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Article

Preparing Assessment Literate Teachers  

Christopher DeLuca and Heather Braund

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.

Article

Performance-Based Assessment in Preparing Teachers  

Drew Polly

Performance-based assessments are assessments in which learners complete a complex task or series of tasks in order to demonstrate their learning. Originally designed and used with school-aged learners (ages 5 through 18), the use of performance-based assessments gained popularity in the early 2000s as a way to deeply assess learners’ knowledge and skills. The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards has been using performance-based assessments, which include video evidence of teachers, artifacts of student work, and teachers’ written reflections as part of their credentialing process. For individuals seeking their initial teaching license or teaching credential, in the past decade in the United States, teacher education programs have started to use performance-based assessments. The most widely used performance-based assessment in teacher education in the United States is edTPA, an assessment that was either required or used as an option in 37 states at the time this chapter was written. The edTPA assessment, similar to the National Board portfolio, includes video evidence from the teacher candidate’s instruction, lesson plans, artifacts of student learning, and the teacher candidate’s written reflections about their planning, teaching, and assessment of their students. This chapter describes performance-based assessments in teacher education programs, and focuses on how faculty members in one elementary education (students age 5–11) teacher education program revised its curriculum to support teacher candidates’ completion of the edTPA performance-based assessment.

Article

Assessments in Education  

Hans Henrik Sievertsen

Assessments like standardized tests and teacher evaluations are central elements of educational systems. Assessments affect the behaviour of students, teachers, parents, schools, and policymakers through at least two channels: The information channel and the incentive channel. Students use the information to adjust study effort and to guide their course selection. Schools and teachers use information from assessments to evaluate teaching quality and the effectiveness of the applied methods. Educational programs use information from assessment results to sort students in educational programs and employers use the results as signals of productivity in their hiring decisions. Finally, policymakers use assessments in accountability systems to reward or penalize schools, and parents use information from assessment results to select schools. The incentive channel is a natural consequence of the information channel: Students are incentivized to work hard and do well in assessments to get access to educational programs and jobs. Teachers and schools are incentivized to do well to receive rewards or avoid punishments in accountability systems. The information channel is important for ensuring the most efficient human capital investments: students learn about the returns and costs of effort investments and about their abilities and comparative advantages. Teachers and schools learn about the most effective teaching methods. However, because of the strong incentives linked to assessments, both students and teachers might focus on optimizing assessment results at the cost of learning. Students might for example select tracks that maximize their grades instead of selecting tracks aligned with their interests and comparative advantages. Understanding the implications of assessments for the behaviour of students, parents, teachers, and schools is therefore necessary to achieve the overall goals of the educational system. Because education affects lifetime earnings, health, and well-being and assessments play an important role in individuals’ educational careers, assessments are also important for efficiency and equity across domains. Biases in assessments and the heterogeneity in access to assessments are sources of inequality in education according to gender, origin, and socioeconomic background. Finally, because assessment results also carry important consequences for individuals’ educational opportunities and in the labor market, they are a source of stress and reduced well-being.

Article

Enhancing Students’ Assessment Feedback Skills Within Higher Education  

Carol Evans and Michael Waring

In higher education (HE) considerable attention is focused on the skills sets students need to meet the requirements of the fourth industrial revolution. The acquisition of high-level assessment feedback skills is fundamental to lifelong learning. HE has made significant investment in developing assessment feedback practices over the last 30 years; however, far less attention has been given to the development of inclusive agentic integrated assessment systems that promote student agency and autonomy in assessment feedback, and from an individual differences perspective. “Inside the Black Box,” a seminal work, opened the potential of assessment as a supportive process in facilitating students in coming to know (understanding the requirements of a task and context, and their own learning) through the development of formative assessment. However, overall, the assessment for learning movement has not changed students’ perceptions, on entering HE, that feedback is something they receive rather than something they can generate and orchestrate despite being predicated on a self-regulatory approach. HE promotes students’ use of self-regulated learning approaches although these are not sufficiently integrated into curriculum systems. In moving forward assessment feedback, it is important to adopt a theoretically integrated approach that draws on self-regulatory frameworks, agentic engagement concepts, understanding of individual differences, and the situated nature of assessment. Current emphases in HE focus on how we engage students as active participants in assessment, in coming to know assessment requirements as part of sustainable practices with students as co-constructors of assessment inputs and outputs. Assessment design should be challenging students to maximize their selective and appropriate use of assessment feedback skills for both immediate and longer-term learning gains. Addressing the professional development of lecturers and students in the acquisition and development of essential fourth industrial age assessment feedback competencies is fundamental to enhancing the quality of learning and teaching in HE.

