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date: 22 October 2020

Preparing Assessment Literate Teachers

Abstract 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

Over the last century, different approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment have held the status of dominant paradigm at various times, leading to periods of educational reform (Jackson, 1992; Schiro, 2013). In North America, the United Kingdom, and paralleled elsewhere, the early part of the 20th century (i.e., 1920–1955) was marked by behavioristic orientations toward teaching and learning, technical curricula, and workplace-minded education (e.g., Bobbitt, 1924; Tyler, 1949). Assessments were largely intended to certify, regulate, and accredit students for the workforce. In the 1950s and 1960s, the dominant paradigm of education began to change, spurred by the global space race, internationalization of economies, and rapid technological progress. An academic paradigm emerged emphasizing disciplinary knowledge constructed through subject experts and leading to the proliferation of advanced degrees (Kliebard, 1975, 2014). The 1970s saw widespread adoption of the constructivist learning paradigm, with social constructivism and holistic education soon following (Bruner, 1965; Schiro, 2013; Shepard, 2000). These learning theories recognized that learning happens through experience and working with others. Group work, collaborative project-based learning, and holistic assessments surfaced as ways to capture student growth and achievement. In the final two decades of the 1900s, diversity became a dominant theme in education throughout the 1980s and 1990s, paralleled in social and political movements, with increased attention given to methods for including, accommodating, and modifying instruction for students with exceptionalities and creating more socially just learning environments. For assessment, this focus meant finding ways to create equitable assessment experiences and maintaining provisions for individual differences.

Currently, the constructivist paradigm continues to operate alongside the ever-growing standards-based paradigm in education, which is rooted in an overarching accountability framework (Linn, 2000; Shepard, 2000). The standards-based paradigm emerged out of concerns that current curriculum was not preparing students for success in post-school life (e.g., Earl, 1995). Further, declines in international and regional test scores across jurisdictions in Canada and the United States, particularly in mathematics and literacy, created public worry in the effectiveness and consistency of taxpayer-funded educational systems (Volante, 2016). The standards-based paradigm promised to bring greater transparency in curriculum expectations to all students by establishing specific standards outlining what students are expected to know and be able to do at various grade levels. While research on the effects of standards-based education has been both positive and negative (see Hamilton, Stecher, & Yuan, 2008), this paradigm has resulted in an increased focus on content learning, with an overall trend toward a greater number of academic expectations across the curriculum. As recognized by O’Connor (2018), the distinguishing feature of standards, compared with previous ways of organizing curriculum, is their focus on outputs instead of inputs (i.e., expectations for what students will learn and do), with emphasis on the opportunities provided to all students. In the United States, standards consist of content standards at various grade levels (the “what”) and performance standards (descriptions of the quality of learning; O’Connor, 2018).

A key feature of the standards-based paradigm is its ties to measurement and assessment. Fundamentally, standards are about measurement, providing a consistent and accepted reference point for the system. Given the concerns that precipitated the standards-based paradigm, there has subsequently been an (over)emphasis on measuring and tracking students’ learning and growth in relation to standards, in efforts to demonstrate publicly the effectiveness of educational systems. Perhaps most pronounced in the United States, every state has instituted a state testing program to measure student achievement in relation to standards, with many school districts also administering district examination programs (Ryan & Feller, 2009). Similarly, all Canadian provinces have a provincial/territorial examination system to monitor student learning (Klinger, DeLuca, & Miller, 2008). Internationally, large-scale assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study compare student achievement data globally (Volante, 2016). At the classroom level, teachers are called to use assessments daily to provide feedback on students’ learning toward the standards and to summatively assess student work at the end of learning periods to communicate classroom achievement to parents (Popham, 2011; Stiggins, 2004). In short, educational standards have become a dominant focus across educational systems and the primary reference for all measurement and assessment of student learning in and across schools (Shepard, Hannaway, & Baker, 2009).

