“Assessment challenges for teachers as researchers”. Associate Professor David Wescombe-Down & Professor Tania Aspland. At some stage in their careers, the very best educators were active participants in designing & conducting their own classroom-based research to improve what
“Assessment challenges for teachers as researchers”
Associate Professor David Wescombe-Down
Professor Tania Aspland
At some stage in their careers, the very best educators
were active participants in designing & conducting
their own classroom-based research to improve what
they were doing.
Each one took an idea, an untested theory, and
applied it as practical teaching.
Along the way they acquired a new skill-set & one that
would last them a career lifetime: Research skills.
In Australia we seek standards-based teaching reform
that depends upon setting high standards of learning
outcome achievements by all our students.
We therefore build on our existing reflective practice
platform & embrace evidence-based teaching.
Evidence-based learning & teaching contain
collections of educational practices that predicate
“Educational effectiveness for all students is crucially
dependent on the provision of quality teaching by
competent teachers who are equipped with effective,
evidence-based teaching strategies that work, and the
maintenance of high teaching standards via strategic
professional development at all levels of schooling”. (p. 2)
One element of quality teaching provision is assessment
for, and of learning, noting that Groundwater-Smith,
Ewing & Le Cornu (2006) suggested:
“...assessment innovation lags far behind that of curriculum innovation
precisely because teachers have felt confident rethinking the latter but
they have been uncertain about how to proceed with the former. The
interaction between the two has broken down. The assessment practices
are still rooted in a transmission model of teaching in spite of that model
having less currency... (p. 273)
What an opportune setting to revisit assessmentfor
learning (by students) in tandem with assessment
as teaching (by teacher-researchers).
The scene is set to contemplate a classroom-based
exploration of assessment while preparing for
assessment of that process by peers & others: an
assessment challenge for teachers as researchers!
from student progress are used to inform classroom
reflect on, adjust & monitor their delivery &
assessment for learning strategies to inform their
future teaching practices.
All or any of these questions could be emergent
research questions for the teacher-researcher.
Whatever the choice, a dual consideration remains:
How will I assess for learning while my Teacher as Researcher classroom-based inquiry is being assessed by others from the “assessment as learning” perspective?
It may be a collection of evidence supporting a student’s learning progress by subject, topic, theme or over a particular time period.
Portfolios also allow demonstration of learning & achievement.
Why not have a fully transportable e-Portfolio that moves with each student, each year from K through 12?
e-Portfolios could be set up as Learning Journey
experience records from K-12, thus supporting the
notion of education being a continuum rather than a
string of 13 apparently non-connected year levels.
There are research questions ‘begging’ in here!!!
expansive or 3-D, including video & audio disc
production, booklet design, scripts, charts, collages,
song or poetry or short story collection, PowerPoint
presentation & CD-ROM production options.
Why do we collect all these artefacts & mark them
away from the classroom environment in which they
Why do we fill our teaching preparation spaces &
offices with stacks of bulky items?
Why do we stagger to the car with a pile of large folders to mark at home?
Would it be more educative to create a local
arrangement for assessing portfolios and projects in
the presence of each student, thus enabling them to
explain, justify & if necessary, defend their assessment
There are research questions going ‘begging’ in here too!
Already we have identified some potential research questions for teachers as researchers to pursue, and when embarking on any such inquiries, the following questions could be asked:
All or any of these questions not only have potential to
be classroom-based inquiry questions in their own
right, but they also provide a checklist to underpin
assessment as learning when reviewing work of a
teacher as researcher.
Reflective practice is a precursor to progression into
evidence-based teaching, including its assessment &
The first step along the path of evidence-based
teaching is to have a research question for investigation,
and the field of Assessment is an ideal place in which to
Knowing that assessment has not received the same
treatment dynamic as curricula, teacher-researchers
may wish to consider that assessment innovations &
refinements may be conceived very effectively in one of the
learning crucibles itself: the classroom.
Peers & colleagues may then be approached to assess and evaluate your classroom-based inquiry work that is itself exploring the field of assessment for learning.
Thus the assessment challenge (duality of assessment) for the teacher as a researcher may be addressed quite simply.
This dual process may be quite exciting for some, yet
daunting for others to contemplate.
“Researchers’ Block” may present as a barrier to
becoming involved as a teacher-researcher: what do I
research? How? When? What do I look for? What
information do I collect? How do I use that data? etc
Research familiarity & classroom experience will probably determine how much of a “block” exists.
Of particular interest then, is the recent pre-service teacher graduate, being both a Beginning Teacher & a beginning researcher.
If you are a Beginning Teacher, or perhaps are mentoring one, they may be internalising many questions about this process at best, self-doubt & apprehension at worst.
When entering the activity of a teacher-researcher,
allow time for collaborative discussion and related
classroom interaction in the duality of assessment of
self, and of self by others.
You are a “knowledge worker” passing elements and processes of knowledge acquisition backwards & forwards between self, students & an external audience (peers, cluster schools, journal article etc).
The suggested skill-set required by teachers as they
shift their focus from transmission & measurement to
critique & reconstruction or transformation will enable
1. Critique & transform the taken-for-granted nature of assessment of self & others
2. Facilitate the examining of social & cultural constructs of classroom study in relation to assessment
3. Enable transformative action & learning improvement
4. Improve professional practices to better understand assessment of self & others
5. Recognise the uniqueness of the interplay between context, teacher & student
6. Generate assessment data at three levels: subject, teacher & student
The concept of dual assessment (or evaluation) in
classroom-based research need not be daunting.
Each forms part of any inquiry learning journey, and
their direct connection to learning & research
outcomes actually helps provide ongoing project
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Elton-Chalcraft, S., Hansen, A., & Twiselton, S. (2008). Doing classroom research: A step-by-step guide for student teachers. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.
Koshy, V. (2010). Action research for improving educational practice, 2nd edition. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
McIntosh, P. (2010). Action research and reflective practice. Oxford, UK: Routledge.
ACER(2006). Evidence-based assessment.
http://homepage.mac.com/planclos/portfolio.html Retrieved 08 Jul 11
Groundwater-Smith, S., Ewing, R., and Le Cornu, R. (2006). Teaching challenges and dilemmas, 3rd edition. Melbourne: Thomson.
McLeod, J.H. And Reynolds, R. (2007). Quality teaching for quality learning. Melbourne: Thomson Social Science Press.