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Making Judgements

What informs the decisions we make?

Making criteria-based judgements even when comprehensive lists of possible evidence of learning and achievement are provided is not as straightforward as it might seem.

Many factors impact on the reliability of evaluative judgements especially in the variable contexts of schools and classrooms:

  • the school-based teacher educator’s perception of their roles and relationships with pre-service teachers
  • the learning stage of the pre-service teacher, i.e., beginning, intermediate, graduate stage
  • the school-based teacher educator’s interpretations of both criteria and evidence statements
  • the conditions under which the assessment takes place, (contexts matter)

diagram

For school-based teacher educators to make reliable decisions, subjective opinions must be replaced by criteria and a range of possible evidence of different standards that are explicitly defined, consistently applied and drawn from a range of examples produced over time.

Relationships matter. The relationship between the pre-service teacher and school-based teacher educator can affect the assessment of professional experience outcomes against Graduate Standards. Many school-based teacher edicators want to be and are generous with their time, support and skill-sharing. Yet, at the end of each placement, they are obliged to make the call: has this pre-service teacher achieved enough to pass this professional experience round? Have they demonstrated sufficient skills and understanding to move onto the next stage of their professional experience and course? Hard, complex, and weighty choices must be made and these are high stakes: failing professional experience means at least another placement will be required and, in some instances, a repeat of a substantial part of the course. Repeated failure will mean the end of the journey to become a teacher. Failing a pre-service teacher is never done lightly or easily. Some school-based teacher educators wonder how well they have succeeded in their role and how this reflects on them as a professional.

Nevertheless, the expertise and courage of school-based teacher educators in making judgements about pre-service teachers’ readiness to teach – and in being prepared to fail those who are not ready – is a critical dimension in the preparation of the next generation of teachers. Because of their expertise, school-based teacher educators are often on the ‘frontline’ when pre-service teachers who do not (yet) meet the required standards are failed. In the long term, such a decision, while never easy, can benefit the pre-service teacher and, indirectly, the children who they may come to teach in future classrooms. Hard decisions are sometimes necessary for the wellbeing of all concerned.

The relationship between school-based teacher educators and pre-service teachers is a dependent (fiduciary) relationship. Relations of power do not disappear just because people wish to be collegial, or because they believe in ‘equality’. Although all teachers are held to high ethical standards and are accountable for their practices through codes of conduct, among any group, there will be a wide range of values and beliefs. This can be healthy and provide for rigorous and productive debates as people work through differences to come to common and agreed upon goals. These differences, however, should not influence the criteria, what counts as evidence or the judgements of quality based on them.

Working closely with the terms of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, consideration of Possible Evidence for Judging Achievement of Graduate Standards 1 – 5, and matching evidence to criteria developed from the Standards will enhance the reliability of judgements made by both school-based and university-based teacher educators.

Download Possible Evidence for Judging Achievement of Graduate Standards 1 – 5.

Making judgements on the basis of learning stages

The Australian Graduate Standards outline what a graduate teacher must know and be able to do. As such they provide useful guidelines for assessing the end point of the initial learning journey. There are many stages along the path to completing an initial teacher education program and at each of these stages, pre-service teachers learn and rehearse new skills and knowledge, while they practise and strengthen skills and understandings developed earlier.

Activity – Taking account of learning-to-teach stages when making judgements – Part 1

Your Task

View the video of Demi who is a pre-service teacher in a Year 1 classroom. As a teacher or pre-service teacher, after looking at Demi’s video, to list four things that you think she is doing well in the short interaction you’ve viewed.

  • Play Demi's video - chapter 3

View the video of Kyla who is teaching a Year 6-7 maths class. Again, note four things that you think Kyla is doing well in her interactions with students.

  • Play Kyla's video - chapter 1

Imagine that you are a school-based teacher educator of both these pre-service teachers. Where would you ‘place’ each of them on a continuum of learning to teach that stretches from ‘just beginning’ to ‘about-ready-to-graduate’?

diagram

Reflective Questions

  1. On what basis do you make your judgement?
  2. What evidence would you offer to justify your location of each of the pre-service teachers on the continuum?
  3. How do you as a school-based teacher educator, manage the difficult conversation with a pre-service teacher when you must tell them they are not going to pass the placement? Who do you look to for support?

Activity – Taking account of learning to teach stages when making judgements – Part 2

What should a pre-service teacher know and be able to demonstrate at the beginning, middle and end of their professional experience in schools? Choose one of the Graduate Standards and draw up a table of evidence that could be used to make judgements about which stage the pre-service teacher is at in relation to that Standard.

Below is a sample of some of what other teachers have identified in regards to Graduate Standard Four:

Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments.’ In Focus 4.1 the Graduate should be able to ‘Identify strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities.’

Look carefully at the criteria listed for each stage. What do you think is missing? What would you change?

