As assessing pupil learning is a complex, multi-faceted process, assessment capability is a fundamental competency for all teachers. Commonly, practising teachers tend to learn about assessment through collaboration and discussions with colleagues, and adapt to in-school assessment routines and cultures. However, how effective this learning is, how similarly and how consistently teachers are able to apply criteria-based standards of judgement when evaluating evidence of student learning and achievement, is relatively unknown (Poskitt 2014; DeLuca and Johnson 2017).
In expressing concerns about how to enhance teachers’ enactment of assessment in the complex realities of the classroom, researchers have noted that there is comparatively little research on teachers’ current assessment practices on which to base responsive professional learning structures aimed at promoting teacher assessment capability (e.g. DeLuca et al. 2016). In response, this account foregrounds the conceptual underpinnings necessary to conduct well-conceived and well-conducted research, focused on developing teacher assessment capability.
(c) Theoretical / conceptual framing:
Conceiving of teacher assessment capability as a socially and contextually dependent developmental process, has implications for how that capability is effectively researched and developed among teachers.
Firstly, it suggests that the enhancement of teacher assessment capability is a systematic, communal enterprise that depends on joint efforts from relevant stakeholders; school leaders, teacher educators, policy advisers, as well as teachers themselves.
Secondly, it requires an understanding of the interrelationships between assessment and other key aspects of educational change processes, including the wider policy context and the socio-cultural characteristics of professional work contexts.
Thirdly, conceiving of teacher assessment capability as being context specific, and subject to reinterpretation over time in particular socio-cultural settings, helps to dispense with dichotomous conceptualisations of capability, moving, instead, towards conceiving of assessment capability as on a continuum, with different levels of mastery contingent upon the context in which assessment is conducted (Poskitt 2014; Xu and Brown 2016; Livingston and Hutchinson 2017, p.291; Looney et al. 2018, p.445).
(d) Takeaway points:
Four areas are prioritised for future teacher assessment capability-related research.
Determining best-practice models for universities and colleges, calculated to build meaningful learning partnerships with local schools, education bodies and accreditation agencies.
The design of coherent teacher education programmes that position assessment capability as a priority vis-à-vis other fundamental teacher competencies.
Identifying diverse pedagogical approaches to help foster teacher engagement in assessment capability development.
Researching how teachers’ orientations to assessment shift from preservice to in-service, and across years of experience.