Developing Preservice Teachers’ Expertise in Equitable Assessment for English Learners

From Section:
Instruction in Teacher Training
Apr. 15, 2014

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Vol. 25, Issue 3, April 2014, p. 289-308.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines the development of preservice secondary science teachers’ understanding about equitable assessments (EA) as a result of instruction during a methods course and their subsequent use of EA, while planning a science unit without prompting.

The author examined the understanding and implementation of EA of 23 secondary preservice teachers within two classes. The methods classes focused on the academic content area of science. Participants’ journals, teaching philosophies, and inquiry-based science units served as data sources.


The findings reveal that before instruction, participants held simple view about EA. They were able to connect EA to a notion of ‘‘fairness’’ and were able to generate a variety of questions that they wished to learn more about. Participants demonstrated learning during the course in four categories, which included their knowledge about assessment practices, how they see English language learners, how they see the purpose of assessment, and their attitudes toward assessment in terms of advantages and disadvantages.

Results also showed changes in preservice teachers’ views of learners and the purpose of assessment. Data showed that after instruction, participants: (a) knew specific strategies to reduce bias in assessments, (b) recognized the need to challenge students to boost their learning, and not merely make assessments easier, and (c) saw EA as a way to support learning and not just measure students fairly.
Further, this study was unique in demonstrating that preservice teachers gained a new view of assessment, such as a more sophisticated notion of ‘‘fairness’’—beyond merely providing access, to challenging and supporting learning. This study also distinctively showed that participants gained a more equitable view of diverse learners and an appreciation of the benefits and drawbacks of EA.


The author concludes that preservice teachers gained in the following domains of knowledge introduced earlier: (1) knowledge and beliefs about diverse learners, (2) knowledge and beliefs about EA strategies, and (3) skills in modifying assessments for English language learners. They displayed relevant knowledge, but did not enact it as well when it came to planning units. Hence, teacher education programs need to place more emphasis on developing critical understanding of EA practices to meet the needs of diverse learners.

The author emphasizes that this study is rare in that it looks at the development of preservice teachers’ understanding and abilities to design EA. The study illustrates that preservice teachers are interested in learning ways to implement EA into their instruction, but require guidance in order to succeed. Improving teachers’ preparation is essential; without improved knowledge of EA, students would have reduced opportunities to learn. The challenge is that preparing teachers to equitably assess might not ensure enactment in classrooms. As teacher educators, we must help new teachers negotiate the principles of EA with the realities of the school contexts they will encounter.

Updated: Nov. 20, 2019
Assessment | English (second language) | Expertise | Methods courses | Preservice teachers | Secondary school teachers