The driving force behind the standards-based paradigm within North America and internationally is an overarching framework of accountability for public education (Lingard & Lewis, 2016). Indeed, Hopmann (2008) has argued that accountability has become a global phenomenon across sectors (e.g., healthcare, psychology, law), yet was initially borrowed from models derived in business and accounting sectors. As a general concept in education, accountability refers to demonstrating publicly the effectiveness of the educational system, including programming, curriculum, and teaching to support students’ learning toward established standards, typically through measurable evidence. Interestingly, while accountability is a globally pervasive influence in education, the enactment of accountability systems throughout various countries differs significantly and is largely dependent on what Hopmann calls a system’s “constitutional mindset.” Across the United States, for example, the accountability agenda has led to increased levels of standardized testing at local, school district, state, and national levels (Linn, 2000; Ryan & Feller, 2009). In Canada, there has been a more balanced emphasis between large-scale assessments, operating at keystone years through provincial tests, and classroom-based, teacher-dependent assessments, with a growing emphasis on the value and importance of formative assessment practices (Volante & Ben Jaafar, 2008). By contrast, the United Kingdom’s model of accountability involves a combination of external school evaluations, a large-scale assessment system of student achievement (e.g., A-level examinations), and significant emphasis on teachers’ classroom assessment evidence including formative assessment (Stobart, 2008). Cross-cutting models of accountability, in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and in most other countries with standards-based systems, is a predominant emphasis on assessment data as the primary lever for satisfying accountability demands. In Asia Pacific, classroom and large-scale assessment data are used not only to make judgments about student learning but also support teacher development and school effectiveness within an accountability framework (Jiang & Hill, 2018). Accordingly, over the past 20 years, educators around the world have repeatedly been called to develop their capacity to value, use, and interpret assessment information to promote and publicly report on student learning in relation to educational standards.

The aim of this article is to consider ways that preservice teacher education programs prepare beginning teachers for the current standards-based, accountability context of education. It is argued that part of this preparation must be a recognition of the preceding paradigms of teaching, learning, and assessment, as these continue to operate in various ways, yet preparation must also distinctly acknowledge the skills, knowledge, and approaches to assessment that shape contemporary education within accountability contexts. As such, the focus is on exploring initial teacher education frameworks that effectively prepare teachers for assessment as a productive process in classrooms that support standards-based teaching and learning. The following section provides a description of what it means for teachers to be assessment literate within the current context of schooling, with subsequent sections used to discuss the role and form of preservice teacher education. Ultimately, the aim is to contribute to a discussion of the features of preservice programming that show promise in preparing teachers for the work of assessment in schools. These practices could be used to educate preservice teachers for the foreseeable future, since they are grounded in sound assessment literature and incorporate sound assessment principles.

Assessment Literacy

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. The 1990 Standards for Teacher Competency in Educational Assessment of Students (AFT, NCME, & NEA, 1990) provided an articulated set of professional standards, which guided teacher education, research, and practice in assessment. These standards included the following statements:

  1. 1. Teachers should be skilled in choosing assessment methods appropriate for instructional decisions;

  2. 2. Teachers should be skilled in developing assessment methods appropriate for instructional decisions;

  3. 3. The teacher should be skilled in administering, scoring, and interpreting the results of both externally-produced and teacher-produced assessment methods;

  4. 4. Teachers should be skilled in using assessment results when making decisions about individual students, planning teaching, developing curriculum, and school improvement;

  5. 5. Teachers should be skilled in developing valid pupil grading procedures that use pupil assessments;

  6. 6. Teachers should be skilled in communicating assessment results to students, parents, other lay audiences, and other educators; and

  7. 7. Teachers should be skilled in recognizing unethical, illegal, and otherwise inappropriate assessment methods and uses of assessment information.

These standards became the basis for research on teachers’ assessment literacy, the majority initially involving quantitative measures of teachers’ knowledge and skills in assessment. In their seminal study, Plake, Impara, and Fager (1993) examined the assessment literacy of 555 teachers and 268 administrators across 45 states in the United States. In the first part of their study, a 35-item instrument, the Teacher Competencies Assessment Questionnaire (TCAQ), was developed to measure the seven competency standards. Each standard was measured through five multiple-choice items. As the first study to explore teacher assessment competency, results pointed to significant gaps in teachers’ understanding and use of assessments as evidenced by an average score of 66% across the 35 items. Specifically, participants lacked competency in interpreting, integrating, and communicating assessment results. Plake et al. (1993) later used their results as a basis for teacher professional development and programming.

