The Impact of Engagement in Large-Scale Assessment on Teachers' Professional Development: The Emergent Literacy Baseline Assessment Project

By Kyriakides, L.; Kelly, K. L. | Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview
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The Impact of Engagement in Large-Scale Assessment on Teachers' Professional Development: The Emergent Literacy Baseline Assessment Project


Kyriakides, L., Kelly, K. L., Journal of Research in Childhood Education


Abstract. This paper presents findings of an investigation into the impact of teachers' engagement in the Emergent Literacy Baseline Assessment (ELBA) project upon their professional development. The ELBA project was designed to identify Cypriot students' literacy skills upon entry to primary school. A secondary purpose was to enable pre-primary teachers to assess students using effective and developmentally appropriate methods. Findings support the importance of establishing links between teachers' professional development and assessment reform policy by providing teachers the opportunity to be actively involved in the development, implementation, and evaluation of system-wide assessment initiatives. For the purposes of this study, 132 teachers received training and then they administered the ELBA performance test to their students. Self-assessment questionnaires and a focus-group interview provided data about the perceived impact of ELBA upon teachers' professional development. Arguments in favor of engaging teachers in large-scale tests in order to improve their professional skills in assessment and suggestions for further research are provided. ********** Large-scale assessment flourished during the 1990s (Kifer, 2001). Standards, assessment, accountability, and grading dominated education discussions. These issues are at the center of every modern education reform effort. Where national testing programs previously were expected mainly to monitor student achievements, new and different demands are now in place. Internationally, we are confronted with a marked growth in the need for assessment to fulfill a variety of purposes: for policy decision-making and accountability (evaluative purposes of assessment), for reporting students' achievements and awarding qualifications (summative purposes of assessment), and for informing and optimizing students' learning within the classroom (formative purposes of assessment). Typically, these moves have been driven by legislation to raise standards (Postlethwaite, 1994). However, the different purposes for which teachers and schools use information about the achievement of their students has led to an "assessment burden," as reflected in an overload of assessment and assessment role conflict (Sebatane, 1998). Kyriakides (1998) reports that Cypriot primary teachers lack both assessment knowledge and confidence in assessment, a finding reinforced by a number of researchers in other countries. Gilmore (2001) identified "an urgent need to address the assessment literacy of New Zealand teachers" (p. 3), and Black and Wiliam (1998) refer to a "poverty in assessment practice" (p. 5) in the United Kingdom. Thus, building teacher capacity in assessment through systematic engagement of teachers in assessment reform programs needs to be a priority throughout all career stages of teaching.

In this context, this article presents results of a study to identify what benefits pre-primary teachers gained, personally and professionally, from their engagement in the Emergent Literacy Baseline Assessment (ELBA) project. The decision to engage teachers in large-scale assessment was based on the authors' acknowledgment of the classroom teacher's central role in assessment. The best person to judge students' work and monitor their progress is the teacher closest to them (Association for Childhood Education International/ Perrone, 1991). For example, when a teacher reads a student's piece of writing, he/she can refer to previous writing efforts of the student or to a book that the class is currently reading, a trip recently taken, etc. By thoughtfully responding to the surrounding context, which is never really separate from the text, the teacher can better interpret the student's writing. The engagement of the teacher in large-scale tests may help her to better understand students' responses to a task and identify their learning needs. Thus, classroom environment and the teacher were acknowledged as central to the ELBA assessment program.

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