Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 9, No. 1, 31–44, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The current paper reports on a self-study of teacher educators involved in a preservice teacher unit on literacy.
This collaborative self-study involved three teacher educator colleagues teaching literacy pedagogy in a preservice teacher program in a Melbourne metropolitan university.
In this study, the teacher educators provided the preservice teachers with digital oral feedback about their final unit of work. Rather than marking written work as individual lecturers, they collaboratively read each assignment and recorded a sound file of our conversation.
The teacher educators constructed their collaborative marking of each assignment as a “cultural gift” to their own professional learning.
The teacher educators found that they were providing more in-depth feedback on the assessment criteria for each assignment than they would have with written feedback prepared individually.
Their professional learning was framed by a coordinated attunement of practices around the marking. Through their shared orientation to the activity of marking assignments using sound-file recording, both the language they used and their expressive vocal qualities signified an attunement, reflected in the immersive orientation to one another and the task at hand.
Two transformations were happening.
First, they transformed the assignment as an object of marking to one of professional learning, using their previous knowledge and respect for collaborative multitasking that had quickly developed in this space. The dialogue between two of the teacher educators provided the students with details about how their assignment was mapped onto the assessment criteria seen through two teacher educators.
The second transformation was learning about each other’s approach to how best to read and mark digital assignments.
The teacher educators identified the need to support each other, and this support was integral to the reciprocity they developed in this collaborative professional environment.
They had found their reflections often returned to the artifacts they valued in the marking process. This led to conversations about objectivity and relationships in marking, and their changing workplace practices.
They also found that the dialogue they provided for the students was a rich source for their own professional learning. They were challenged by the diversity of student approaches to their work.
This self-study has highlighted several key ideas when attempting to develop professional learning around the practice of marking student assignments. These include understandings of collegiality, reflective practice, social designs of technological practices, and assessment as a gift.
The first understanding concerns the importance of collaborative and collegial relationships in teacher education, specifically, the relational dimension of marking assessment tasks using digital technologies. The teacher educators' pedagogical practices were mediated through the dynamic forms of their shared interactions. Their professional learning, therefore, involved us in pedagogical exchange that was mediated by interactions that were characterized by a sharing of different knowledges and the generation of new thinking about relational processes in institutional practices.
The second understanding concerns reflective practice. Throughout the teaching of this unit, the teacher educators encouraged their preservice teachers to reflect on what motivated their use of technology in the classroom and how the students were positioned on their approach toward technology. In this study, the authors found that they enacted much of what they were inviting the preservice teachers to do. They were exploring the opportunities to interrogate their own practices of assessment in the audience of another teacher educator.
The third understanding from this study concerns a social approach toward the use of technology. While they were using technology to read the assignments, it was the collaborative practice enabled by the digital recording of their conversations that provided opportunities to learn from each other. They are expecting preservice teachers to move into classrooms where the children bring new and emerging practices.
The final understanding they explored in this study concerns a reframing for assessment as a gift to the professional learning of teacher educators. While they were still asking for an essay at the end of the unit, they identified that these assignments were a rich source of provocation for examining our understandings of their pedagogy and the values and assumptions that underpin it.
The authors found that the dialogue between them provided a rich context for our professional learning about teaching literacy, as they also highlighted specific content knowledge that they both brought to the teaching of the unit. They found that working as a team enabled them to provide more in-depth feedback on the assessment criteria for each assignment than was previously the case with written feedback. Through this dialogical feedback, the teacher educators were able to construct the preservice teachers’ assignments as an important textual gift for their collaborative professional learning.