Several researchers subsequently built off the work of Plake et al. (1993). O’Sullivan and Johnson (1993) used the TCAQ with 51 graduate students enrolled in a measurement course for teachers to examine their learning of the standards. Similarly, Campbell, Murphy, and Holt (2002) administered a revised version of the TCAQ to 220 undergraduate students enrolled in a preservice measurement course. Based on their analysis, Campbell et al. found that teacher candidates’ competency differed across the seven standards. Accordingly, these researchers concluded that teacher candidates lacked critical aspects of competency upon entering the teaching profession. Mertler (2003) identified a similar trend when he administered the TCAQ to 67 preservice and 197 practicing teachers. Mertler’s results paralleled those of Plake et al (1983) and Campbell et al (2002) studies. In 2004, Mertler and Campbell collaborated on reconceptualizing the TCAQ into the Assessment Literacy Inventory (ALI; Mertler & Campbell, 2004, 2005). Their aim was to contextualize the items by restructuring them into scenario-based questions, reflecting a more practical orientation to the standards (AFT, NCME, & NEA, 1990). Like O’Sullivan and Johnson, Mertler and Campbell (2004, 2005) administered the ALI to teachers enrolled in a measurement course to determine student learning as linked to the standards. Similar to previous studies, teacher competency was still relatively low across critical assessment competencies. Across these studies, researchers continued to characterize teachers’ assessment competency as largely incongruent with the recommended 1990 standards (Galluzzo, 2005; Mertler, 2003, 2009; Zhang & Burry-Stock, 1997), calling for increased professional development of teachers and greater levels of initial teacher education in the area of assessment and evaluation.

As the standards-based paradigm continued to expand between 2000 and 2010, so did the role and form of assessment in classrooms. As Brookhart argued in her 2011 paper, “Educational Assessment Knowledge and Skills for Teachers,” the 1990 standards were becoming incongruent with contemporary assessment demands. Specifically, she argued that the standards needed to be revised to address two core developments in assessment and the requirements for an assessment-literate professional. First, there was a need to expand the standards to embrace the growing emphasis on formative assessment (i.e., assessment for learning), which had proved to be an important and significant influence on student learning and achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Earl, 2013; Hattie, 2009). Formative assessment involved the active engagement of students in assessment throughout the learning period through feedback-rich pedagogical activities (e.g., self-assessment, peer feedback, and teacher feedback). The aim of formative assessment was to provide information on where learners were at in relation to the desired learning goals (i.e., standards), as well as information on how to close the learning gap and achieve the learning goals. In the United Kingdom, the formative assessment agenda had become fiercely popular with the emergence of the Assessment Reform Group (ARG) and its articulation of formative assessment as assessment for learning (ARG, 2002; Black & Wiliam, 1998).

The second area Brookhart (2011) argued for expanding the standards was in relation to the technical and social issues teachers faced in constructing and using assessments within standards-based educational reforms. As the standards were written at the onset of the standards-based paradigm and accountability movement, they were unable to fully predict and address the set of competencies teachers required in this new era of assessment. Coupled with this expansion was teachers’ capacity to assess standards while remaining sensitive to individual students’ unique learning needs and growing levels of diversity within classrooms. Accordingly, a contemporary competency for educators in assessment is the ability to negotiate the standards-based and differentiation agendas through responsive assessment practices.

In an aim to update the 1990 standards, the U.S. Joint Committee for Standards on Educational Evaluation released the Classroom Assessment Standards for PreK-12 Teachers (Klinger et al., 2015). This set of standards includes 16 guidelines that illustrate essential considerations when “exercising the professional judgment required for fair and equitable classroom formative, benchmark, and summative assessments for all students” (p. 1). These standards can be used by teachers, students, and parents/guardians to support and enhance student learning as well as to monitor and report on student achievement in relation to standards-based learning. The 16 standards are divided into three categories: foundations, use, and quality. Foundations includes guidelines related to assessment purposes, designs, and preparation. Use includes guidelines related to feedback processes, analysis of student work, instructional follow-up, and reporting. Quality includes guidelines on fairness, bias, diversity (e.g., cultural, linguistic, exceptionality), and reflection. As recognized through these various topics, these standards begin to address many of the critiques raised against the 1990 standards and begin to outline assessment priorities in relation to the current standards-based accountability paradigm of education.

Over the past decade, the concept of assessment literacy has continued to evolve. Standards documents are referenced as “guidelines” for teacher practice but not as composite listings of required knowledge and skills for all teachers in all contexts. Newer notions of assessment literacy have moved away from early conceptions that aimed to demarcate the knowledge and skills needed for competency in assessment and instead recognize that “Assessment literacy is a dynamic context-dependent social practice that involves teachers articulating and negotiating classroom and cultural knowledges with one another and with learners, in the initiation, development and practice of assessment to achieve the learning goals of students” (Willis, Adie, & Klenowski, 2013, p. 242). 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 (Looney, Cumming, van Der Kleij, & Harris, 2017). In this way, assessment knowledge is always “in the making” and enacted in classrooms through the skill of negotiation.

