portfolio
- be focused towards the planning, delivery and evaluation of a series of lessons required to meet the learning needs of a specific group of students, for example.
G. Whole school approach
A whole school approach is an assessment method that draws upon expertise and teaching contexts across an entire school, or a part of a school, to provide diverse opportunities to address particular areas deemed necessary for assessment. Pre-service teachers can be linked to diverse and specific teachers or sections of the school during part of their placement to ensure opportunities to demonstrate a range of professional capacities. Key features of this approach are:
- it is effectively employed within placements early in teacher education courses to develop broad contextual understandings relevant to schools, student learning and teachers’ work.
- specifically, this assessment method can be used to assess how pre-service teachers develop, implement and reflect on learning plans for diverse and identified groups (for example, culturally, linguistically, or intellectually diverse students) and how they adapt existing learning plans in the light of identified student needs.
- it provides the opportunity for shared approaches to supervision, collaborative professional judgements and assessment approaches.
H. Hypothetical/pseudo experiences
If the placement site is unable to provide the required range of experiences and learning opportunities to be assessed, hypothetical, or pseudo experiences may need to be designed.
As an example, the pre-service teacher, in collaboration with key school personnel and the community, may be required to engage in the organisation of a specific excursion, either actual or hypothetical. This work would involve mapping and planning the excursion against relevant curriculum and syllabus documents, developing understanding and applying relevant policies and institutional regulations, as well as working collaboratively with teachers, other school personnel and community members.
Additionally, the pre-service teacher is required to design documentation and engage in appropriate communication with all key stakeholders (including parents and care-givers) in a collaborative manner is required.
I. Additional support structures
Structured communication protocols involve the development of a series of communication protocols with explicit steps and questions to be asked/discussed at each agreed stage of the placement. Rather than focusing on ‘at risk’ pre-service teachers who are frequently at point of failure, these processes aim to identify early those pre-service teachers who may experience challenges or difficulties within a placement. Issues arising from previous placements may, ideally, need particular attention in subsequent professional experience placements. Ideally, the communication meetings require the presence of the pre-service teacher, the supervising teacher and the tertiary mentor. Key features are as follows:
- a pro-active approach that puts in place early explicit communication protocols, action plans, additional support mechanisms and, if necessary, differentiated programs of observation, practice and reflection for the pre-service teacher.
- the language employed within such programmes is important, shifting from pre-service teacher ‘at risk of failure’ to ‘in need of additional support’. This signals an important shift from a regulatory approach, or even a stance that implies blame, to one of ongoing explicit support.
- protocols to support communication between supervising teachers and tertiary mentors and assist the integration of university- and school-based perspectives. such protocols provide more explicit guidelines to supervising teachers to engage in formative assessment steps.
- structured mentoring sessions allow a focus on the developmental steps across the placement period.
- these sessions could require the pre-service teacher to bring specific observation documents annotated with reflective comments.
J. Structured communication and orientation
Orientation comprises mandatory communication between the pre-service teacher, supervising teacher and tertiary mentor, ideally in person, prior to the commencement of the placement. Key features are as follows:
- the process is ideally linked to orientation visits.
- goals and expectations are negotiated and documented.
- during the meeting or online discussion there should be engagement with documents such as the professional experience professional experience handbook and reporting document.
- orientation establishes a shared understanding of learning steps, feedback modes and sessions.
- orientation can be supported by a document, such as a pre-service professional experience profile delineating previous learning, learning goals, additional experiences sought, etc.
- orientation ideally includes discussion of previous placements, possibly supported by a portfolio document.