Assessment for Learning to Teach: Appraisal of Practice Teaching Lessons by Mentors, Supervisors, and Student Teachers

Article excerpt

Appraisal of practice teaching lessons is an important vehicle for informing the student teacher about accomplishments and prospects in teaching. It is for this reason that learning to teach from practice lessons is at the core of student teacher preparation programs (Abernathy, Forsyth & Mitchell, 2001; Furlong & Maynard, 1995). One of the key elements in learning to become a teacher is sharing and learning from experiences in close cooperation with practice teachers and teacher educators (Dall' Alba & Sandberg, 2006; Day, 1999; Edwards, Gilroy & Hartley, 2002). Teacher educators, student teachers, and practice teachers are all involved in this process in different ways. Whereas teacher educators seem more inclined to look at a student teacher's practice teaching from the perspective of program standards, and teacher mentors look at a student teacher's classroom performance and how it benefits pupils, the student teacher (as a learner) is more concerned with coping with the direct demands of teaching a class (Loughran, 2003, 2007; Grossman, 2006). It is important to gauge how these different perspectives can merge in an appraisal for supporting and stimulating a student teacher's learning and, more specifically, to determine how different stakeholders operate and appraise teaching practice lessons and how the assessment is understood by those involved in this assessment-for-learning process (Havnes & McDowell, 2007).

Assessment for Learning to Teach

Assessment is increasingly recognized as a valuable tool to promote learning (Assessment Reform Group, 1999, 2002; Black & Wiliam, 1998; Shephard, 2000). This learning-oriented, (in)formative assessment--that is, in the sense that formative assessment should be informative to the learner--needs to be distinguished from a summary or mandated assessment, which documents and appraises work performance in relation to external evaluation standards (Delandshere & Arens, 2003). Assessment in the latter instance focuses on establishment of marked achievements that may be appreciated and judged according to preestablished standards (Zuzowsky & Libman, 2002; Heilbronn, Jones, Bubb, & Totterdell, 2002). As such, it has its own legitimized function in teacher education (i.e., serving an accountability warrant; Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2002).

Formative assessment, however, tries to document and illuminate the cyclical and extended process of professional growth and the building of relevant practice experiences (McMillan, 2007; MacLelland, 2004). This occurs through continuous monitoring across an extended period and is mainly aimed at student-oriented goals and individual learning needs (Edwards & Collison, 1996; Wang & Odell, 2002). Viewed this way, assessment aims at providing (in)formative feedback to help the student teacher gain insight into performance so that it is valuable to his or her professional growth (Boshuizen, Bromme, & Gruber, 2004; Brown & Glasner, 1999). Thus, assessment information is collected and communicated for its potential to change or direct the (student) teacher's development (Feiman Nemser & Remillard, 1996). Several framing factors have been identified (Kwakman, 2003; Smith & Tillema, 2003; Tigelaar, Dolmans, Wolfhagen, & van der Vleuten, 2002) that directly relate to the impact of assessment information on professional learning, for instance, type of assessment evidence collected, criteria used with respect to performance appraisal, or whether a relational or situational approach to feedback delivery is used (Tillema & Smith, 2003). These framing factors may variously affect what is acquired from practice experiences by the student teacher.

To complicate matters further, typically, several stakeholders are involved in assessment of learning to teach; they either implicitly or explicitly use these framing factors differently. These include mentor or practice teachers from practice schools, supervisors from teacher education institutes, and as is more often the case, (peer) student teachers (Darling Hammond, 2000; Wilson & Berne, 1999). …