The Role of the Teacher as Assessor: Developing Student Teacher’s Assessment Identity

December, 2021

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 46(12)

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

During the COVID 19 period a radically new placement experience would have to be designed so that student-teachers could meet the professional requirements of the Teaching Council (2020) and the University (Mohan, McCoy, Carroll, Mihut, Lyons & McDomhaill, 2020).
This was a catalyst to reimagine Teacher Assessment Identity (TAI) through the lens of Xu and Brown’s (2016) conceptual framework of teacher assessment literacy in practice.
The question that challenged the team was:
“How can we assist emerging student-teacher assessment identity through a new site of professional practice called Teaching Online Programme (TOP)?” Whilst the initiative employed the full conceptual framework of Xu & Brown, (2016), this paper focusses solely on the first component, the integration of assessment baseline knowledge under the seven elements proposed.

The methodological approach to this research is a single case study (Stake, 1995) undertaken during placement period of TOP3.
Yin (2006) argues that “the strength of the case study method is its ability to examine, in-depth, a “case” within its “real-life” context” (p.111).
He suggests that the case study method is pertinent when your research addresses either a descriptive question (what happened?) or an explanatory question (how or why did something happen?).
The case study was selected as the instrument to help navigate the complexity (Byrne, 2005) and interdependencies of the baseline assessment knowledge.
The case study comprised of three phases:
Phase one consisted of implementing TOP3 for 96 student-teachers from September 2020 to February 2021.
Artefacts such as handbooks, templates, recordings, and rubrics were all prepared.
Assignments were set and applied assessment knowledge into a practical or reflective element.
Each student was supported by a tutor who engaged with them from November until early February 2021.
Tutors viewed each student’s e-portfolio, synchronous and asynchronous lessons and engaged them in a dialogue about their experience and learning.
Formative feedback was offered to the student to help them progress in their learning.
Phase two consisted of two questionnaires:
1. A 30-minute on-line Qualtrics questionnaire involving predominantly multiple-choice and open questions was issued to TOP3 student-teachers in February.
It asked questions related to the challenges, complexities and learning experienced during TOP3.
59 of the 96 student-teachers responded to the questionnaire giving a response rate of 61.5%.
2. A second on-line questionnaire was issued to tutors in February 2021.
This captured tutor views on their experience of student-teacher preparation, planning and placement.
Eight tutors out of 20 responded to the questionnaire, giving a response rate of 40%.
Phase three consisted of a series of six, 45-minute focus groups with student-teachers (n=17) and also with tutors (n=18).
The team did not carry out these interviews themselves as they were involved in grading and evaluating student-teachers.
The interviews were transcribed and anonymised before the data was referred to the team.
Open thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2013) was carried out with the use of Nvivo to allow for the emergence of key themes and learning as a result of the process.
The researchers then applied deductive coding using the framework from Xu and Brown (2016) to expand their findings on TAI.

Findings and discussion
The findings on the complexity of implementing the knowledge components of Xu and Brown’s (2016) conceptual framework in relation to teacher assessment identity, offer considerable insights for ITE programmes.
Four areas of learning that emerged in the TOP3 research:
a. Assessment is multifaceted and needs to be deconstructed for thresholds of emerging assessment identity to be possible
b. The process of assessment knowledge making is emergentist and demands a holistic understanding of the knowledge base on assessment
c. Assessment identity is a cognitive and socio-cultural construct which is fostered through collaboration
d. Emerging assessment knowledge is a threshold for creativity and innovation
In answer to the research question, data suggest that TAI begins to emerge when the space is offered to interrogate the multifaceted elements of the baseline assessment knowledge and when these begin to converge into practice.
The programme interrupted student-teachers to evaluate their beliefs and feelings about the purposes of assessment and linked these with the greater purposes for education and curriculum.
The process of challenging previous thinking, concepts and norms opens a threshold of re-imagining the possibilities of assessment for post-primary pupils.
Without this opportunity offered in ITE, the authors argue that student-teachers will struggle with their assessment identity and default to what they have previously experienced and understood about assessment.
TAI needs to be encouraged through an emergentist approach in ITE.
The complexity of the baseline assessment knowledge makes it difficult for all student-teachers to make similar connections across all elements.
By seeing knowledge making as a centrifugal process, each student-teacher was able to make sense and construct meaning from their own space of possibilities.
TOP3 recognised TAI as a very unique creation for each student teacher which will continue to emerge over the teacher’s career.
TOP3 instigated an initial turning towards the world of the pupil and the classroom, focusing on how best to support learning and teaching through assessment and within a space that allowed risk.
Data acknowledged that this emergence in the form of TAI was uniquely progressive in a diversity of ways for student-teachers.
From the success of the collaborative elements of this programme, the academic team feel that ITE must take the lead on student-teachers working in communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) for placement and move forward from an individualistic approach to a team based element.
Data highlighted that this collaborative space assisted with the building of new narratives about teacher assessment identity.
The authors are in agreement with Looney et al. (2018) when they state that “when teachers assess more is in play than simply knowledge and skills” (p.445).
TOP3 offers a new professional site for student-teacher practice and emerging teacher assessment identity.
It challenges ITE to deeply deliberate on new learning spaces for student-teachers through interruption, emergentist and collaborative processes which offer new professional sites of practice.
Further research into how to further connect the online component of TOP3 with a more developed connection with schools needs to be explored in the future.
This will further help prepare the student-teacher for the messiness and complexity of the classroom (Xu & Brown, 2016, p.19).

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2013). Successful Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide for Beginners. Sage Publications Ltd.
Byrne D. (2005). Complexity, Configurations and Cases. Theory, Culture & Society. 22(5), 95-111
Looney, A., Cumming, J., van Der Kleij, F., & Harris, K. (2018). Reconceptualising the role of teachers as assessors: teacher assessment identity. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 25(5), 442-467
Mohan, G., McCoy, S., Carroll, E., Mihut, G., Lyons, S., & Mac Domhnaill, C. (2020). Learning for all? Second-Level Education in Ireland during Covid-19, ESRI, Report No 92, Dublin
Stake, R. E. (1995). The Art of Case Study Research. Sage Publications.
Teaching Council, (2020). Céim: Standards for Initial Teacher Education. The Teaching Council, Ireland.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning as a Social System. Systems Thinker
Xu, Y., & Brown, G. T. L. (2016). Teacher Assessment Literacy in Practice: A Reconceptualization. Teaching and Teacher Education, 58, 149-162.  

Updated: Aug. 08, 2022