Say Cheese! A Snapshot of Elementary Teachers’ Engagement and Motivation for Classroom Assessment

Oct. 01, 2014

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Volume 36, Issue 5-6, p. 377–388, 2014.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to add to the growing base of knowledge about teachers’ engagement with assessment data and their motivation for classroom assessment.

The participants were four full-time elementary school-teachers in diverse teaching contexts in Alberta and Ontario, Canada.
They answered semi-structured individual interviews.


The results settled into four main categories:
(1) teachers use for learning assessment to improve student achievement,
(2) an imbalance of formative assessment – assessment as learning was not used consistently,
(3) inconsistent formalization of observation into meaningful assessment data, and
(4) the tension between internal and external motivators for student assessment.

First, the findings indicate that the teachers value assessment for learning for the purpose of informing their instruction and providing descriptive feedback to improve their students’ achievement.

Second, it was found that teachers are using formative assessment, such as exit tickets, questioning, observation, and conversation including descriptive feedback with success.
However, assessment as learning was not used consistently and is considered an area that needs attention for professional development, training, and practice.

Although all the teachers in the study used observation to inform their instruction and provide feedback to students, the new teachers did not formalize their observations into meaningful assessment data.
Enhancing teachers’ abilities to make inferences from observations is another area for improvement.
Furthermore, all the teachers demonstrated competence and success in their teaching, as reflected in their range of assessment strategies.
The strongest component of their psychological needs was relatedness, as evidenced in the teachers’ strong commitment to caring for their students’ learning and well-being.
The teachers’ autonomy was low, as reported in their confidence in making decisions about their classroom assessment.
The low autonomy can be explained by considering the tension between their internal motivation (i.e., care for their students) and the external motivators (i.e., imposed large-scale and district assessments).

Finally, the teachers experienced tension between their internal motivation to build caring relationships with their students and provide for learning assessment to improve teaching and learning and the external pressure of mandated assessments.
Additionally, the external pressure of insufficient time and professional development and training was reported to damage intrinsic motivation.


Based on the findings from this study and the literature, the author offers the following recommendations.

Teacher preparation programs
The novice teachers, though confident in their teaching, were not satisfied with their classroom assessment.
The results suggest specific instruction on classroom assessment was essential for teacher preparation programs.
An increase in practical applications, such as using authentic student work and more of a focus on classroom assessment during practicums, may provide the teacher candidates the opportunity to learn in context.

Additionally, exploration of unique teaching situations may improve teacher candidates’ assessment competency in the classroom including assessment in rotational teaching settings, culturally appropriate assessment, English language learners, and students with identified learning needs.

Professional development and training for teachers
The teachers in this study were identified as highly effective teachers.
The results suggest continuing teachers’ assessment literacy to achieve a more balanced formative assessment is prudent.
Considering the teachers’ consistent use of observation and informal assessment and the importance and implications of assessment results, it is critical for teachers to have professional development and training on using observation and alternative methods of assessment based on a criteria.

School and district administration
The author recommends on providing release time for teachers to conference with students or administer districtlevel- mandated literacy and numeracy assessment might improve teachers’ assessment capacity.
Furthermore, providing teachers with release time to assess their students and opportunities for teacher moderation, and targeted professional development seems warranted by the present results.
Finally, arranging for teacher moderation opportunities may improve consistency in assessment among the teachers in the school.

Updated: Jun. 07, 2015