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A theoretical model for the authentic assessment of teaching

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A theoretical model for the authentic assessment of teaching
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  A peer-reviewed electronic journal. Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publicationto the Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation. Permission is granted to distributethis article for nonprofit, educational purposes if it is copied in its entirety and the journal is credited. Articles in PARE are indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org). Volume 10 Number 2, April 2005 ISSN 1531-7714 A theoretical model for the authentic assessment of teaching Peter Rennert-ArievLoyola College Over the course of the last decade, many highereducation institutions that prepare teachers along withstates, districts, and national organizations have soughtto design new forms of assessment for preserviceteachers. These efforts have stemmed from a growingsentiment that more powerful and nuanced assessmentstrategies are now needed to target the complexities of the knowledge that teachers bring to bear in theirteaching (Shulman, 1987) as well as the subtleties of innovative teaching practice (Smith, 1990). Efforts tocreate new forms of assessment have sought totranscend the limits of traditional testing practices asthey provide ways to sensitively document the personallyand contextually complex world of teaching. Thismovement towards new forms of assessment forpreservice teachers has been marked, generally speaking,by movement away from standardized paper and penciltests of knowledge and skill and the use of observationalchecklists of teaching behaviors. These types of assessments are targeted by would be reformers asreflecting a narrow conception of teaching (Darling-Hammond, Wise, & Klein, 1995). As an alternative, wehear calls for more nuanced, “authentic” forms of assessment that can capture the complexities of teachingand learning as they develop over time and acrossdifferent contexts (Shulman, 1988; Wolf, 1991).  The representation of assessment in the researchliterature has, in many ways reflected these trends. Callsfor “authentic assessments” are now common, focusingon the need for assessors to gain access to the “contextsensitive understandings of pedagogical and personalprinciples that underpin the work of teaching” (Tellez,1996, p.704). Darling-Hammond (2000) characterizesauthentic assessments as those that: 1) sample the actualknowledge, skills, and dispositions of teachers inteaching and learning contexts; 2) require the integrationof multiple types of knowledge and skill; 3) rely onmultiple sources of evidence collected over time and indiverse contexts; and 4) are evaluated using codifiedprofessional standards. Wiggins (1989) particularlystresses the first two of these characteristics as criteriafor authenticity: assessments need to reflect theintellectual work of practicing professionals, and theyneed to be characterized by active engagement,exploration, and inquiry on the part of the student. Thisnotion of authenticity - that it is contextually rooted andrich with intellectual opportunity for the participant - closely parallels Newmann and Wehlage (1993) whoclaim that authentic assessments help students create“discourse, products, and performances, that have valueor meaning beyond success in school” (p.8). Despite the vigor behind many recent proposals to alterthe tools we use to assess the knowledge and skills of preservice teachers, however, many “new” and“innovative” testing practices often seem to resemble“traditional” testing habits. This paper will argue that adeeply embedded culture of traditional testing habits hasattenuated efforts to reform testing for preserviceteachers and that a revitalized notion of “authenticity” inassessment is needed. What teacher educators andpolicymakers sometimes hold up as new is oftensaturated with the assumptions of traditional practice.For example, while “performance-based assessment”continues to gain support among teacher educators andpolicymakers, many uses of performance basedassessment suggest competency-based models of testing;assessors focus on the frequency of certain teachingbehaviors but lack the means to address the subtleties of the teacher’s decision-making processes. In many of these cases, the discrete behaviors assessed are identified   Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation, Vol 10, No 2 2 by process/product research which specifies astandardized set of criteria to be used as a commonlanguage to assess competent teaching (Kuligowski,Holdzkom, & French, 1993). These characteristics aremore congruent with teacher competency testing thanauthentic forms of assessment, despite the use of a newlabel.Any effort to create alternative forms of assessmentneeds to confront the largely entrenched culture of bureaucratic testing practices and its concomitantassumptions about teaching practice. One suchassumption is that the teacher is the focal point of the allclassroom activities - that the teacher controls theenvironment and chooses from a repertoire of “effective” behaviors to ensure an efficiently runclassroom dynamic: “According to this model, goodteachers ask certain types of questions (e.g. higher andlower order), provide wait time, display warmth andenthusiasm, and provide structure in the way of advanceorganizers, explicit transitions, and closure” (Wilson,1995, p.191). Tests have typically reflected this model of teaching behavior by asking teachers to identifypreferable teaching strategies without providing anycontextual grounding. This feature of teacher testing ledDarling-Hammond, Wise, and Klein (1995) to conclude,in fact, that the more knowledgeable teacher candidatesare of the many contextual issues affecting teaching themore likely they are to have difficulty answering thesetypes of items. Observational assessment systems maydo no better than objective tests in being able to assesthe complex range of teachers’ knowledge and skill andaddress the ways teachers respond to multilayeredcontexts of their work.  