Assessing Pre-Service Teachers' Assessment Literacy: Building a Foundation

Assessing Pre-Service Teachers' Assessment Literacy: Building a Foundation

Beth Clark-Gareca
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6986-2.ch003
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Conducting classroom assessments is a regular part of teachers' daily work. Despite the centrality of tests in K-12 classrooms, teacher candidates consistently demonstrate fundamental weakness in their understanding and implementation of assessment. Student teaching has the potential to be an important training ground for teacher candidates to grow in their assessment practices, and by focusing on assessment during the student teaching experience, teacher candidates can more easily develop a deeper understanding of the myriad ways to evaluate student learning. This chapter explores the assessment relationships between teacher candidates and their mentors (i.e., cooperating teachers, student teaching supervisors, and seminar instructors) and provides a framework through which intentional and incidental classroom assessment can be considered. Ways to teach assessment through planning, debriefing, and raising awareness through noticing are discussed, and recommendations are made to help teacher candidates build the foundation of a strong assessment repertoire.
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Designing classroom assessment is a natural part of every teacher’s work. Regular, routine assessments provide a means by which teachers evaluate student achievement and determine what instruction should take place next (Brookhart, 2007; 2011; Brown, 2004; Brown & Abeywickrama, 2010; Stiggins, 2007). Despite the centrality of tests in K-12 classrooms currently, pre-service teacher candidates1 (TCs) in the field of TESOL demonstrate overall weakness in assessment (Brookhart, 2007; 2011). This lack of expertise may stem from the fact that in many university education programs, assessment does not take a place of prominence in academic coursework. Narrowing course requirements and reducing credit hours to save student expense is an ongoing priority of educational institutions, and may be one cause of relatively few assessment courses being offered in most programs (Chung, 2008; Cizek, 2007; Liu & Milman, 2013). In fact, in methods courses in the field of education in general, the academic focus usually rests on how to develop instructional, rather than assessment techniques (Cizek, 2007). One only needs to look at teacher education textbooks to find the topic of assessment often relegated to that final, frequently overlooked, chapter in the back of the book.

If assessment is a challenge in education programs in general, it is certainly a concern in English as a New Language (ENL)2 teacher preparation programs. In K-12 classrooms, teachers of English Learners (ELs) are responsible for giving students high-stakes tests aligned to the requirements of Common Core and other modes of standards-based curricula (PARCC, 2018; Smarter Balanced, 2018). In the state of New York, in addition to taking routine classroom tests as a part of their course requirements, ELs also take state-mandated, standardized, achievement tests in math, science, and English Language Arts (EngageNY, 2018). ELs are also frequently assessed on their growing language proficiency, and by law, take annual English proficiency tests to measure their progress in English (NYSED, 2018; WIDA, 2018). Testing abounds in K-12 contexts, and to maneuver effectively in these educational environments, teachers of ELs must be well versed in the principles of assessment and the best ways to design and administer the tests that their students will take.

Undoubtedly, developing an understanding of assessment literacy is an important aspect of teaching (Brookhart, 2011; Fulcher, 2012; Giraldo, 2018). Assessment typically plays a pivotal role in teacher education programs where it can have a positive impact on TCs’ initial formation as teachers. Through their university coursework, TCs are effectively exposed to current thinking about best instructional and assessment practices in K-12 settings. They then bring the assessment knowledge they learn in college to their work in K-12 classrooms.

Student teaching3 is defined by mentorship, with several, different mentors having a stake in each TC’s success. TCs move between the educational contexts of university and public school, and shift their roles from student to teacher accordingly. In their teacher education programs, they play the sole role of being students themselves; however, when they begin their student teaching placements, they take on the dual role of being students, learning from their field-based mentors, as well as being teachers for the ELs in their classes. The dually focused role through which TCs learn and teach provides an exciting platform upon which to build their practice.

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