The Effects of Hands-On Experience on Students' Preferences for Assessment Methods

Article excerpt

Although changes, invention, creation, design, progress, in short, innovation, are concepts that represent the key issues of educational policy, they are often a source of anxiety and concern for many teacher educators and teachers themselves (Hall, 1979; Van den Berg & Ros, 1999). They are reluctant to readdress, redesign, and reorganize the teaching practices with which they feel comfortable. Consequently; proposals for educational innovation are critically appraised and a negative disposition toward the unknown is apparent (Hargraeves, 2000).

There is often professional unease about unknown subjects, situations, or innovations. It might be an atavistic fear of change, anxiety about chaos, or professional concern for conserving established values and standards (Cuban, 1998; Kelchtermans, 2005; Waugh & Punch, 1987). It is only when familiarity grows with these subjects or situations that fears are allayed and the new, changed situation is accepted (Van den Bergh, Vandenberghe, & Sleegers, 1999; Van de Ven & Rogers, 1988). Fullan (2001) describes the process as follows:

   Real change, whether desired or not, represents a serious
   personal and collective experience characterized
   by ambivalence and uncertainty, and if the change
   works out it can result in a sense of mastery, accomplishment
   and professional growth. The anxieties of
   uncertainty and the joys of mastery are central to the
   subjective meaning of educational change, and to
   success or failure thereof. (p. 32)

Positive experiences with the change, embodied in the sense of mastery, accomplishment, and professional growth, define the success of the change and its continuation in practice.

Moreover, if students are thought of as "participants in a process of change and organizational life" rather than as "potential beneficiaries of change" (Fullan, 2001, p. 151), involving students when studying change and understanding educational innovation comes in natural. In fact, during the process of change, students might suffer similar feelings of uncertainty and ambivalence at the start and joys of mastery, accomplishment, and academic growth when change has proven to work. In this respect, student teachers in teacher training programs are interesting subjects. On one hand, they are students in the process of change when experiencing new teaching methods or assessment modes; on the other hand, they are to serve the function of teachers implementing change in practice.

In addition, empirical evidence repeatedly has shown that teachers tend to teach as they were taught (Johnson & Seagull, 1968), often failing to use the innovative techniques that have been advocated in training (Grippin, 1989). Rather than delivering information about engaging and innovative teaching practices through traditional approaches, modeling the use of these teaching methods serves the purpose (Loughran & Berry, 2005).

Combining the abovementioned arguments, the assumption is made that the modeling and use of new assessment techniques in teacher training might generate initial fearful dispositions with student teachers toward the changes, fears that might be allayed when familiarity grows and the changes tend to work out, with feelings of mastery, accomplishment, and professional/ academic growth as consequences, defining the (possible) adoption of the change in student teachers' current and future teaching practices. Hence, the effects of student teachers' hands-on (read: actual) experience with new modes of assessment in teacher training on their preferences for evaluation methods in general, and the experienced method in particular, are investigated. This study not only examines the dynamics of students' preferences with respect to four assessment methods that follow a standardized course on child development but also aligns instruction and assessment as a traditional learning environment is compared to a student-activating type of instruction that is followed by one of four assessment types. …