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Article

Matching Performance Assessment to Teacher Capabilities: The Bridge Between Teacher Performance/Evaluation and Student Learning  

Robert Morris

America’s public educational system is under constant scrutiny concerning student performance on standardized tests. Some blame the teachers, others blame the students, and recently many have begun to blame the test. A clearer picture of the issues is important and by reviewing the traditional aspects for evaluating teachers and then analyzing how contemporary testing methods in today’s classrooms has evolved a clearer perspective can be accomplished. The advent of newer models and methods of teacher assessment that focus on the classroom performance of teachers and based on observable assessments, along with a more authentic measure of student capabilities, are central. Although many researchers praise this movement, others have found many pitfalls in the attempt to standardize performance assessments. Many critics advocate the use of performance assessments in the classroom but remain loyal to the multiple-choice assessment as the more reliable and valid measure for comparative standardized testing. All aspects of this debate are important however. Given the increasing usage of performance assessment in today’s classrooms, many believe and advocate the development of newer assessments to replace the more traditional assessments. Understanding the roles evaluation and assessment play in reforming teacher evaluation is vital. Different data sources, new social power relations, and new ways of thinking about teacher evaluation are all important. The link between these developments in teacher evaluation and school reform is hoped to bring about an increased focus on the most important resource for change: the best practices of current teachers.

Article

Status, Content, and Evaluation of Lesson Study in Japan on Teacher Professional Development  

Takashi Nagashima

In Japan, various styles of Lesson Study (LS) have been born over 140 years. The first issue is what should be the focus of observation in the live lesson. There are two trends with regard to the target of observation. One is teacher- and lesson-plan-centered observation since the Meiji era (1870s), and the other is child-centered observation since the Taisho era (1910s). The former is closely related to administrative-led teacher training. The latter is more complex and can be further divided into five types. The second issue is which activities are given priority in the LS processes: observation of the live lesson itself, preparation before the lesson, or reflection after the lesson. Furthermore, each activity can be designed as a personal or a collaborative process. Thus, there are roughly six types of LS in Japan related to this issue. Which type is adopted depends on the period, lesson-study frequency, and school type. In addition, it is noteworthy that the type of LS implemented is closely related to which of demonstration teacher or observers are regarded as the central learners. The third issue is whether to regard LS as scientific research or as literary research. Teachers and researchers in 1960s Japan had strong interest in making lessons and lesson studies more scientific. On the other hand, as teachers attempt to become more scientific, they cannot but deny their daily practice: making improvised decisions on complicated situations without objective evidence. Although lesson studies have been revised in various forms and permutations over the last 140, formalization and ceremonialization of lesson studies has become such that many find lesson studies increasingly meaningless and burdensome. What has become clear through the discussions on the three issues, the factors that impede teacher learning in LS are summarized in the following four points; the bureaucracy controlled technical expert model, exclusion of things that are not considered scientific, the view of the individualistic learning model, and the school culture of totalitarian products. To overcome obstruction of teachers’ education in LS and the school crisis around the 1980s, the “innovative LS Cases” has begun in the 1990s. The innovative LS aims not for as many teachers as possible but for every teacher to learn at high quality. In the innovative LS Case, what teachers are trying to learn through methods of new LS is more important than methods of new LS itself. Although paradoxical, in order to assist every single teacher to engage in high quality learning inside school, LS is inadequate. It is essential that LS address not only how to actualize every single teacher to learn with high quality in LS but also through LS how to improve collegiality which enhances daily informal collaborative learning in teachers room. Furthermore, LS cannot be established as LS alone, and the school reform for designing a professional learning community is indispensable. Finally, the concept of “the lesson study of lesson study (LSLS)” for sustainable teacher professional development is proposed through organizing another professional learning communities among managers and researchers.

Article

Ethnographic Inquiry in Teacher Education  

José Ignacio Rivas-Flores

Teaching’s purpose is to build a society’s knowledge and skills through a group of students using a curricular proposal within a social and institutional framework. It therefore takes place in institutions specifically created for this purpose, which, as such, represents a culturally constructed environment that is in line with the conditions of the society in which this process unfolds. Thus professional cultures have been historically constructed according to the working conditions, the teaching experiences transmitted from generation to generation, and the evolution of the educational systems. In addition, institutional cultures are developed according to the particular history of each school. Student cultures also form as social groups within these institutions. This represents a complex system that goes beyond mere instruction by curriculum. Preparing the professionals who will go on to work in these institutions requires an understanding of these cultural frameworks and the competence to be able to act on them. Ethnographic research promotes an understanding of educational reality from a critical reflective perspective, and this is only possible if researchers themselves participate in those frameworks. Ethnography can be understood as a shared construction of places for reflection, aimed at comprehending the cultural, social, and political phenomena that involve participants in the processes of change and transformation. Teacher preparation must, therefore, be established with an ethnographic approach, which reconstructs the school experience from a critical reflective perspective. In this way, the conditions for developing a professional identity based on the reconstruction of this experience are created. The theories, in this case, offer the opportunity to pursue this critical dialogue, breaking away from the prescriptive role that they adopt from a positivist perspective. Ethnography contributes to the tasks through three basic dimensions. First, teacher preparation throughout is an object of educational inquiry: there are many research studies of an ethnographic nature that report teacher training methods in an attempt to understand the processes taking place. Second, ethnographies are a tool for preparing future teachers: in this case, this refers to a curricular use of ethnography aimed at future teachers’ understanding of the educational processes through research. Third is a way of understanding learning—in other words, ethnographic attitude as a learning strategy and the use of ethnographic inquiry strategies and tools as means of learning about educational processes. This last case generally entails staying and acting in schools, and it is what most clearly links research and teaching in a shared process.

