Assessment of Literacy Pedagogy using Gratitude

June, 2020

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 45(6)

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to describe how the authors approached the teaching of literacy with Pre-service Teachers (PSTs), in ways that valued the PSTs’ relationships with students using notes of gratitude.

Deakin University has had a Literacy Across the Curriculum unit in the BA/BTeach since the late 1990s.
The coursework was designed around learning outcomes that supported the pre-service teacher’s development of literacy pedagogy in their teaching.
In re-designing and updating the course, to address PST engagement with the course and the authors’ commitment to acknowledging the importance of relationality in teaching, the unit was embedded in two high schools a short distance from the university.
Over a nine-week period, each pre-service teacher worked with a school student for an hour each week to support the student’s literacy learning and the preservice teacher’s pedagogical practices.

The Design of the PST Assessment Task
In the new version of Literacy Across the Curriculum, the PSTs worked with the secondary students on some literacy skills.
To quickly evaluate their secondary student’s reading comprehension and fluency skills, each PST conducted an individual Prose Reading Observation, Behaviour and Evaluation (PROBE) Reading test with the secondary student, to identify specific literacy skills that they could assist the student with.
The first assessment task required the PSTs to use the results of the pre-test to develop an individual learning program to support specific attributes of the school student’s literacy.
The second assessment task required the pre-service teacher to construct five ‘Thank-you’ notes to be given to the school student, which captured student learning as well as what the pre-service teacher learned about the teaching of literacy.
Some of the evidence in these ‘thank-you’ notes covered content based on the individual learning plan and systemic functional linguistics.
As part of their second assessment, the PSTs placed post-it notes on these ‘thank-you’ notes that provided references to readings covered in the unit.
During a ten-minute interview with the tutor, the pre-service teacher talked through their learning evidenced in ‘thank-you’ notes.
After the interview, they removed the post-it notes from the ‘thank-you’ notes and gave the 'thank-you' notes to the student in a bound booklet.
In this paper the authors selected three excellent examples, that illustrate what is possible when thinking about assessing literacy pedagogy using relationship understandings of gratitude.
The relational approach was not directly an assessment criterion but the PSTs were marked on their ability to engage students in the text they wrote, demonstrating their understandings of purpose and audience.
While there were many notes to choose from, they looked for evidence where socially inclusive literacy pedagogies played an important role in the purposes of assessment in the notes.
The authors present three examples of the ‘thank-you’ notes authored by PSTs.
Each note is analysed for the sense-making in the reflections of literacy teaching that is captured in the note.
The actions captured in these notes integrate student learning and pre-service teacher reflections on their teaching.
They present these three notes as an analysis that articulates what gratitude might look like in an assessment of PSTs’ literacy pedagogy.

This paper applies a model of pedagogic work described by Gale et al. (2017) in the context of teacher education to explore what assessment using gratitude might look like in preservice teacher education.
The authors outline their beliefs, designs, and actions that span the practice of teacher educators, PSTs, and school students to support the gifting of gratitude notes to school students in a unit on literacy pedagogy for PSTs.
The same gratitude text was read by three different audiences: the teacher educator a pre-service teacher who authored the note and school student.
Bakhtin (1981) suggests that texts are defined in the way the writing and reading communities engage in reciprocity affected by the meanings they encode and take from the texts.
An important part of what gratitude looks like in assessment is the capacity of the texts to traverse plural audiences in a way that upholds, not only the integrity of the meanings in the texts, but also the integrity of the pedagogy valued by the pre-service teacher.
This integrity, coupled with the opportunity to develop a relationship with the school student, provides an authentic assessment experience for the pre-service teacher.
The use of gratitude in the assessment of PSTs provides a way of integrating relationality into the pedagogical work of teacher educators.
Just as Bourdieu (1990) suggested gifting binds Kabyle people together through mechanisms of improvisation, charm, and uncertainty, the authors have demonstrated that the content of gratitude notes from PSTs to school students provides opportunities for a similar act of gifting exchange.
Each gratitude note captured something of a little gift the school students gave to the PSTs, enabling them to learn more about teaching.
In return, the gratitude from the PSTs to the school students was a symbol of the importance of relationships in their teaching.
The opportunity for this gift exchange to be a part of assessment that is generally based on the cognitive recounts of pedagogical theory devoid of relationships with students holds exciting possibilities.
Rather than use relationality to achieve assessment’s purposes, the authors have privileged relationality as the very object of assessment.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: four essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Gale, T., Mills, C., & Cross, R. (2017). Socially Inclusive Teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 0022487116685754 

Updated: Mar. 17, 2021


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