Underpinning this newer conception of assessment literacy is a developmental orientation toward the teaching and learning of assessment. By developmental, we mean that learning to assess involves shifting conceptions and practices of assessment in response to a variety of experiences and that cultivating assessment literacy follows a socioconstructivist view of learning. As evident from a recent study conducted by Coombs, DeLuca, and LaPointe-McEwan (2018), teachers’ approaches to assessment were notably different at four different stages of their careers (initial teacher education, beginning teaching career, first five years as a teacher, and career teachers). Other studies have also shown that teachers’ orientations toward assessment shift in response to professional learning (Harrison, 2005; Lee & Wiliam, 2005) and with experience (Brown, 2012). Given the developmental and constructivist orientation toward assessment literacy, teacher education can play a role in supporting initial learning in assessment and in providing a foundation for continued development throughout teachers’ careers.

The Role of Teacher Education

The role of teacher education has not always been clear or valued (Egan, 2000). Previously, teacher education was conceptualized as having a minimal role in developing teachers, with greater emphasis placed on professional development opportunities and learning through their practical experiences (Kennedy, 1999). Lortie (1975) argued that teachers were most likely to teach the way they were taught—drawing primarily on what they observed as students—throughout their educational journeys. Recognizing that such an “apprenticeship of observation” does not always promote the most contemporary or effective basis for teacher learning, educational advocates have called for teacher education programs to occupy a more substantial role in shaping teachers’ readiness for the classroom, particularly in the areas of assessment (Popham, 2011).

In describing an approach to teacher education, Kennedy (1999) suggested that in preparing initial teachers, teacher educators must begin by reflecting on and modifying teachers’ frames of reference related to their previous learning experiences, to unpack their observations as students as the basis for their practices as teachers. However, as Egan (2000) noted, it is also critical that beginning teachers are able to contextualize their schooling experiences, as well as newer educational reforms and practices in relation to a broader study of education. In this way, students are able to transition into professional educators, where previously experienced practices and perspectives are interrogated critically and situated within a new philosophy of education.

In preparing teachers for the current standards-based system of education, there is a need to examine structures of teacher education programs that enable student teachers to interrogate their experiences and cultivate the skills and knowledge needed to establish the foundations for assessment literacy (DeLuca & Bellara, 2013). In the preparation of assessment-literate teachers, Poth (2013) found that a variety of approaches were used across teacher education programs, including explicit instruction (i.e., stand-alone courses in assessment), integrated instruction (i.e., assessment taught through curriculum and other education courses), and blended models (i.e., combination of explicit and integrated). Generally, teacher education programs tend to require the completion of at least one assessment course (DeLuca & Bellara, 2013). Yet, despite these courses, teachers continue to demonstrate low levels of assessment literacy (Campbell & Evans, 2000; DeLuca, LaPointe-McEwan, & Luhanga, 2016; Leighton, Gokiert, Cor, & Heffernan, 2010; MacLellan, 2004; Mertler & Campbell, 2004).

In Germany, Schneider and Bodensohn (2017) surveyed 931 student-teachers before they started their postsecondary training and twice more following their teaching practicum experiences within authentic classroom environments. The findings suggested that preservice participants valued assessment standards, as they rated them highly, but tended to undervalue external evaluations (i.e., large-scale assessments). They also reported an increase in their assessment competency during their preservice education program.

As the assessment culture shifts globally toward integrating formative assessment, Buck, Trauth-Nare, and Kaftan (2010) examined American preservice teachers’ understandings of formative assessment and related practices through action research. Their findings demonstrated a significant increase in understanding of formative assessment following explicit instruction on assessment within a science course. This is in comparison to findings that demonstrated that when implicit instruction on formative assessment was provided, preservice teachers did not gain a better understanding of formative assessment and its reflexivity. Buck et al. (2010) recommended that teacher education programs provide explicit instruction on formative assessment through a combination of case study approaches, practical teaching experiences, and consistent reflective thinking.