Article

Practice-Focused Research in Initial Teacher Education  

Jane Abbiss and Eline Vanassche

A review of the field of practice-focused research in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) reveals four broad genres of qualitative research: case studies of teacher education programs and developments; research into student teacher experience and learning; inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning, identity, and beliefs; and conceptual or theory-building research. This is an eclectic field that is defined by variation in methodologies rather than by a few clearly identifiable research approaches. What practice-focused research in ITE has in common, though, is a desire on the behalf of teacher educator researchers to understand the complexity of teacher education and contribute to shifts in practice, for the benefit of student teachers and, ultimately, for learners in schools and early childhood education. In this endeavor, teacher educator researchers are presented with a challenge to achieve a balance between goals of local relevance and making a theoretical contribution to the broader field. This is a persistent tension. Notwithstanding the capacity for practice-focused research to achieve a stronger balance and greater relevance beyond the local, key contributions of practice-focused research in ITE include: highlighting the importance of context, questioning what might be understood by “improvement” in teacher education and schooling, and pushing back against research power structures that undervalue practice-focused research. Drawing on a painting metaphor, each genre represents a collection of sketches of practice-focused research in ITE that together provide the viewer with an overview of the field. However, these genres are not mutually exclusive categories as any particular research study (or sketch) might be placed within one or more groupings; for example, inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning often also includes attention to student teachers’ experiences and case studies of teacher education initiatives inevitably draw on theory to frame the research and make sense of findings. Also, overviewing the field and identifying relevant research is not as simple as it might first appear, given challenges in identifying research undertaken by teacher educators, differences in the positioning of teacher educators within different educational systems, and privileging of American (US) views of teacher education in published research, which was counteracted in a small way in this review by explicitly including voices located outside this dominant setting. Examples of different types of qualitative research projects illustrate issues in teacher education that matter to teacher educator researchers globally and locally and how they have sought to use a variety of methodologies to understand them. The examples also show how teacher educators themselves define what is important in teacher education research, often through small-scale studies of context-specific teacher education problems and practices, and how there is value in “smaller story” research that supports understanding of both universals and particularities along with the grand narratives of teacher education.

Article

Teachers’ Knowledge for the Digital Age  

Margaret L. Niess

The 21st-century entrance of digital media into education has required serious reconsideration of the knowledge teachers need for guiding students’ learning with the enhanced technological affordances. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK or TPACK) describes the interaction of the overlapping regions of technological knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge that also creates four additional regions (technological pedagogical knowledge, technological content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and technological pedagogical content knowledge). These knowledge regions are situated within a contextual knowledge domain that contains macro, meso, and micro levels for describing the dynamic equilibrium of the reformed teacher knowledge labeled TPCK/TPACK. Teacher educators, researchers, and scholars have been and continue to be challenged with identifying appropriate experiences and programs that develop, assess, and transform teachers’ knowledge for integrating information and communication technologies (ICT) that are also spurring advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) as learning tools in today’s reformed educational environments. Two questions guide this literature review for engaging the active, international scholarship and research directed toward understanding the nature of TPCK/TPACK and efforts guiding the transformation of the teacher’s knowledge called TPCK/TPACK. The first question considers the nature of a teacher’s knowledge for the digital age and how it differs from prior descriptions. Three distinct views of the nature of TPCK/TPACK are explained: the integrative view; the transformative view; and a distinctive view that directs how the primary domains of pedagogy, content, and technology enhance the teacher’s knowledge. The second question explores the research and scholarship recommending strategies for the redesign of teacher education towards developing, assessing, and transforming teachers’ TPCK/TPACK. These strategies recognize the importance of (1) using teacher educators as role models, (2) reflecting on the role of ICT in education, (3) learning how to use technology by design, (4) scaffolding authentic technology experiences, (5) collaborating with peers, and (6) providing continuous feedback. This research further characterizes teacher educators with strong ICT attributes as the gatekeepers for redesigning teacher education programs so that today’s teachers are better prepared to engage in the strategic thinking of when, where, and how to guide students’ learning given the rapid advancements of digital technologies. These cumulative scholarly efforts provide a launchpad for future research toward transforming teachers’ knowledge for teaching with the technological advancements of the digital age.