Assessment Literacy Training and Teacher’s Conceptions of Assessment

No statistically significant differences in conceptions of assessment mean scores were found across the five categories of assessment literacy training. While it is possible that the amount and kids of training are irrelevant to conceptions, a number of alternative explanations for this null result are present in the literature, including lack of attention to teachers’ belief systems, overly short period of training, and poor quality of the training. ~ Abstract

In other words, socialization in the schools professional community might have had more effect [on conceptions of assessment] than all the assessment literacy training offered.

Teachers need assessment tools which provide easier-to-interpret results:

Assessment reform movements … have shifted from an over reliance on standardized tests provided by external agencies to an increasing involvement of teacher’s formative judgements about the qualities of learning in light of curriculum intentions and sociocultural theories of learning (Gipps, 1994; Shepard 2001, 2006; Willis, 1994)

Much research indicating that the vast majority of [faculty] have imited understanding of the more technical qualities of assessment information (eg. reliability, validity of inferences, and statistical terminology)

For example, Gipps, Brown, McCallum, and McAlister (1995, p. 2) argued that while there was widespread use of standardized tests of reading and mathematics, there was little understanding of how the scores were derived, or what they meant, and no understanding of issues such as reliability and validity.

Later research reported that many experienced teachers had had little training in assessment philosophy or practices despite having responsibility for implementing assessment changes in their schools (Bourke, Poskitt, McAlpine, 1996)

they frequently or always altered the way they taught their students as a result of the information (Croft, Strafford, Mapa, 2000)

Assessment gets used for politics, rather than improving the learning of students:

Hill (1999) reported that the teachers she interviewed experienced significant tensions between the competing uses of administrative accountability and formative improvement. Likewise, detailed interviews with 40 associate teachers (i.e., those who mentor student teachers in field practice) reported that a majority of those teachers conflated the formative and the summative practices despite having a reasonably robust understanding of formative assessment (Dixon & Williams, 2002). Aitken (2000) reported the same conflation of purposes among 20 secondary school teachers of English and argued that the administrative purpose was overwhelming teachers ability to offer formative assessment.

Timperley (2003) reported in her survey of teachers use of running record assessments of reading performance in the first two years of school that the administrative, accountability uses of the data superseded the use of the data to inform or improve teaching programmes.

Causes for the lack of assessment literacy among teachers: 

  • Educator’s fear of assessment and evaluation (Stiggins, 1995);
  • lack of time to assess well (Stiggins, 1995);
  • false or inappropriate public perceptions about the state of current assessment practices (Stiggins, 1995);
  • insufficient appropriate training of teachers in the sound use of a wide range of assessment practices (Arter, 2001; Hambrick-Dixon, 1999; OSullivan & Johnson, 1993; Schafer, 1993; Stiggins, 1995, 1998);
  • unsatisfactory assessment literate leadership on the part of administrators and principals (Cizek, 1995; Popham, 2000; Schafer, 1993; Stiggins, 1995, 1998);
  • lack of compulsory credentialing in assessment literacy (National Research Council, 2001; Stiggins, 1995, 1998; Worthen, 1993);
  • the reluctance of teachers to believe that they need professional development in this realm (Hargreaves & Fullan, 1998; Worthen, 1993);
  • staff developers with low levels of expertise (Dixon & Williams, 2003);
  • and overwhelming policy pressure to focus on summative and accountability uses (Hill, 1999; Timperley, 2003).

OPINION: Centralizing interpretation of assessment data, communicating takeaways for both formative and administrative accountability purposes may reduce the margin of error for misinterpreting and misapplying the data.

Efforts to mitigate lack of assessment literacy and formative uses of assessment: 

The Commission on Instructionally Supportive Assessment (New Zealand), convened in 2001, expects states to ensure educators receive professional development that is focused on how to optimize children’s learning based on the results of instructionally supportive assessment (Baker, Berliner, Yeakey, Pellegrino, Popham, Quenemoen, et al, 2001).

The development of assessment literacy demands a shift from norm-referenced scoring and the assumption that only students are responsible for learning outcomes, to involve teacher’s belief systems about the nature and purpose of assessment in any effective professional development assessment (Hargreaves & Fullan, 1998)

On Teachers’ Conceptions of Assessment:

A rejection of valid educational purposes can be seen in teachers treating assessment as fundamentally irrelevant.
(Brown, 2004; BultermanBos, Verloop, Terwel, & Wardekker, 2003; Garcia, 1987; Philippou & Christou, 1997; Rex & Nelson, 2004; Saltzgaver, 1983; Stamp, 1987; Warren & Nisbet, 1999)

Research into teacher’s conceptions of assessment has focused on the purposes or intentions that assessment has rather than on the types of assessment used.
(Brown, 2004, 2006b; Stamp, 1987; Dixon, 1999; Gipps, et al, 1995; Hill, 2000; McMillan, Myran, Workman, 2002; Quilter, 1998)

Purposes for assessment:

  1. Assessment improves teaching and learning,
  2. Assessment makes students accountable for learning,
  3. Assessment makes schools and teachers accountable.
    (Heaton, 1975; Torrance and Pryor, 1998; Warren & Nisbet, 1999; Webb, 1992)

Brown (2002) developed a self-report instrument capable of identifying teacher’s levels of agreement towards four conceptions of assessment:

  1. Assessment improves teaching and learning;
  2. Assessment makes schools and teachers accountable,
  3. Assessment makes students accountable,
  4. Assessment is irrelevant

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Jordan is a freelance engineer with full-stack chops, and an eye for analytics and growth.