Teacher testing has traditionally favored “bureaucratic”over “professional” approaches (Darling-Hammond,1986). The bureaucratic view suggests that teachers needto be assessed with competency tests that are externallyimposed, rule governed, and highly prescribed. Thisview seeks to ensure the development of professionalhabits by teachers that are supportive of the status quo.Closely tied to the “bureaucratic” model of teachertesting is teacher competency testing (Haney, Madaus, &Kreitzer, 1987), which is externally imposed and usedprimarily as a means to control entry into the professionby weeding out incompetent teachers lacking thenecessary knowledge and skills. The “professional”model, by contrast, calls for forms of evaluation thatreflect the complex decision-making processes thatteachers engaged in in the course of their work and themyriad of ways that they modify their practices toaddress the diversity of their students and the social andinstitutional contours of their school and community.Seen in this way, situated within a culture of assessmentthat stresses competency testing and bureaucratic formsof evaluation, many types of assessments that developersand users purport as “authentic” are, in fact,characterized by traditional, not authentic, testing habits.For example the use of teaching portfolios has beenwidely touted as an authentic practice because of theopportunity it offers for teachers to reflect on their workand its potential sensitivity to the complex context of the teacher’s work. However, the portfolio mightbecome an exhibition, a final product for the purposesof showmanship that stresses style over substance.Shulman (1998) calls this phenomena the “lamination”problem to suggest that treating the portfolio as ashowpiece rather than an account of meaningfulreflection over a period of time undermines itsusefulness as an educative tool for its author. The mereuse of a portfolio in this case in no way ensures that itrepresents an authentic assessment practice. The“lamination” problem may result, then, from thestudent trying to adhere to a set of externally prescribedstandards that guide the form and content of theportfolio - standards borne out of the bureaucraticmodel of teacher testing.Given these challenges, efforts to successfully enactauthentic assessment for preservice teachers need to berooted in a theoretical position that is robust enough todistinguish authentic assessment from its moretraditional antecedents. This paper will exploreHabermas’ (1972, 1974) three knowledge constitutiveinterests - the technical, practical, and emancipatory - to help recognize characteristics of preservice teacherassessment and to help work towards an understandingof some of the differences between authentic and non-authentic forms of assessment. Each of the knowledgeconstitutive interests will be used to unpack the variousways that certain assessment practices might beunderstood and practiced. Using the technical, practical, and emancipatory intereststo understand educational practices has been used inother similar ways. Grundy (1982) and Carr and Kemmis(1986), for example, emphasize technical, practical, andemancipatory approaches to action research, and Zeichner and Liston (1987) and Valli (1992) use vanManen’s (1977) closely corresponding technical,interpretive, and critical “level of reflectivity” todifferentiate conceptions of reflection in teachereducation. The section below describes my effort toapply the three knowledge constitutive interests toseveral assessment practices for preservice teachers. Thepurpose is to contribute to dialogue that shores up thetheory behind authentic assessment and constructs moreresilient forms of authentic assessment (in theory and inpractice). In order for authentic assessment practices tobe implemented in ways that are true to their underlyingphilosophy, and to avoid their misuse as more   Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation, Vol 10, No 2 3 bureaucratic testing, this type of inquiry should proveuseful for educators and policymakers engaged in thereform of testing practices for teachers. THE TECHNICAL, PRACTICAL, ANDEMANCIPATORY INTERESTS A widely used framework for analyzing curriculumpractices is embedded in the philosophy of Habermas(1972, 1974) who proposes three knowledge-constitutiveinterests as the basis for how all knowledge isconstructed. These interests, which he calls the“technical”, “practical”, and “emancipatory”, embodyour sense of what constitutes knowledge as well as thecategories we use to organize that knowledge (Grundy,1987). Closely related to Habermas’s three knowledgeconstitutive interests is van Manen’s (1977) notion of three “levels of reflection”, the “technical”, “practical”, 1 and “critical.” The technical interest is a “fundamental interest incontrolling the environment through rule followingaction based upon empirically grounded laws” (Grundy,1987, p.12). Built on the precepts of the empirical-analytic scientific tradition, this interest is based onknowledge gained through precise scientificexperimentation. The objectives-based model of curriculum design, perhaps best articulated by Tyler(1949), draws extensively from the technical interest.Simply put, the emphasis is on controlling studentbehavior and learning in such a way that they willconform to pre-determined ends. The focus is on theefficiency and effectiveness with which these objectivescan be achieved, not with interrogating the value of theends themselves. The technical interest is alsocharacterized by scientifically generated laws to predictpatterns of nature or human behavior. An importantimplication that the technical interest has for preserviceteacher preparation is the emphasis it places on skill(Grundy, 1987). That is, teacher preparation isconstrued as “training” whereby teachers learn toimplement a set of prescribed procedures and displaycertain behaviors claimed (by empirical science) to berepresentative of effective and efficient teaching.  