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date: 18 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

A standards-based accountability paradigm of education currently shapes teaching and learning in many schools around the world. This paradigm is characterized by increased academic standards and greater levels of assessment throughout learning periods. Across policy and curriculum documents, teachers are called to implement assessments to monitor, support, and report on student learning. Assessments can be formative (i.e., used to inform teaching and learning processes) or summative (i.e., used to communicate achievement through grades) and based on a variety of evidence (e.g., tests, performance tasks, conversations, observations, and so on).

Given the growing emphasis on assessment as a dominant aspect of contemporary teaching and learning, there is a need for teachers to be assessment literate. The term assessment literacy was initially used to refer to the knowledge and skills teachers required in the area of assessment, historically with a strong focus on principles of measurement and test design. Over the past decade, however, the concept of assessment literacy has evolved. Newer notions of assessment literacy have moved away from demarcating the knowledge and skills needed for competency in assessment and instead recognize that assessment literacy is a contextual and social practice that requires teachers to negotiate their knowledge of assessment in relation to their pedagogy, curriculum, and classroom contexts. Central to this conception is the view that teacher assessment literacy is both sociocultural and contextual, shaped by various factors including teacher background, experience, professional learning, classroom context, student interactions and behaviors, curriculum, and class diversity.

With the increased role of assessment in schools, pressure has been placed on initial teacher education programs to prepare beginning teachers with the necessary capacity to become assessment literate. While much of the existing research in the area of assessment education has focused on the value of discrete courses on teacher learning in assessment or on specific pedagogical approaches to enhancing student learning in assessment, results continue to point toward the need for more comprehensive preparation of teachers for the current standards-based paradigm of education. Accordingly, two frameworks for assessment education are described that consider multiple dimensions to preparing assessment literate teachers. These frameworks are DeLuca’s Assessment Education Framework and Xu and Brown’s Teacher Assessment Literacy in Practice Framework. These assessment education frameworks were selected as they work within a contemporary constructivist and sociocultural view of assessment literacy.

The two frameworks suggest areas for teacher education that not only include the fundamentals for assessment literacy but also move beyond the fundamentals to engage the messier dimensions of what it means to do assessment work in schools. In both cases, student teachers are pressed to make connections and challenged to enact ideas in context to refine and synthesize their thinking. Xu and Brown detailed the macro- and micro-level influences that further shape assessment decisions in action. The composite picture is that learning to assess is not a neat and tidy enterprise of textbook curriculum. Instead, it is about learning foundational ideas and building an integrated stance toward teacher as assessor through contextualized reflective learning. Driving this learning is an enduring understanding that one’s assessment literacy is always in the making—a continuously evolving competency in relation to new contexts and experiences.

Keywords: teacher education, assessment, accountability, evaluation, assessment literacy

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