Impact of an Assessment Course on Teacher Candidates’ Assessment Literacy

Oct. 01, 2014

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Volume 36, Issue 5-6, p. 522–532, 2014.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a required assessment course on the assessment literacy of teacher candidates.

The participants were 190 teacher candidates, who enrolled in seven different classes taught by three different faculty members.
They were asked to complete the Assessment Literacy Inventory (ALI) as a pretest measure and posttest measure.
The purpose of the ALI is to measure general concepts related to testing and assessment and includes questions related to assigning grades and communicating the results (Mertler & Campbell, 2005).


The findings revealed that certain aspects of assessment literacy were present before the course. At the onset of the course, teacher candidates had the highest mean scores for Ethical Assessment, Scoring, and Choosing Assessment Methods.
It is likely that most candidates can easily recognize unethical assessment practices and improper scoring.
Furthermore, the participants, regardless of licensure area, came into the course with relatively equal knowledge.
However, the exposure to the course potentially increased assessment literacy in some areas.
The participants have also received enough exposure to assessment practices to understand that there is some choice in assessment methodology.

The authors found that candidates maintained a high level of literacy in the areas of ethical assessment, scoring, and choosing assessment methods.
In addition, candidates came into the course with low mean scores in sound design of assessments and communicating results.
As faculty in these courses, the researchers found it pertinent that two of the main foci of the course are designing assessments and communication of assessment results.
The results revealed that the participants did increase in their mean scores for sound design of assessment and communicating results on the posttest, though these were still the lowest scores.

Furthermore, the PK–6 group showed the lowest post-test scores for choosing assessment methods and sound design of assessment.
The PK–12 group had the lowest posttest scores for communicating results and the 6–12 group had the lowest posttest scores for using results.
From a practical standpoint, these observed differences denote some pedagogical differences between the licensure areas.
Lower elementary and early childhood teacher candidates know they will teach multiple content areas and therefore might need more coursework on choosing and designing assessment.
These candidates also take the course primarily during their junior year, well before their methods courses and field experiences.
In contrast, middle and secondary teacher candidates take this course during their final semesters and often immediately prior to student teaching.
The results of this study indicate that these candidates might need more coursework around communicating results to their students and educational stakeholders.


The authors conclude that a course focusing specifically on assessment of student learning contributes to the assessment literacy of teacher candidates and, therefore, is a vital part of a teacher preparation program.
This type of course can serve as a foundation for helping prospective teachers understand ways to assess student learning in the classroom and for beginning to build the real skills necessary for effective assessment practice once they become teachers.

Mertler, C. A., & Campbell, C. (2005 ). Measuring teachers’ knowledge & application of classroom assessment concepts: Development of the assessment literacy inventory. Paper presentation at the 2005 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

Updated: Mar. 29, 2015