Article

Data-Based Decision-Making  

Mark Carter, Jennifer Stephenson, and Sarah Carlon

The term data-based decision-making can refer to a wide range of practices from formative classroom use of monitoring in order to improve instruction to system-wide use of “big” data to guide educational policy. Within the context of special education, a primary focus has been on the formative classroom use of data to guide teachers in improving instruction for individual students. For teachers, this typically involves the capacity to (1) determine what data need to be collected to appropriately monitor the skill being taught, (2) collect that data, (3) interpret the data and make appropriate decisions, and (4) implement changes as needed. A number of approaches to such data-based decision-making have evolved, including precision teaching, curriculum-based assessment, and curriculum-based measurement. Evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses indicates instruction incorporating data-based decision-making has positive effects on outcomes for students with special education needs although the size of these effects has been variable. While the extent of the research base is modest, there are indications that some specific factors may be related to this variability. For example, the use of decision-making rules and graphic display of data appears to improve student outcomes and the frequency of data collection may differentially affect improvement. The presence and frequency of support offered to teachers may also be important to student outcomes. There is a need to increase our research base examining data-based decision-making and, more specifically, a need to more clearly define and characterize moderators that contribute to its effectiveness. In addition, there is a case for research on the wider use of data on student outcomes to inform broader policy and practice.

Article

Teaching International Relations Theory in Introductory Global Politics Courses  

Jamie Frueh and Jeremy Youde

Theory can be a controversial element of an Introduction to International Relations (IR) course. Many undergraduate students have not been trained to think theoretically, and as a result many instructors find the abstract elements of IR theory difficult to teach, especially to students who lack the motivation provided by plans to major in political science or IR. But learning to think theoretically and to understand IR theory specifically is a valuable exercise for undergraduate students, particularly for nonmajors. Whether or not one believes IR theory to be good in and of itself, studying theory is a critical component of a complete liberal education, one that prepares students to be engaged global citizens. In addition to exploring effective ways to teach particular theories, instructors should work on making sense of the purpose of studying IR theory in ways that resonate with students. Learning IR theory requires students to think theoretically, something familiar to all who have survived the gauntlet of a doctoral program. Teaching students to think theoretically requires instructors, first, to empathize with the limited experience most undergraduate students have with academic theory, and second, to build learning environments that engage and authorize students as theoreticians. Utilizing active learning techniques and thoughtful assessment exercises, instructors can create environments more conducive to learning IR theory while engaging students in areas and media to which they are already connected. This approach to teaching requires adventurousness in the classroom and broader discussions about how to teach IR in general.

Article

Quality and Evaluation in Finnish Schools  

Jaakko Kauko, Janne Varjo, and Hannele Pitkänen

The quality of education has been a central matter of global debate in the new millennium. The global trend supports test-based accountability models and increasing national data collection as techniques for supporting and increasing quality in education. In contrast, a central feature of the Finnish education system runs counter to the global trend: it does not have strong top-down quality control mechanisms. Historical development of the Finnish model has a strong continuity, which has stood up against the global quality and evaluation policy flows. The evolution of the Finnish “model” dates back centuries. The foundations of the Finnish quality system can be traced to participation in international comparative learning studies developing national capacity, the inspection of folk education supporting the tradition of nationally coordinated external evaluation, and the local supervision of folk schools through school boards emphasizing local provision and the quality control of evaluation. These developments culminated during the 1990s with the radical deregulation and decentralization of education governance. The current model is partly unarticulated. However, it is clearly distinguishable: in comprehensive schools (primary and lower secondary), ensuring quality is entrusted to education providers and schools. They are expected to conduct self-evaluation regularly. There are no national standardized tests, and sample-based testing for development purposes forms the core of evaluation data. Only the main evaluation results are published, making school rankings impossible. Yet there is a large variation in how the quality of education is approached and evaluated in Finland’s more than 300 municipalities. Significantly, the central government has no direct means to control the quality of local education. Its impact is indirect through aims to foster and promote the quality evaluation culture in schools and municipalities. Furthermore, international cooperation and participation in international large-scale assessments have been unable to politicize the national education development discourse. This somewhat uncoordinated yet economical and teacher-friendly quality system raises interesting questions for further research: is this only a Finnish peculiarity developed in a specific historical context, or does it make possible critical theoretical and societal conclusions that question the dominant global test-based quality trends? The buffering of international accountability-based testing and swimming against the global quality evaluation flow is built on (a) the compartmentalization of international tests; (b) the fact that national coordination began to see a deregulated system as a necessity and virtue, and was long fragmented in different evaluation functions; and (c) the important role the local level has played historically in upholding and evaluating the quality of education.