In New Zealand, Smith and colleagues (2014) examined preservice primary teachers’ conceptions of assessment before and after assessment education using a mixed-methods approach, including questionnaires, dialogues with teacher educators, and focus groups. Similar to the findings from Schneider et al. (2017) and Buck et al. (2010), Smith et al. found that preservice teachers’ beliefs about formative assessment and affiliated knowledge changed significantly following explicit instruction on assessment and the integration of assessment throughout curriculum courses. Preservice teachers in their third year, who were preparing to enter into independent practice, demonstrated the ability to consider assessment from both a student and a teacher perspective. Further, the explicit course on assessment was found to positively impact and inform their learning of assessment practices and principles (Hill, Grudnoff, & Limbrick, 2014). The earlier scheduling of the assessment course in the first semester of their second year allowed preservice teachers to apply what they were learning in practice while on practicum (Hill et al., 2014). In research from Singapore (Leong, 2018), South Africa (Kanjee, 2018), and China (Zhao, Yan, Tang, & Zhou, 2018), it is evident that systemic factors such as curriculum reform in the case of South Africa and China and epistemic and cultural factors in the case of Singapore shape teachers’ approaches to and learning about assessment. The need for additional assessment preparation is a global concern, as teacher education programs around the world continue to identify gaps in preservice teachers’ developmental orientation toward assessment literacy (Brookhart, 2001; Campbell, 2013; Schneider & Bodensohn, 2017; Smith et al., 2014).

Frameworks for Assessment Education

While much of the existing assessment education research 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. Next, two frameworks for assessment education are described that consider multiple dimensions to preparing assessment-literate teachers: DeLuca’s (2012) Assessment Education Framework and Xu and Brown’s (2016) Teacher Assessment Literacy in Practice Framework. The article focuses on these assessment education frameworks as they work within a contemporary constructivist and sociocultural view of assessment literacy as described earlier.

Assessment Education Framework

DeLuca (2012) worked to establish a preliminary framework for assessment education as a foundation for the development of teacher education programs and related research. This framework was predicated on literature from three perspectives: the preservice policy perspective, the teacher-educator perspective, and the teacher-candidate perspective. Each perspective provided a foundation for developing a four-level framework for assessment education. The levels of the framework included (a) foundations for assessment education, (b) ideas in classroom assessment, (c) connections, and (d) extension. Guiding learning across all levels was an enduring commitment to assessment fairness—creating equitable opportunities for all students to demonstrate their learning and participate in assessment processes.

The Assessment Education Framework uses the ideas, connections, extensions (ICE) model (Fostaty Young & Wilson, 2000) as a conceptual foundation for teacher learning in assessment. In this model, the I-ideas level asserts that beginning learners start by understanding discrete units of information before making connections (C). At the C-connections level, learners begin to link ideas together to make more sophisticated understandings of concepts. They also begin to establish connections between the ideas and their own personal experiences (i.e., implementation of ideas in practice). At the final level, E-extensions, learners are able to extend their connected ideas to novel situations and contexts. Not only does this level involve application of concepts, it also involves modifying knowledge to best suit a learning context and generating new knowledge for innovative solutions to new challenges. Applied to assessment learning, the ICE model can be used to help scaffold preservice teachers’ learning of assessment principles, practices, and theories to support their ongoing professional development in assessment.

Foundations for Assessment Education

Underpinning ICE-based learning, DeLuca (2012) articulated core foundations for assessment learning as predicated on literature from contemporary teacher education research. Specifically, he suggested that learning about assessment should maintain explicit commitments to (a) an integrated and coherent view of assessment within teaching and learning processes (Darling-Hammond, 2006; (b) experiential pedagogies that model effective and contemporary assessment theory and practice (Harlen & Gardner, 2010; Loughran, 2006); (c) inclusive pedagogies that provide equitable opportunities to learn for diverse teacher candidates (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Grossman, 2005); and (d) a professional learning orientation that encompasses critical reflection, collaboration, and professional development planning (Grant, 2000; Grossman, 2005).

Ideas

The ideas level builds from literature on assessment education and standards for assessment literacy, outlining key areas of assessment practice relevant for standards-based education (Brookhart, 2011). These areas include (a) contemporary classroom psychometric and assessment theory; (b) cognitive learning theories; (c) curriculum and pedagogy; (d) classroom assessment practices, processes, and uses; and (e) student diversity and equitable opportunities to learn and assess. As evident from this list of areas, not only are the core ideas directly related to assessment but they also bridge into other foundational elements of teaching (i.e., curriculum, diversity, pedagogy), as classroom assessment is considered an integrated component of teaching and learning activities.

