Academic journal article Education

Supporting the Preparation of Beginning Teachers with Online Assessment Products

Academic journal article Education

Supporting the Preparation of Beginning Teachers with Online Assessment Products

Article excerpt

Teacher education has come under fire in recent years with calls for reforms that will help improve the achievement of K12 students. Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Legislation (NCLB, 2002) in the United States (US), professionals in the US have had to rethink what they are doing to prepare graduates to enter the teaching field with the skills and dispositions to be successful in diverse settings. The concern of teacher educators has moved from discontent and dissatisfaction with much of the impact of NCLB and the American government's interference in the profession, to a recognition that many teacher education programs are pedagogically vague (Shulman, 2005). A need currently exists for teacher education programs to sharpen their focus on what constitutes good practice so that beginning teachers will be prepared for the politics and culture of the induction year in a host of school contexts. This is true for programs in the US as well as those around the world.

A growing number of teacher educators have suggested how to improve the quality of preparation so that prospective teachers deeply understand a wide array of things about teaching and learning in varied social and cultural contexts. They also need to be able to teach effectively in complex classrooms with increasingly diverse students (Darling-Hammond, 2006). Further, clinical practice settings need to be available for preservice teachers to apply theory in settings that resemble real-world classrooms. By resisting the watering down of teacher education curricula (Darling-Hammond, 2006), programs may be able to place beginning teachers more easily on the "just path" rather than the "unjust path" that so many new teachers encounter (Imig & Imig, 2006).

ePortfolios / Online Assessment Products

An ePortfolio is a purposeful collection of electronic documents that is formatted as a website and is an electronic alternative to the more traditional paper portfolio. Electronic portfolios can be developed in such a way that they become an integral component of an in innovative assessment system that serves to enhance an education units ability to determine program strengths and potential area for improvement as well as provide evidence to meet rigorous accreditation requirements. The ePortfolio facilitates the integration of important program components (authentic assessments, clinical practice, etc.) and provides a forum to meld evidence of theory-based 'best practices' with real-world experiences and student reflections.

All of the elements of the aforementioned portfolio elements must be carefully aligned with professional and programmatic standards in a way that emphasizes the application of meaningful theory in real-world classrooms. Programs and units can use ePortfolios to facilitate this alignment in an efficient and effective manner that makes it possible to show evidence of the meaningfulness of their curricula.

Powerful online assessment products, of which an ePortfolio may be one component, can support a data management system that provides a venue for student work to be linked to National, State, and Institutional Standards. As students complete critical tasks (authentic assessments, clinical experiences) the data can be aggregated or disaggregated to enable individuals, programs, schools, colleges, or institutions to analyze the performance levels of students with respect to a host of different sets of standards (Butler, 2006; Strudel & Wetzel, 2005; Wetzel & Strudel, 2005). Naturally, this function is useful for preparing reports to demonstrate effectiveness.

Online assessment products are capable of common functions such as generating electronic portfolios and assessment system outcomes, but some do more than others (authors, 2007). Each has nuances and capabilities that attract individuals and organizations to their products. Because of the need to incorporate all of the elements of a comprehensive assessment system it is necessary that the selected online assessment product provide the means to collect and analyze data and produce useful reports. …

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