Article

An Overview of Historical Transitions in Politics of Education in Spain  

Gonzalo Jover and Mariano González-Delgado

Politics of education constitutes a major line of research in Spain in recent years. This interest is the result of a long process. Enlightened thought and the emergence of new ideas led to thinking about the need to develop a national education system. The 19th century witnessed the birth of just such a system, along with the unfinished debate between liberals and conservatives on who should control education (church or state) and how it should be funded. By the 20th century, the education system had become one of the main resources for achieving social modernization in Spain and grew accordingly. Despite the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), this push for modernization carried on into the Franco dictatorship, with the typical peculiarities of a totalitarian regime. By the end of World War II, the Spanish education system was characterized by following the development of educational policies inscribed in the model of Western societies, or what has been called “global governance in education.” This conception of education was continued during the restoration of democracy in 1978. Despite its intention of configuring an education system based on the agreement between the major political parties of the day, the Constitution of 1978 did not manage to end the “school war,” which has caused considerable instability in the system. Since the end of the 20th century, the Spanish education system has been inserted in the context of international trends such as the resizing of political spaces, the push of the neoliberal global economy, and the move toward multicultural societies. The battle of statistics, figures, and scores has led to a supposed depoliticization of the debate. In face of this alleged depoliticization, an argument can be made in favor of resituating the politics of education as a field of knowledge that concerns social aspirations forged in the course of history and ethics.

Article

Sociocultural Perspectives on Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Assessment to Support Inclusive Education  

Missy Morton and Annie Guerin

Sociocultural perspectives on curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment support teachers in developing and implementing inclusive pedagogies. Sociocultural assessment approaches disregard impairment as an identity in itself, privileging the strengths and knowledge evident in observed interactions. A sociocultural approach to assessment recognizes the dynamic interaction between teaching, learning, and assessment, spread across people, places, and time. Where traditional forms of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment focus on a decontextualized individual, a sociocultural perspective pays close attention to contexts. Teachers’ practices, expectations, and understandings of learning and diversity form a key part of the contexts. In culturally responsive paradigms, learning is recognized as sociocultural—being informed through interactions with others. All students are recognized and valued as people who gain experiences and knowledge across many contexts. Multiple perspectives are valued as shared understandings and constructions of learning are developed in response to observations and interactions in a community of learners—where students and teachers learn with and from each other. Teachers who recognize themselves as capable of teaching everyone in the class are more likely to recognize everyone as a learner, to think critically about their positioning and understanding of disability, and to plan teaching, learning, and assessment in inclusive ways of working.

Article

Special Education and Integrated Education in Hong Kong  

Fuk-chuen Ho and Cici Sze-ching Lam

Hong Kong has adopted a dual-track system of the education for students with special educational needs (SEN). The system provides a diverse school education to cater to the individual needs of students. In principle, students with SEN are encouraged to receive education in ordinary schools as far as possible. Students with severe SEN or multiple disabilities, however, can be referred to special schools for intensive support services upon the recommendation of specialists and with parents’ consent. Before the launch of the pilot scheme of integrated education in 1998, students with SEN were mostly placed in special schools. The change from a mono-track system to a dual-track system caused concerns for teachers in ordinary schools. This is because integrated education is more than placing students with SEN in ordinary classrooms. It involves a total change in the way schools and teachers operate. Teachers require the skills and background knowledge to support a diverse range of students in the classroom through ordinary classroom practices, and the ability to meet the needs of every student as an individual. In Hong Kong, most teachers have particular concerns about the short duration of training in professional development, the difficulties in the design of the curriculum and assessment differentiation under the three-tier support system, the practice of collaboration among different teaching teams, and the change of administrators’ perceptions on the education of students with SEN. The central authority and the school community should work collaboratively to deal with these pressing difficulties.

