Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Shifting Attention: Using Learning Self-Assessment Tools during Initial Coursework to Focus Teacher Candidates on Student Learning

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Shifting Attention: Using Learning Self-Assessment Tools during Initial Coursework to Focus Teacher Candidates on Student Learning

Article excerpt

Introduction

The relentless press for steadily improved student learning outcomes requires that prospective teachers enter the classroom knowing how to fine-tune their teaching to meet the learning needs of individual students. Frequently, teacher candidates have difficulty conceptualizing their students as learners, looking more immediately to their own performance as teachers (Fuller, 1969; Kagan, 1992; Oosterheert & Vermunt, 2001). As Ross and Bruce (2007) argue, self-assessment can be an effective technique for influencing improvements in self-efficacy, goal setting, and effort regulation among teachers. Applied to teacher preparation, we examined the use of two learning self-assessment tools in early teacher education coursework to examine the benefits of encouraging candidates to reflect on their own learning in order to support the learning of their future students.

Previous research in teacher education argues that self-assessment plays a critical role in a competencies-based curriculum because it requires candidates to analyze their own performances (Airsian & Gullickson, 1994; Ross & Bruce, 2007; Sluijsmans, Dochy, & Moerkerke, 1999). Conceptually derived from work by Schon (1983, 1987) on the reflective practitioner, by Elliot (1978) on teacher self-monitoring, and by Rogers (1983) on promoting personal responsibility for learning, self-assessment may be a critical feature in developing teachers who practice and promote self-regulated learning. It is crucial, then, for teacher candidates to explore ideas about themselves as learners to help understand ideas about cognition, motivation, and other concepts related to self-regulated learning (Dembo, 2001; Gordon, Dembo, & Hocevar, 2007; Zimmerman, Bonner & Kovach, 1996). To influence conceptual change in candidates, we must help them to articulate their ideas about learners and learning (Dole & Sinatra, 1998).

Self-Assessment and Self-Regulated Learning in Teacher Education

Teacher preparation programs have the shared goal of helping candidates think and act flexibly across an expansive knowledge and skill base that includes student learning and motivation, educational goals and purposes, subject matter understanding, curriculum and assessment, general and subject-specific pedagogy, child development, cultural proficiency, and organizational culture. A central task of teacher preparation is to expose candidates to the wide range of understandings and skills they will need to teach well. This transfer of knowledge to practice is not automatic, however, as candidates bring with them a set of tacit and often stubborn beliefs about teaching, learning and schooling (Lortie, 1975). Thus, a second task of teacher preparation is to help candidates analyze their beliefs so that they can lay the foundation for a teaching practice that aligns with their goals. As Feiman-Nemser (2001) notes,

   ... [Prospective teachers need opportunities to critically examine
   their taken-for-granted, often deeply entrenched beliefs so that
   these beliefs can be developed or amended. Teacher candidates must
   also form visions of what is possible and desirable in teaching to
   inspire and guide their professional learning and practice. Such
   visions connect important values and goals to concrete classroom
   practices. (p. 1017)

Examining teacher candidates' beliefs about student learning and their implications for teaching provides a critical foundation for ongoing preparation and learning. Oosterheert and Vermunt (2001) argue that a shift in teacher concern typically moves from concerns about self, to concerns about teaching, and finally to concerns about student learning (see also Fuller, 1969; Kagan, 1992). As we argue in this paper, self-assessment can help to shift candidate concerns from self to students.

At all levels, teachers are responsible for helping their students to learn both content and how to learn the content. …

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