Assessment and professional vision : how assessment practices mediate the ways in which teachers see and understand student learning
- School districts across the country are directing billions of dollars and countless professional development hours into a growing industry of assessment products designed to improve student performance on state tests (Burch, 2006). Despite these massive investments, little is understood about how the products are being used at the classroom level or what impact their use may have. This study investigates a piece of this problem by examining how this tremendous policy shift is affecting the teaching profession. The central question of this study is: how do different kinds of assessments mediate the ways teachers see and understand student learning and the professional work of teaching? Teachers' assessment practices were considered across two dimensions: assessment use and assessment task format. The 'use' axis captures how teachers typically use assessment information: formatively or summatively. At one pole is the regular use of information about student learning to plan lessons in an iterative cycle of instruction and assessment (formative use). At the other pole is the use of information to evaluate performance with an emphasis on ranking and scoring (summative use). The 'task format' axis captures the nature of the actual assessment tasks teachers regularly implement. At one pole are constructed response tasks in which students apply mathematical knowledge to solve contextualized problems (characterized in the literature as authentic tasks). At the other pole are selected response tasks in which students demonstrate procedural knowledge in de-contextualized mathematical equations, largely mirroring the format of California's high stakes state testing. Analysis for this study is grounded in situative learning theories (e.g. Greeno, 1988; Lave and Wenger, 1991) and integrates Goodwin's construct of Professional Vision (1994) and Engestrom's Activity Theory (1999). Professional Vision (PV) builds on the idea that perception is selective (that what we notice is a subset of what is available to see) and considers the ways in which professional activities work to shape that perception in particular ways. Activity Theory offers an analytic heuristic for considering the mediating role that tools play in goal-related activity. This study considered the mediating roles played by different assessment practices (categorized as above) in the activity system of teachers assessing student work. Through this conceptual framework, the work of analyzing and making decisions about information from assessments is understood as an interpretive act mediated by the assessment tools themselves—the ways in which teachers make sense of student learning are shaped by the particular assessment tools they employ to examine that learning. The study involved a three-stage analysis of the relationships between assessment practices and professional vision: Stage I drew data from a wide-ranging interview study of 35 teachers and was sponsored by SRI. This stage examined the range of assessment practices used by middle school mathematics teachers and identified patterns across assessment use and task structure. Stage II & III involved a case study of 10 teachers designed to gain further insight into patterns emerging from Stage I. Stage II looked to see if differences in PV were associated with differences in assessment practices. It accomplished this by investigating correlations between teachers' assessment practices and how those teachers focused attention on a common set of samples of instruction and student learning. Stage III examined these differences in the context of classroom practice, using the integration of PV and activity theory to reveal some of the processes through which assessment works to shape how a teacher makes sense of student learning. This study found that teachers who used different assessments saw learning and instruction in strikingly different ways. Most notably, teachers who regularly used assessment formatively, and in conjunction with authentic assessment tasks, focused significantly more attention on student thinking and understanding than did teachers who primarily used assessment summatively and in conjunction with tasks that mirror the form and content of state tests. Stage III gave insight into some of the mechanisms involved in these different ways of seeing. Here, we saw how teachers' assessment practices focused their attention onto particular aspects of student learning, determining what information was reduced and what was given nuance, what counts and when. Moreover, assessment practices shaped differences in meaning as well as attention: different assessment practices worked to highlight different aspects of student learning and prompted meaningfully different uses of common terms related to teaching and learning. Notably, we saw sharp differences in what counts as understanding across teachers using different assessment practices. These differences have important consequences for the experience of teaching and learning as well as the ongoing professional learning of teachers. This study contributes to both a more nuanced understanding of what different assessment practices offer for teaching and learning as well as a better theoretical understanding of how the tools teachers use impact the ways in which teachers make meaning of their professional work.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Greenwald, Eric Jordan
|Stanford University, School of Education.
|Darling-Hammond, Linda, 1951-
|Darling-Hammond, Linda, 1951-
|Pea, Roy D
|Pea, Roy D
|Statement of responsibility
|Eric Jordan Greenwald.
|Submitted to the School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2010.
- © 2010 by Eric Jordan Greenwald
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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