Article

Media Literacy and Communication  

Erica Scharrer and Yuxi Zhou

Media literacy refers to the ability to interact with media from a position of active inquiry, carefully considering media texts, the forces and factors that shape those texts, and the ways in which audiences interpret the texts or otherwise respond. Media access, use, creation, analysis, and evaluation skills are considered essential for citizenship in the contemporary world. Media literacy education encompasses efforts to advance media literacy within a group of individuals and spur their motivation to apply media literacy skills and perspectives in interactions with media. Yet, there are barriers that impede the widespread adoption of media literacy education in various global locations. There is disparity, for instance, in the degree to which local, regional, or national policies support media literacy education in schools as well as in the training, funding, or other resources available to educators. Considerable variability in the assumptions and objectives that scholars and practitioners bring to media literacy education has been identified. Some of that variability reflects differing emphases in Communication and Media Studies paradigms including whether media literacy education should be considered as a means of protecting children and adolescents from the potential for negative effects of media. Sometimes positioned as an alternative to a more protectionist approach, media literacy education can be viewed as a platform from which to encourage young people’s creative self-expression and to emphasize their (and others’) agency rather than vulnerability. The ways in which media literacy education is carried out and how and what is assessed to determine what such education can achieve differs, as well. In spite of these differences, there are overarching commonalities in media literacy conceptualization and empirical evidence that media literacy education can build skills necessary for citizenship in an increasingly media- and information-rich world.

Article

Professionalizing Teacher Education Accountability  

Diane Mayer

This article examines teacher education accountability and argues for new emphases in accreditation and beginning teacher certification designed to professionalize teacher education. A brief overview of the history of teacher education policy is presented as a background framing for exploring the current policy moment positioning teacher education as a problem that needs to be fixed. Government responses discussed are mainly those in the Anglophone areas of Australia, North America, and the United Kingdom. These involve tighter regulation while at the same time opening up a deregulated teacher education environment as well as an increasing focus on measuring the contribution that teacher preparation makes to student learning. The article suggest ways of professionalizing teacher education accountability which go beyond the “partnerships,” “classroom-ready,” and “value-added” mantras of current debates and policies and considers (1) teacher education in a new hybrid space, (2) authentic graduate assessments, and (3) rigorous research evidence as the cornerstones of a refreshed and more professionalised approach to teacher education accountability.

Article

Social Work Education: Electronic Technologies  

Philip M. Ouellette and David Wilkerson

The growth in technological advances in recent years has revolutionized the way we teach, learn, and practice social work. Due to increases in educational costs and the need for students to maintain family and work responsibilities, an increasing number of social work programs have turned to today’s advances in technology to deliver their courses and programs. This change has resulted in the creative use of new multimedia tools and online pedagogical strategies to offer distance web-based educational programming. With increases in technology-supported programs, recent research studies have identified a number of areas needing further investigation to ensure that quality distance education programs are developed.

