Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and the Assessment of Accomplished Teaching

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and the Assessment of Accomplished Teaching

Article excerpt

This article addresses the complexities and psychometric challenges facing efforts to devise a standards-based performance assessment of teaching that is appropriate for teachers in a wide variety of contexts and that also satisfies psychometric considerations of reliability and validity. In particular, the question of whether a general assessment of teaching practice can be sufficiently comprehensive to honor and recognize accomplished, culturally relevant pedagogy is considered. Drawing upon the experience of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, it is argued that such an assessment, although presenting enormous technical challenges, is both possible and practically attainable.

The task of developing a comprehensive, performance-based assessment of teaching that is appropriate and valid for the wide variety of teachers and teaching contexts found in the United States presents an enormous technical challenge. Review of the history of performance-based assessments of teaching is certainly not encouraging. Such attempts have been characterized by direct classroom observation of teachers, typically by principals and instructional and curriculum specialists, using standardized observational instruments with specified rating categories such as waiting time, clarity, student engagement, use of visual aids, and so on. Detailed behavioral checklists have also been used. These methods require the observer to take sample observations at specified time intervals.

To be sure, observing teachers during their instruction and interaction with students in actual classroom settings is a vital part of any valid assessment, but such brief observations fall far short of a comprehensive evaluation. Moreover, they provide only a limited view of teachers' subject-matter knowledge and give no indication of how teachers organize a coherent unit of instruction over time, or how they analyze, assess, or provide feedback on students' work. Nor do such observational procedures capture how teachers interact with their colleagues as members of learning communities, or how they reflect upon and alter their practice with experience. A comprehensive assessment of teaching would cover all of these aspects and more. It also would appraise:

(1) the extent to which teachers set attainable and worthwhile learning goals for their students;

(2) how teachers select, adapt, and create curricular resources that support active student exploration and learning;

(3) how teachers' instruction-over time-integrates reading, writing, speaking, and listening opportunities for students; and

(4) how teachers work with parents, families, and community resources in the service of student growth and learning.

Beyond the above disciplinary considerations, a valid system of teacher assessment must also be sufficiently flexible and comprehensive to recognize and honor excellence in teaching wherever it occurs, be it in an overcrowded school serving largely at-risk students or a poorly funded school in an economically depressed rural community. In essence, such an assessment should be insensitive to context. That is, it should not depend upon the ethnicity of the teacher or the facilities available to her, nor should it depend upon the ethnicity, prior preparation, or abilities of the students taught.

The publication in 1983 of the Nation at Risk report was a landmark event in the history of public education in the United States (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). This publication was a wake-up call to the American people that our schools, and therefore our society, were in trouble. The follow-up report, A Nation Prepared, called for the formation of a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS, or "the National Board") (Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, 1986). The NBPTS, which was duly formed in 1987, has a threefold purpose: (a) to establish high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do, (b) to develop and operate a national voluntary system to assess and certify teachers who meet those standards, and (c) to advance educational reforms responsive to this mission for the purpose of improving student learning. …

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