4.1 Support student participation
Identify strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities.
Beginning Pre-service Teacher Middle level Pre-service Teacher Graduate level Pre-service Teacher
  • Identify that there are different types of learning and learners
  • Use questioning
  • Accept wide range of responses
  • Participation in activities
  • Use of praise/encouragement
  • Knowledge of personalities in the room (esp. when grouping)
  • Pre-service teacher interactions with students rather than didactic pedagogy e.g. use questions
  • Support learning by providing visual aids e.g. notes to reinforce spoken information
  • Acknowledges students’ efforts to respond rather than ignore or be negative e.g. ‘no’
  • Walks around the class providing individual support to students
  • Enthusiastic and happy tone of voice
  • Using children’s names when talking with them
  • Distinguishes between various student behaviours, needs and understanding
  • Plans activities for a range of learners (e.g. fast finishers & those with difficulties)
  • Provides a range of learning experiences
  • Aware of barriers to participation e.g. ASD, cultural differences
  • Provides resources
  • Uses open question technique to help students understanding without targeting particular students
  • Repeats key phrases to assist student understanding
  • Models tasks
  • Continues to model throughout the warm-up activity
  • Use of a hands-on activity to include students
  • Identifies a range of learning styles and can ‘connect with’ at least a few
  • Uses physical classroom environment, inc. seating plans, to increase participation
  • Uses a range of teaching strategies to increase engagement
  • Provides for students to take responsibility for own learning
  • communicates expectations of lesson
  • initially focus on engagement rather than content
  • Relates task to personal experiences to promote engagement – Eg. Use of pop-culture examples
    Connects with prior knowledge – previous lessons
    Provides meaningful tasks
  • Gauges students’ understanding of the task (asking questions, have children explain what they doing/learning)
  • Involving all students & valuing the input of all students (not always choosing the same student because they have their hand up or knowing they will give you the answer you want)
  • Allocation of tasks / roles to particular students based on their needs and interests
  • Connects with students’ experiences

Reflective Questions

Review your notes on the two pre-service teachers, Demi and Kyla in Activity 1:

  1. Where did you place Demi on the continuum? Where did you place Kyla on the continuum? What was the distinguishing evidence that enabled you to make these judgements?
  2. Which of the descriptor statements best captures what you saw each pre-service teacher doing?
  3. Would you change your assessment of them on the basis of the three different stages of descriptors presented in the table above?
Interpreting and Elaborating Criteria – Specifying the Evidence

Ensuring that the information on which judgements are based is drawn from multiple sources and a range of assessment events administered over time means ensuring that each pre-service teacher:

  • experiences a variety of settings and rich learning and assessment opportunities
  • is provided with clear and consistent expectations and agreed-upon criteria (See ‘Evidence’ section) and that these are used to make judgements about development and achievement
  • receives clear and specific elaboration feedback

Shared understanding of the evidence that will count as achievement of a particular level of proficiency and Graduate Standard should form a transparent and fair basis for assessing pre-service teachers. “[F]acts and theories … rather than personal beliefs and feelings” (Cowan, 2010, p. 323) form the basis of reliable judgements and advice to learners.

Graduate teachers are expected to be able to teach particular groups of students and teach in a variety of ways, each tailored to particular groups – for example, students with disability, (1.3) or students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds (1.6).

Activity – Taking Account of Stage of Learning when Making Judgements about Pre-service Teachers’ Performances

Your Task

As a school-based teacher educator, how will you make a judgement that your pre-service teacher has achieved either the first or second of the developmental stages in Graduate Standard 4.2?

What would you look for?

Download Taking Account of Stage of Learning Activity.pdf and complete the first two sections

Compare your responses to those produced by other teachers

4.2 Manage classroom activities – Demonstrate the capacity to organise classroom activities and provide clear directions.
Beginning Pre-service Teacher Middle level Pre-service Teacher Graduate level Pre-service Teacher
  • Seeks advice in relation to time frames for activities
  • Evidence of planning and sequencing of lesson
  • Provides clear directions
  • Organised and well planned learning activity and resources for students
  • Stands before a class and give directions/instructions for brief periods
  • Good lesson structure (intro, activity, reflection)
  • Managing timing of lesson independently
  • Model & demonstration of key concepts/activity
  • Laying the foundations for learning – building learning sequentially
  • Physically organises the groups
  • Having routines – following routines already existing within the classroom / set routines, teach them and stick to them
  • Expectations are clearly stated for each activity
  • Does not over-manage students
  • Shows flexibility and the ability to multi task (groups and activities)
  • Micro skills/teaching, activity planning and executing
  • Contextualises new learning links to previous learning – uses strategies to activate and organise prior knowledge of the targeted new knowledge, skills, and procedures to be learned in this lesson.
  • Sequences learning in unit
  • Limit information – make it specific and reflect the students’ stages of development
  • Lesson format encourages participation of all students.
  • Check that students know the point/purpose of the lesson

How does the evidence that you would look for or aim to demonstrate differ from the completed list? Why might this be so?

Moving through the stages

What can school-based teacher educators do to assist their pre-service teacher to develop the necessary evidence at each stage? When we asked our Communities of Reflective Practitioners to consider this question, they came up with some clear suggestions.