Article

The Role of Mentoring in Teacher Education  

Nicole Hayes and Bruce Pridham

Mentoring is a positive, supportive facilitation of learning and development between a person with more experience, knowledge, or expertise in a certain field, and a person who is less knowledgeable or is new to that field. In the tertiary setting, mentoring programs take on many forms and structures, with a range of objectives such as support for transition, academic supplemented instruction, and social support. All mentoring programs, regardless of structure, are fundamentally a transactional process of support underpinned by a mutually respectful relationship. The foundations of mentoring are drawn from theoretical frameworks grounded in social constructivism, social learning, applied learning, and developmental theory. These frameworks inform aspects of collaborative learning and outline the multiple benefits for participants including the building of interpersonal, problem-solving and communication skills, increasing academic success and motivation. Successful mentoring programs are conceptualized and planned to ensure the program meets its objectives, has sound processes, clear expectations and roles for all participants, and an effective evaluation system for continual refinement and improvement. When the objective of the mentoring is to increase academic knowledge and skill, the greatest success occurs when the mentor has the expertise, experience, and the ability to scaffold the personal construction of meaning for the mentee. In initial teacher education (ITE) contexts mentoring programs derive successful outcomes for the mentee, mentor, academic teaching staff, organization, and ultimately the profession. The less able students require support and scaffolding to promote and enhance deep learning and the mentor experiences altruism, while refining and practicing pedagogical skills. Mentees and mentors gain self-efficacy, confidence in pedagogical skills, and inter- intrapersonal skills. Staff are able to support diverse open learning tasks to accommodate a personalized learning approach for large cohorts with trained mentors working in the classroom providing point-of-need feedback to maximize learning gains. The university gains through low-cost innovations that increase levels of academic success and positively influence retention and student satisfaction. Society benefits from the resultant high-quality graduates, who are “classroom ready” and prepared to meet the challenges of complex learning environments. Mentoring plays an integral role in the development of teacher professional identity through modelling and intergenerational relationships. Changing accreditation requirements and government-led inquiries into initial teacher education courses have prompted a review of current practices in the tertiary sector. To better meet the needs of the workforce, universities have a greater responsibility to demonstrate the classroom readiness of graduands. Successful teacher education programs utilize mentoring to support and enculturate the next generation of practitioners and ensure they are work ready. Structured mentoring programs transform the student experience, and create cohesive program designs to guide and support preservice teachers who are engaged in the process of learning and reinforcing their positions as developing teachers. Students in near-peer mentoring programs develop a range of mentoring skills and experiences that complement their academic development as they enter the teaching profession.

Article

Dynamic Cognitive Assessment for Preschool Age Children  

David Tzuriel

Dynamic assessment (DA) is guided by theoretical conceptualization about the nature of cognitive modifiability and needs to construct diagnostic measures for children who do not reveal their learning potential in conventional static tests. The development of DA was stirred by inadequacy of conventional testing to provide precise answers for individual differences in learning ability, learning processes, cognitive functions, and non-intellective factors that are responsible for cognitive modifiability. The rationale for developing DA for preschool children is that early identification of children’s learning potential and deficient cognitive functions would facilitate development of mediation strategies to overcome their learning difficulties and actualize their learning potential. DA is defined as an assessment, by an active teaching process, of a child’s perception, learning, thinking, and problem solving. DA is aimed at modifying an individual’s cognitive functioning and observing subsequent changes in learning and problem-solving patterns within the testing situation. Development of DA was driven by criticism of standardized testing: (a) bias toward minority groups and children with special needs, (b) selective administration procedures of children with high-risk for being labled as intellectualy disabled, (c) lack of consideration of motivational and emotional factors, (d) lack of information on learning and metacognitive processes, and (e) inadequate recommendations on specific intervention strategies and prescriptive teaching. The main goals of DA are to assess learning potential, deficient cognitive functions, amount and nature of mediation required for change, and transfer of learning. The main mediation strategies used in DA are establishing prerequired thinking behaviors, self-regulation of behavior, enhancement of reflective and analytic processes, teaching task-specific concepts, feedback on success/failure in learning processes, and development of basic communication skills. DA of preschool children is more challenging than that of older children because executive functions and communication skills of young children are less developed. The best known DA approaches for young children are those of Lidz and Tzuriel; both are based on the theories of Vygotsky and Feuerstein. Lidz’s approach is focused on objectives that reflect curriculum demands of educational settings. Her Application of the Cognitive Functions Scale indicates the degree of mastery on cognitive tasks, responsiveness to intervention, and non-intellective factors. Tzuriel’s approach is characterized by innovations of instruments, assessment procedures adapted for developmental stages, mediation strategies, behavior checklists, and a recording and scoring for clinical and measurement versions. Tzuriel’s approach is characterized by 10 aspects: Adaptation of test materials to child’s developmental level, “bridging” of concrete operations to abstract operations, communication aspects, clinical and measurement versions, preliminary phase component of DA, scoring methods for the measurement version, transfer problems, comparison of modifiability across task dimensions, assessment of non-intellective factors, and creativity in construction of problems. A growing body of theory and research on DA supports the crucial role of the DA in: (a) reflecting better the learning potential of children than standardized testing, (b) confirming that the quality of mediation within the family, school, and peers systems is a strong determinant of cognitive modifiability, and (c) demonstrating DA as a powerful approach in revealing the implicit effects of intervention cognitive programs on cognitive development.