Connections

At the connections level, student teachers are invited to enlarge their conceptions and understandings of assessment by connecting ideas together through their various learning experiences (i.e., coursework, field placements, previous experiences as students). Reflective pedagogies, deliberate synthesis and critique tasks, and purposeful articulation of assessment beliefs help teachers establish connections. Connections also occur through the implementation of ideas in practice, whether through course-based assignments and activities or during field placements.

Extensions

The final level encourages student teachers to link their conceptions of assessment to broader educational theories, philosophies, and practices to arrive at more coherent and consistent approaches to teaching and assessment. At this level, teachers apply their knowledge in context, making modifications and adjustments to best serve the learning needs and principle of fairness for students.

Collectively, the levels of the framework are intended to provide a guide for how teachers might generate capacity in assessment, with implications for the structuring of teacher education courses and programs.

Teacher Assessment Literacy in Practice Framework

Xu and Brown (2016) reconceptualized assessment literacy after reviewing the current literature in teacher education, and constructed a framework for assessment education titled Teacher Assessment Literacy in Practice (TALiP). More specifically, they drew upon personal experiences with teaching and assessment, alongside previous models of assessment literacy that emphasized the social nature (Willis, Adie, & Klenowski, 2013) and the need for assessment principles to be linked explicitly to classroom practices (DeLuca, LaPointe-McEwan, & Luhanga, 2016). Xu and Brown’s framework has four hierarchical elements with identified mediating factors between them. The elements are (from the foundational element to the highest element): (a) teacher knowledge base (primarily in assessment knowledge and skills); (b) teacher conceptions of assessment (including cognitive dimensions, views of learning and epistemological beliefs, and affective dimensions); (c) teacher assessment literacy in practice (i.e., compromises in assessment decision-making and actions-taking); and (d) assessor identity (re)construction (i.e., teacher as assessor). Mediating factors between these elements include (a) interpretive and guiding frameworks, (b) macro sociocultural and micro institutional contexts, and (c) teacher learning.

The Foundational Element

A foundational knowledge base is required for TALiP but is not sufficient without the other elements. This knowledge base could include standards, guidelines, or assessment principles and relates to initial conceptions of knowledge and skills teachers require to be assessment literate. However, it is important to understand that these guidelines, standards, or principles are meant to support teachers and are not quick and easy solutions for assessment needs within classrooms. Teachers also require a strong understanding of their disciplines so that they are comfortable integrating assessment alongside teaching standards-based content. Xu and Brown (2016) emphasized the need for teachers to understand the varying purposes of assessment and possible assessment strategies that can be used to assess student understanding. From specific to more general assessment strategies, teachers also need to understand how to grade student work using marking schemes or rubrics and how they can assign a mark to student work. To accompany grading and assessment strategies, teachers require an understanding of feedback principles and how various feedback approaches can be used to support student learning. Further, teachers must understand how assessment evidence can be interpreted and the appropriate means to communicate assessment results to multiple stakeholders (e.g., parents and administrators) to decrease the chance of drawing invalid interpretations. Lastly, within the foundational knowledge base, teachers require an awareness of ethical obligations for the use, communication, and keeping of assessment evidence. Within ethical considerations lies the responsibility to ensure that teachers’ assessment practices are nondiscriminatory.

Teacher Conceptions of Assessment Element

This element is mediated by interpretive and guiding frameworks that shape how teachers understand foundational knowledge in assessment. This element (and the subsequent elements) engage newer conceptions of assessment literacy drawing on the negotiated enactment of assessment knowledge based on context. It is understood that teachers’ beliefs—their view of learning and epistemological beliefs—shape the way in which theoretical knowledge is interpreted (Looney et al., 2017). Further, the way in which teachers conceptualize assessment can be affected by both cognitive and affective factors. In terms of cognitive implications, teachers tend to accept or interpret theoretical knowledge that is most consistent or similar to their beliefs and teaching philosophies (Brown, 2008). Affective feelings and emotions toward assessment also impact the ways in which teachers interpret knowledge. If teachers have a strong emotional attachment or experience related to a particular component of assessment knowledge, it may be more difficult to change the ways in which they conceptualize assessment (Crossman, 2007; Green, 1971).

