Collaborative Action Research to Assess Student Learning and Effect Change

Article excerpt

Higher education has been called upon to demonstrate its commitment, capacity, and effectiveness in preparing "quality" teachers in the 21st century. As part of the assessment/audit process, institutions will be expected to provide accrediting agencies with evidence of their effectiveness to prepare competent teacher candidates. This article presents action research studies collaboratively engaged in by a college and a partnering school district to assess the college's teacher education students. Videotaped performances of the students are analyzed to assess their teaching performances as indicators of learning and to establish baseline data for instituting change and improvement. In this article a summary of the action research video studies is presented as well as selected data/findings.

Introduction and Background Information

In the next decade the nation will need over 2.2 million teachers (Riley, 1999). In general, colleges and universities around the nation have been called upon, now more so than in the past, to demonstrate their commitment and ability to meet the changing needs of American society (Goodlad, 1999; Schmidt, 2000). With regard to the need for teachers, higher-education institutions have been asked not only to meet this need, but also to solve the problem of preparing "quality" teachers for America in the 21st century (Riley, 1999). Thus, teacher preparation has become a priority item on the agendas of many colleges and universities, and it is an important presidential campaign issue.

At present, the U.S. Department of Education, through the 1998 Congressional Higher Education Act, Title II, Section 207, is requiring states and higher-education institutions to assess and publicize the effectiveness of their teacher education programs to prepare quality teachers. Section 207 of the law includes new accountability measures that require states and their colleges and universities to announce annually the percentage of students who have passed state teacher-certification exams, and to report on other quality indicators and licensure requirements as well. In essence, for higher education there will be a national and state report card (see U.S. Department of Education, 2000a, 2000b). Subsequently, if a college or university does not achieve a designated passage-rate set by the state in which the college or university resides, then the state's education department or its board of regents may close that institution's teacher education program or subject it to deregistration.

For example, the New York State Board of Regents has set an 80% student passage-rate for its higher-education institutions. That is, if less than 80 percent of the institution's teacher education students pass one or more teacher certification examinations, the institution's teacher education program is subject to deregistration. And if a program, found deficient, does not demonstrate significant annual improvement toward the 80% standard, it, too, is subject to deregistration (see New York State Regents Task Force On Teaching, 1998, pp. 24-25). For small colleges and universities this could be financially devastating; and for larger institutions it may mean that they will no longer be able to use their teacher education programs as the institution's "cash cow."

Further, the U.S. Department of Education and state education departments around the nation are requiring colleges and universities to demonstrate their "institutional" commitment to prepare quality teachers and their capacity to do so by mandating that the institution engage in a comprehensive assessment and/or audit conducted by a designated accrediting association or agency. What we are currently witnessing is not only an assessment of programs in teacher education and the unit of the college that sponsors the program (i.e., schools and departments of education), but also an assessment of the entire institution in terms of its capacity to prepare "quality" teachers. …