Article

Adult Literacy and Basic Education in the United States  

Thomas Sticht

From colonial times to the modern era the United States has provided adult literacy and basic education (ALBE) for those adults seeking better work, a better home life for themselves and their families, greater educational achievement for their children, and engagement in civic duties for community development. In the Moonlight Schools of Kentucky, illiterate country folk learned to read and write to run their farms and towns better. In the cities, immigrants learned English and their civic duties as citizens in programs of “Americanization.” By the 1960s, civil and voting rights movements helped tens of thousands of African Americans learn to read and write so they could exercise their rights of self-government through democracy. In 1966, the United States established for the first time a national Adult Education and Literacy System (AELS) formed in a partnership of the federal and 50 state governments. From serving some 50 thousand or so adults in its early years the AELS enrollments rose over the next 35 years to around 4 million. Then, following the implementation of a National Reporting System with stringent performance accountability requirements, enrollments fell over the next 20 years to less than 1.2 million. But during all these years the AELS provided basic education aimed at achieving general educational outcomes and benefited from research and development projects leading to the implementation of special programs in which the basic skills of English language, reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught contextualized within the domains of workplace, health, civics, family, and digital knowledge. At the end of the first two decades of the 21st century, the AELS had seen its mandate extended from helping adults gain contextualized skills and knowledge, and the achievement of a secondary school level of education, to gaining access to postsecondary, college, and specialized certificate programs within a career pathway with recurring education and credentialing. There is increasing interest in moving forward with ALBE within a full “lifelong” and “lifewide” AELS.

Article

STEM Education  

Stephen M. Ritchie

STEM education in schools has become the subject of energetic promotion by universities and policymakers. The mythical narrative of STEM in crisis has driven policy to promote STEM education throughout the world in order to meet the challenges of future workforce demands alongside an obsession with high-stakes testing for national and international comparisons as a proxy for education quality. Unidisciplinary emphases in the curriculum have failed to deliver on the goal to attract more students to pursue STEM courses and careers or to develop sophisticated STEM literacies. A radical shift in the curriculum toward integrated STEM education through multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary/ transdisciplinary projects is required to meet future challenges. Project-based activities that engage students in solving real-world problems requiring multiple perspectives and skills that are authentically assessed by autonomous professional teachers are needed. Governments and non-government sponsors should support curriculum development with teachers, and their continuing professional development in this process. Integrating STEM with creative expression from the arts shows promise at engaging students and developing their STEM literacies. Research into the efficacy of such projects is necessary to inform authorities and teachers of possibilities for future developments. Foci for further research also are identified.

Article

Civic Engagement  

Lynn M. Kuzma

There is a body of evidence that suggests that young Americans are disengaged from communal life. Since the late 1980s, college students have been described as materialistic, self-absorbed, and self-interested, acting without regard for community interests. Scholars consider the “me generation” as symptomatic of an eroding democratic civic culture characterized by growing apathy, resentment, even anger. This trend continues today. In order to address this, proponents of higher education have made their attempts to develop civic engagement in young minds. Civic engagement refers to activities within a community, though in the academic setting, the definition becomes much more complex. There is a belief that through participation in a community, students will develop capacities that ultimately lead them to become more active citizens, which in turn benefits not only themselves but also the community. However, higher education’s recommitment to developing students’ civic engagement should be informed by a clear notion of what civic engagement entails. In addition, a certain amount of factual knowledge is a prerequisite for becoming an engaged citizen, as civic learning involves students coming to understand the democratic processes of a community, its history, the problems it faces, and the richness of its diversity. And civic learning opportunities can be taught both in and outside of the classroom, as co-curricular learning opportunities, projects embedded in a class, or as a requirement of a general education curriculum.