Teacher Assessment Literacy in Practice Element

Xu and Brown (2016) suggested that what teachers enact in practice is not only shaped by their foundational knowledge as interpreted through cognitive dimensions, beliefs, and affective dimensions but also through practical contextual features, leading to compromises in decision-making. Hence, this element is mediated by both macro sociocultural and micro-institutional contexts. These contextual features ranged from large-scale assessment policies to stakeholders’ needs. However big or small, Xu and Brown emphasized that teachers’ assessment practices and conceptions are necessarily constrained by various contextual factors.

Assessor Identity (Re)construction Element

The final element recognizes the value and role of teacher learning in interpreting and reinterpreting assessment knowledge and actions. Drawn from McMillan’s (2003) work that suggested teachers have to navigate the tensions between their beliefs and external constraints when making assessment decisions, teachers develop their identity as assessors through reflective practice (Schön, 1983) and participating in professional development opportunities (Westheimer, 2008). Learning through these mediums may result in the modification of teachers’ assessment decisions to better support student learning. In this final element of the framework, Xu and Brown (2016) argued for reframing the traditional view of “teacher as instructor” and to instead prioritize the view of “teacher as assessor.” This reframing is especially important for preservice teachers who need to transition from students to teachers as they work through their initial teacher education programs.

Learning to Assess

Teachers enter a profession where standards, assessment, and accountability are central to their practice. Yet, despite over two decades of the standards-based paradigm, teachers still report low levels of assessment literacy and confidence in this core area of professional practice. While assessment education has historically been a narrow part of initial teacher preparation, there is increasing recognition that assessment needs to percolate all areas of learning as it is interconnected with teaching, learning, and professional studies in education. The conception of assessment literacy offered in the literature suggests that while preservice programs cannot provide teacher candidates with a bank of steadfast knowledge and skills that will endure throughout their career, they can provide them with a template for learning about assessment and a readiness for engaging in the developmental nature of being an assessment literate teacher.

To this end, the two frameworks presented in the final section (DeLuca, 2012; Xu & Brown, 2016) of this article suggest areas for teaching that not only include the fundamentals but move beyond them 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 in order to refine and synthesize their thinking. Xu and Brown (2016) 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 context-based socioreflective 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.

Further Reading

America Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Council on Measurement in Education. (2014). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Find this resource:

American Federation of Teachers, National Council on Measurement in Education, National Education Association. (1990). Standards for teacher competence in educational assessment.Find this resource:

Brookhart, S. M. (2011). Educational assessment knowledge and skills for teachers. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 30(1), 3–12.Find this resource:

Brown, G. T. L. (2008). Conceptions of assessment: Understanding what assessment means to teachers and students. New York, NY: Nova Science.Find this resource:

DeLuca, C. (2012). Preparing teachers for the age of accountability: Toward a framework for assessment education. Action in Teacher Education, 34(5–6), 576–591.Find this resource:

DeLuca, C., LaPointe-McEwan, D., & Luhanga, U. (2016). Teacher assessment literacy: What is it and how do we measure it? Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Accountability, 28, 251–272.Find this resource:

Hopmann, S. T. (2008). No child, no school, no state left behind: Schooling in the age of accountability. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 40, 417–456.Find this resource:

Klinger, D. A., McDivitt, P. R., Howard, B. B., Munoz, M. A., Rogers, W. T., & Wylie, E. C. (2015). Classroom assessment standards for preK-12 teachers. Kindle Direct Press.Find this resource:

Linn, R. L. (2000). Assessments and accountability. Educational Researcher, 29(2), 4–16.Find this resource:

Looney, A., Cumming, J., van Der Kleij, F., & Harris, K. (2018). Reconceptualising the role of teachers as assessors: Teacher assessment identity. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 25(5), 442–467Find this resource:

Plake, B., Impara, J., & Fager, J. (1993). Assessment competencies of teachers: A national survey. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 12(4), 10–21.Find this resource:

Popham, W. J. (2011). What teachers need to know (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.Find this resource:

Shepard, L. A. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4–14.Find this resource:

Willis, J., Adie, L., & Klenowski, V. (2013). Conceptualizing teachers’ assessment literacies in an era of curriculum and assessment reform. Australian Educational Researcher, 40(2), 24–256.Find this resource:

Xu, Y., & Brown, G. (2016). Teacher assessment literacy in practice: A reconceptualization. Teaching and Teacher Education, 58, 149–162.Find this resource:

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