Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

How Teachers and University Faculty Percieve the Need for and Importance of Professional Development in Performance-Based Assessment

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

How Teachers and University Faculty Percieve the Need for and Importance of Professional Development in Performance-Based Assessment

Article excerpt

A survey examining the extent to which performance-based learning and assessment experiences are viewed as important and needed was administered to 19 middle school mathematics teachers and 18 school of education faculty members. Significant differences were found between the two groups on items rating the importance of understanding fundamental measurement concepts, distinguishing between different types of assessments, and knowing how to align classroom instruction with the goals and objectives of performance-based assessment. In all instances, teachers attached greater importance to these items. Survey results guided the planning of professional development workshops. Based on the Talent Development school reform model, these workshops focused on topics specific to teachers' needs and were aimed at helping teachers develop performancebased assessments.

Teachers frequently are called upon to construct and use assessments to appraise the learning that takes place in their classrooms. They are also expected to understand the results of those assessments sufficiently enough to interpret them for students and parents, and to plan instructional programs that meet the needs identified by those results. However, as several researchers have noted, the background knowledge many teachers have for these tasks is limited (Impara, 1995). Over half the teachers in the United States have never completed a course in educational measurement, and fewer than one-third of all states require such course work for initial certification (Boothroyd, McMorris, & Pruzek, 1992). Further, the presentations of reliability, item analysis, and test interpretation found in current measurement texts are based upon classical test theory (Fleitz & Perdomo, 1994). Yet, the growing emphasis on constructed response rather than multiple-choice assessments demands hands-on learning and presentation of readings in performance assessment.

Classroom use of performance-based assessment provides an opportunity for teachers to align their evaluations of student learning with a culturally responsive approach to teaching. This approach stresses that the cultural strengths and knowledge children bring with them to school can be used in both teaching and assessment as well as instruction and learning Johnson, 1997). Its focus is not on ranking, sorting, or assigning normreferenced scores. Rather, it is on incorporating classroom activities that assess student learning by evaluating-in a sustained, extended fashion-students' work on cumulatively complex activities. It also involves a rethinking on the part of faculty in teacher education programs about the types and extent of preparation in assessment teachers should have.

The present article details the work of a group of researchers (the authors) from the Center for Research on the Education of Children Placed At Risk (CRESPAR), who sought to determine the extent to which school reform efforts influence instructional practices and teacher efficacy and attitudes toward teaching and assessment, specifically the use of performance-based assessment. We subsequently examined the perceptions of teachers and university school of education faculty regarding the kinds of assessment experiences they deem important and needed by teachers.' The study described here was conducted in an urban school district (Washington, D.C.) that was at the time in the process of instituting a performance-based approach to learning. It was part of a larger effort to build a relevant professional development program for teachers in consonance with the Talent Development model of instruction described by Boykin (1996); culturally responsive teaching, as described by Ladson-Billings (1994); and the Performance-based Education (PBE) learning outcomes outlined by the District of Columbia Public Schools (1994).2 The common features of all three perspectives are presented in Table I. The goal of the professional development program was to improve teachers' performance and personal efficacy in an assessment approach that builds on the cultural strengths of diverse groups of learners. …

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