Teachers’ Conceptions of Assessment (Survey)


Teachers’ conceptions of assessment: Comparing primary and secondary teachers in New Zealand

Gavin T L Brown, PhD
Dept of Psychological Studies
Hong Kong Institute of Education
Tel: (852) 2948 8529



This paper compares two groups of teachers (i.e., New Zealand primary and secondary) in response to the Teachers’ Conceptions of Assessment(TCoA-IIIA) self-administered survey inventory.

The only statistically significant difference was the mean score for the student accountability conception, which was more strongly endorsed by secondary teachers, consistent with their role in administering the New Zealand qualifications system.

The study suggests that teachers develop or adopt conceptions of assessment that allow them to successfully function within their own policy or legal framework.


The Teacher’s Conceptions of Assessment, 3-Abridged (TCoA-IIIA) Index:

Intention-Oriented Conceptions of Assessment:

  1. Improvement – assessment provides valid and accurate descriptions of learning, as well as guiding students and teachers on how to improve.
    1. Assessment describes student learning
    2. Assessment is valid
    3. Assessment improves student learning
    4. Assessment improves teaching
  2. Student Accountability
  3. School Accountability
  4. Irrelevance – assessment is bad for students, ignored by teachers, and overly inaccurate
    1. Assessment is unfair
    2. Assessment is ignored
    3. Assessment is inaccurate

Definitions of Assessment:

Teachers asked to select from 11 practices, what they thought of as “assessment”

Practices form two conceptual groups:

  1. Formal, test-like group
    • teacher-made written test,
    • standardized test,
    • essay test,
    • 1-3 hour exam.
  2. Informal, interactive group
    • unplanned observation,
    • oral question and answer,
    • planned observations,
    • student written work,
    • student self or peer assessment,
    • conferencing,
    • portfolio/scrapbook.


Teacher groups were analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis and multi-group invariance testing.


Table 2 – Results of the survey


Both groups of teachers had very similar levels of agreement about three of the conceptions of assessment and differed only around Student Accountability, a conception agreed to more by secondary teachers.
In general, the teachers agreed with Improvement, while disagreeing with School Accountability and Student Accountability.
This pattern of mean scores suggests that messages around assessment for improvement would be positively received, while messages around making schools and teachers accountable through assessment would probably be rejected.

Liked that post? Try this one next:

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


  1. […] (2002) developed a self-report instrument capable of identifying teacher’s levels of agreement towards four conceptions of […]