Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Putting PACT in Context and Context in PACT: Teacher Educators Collaborating around Program-Specific and Shared Learning Goals

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Putting PACT in Context and Context in PACT: Teacher Educators Collaborating around Program-Specific and Shared Learning Goals

Article excerpt

One of the more noteworthy developments in university-based teacher education today is the proliferation of preservice teacher assessment, and in particular, teacher performance assessment (TPA). Indeed, more than 160 teacher education programs in more than 25 states recently adopted the edTPA, a Stanford University developed teacher performance assessment tool (formerly the Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium or TPAC), to determine teacher candidates' eligibility for a teaching credential (AACTE, 2012a).

The scaling up of teacher performance assessment is taking place in the face of an increasingly negative discourse about and growing scrutiny of university-based teacher education and has therefore generated strong reactions from the teacher education community. Some leaders in the field have endorsed the edTPA, arguing, for example, that it will offer teacher educators evidence of candidates' abilities to facilitate K-12 student learning and bring credibility to the profession (AACTE, 2012b; Darling-Hammond & Hyler, 2013; Hollins, 2012). Others have voiced concern about, for example, potential threats to program quality and faculty professionalism posed by edTPA's status as a high-stakes assessment, as well as its partnership with Pearson--a for-profit education corporation (Au, 2013; Sawchuk, 2013; Winerip, 2012).

In many respects, developments in California have served as harbingers for these debates nation-wide. In 2008, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing mandated that every teacher candidate enrolled in an approved teacher education program must pass one of three approved preservice teacher assessments in order to earn a credential; more than 30 programs state-wide chose the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT)--essentially an early version of the edTPA. Like current reactions to the edTPA, responses to PACT have included both praise from those who believe it has the capacity to hold programs more accountable for candidates' learning and performance and concerns from those who worry about its potential--as a top-down, high-stakes assessment--to contribute to the standardization of teacher education.

This article describes the efforts of a collective of seven teacher educators, representing three of California's many university-based teacher education programs, to respond with agency to some of the opportunities and concerns described above. To place PACT and our collaboration around it in context, the article opens with a brief overview of the research on the implementation of top-down reform and high-stakes assessment in teacher education, focusing on the potential opportunities and obstacles it presents. We then offer a brief description of our collaboration, which was anchored in our shared commitment to improving education for historically marginalized youth. Specifically we articulate the kind of teaching practice--contextualized practice--that we hope to prepare future teachers to engage in, and we share a tool that we developed to help ourselves determine whether and how PACT might assist us in assessing the development of this particular kind of practice among our respective teacher candidates. We conclude by discussing patterns seen across programs regarding candidates' demonstration of contextualized practice and by raising questions about the kinds of conditions and resources that would support teacher educators to use performance assessment tools in adaptive and inquiry-oriented ways.

The Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT)

Like the edTPA, PACT takes a portfolio approach to assessment, with its centerpiece being the "teaching event": videos of candidates delivering a lesson in their field placement classrooms, accompanied by student work samples and multiple, candidate-authored written tasks, including lesson plans and reflections. The written tasks are associated with each of PACT's five domains: Context for Learning; Planning for Instruction and Assessment; Instructing Students and Supporting Learning; Assessing Student Learning; and Reflecting on Teaching and Learning. …

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