The practical interest is “a fundamental interest inunderstanding the environment through interactionbased upon a consensual interpretation of meaning”(Grundy, p.14). While the technical interest resides inprediction and control, the practical interest representsunderstanding. This type of understanding, however, isnot based on making predictions and exerting controlover the environment. Instead it entails an interest intaking the “right” action and asking questions such as“what ought I to do” (Grundy, p.13). While thetechnical interest draws from the empirical analyticscientific tradition, suggested by its emphasis ongenerating law-like hypotheses, the practical interestdraws from the historical-hermeneutic sciences. This isapparent in the practical interest’s association withinterpretation and holistic understanding of action. Theimportance of skill in the technical interest is replaced by judgment and taste: “Taste...constitutes a special way of knowing. It belongs in the area of reflective judgment...Both taste and judgment are evaluations of the object in relation to the whole to see if it fits witheverything else, whether , then, it is ‘fitting’” (Gadamer,1979, p.36). The most salient lesson to be gleaned fromthe practical interest for preservice teacher education isthe importance of thoughtful judgment and reflectionon the part of the students by enabling them to bringforward their values and assumptions about themselvesand about teaching. Furthermore student teachersguided by the practical interest might likely focus theiraction not on the material products their students createor on empirical validation of their achievement, butrather on the meaningfulness of the learning experiencesfor the students.  The emancipatory interest is “a fundamental interest inemancipation and empowerment to engage inautonomous action arising out of authentic, criticalinsights into the social construction of human society”(Grundy, p. 19). The emancipatory interest entails aconcern for moral and ethical dimensions underlyinghuman action by asking what sort of activities andexperiences will help lead people towards livescharacterized by equity, caring, and compassion (Gore &Zeichner, 1991). The emancipatory interest might guidea teacher toward recognizing the role that schools playin perpetuating social and political divisions andencourage that teacher to look for ways, bothindividually and collectively, to begin to challenge theseproblems. Habermas (1974) claims that emancipationinheres in the act of finding one’s voice which can onlyoccur in conditions characterized by justice and equality.For the preservice teacher the emancipatory andpractical interests are compatible with each other. Bothimply a need for thoughtful judgment, freedom of speech and opportunity for reflection. However, theemancipatory interest also includes social and politicalcritique. As teachers become aware of how they andtheir students exist within a social order characterized bythe unequal distribution of power and privileges, andbegin to question these arrangements as sociallyconstructed and in need of change, they are expressingan emancipatory interest.   Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation, Vol 10, No 2 4 METHODOLOGY   The most common characteristics apparent in theexisting literature on authentic assessment suggest theimportance of both teacher control over theirassessment experience and context sensitivity of theinstrument. Accordingly, the operational definition that Ibegin with holds that “authentic assessments” 1) givestudents significant control over how they will beassessed and control over the conditions and context of their assessment and 2) are conducted within the contextof student’s work, including their perception of roles,experiences, and practices (Tellez, 1996). The analysisuses the technical, practical, and emancipatory intereststo strengthen authentic assessment with moreconceptual clarity and add several new layers to thismeaning. These layers lie at the various “points of impact” of the authentic assessment experience (Figure1). That is, the experience of an authentic assessmenthas implications not only for the assessee (student) butalso for the assessor (teacher) and for the nature of therelationship between the student and teacher. Theunique ways that assessment can affect the student, theteacher, and the relationship between the two wasanalyzed. Then a judgment was made about whether thatknowledge interest is compatible with the concept of authentic assessment (as defined above). If it was foundto be consistent, any new dimensions that the interestcontribute to the concept of authentic assessment wereidentified. Figure 1: Points of impact of assessment practices FINDINGS  The impact on the student can be interpreted 2 in three ways, each way corresponding to one of thethree knowledge interests. The same is true for theimpact on the teacher and on the nature of therelationship (see Table 1). “Technical” appropriation of authentic assessment has three implications: 1) thestudent’s reflection is limited to technical decision-making; 2) the impact on the teacher(s) is minimalleading to little or no self-interrogation or collaborativeinquiry into teaching practices; 3) the nature of therelationship is monologic where the teacher(s) or a set of standards authoritatively dictates expectation to thestudent. “Practical” appropriation of authenticassessment implies that: 1) the student’s reflection ischaracterized by “deliberative” or “personalistic”reflection (Valli, 1992) where the student reflects usingpersonal perspectives and theories to reflect on his/hervoice, personal growth, or professional relations; 2) Theassessment experience enables the teacher(s) tointerrogate their own practice and the question theeducational goals they are pursuing through theirdecisions about instruction and assessment. 