  Pre-service teacher at Beginning Stage school-based teacher educator can:
4.3 ‘Demonstrate knowledge of practical approaches to manage challenging behaviours’

  • Follows teacher’s expectations for behaviour management
  • Identifies behaviour problems in the classroom and seeks advice
  • Discusses range of possible strategies to manage various types of classroom behaviour
  • Observes and identifies various class room behaviours
  • Experiments with a range of strategies in simple environments
  • Explain behaviour management routines/procedures used in school
  • Model positive reinforcement techniques
  • Provide observations and feedback on behaviour management of students by pre-service teacher
  • Collect and share copies of school behaviour management strategies/policies
  Pre-service teacher at Beginning Stage Supervisor/Mentor can:
4.4 ‘Describe strategies that support students’ well-being and safety working within school and/or system, curriculum and legislative requirements’

  • Discusses potential risks with supervising teacher beforehand
  • Responds to potentially unsafe situations
  • Documents what strategies/ policies and legislation is relevant to school/student/teachers
  • Demonstrates independent reflective practices/capacity which they can translate to future actions.
  • Knows anti-bullying policy- implements and supports the school’s policy; is aware of latest programs
  • Aware of school emergency procedures
  • Models sun safety practices and enforces them with students
  • Show health and safety folder/procedures
  • Share ACARA documents
  • Debrief after any incident/confrontation
  • Collect and share folio of various school legal/policies/procedures
  • Develop a bibliography
Activity – Judging a Practical Performance

Your Task

View this video of Kathie who is teaching a Year 6 Maths class.

  • Play Kathie's videos - chapter 1

As Kathie, reflect on what you have demonstrated during these six minutes of teaching, what would you be able to point to as ‘evidence’ of moving towards or achieving Graduate Standard 4.1 and 4.2.

As Kathie’s school-based teacher educator, assess this as an end-of-placement performance. In that context, where would you place her on the continuum with regards to Graduate Standard 4?

diagram

What ‘evidence’ would you use to explain to Kathie what she was doing well?

What advice/help would you provide her to suggest areas that could use improvement?

Contexts matter

During placements, pre-service teachers experience a variety of contexts: different educational authorities and systems, schools, year levels, subject areas, classrooms, student groups, and different social, economic, cultural, and even political environments.

While each of the pre-service teachers must demonstrate that they have ‘met’ the generic standards, the contexts in which they work can be very different, therefore, the ways in which they ‘meet’ the Graduate Standards will also be different.

Activity – How does Context Affect Ability to Meet Standards?

The pre-service teachers in this selection of videos are focusing on different areas of learning, subject areas and class/group sizes and classroom conditions.

Kathie and Kyla are each teaching a mathematics class with approximately the same year level of students – but are dealing with different topics.

  • Play Kathie's video - chapter 1
  • Play Kyla's video - chapter 1

Demi is working with a small group of Year prep students

  • Play Demi's video - chapter 3

Todd is teaching a secondary science class.

  • Play Todd's video - chapter 2

Your Task

View each video.

Identify the ‘differences’ in teaching contexts and judge the impact of any of the following factors on the performance of the pre-service teacher:

  • discipline areas
  • age of students
  • topics within subjects
  • classroom arrangements
  • size of classes,
  • ratio of boys to girls in each class
  • cultural and/or linguistic differences within a class
  • students with special educational needs

Consider how these differences in context and conditions should affect the criteria and evidence used to make judgements about quality of performance on any of the Graduate Standards.

Consider the degree to which these differences in context and conditions would affect your expectations of the performances of each pre-service teacher.

Reflective Questions

  1. What, if any, impact might professional experience in different contexts and with very different groups of students have on pre-service teachers’ ability to demonstrate that they are moving towards or achieving the Graduate Standards?
  2. How can school-based teacher educators make judgements that are ‘reliable’ across different contexts and when pre-service teachers are working with very different age and ability level groups of students?
  3. How might school-based teacher educators work towards ‘comparability’ in making judgements about pre-service teachers’ readiness to teach given such diverse settings and given different groups of students?
Activity – Considering Contexts when Making Judgements

Your Task

Consider Graduate Standard 1

  • What evidence do you think would indicate that the pre-service teacher is developing the skills to differentiate the curriculum to cater for different learning needs? What should a beginning, mid-way and soon-to-be graduate be able to demonstrate?
  • What artefacts, or exemplars or practices would be useful in order to make a judgement about the foci 1.3 – 1.6 in Standard 1?
  • How could a school-based teacher educator scaffold a pre-service teacher who is mid-way through their course to develop the requisite skills and strategies to competently deal with differences—in contexts, among students?
Key Readings

Feiman-Nemser, D. (2001) Helping novices learn to teach: Lessons from an exemplary support teacher. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(1) 17-30.

Hamel, F. L. & Jaakso-Fisher. (2011). Hidden labor in the mentoring of pre-service teachers: Notes from a mentor teacher advisory council. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(2), 434-442.

Johnstone, D. H. (2010). ‘Losing the joy’: student teachers’ experiences of problematic relations with host teachers on school placement. Teacher Development, 14(3), 307-320.

Lampert, M. (2010). Learning teaching in, from, and for practice: What do we mean? Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 21-34.

Wang, J., Odell, S. J., Klecka, C. L., Spaulding, E, & Lin, E. (2010). Understanding teacher education reform. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(5), 395-402.