Article

Evidence-based Practices for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities  

Rubina S. Lal and M. Thomas Kishore

Learning disability (LD) is a broad term to refer to disorders related to listening, speaking, reasoning, reading, writing, and mathematical calculation. Though the term LD is used to refer to individuals with intellectual disabilities in some countries, the authors use it in this chapter to refer to “Specific Learning Disabilities.” Students with LDs will typically have average or above-average intelligence. Significant features are problems in language-processing skills and a mismatch between the student’s intellectual ability and his or her academic performance. Hyperactivity, attention deficits, and socio-emotional adversities have been associated with learning disability, but cannot explain it. Since people with LDs do not have physical manifestation of the condition, it often goes unnoticed during early childhood. The problems become evident only when the child enters school, where the academic and social demands they face are far greater than their individual learning ability. Comprehensive assessment of the core skills in the areas of reading, writing, reasoning, and mathematics should be done using multiple measures, both standardized and nonstandardized. The assessment process may need inputs from a multidisciplinary team. Qualitative and quantitative data from the assessment is required in order to select suitable teaching strategies for students with LDs. There are several approaches for identification of an LD, but a discrepancy between intellectual ability and academic achievement as a key indicator seems to be widely followed; and the Response to Intervention (RTI) method is specifically popular in educational settings. The RTI is a research-based assessment and teaching method of ascertaining how a student responds to interventions in core curricular areas given in group and individual sessions. Use of RTI reflects a paradigmatic shift from the discrepancy model, which allowed the student to fail before interventions were made. While enabling the identification of students in need of services through individualized education program, RTI is an instructional model designed to improve the academic performance of all students in the class, with varying levels of instruction to suit their individual needs. The psychoeducational approach is also popular as a means of assessing LDs among educators because it allows linking of cognitive and psychological processes with the acquisition of core academic skills which in turn will help in providing comprehensive remediation. There are several effective intervention strategies for enhancing reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. Some of the strategies are universal and some are specific to the targeted language. Intervention programs vary with reference to the age and grade, and use of information and technology. However, all programs depend on teachers’ abilities and on a supportive school environment. Teachers’ knowledge about nature and needs of students with learning disabilities, and their ability to use research-based teaching methods are crucial to ensure positive learning outcomes for such students. Appropriate curricular input at preservice training level, mentoring and support of newly inducted teachers, and ongoing professional development are key factors for building teacher competency. School management has an important role in creating the necessary infrastructure and resources for effective assessment, intervention, and evaluation of students. Administrators must support the use of appropriate and culture-fair assessment tools, research-based teaching strategies, documentation, and importantly, collaboration among the members of the educational and multidisciplinary teams. However, much of the literature comes from English-speaking countries. Since LDs are a language-based problem and there are multiple languages across the globe, there is a lot of scope for documenting evidence-based practices from non-English-speaking settings.

Article

21st-Century Skills and Current Nordic Educational Reforms  

Gunn Elisabeth Søreide, Hanne Riese, and Line Torbjørnsen Hilt

Twenty-first-century skills are a global network of corporate and governmental influences that promote competences suited to fit the future knowledge economy. The competences described as 21st-century skills vary across frameworks and initiatives, but the emphasis is predominantly on metacognitive, social, and emotional skills. Some of the most prevalent capabilities are learning to learn, self-regulation, in-depth learning, creativity, innovation, problem solving, critical thinking, ethical and emotional awareness, communication, and collaboration. Research tends to portray 21st-century skills initiatives either as evidence-based knowledge based on the latest research or as part of an economization of the learner to the interests of the market economy in line with neoliberal ideology. The ideas associated with the 21st-century skills movement have nevertheless become part of educational reforms worldwide and are currently also translated into a Nordic education policy context. When global ideas such as 21st-century skills are taken up and used, they are colored by national concerns and consequently change as they travel across contexts. The Norwegian LK-20 reform for compulsory and upper secondary school is an example of how policymakers include global educational ideas in the national curriculum and educational policy, by balancing core 21st-century skills elements with national cultural sentiments about assessment, childhood, educational purposes, and schools’ responsibilities. The balancing of global and national educational ideas can be done by promoting 21st-century skills as a solution to specific national challenges and thus urgent for pupils’ and the nation’s future. A more sophisticated technique is when policymakers frame 21st-century skills by familiar concepts and language associated with existing traditional national educational values, thus seemingly promoting change and continuation simultaneously. In such an intersection between global educational ideas and national educational sentiments, both core elements of the 21st-century skills as well as the more traditional educational concepts and values can be adjusted and altered.