Queensland Teachers’ Conceptions of Assessment: The Impact of Policy Priorities on Teacher Attitudes

Jan. 15, 2011

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 210-220.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to examine Queensland teachers’ conceptions of assessment and their relationship to their level of teaching and compared the results to teachers from New Zealand.

Specifically, four research questions guided this study:
1. Could we model the four conceptions of assessment across Queensland primary and secondary teachers?
2. Is the model of assessment conceptions statistically equivalent between primary and secondary teachers?
3. Do the conceptions mean scores differ between primary and secondary teachers?
4. What are the conceptions of assessment among Queensland primary and secondary teachers?

A questionnaire-based survey of teachers’ attitudes, beliefs and practices in the areas of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment was conducted in 2003.

Valid data were obtained from 784 primary teachers and 614 secondary teachers.

The instrument used was the abridged, 27-item Conceptions of Assessment Inventory (CoA-IIIA) (Brown, 2006), which was embedded in the larger questionnaire.


Evidence was found that four conceptions of assessment could be used to describe how practicing teachers understood assessment: Improvement, Irrelevant, School Accountability, and Student Accountability. However, these conceptions were statistically different between Queensland primary and secondary teachers. Primary teachers agreed more than secondary teachers that ‘assessment improves teaching and learning’, while the latter agreed more that it ‘makes students accountable’.

The data also revealed that teachers showed a willingness to integrate assessment into their professional duties of improved teaching and learning, tempered with caution about the quality and usefulness of the assessment resources being used to make students and schools accountable.

Implications for policy development and teacher education

The authors argue that professional developers, teacher educators, and administrators should seek to take advantage of teachers’ commitment to assessment as a relevant means of improved teaching and learning

The authors also recommend to policy makers that radically different, low-stakes, richly informative, highly aligned assessments may be needed to engender a robust conception among teachers that assessment improves teaching and learning and that it can be used to demonstrate accountability.

Brown, 2006 G.T.L. Brown, Teachers' conceptions of assessment: Validation of an abridged instrument, Psychological Reports 99 (2006), pp. 166–170.

Updated: Nov. 29, 2011