Narratives of impact: Comparing expectations of assessment-capable Pre-service teachers in Australia

Year: 2019

Author: Willis, Jill, Gallagher, Jeanine, Gibson, Andrew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

From 2018, preservice teacher candidates in Australia are assessed against new suitability requirements, and before graduation provide assessment evidence about their positive impact on student learning. In addition, teacher education courses need to demonstrate how their program has had impact on the pre-service teachers, as well as the post program impact of graduates on student learning. Assessment of students is linked to assessment of pre-service teachers and teacher educators. Policies provide a strongly framed technically-driven concept of assessment capability. In contrast much of Australian assessment research highlights the situated, emotional and responsive negotiations that underpin assessment work.

Concepts of assessment capability as highlighted in pre-service program unit outlines, and reflections from first year teachers are compared. A sample of 354 publicly accessible assessment unit outlines from 17 universities were analysed to identify the assessment capabilities that were being prioritised by teacher educators. Second, assessment capabilities were identified in 535 digital reflections recorded via the GoingOK application by 17 beginning teachers from three different educational contexts in Australia over a period of several months of teaching. Trends of strengths and ongoing concerns about their assessment capabilities, over time, and in diverse contexts were able to be identified.

When analysing university programs the majority of assessment topics were taught within curriculum units, with a few embedding assessment in the context of a professional experience unit. There was a significant increase in the number of units that mentioned assessment after the new accreditation requirements for 2018, however the proportions of the approaches did not change, with assessment embedded most often as a topic within curriculum units. An integrated assessment approach was also evident in the reflexive deliberations of graduate teachers. The graduates confidently used data to monitor student progress, formative assessment to inform differentiated approaches, and initiated new assessment programs. Distress occurred when they were uncertain how to support children who had significant disabilities, or where their assessment innovations were not valued by school leadership. The turbulence of emotions in the longitudinal plotlines were a stark contrast to the static and atomized professional standards as a way of representing teacher knowledge of assessment. Assessment work was entangled with concerns about collaborations with colleagues and parent expectations.

Assessment capability is a situated concept, and influenced by social contexts. Preparing preservice teachers involves a consideration of strong and weakly classified assessment knowledge as well as shared understanding of the underpinning knowledge discourses.