3) Thenature of the relationship is “dialogic” where studentsand their evaluators enter into dialogue aimed atunderstanding (Gitlin & Smyth, 1989); Finally the“emancipatory” appropriation of authentic assessmentimplies that 1) students begin to think critically abouttheir teaching, making observations and judgmentsabout the social and political contexts of their work; 2) The teacher(s) use the assessment experience tochallenge the material and institutional structures of their work; and 3) The nature of the relationship isdialogic where students and teachers not only enter intodialogue aimed at understanding but also begin to alterthe traditional power hierarchy that separates teacherand student. Use of the three knowledge interests in this way servestwo purposes. First, this framework suggests a renewedconcept of authentic assessment, one which touches notonly on the impact of the assessment experience on thestudent, but the impact of the experience on the assessorand the nature of the relationship between the assessorand the assessed. Put this way, authentic assessment cannow be seen as characterized by five criteria:1) They give students significant control over how theywill be assessed and control over the conditions andcontext of their assessment 2) They are conducted within the context of student’swork, including their perception of roles, experiences,   Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation, Vol 10, No 2 5 and practices.3) They provide for “deliberative” or “personalistic” or“critical” reflection (Valli, 1992) where the studentreflects using personal perspectives and theories toreflect on his/her voice, personal growth, professionalrelations or the social and political context of his/herwork.4) They enable the assessors to interrogate their ownpractice and to question the educational goals they arepursuing through their decisions about instruction andassessment or to challenge the institutional andbureaucratic structures of their work.Figure 2: Assessment practices for preservice teachers within the technical, practical, andemancipatory interests Assessment Practices for Preservice TeachersImpact on studentImpact on teacherImpact onrelationshipTechnicaltechnical decision-makinglittle or no self-interrogationmonologicPracticaldeliberative andpersonalisitc reflectioninterrogation of goalsand practicesdialogic (aimedatunderstanding)Emancipatorycritical reflection interrogation of material andinstitutional structuresdialogic (aimedat understandingand confrontingpower hierarchy 5) The nature of the relationship between assessor andassessed is “dialogic” where students and theirevaluators enter into dialogue aimed at understandingand may use this dialogue as a basis to alter thetraditional power hierarchy between them. The unique ways in which the three interests are “atwork” within models of performance-based assessment(including portfolios, and observations of teaching) anduses of action research in preservice teacher educationare detailed in the next section. The intention is to give aholistic analysis of the relationship between the threeinterests and assessment practices, drawing from specificexamples of these practices (and the experiences of bothstudents and faculty involved in their development andimplementation) where instructive. The discussion isdivided into three sections, with each sectioncorresponding to one of the three knowledge interests.Within each section, the knowledge interest is used toanalyze the impact of assessment practices on thestudent, the teacher, and relationship between the two.Each section will conclude with brief analysis of thecongruence between the three interests and authenticassessment. Following this discussion, overallimplications are considered for teacher educator andpolicymakers who seek to construct and use authenticassessment practices. Assessment as technical  As indicated, the technical interest is based on the belief that all action needs to be geared towards the efficientfulfillment of predetermined ends. The interrogation of the worth or value of these ends would clearly not be anexpected goal for a prospective teacher engaged in a“technical” form of assessment. Instead, the teachermight be expected to choose or construct answers ordemonstrate performances that adhere as closely aspossible to a set of standards. Furthermore given thetechnical interest’s grounding in empirical science as thebasis for determining the ends (standards) to whichaction ought to lead, the students will have no role (or avery minimal role) in determining the criteria on whichthey will be judged. These decisions are left up to the judgment of experts who have determined a set of criteria for effective teachers to emulate. Assessment guided by the “technical” places very similarlimitations on teacher’s ability to interrogate his/herown practice. Both the role of the student and   the role of the teacher become formed in a very mechanistic waywhich prevents either party from challenging the formof the evaluation or the conceptions of teaching it
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