Title

The impact of professional learning on science teachers' beliefs about assessment and their assessment practice

Date of Award

1-1-2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

Abstract

In response to a national reform or education in Australia, the Curriculum Framework for Kindergarten to Year 12 in Western Australian (Curriculum Council, 1998) was developed and signalled a fundamental shift in education paradigm in Western Australia. The change in curriculum required teachers to change from an objectives-based system to an outcomes-based system and this shift in paradigm required a change in teachers' practice in terms of preparation, teaching and assessment. A change in assessment practice required teachers to shift from a norm-referenced system of assessment which was grounded in numerical scores and grades to a standards-referenced system that describes students' progress in skills and understanding in levels. To successfully implement changes in curriculum requires that teachers undergo effective professional learning. A change in curriculum that introduces a complete shift in educational paradigm requires teachers to understand and adopt a new philosophical basis from which they form their practice. For professional learning to achieve this there must be a consideration of the beliefs that teachers hold about the purpose of education and the purpose of assessment. A new approach to assessment practice also requires new knowledge and skills. To make changes to their assessment practice it is likely that teachers will need to change their beliefs about the purpose of assessment and to develop new knowledge and skills. The purpose of this study was to determine the changes that occur in teachers' beliefs and practice as a result of a professional learning intervention. More importantly the study sought to identify the factors that contribute to a change in practice, and what factors contribute to teachers sustaining that change in practice. To achieve this, the study followed a group of five teachers as they were involved in an action research professional learning intervention that was designed to alter their assessment practice to accommodate a change of curriculum. The teachers were observed through professional learning sessions, moderation and planning sessions as well as their classroom practice. Teachers were interviewed at various stages about their approach to, and belief about, assessment. Students in the relevant classes were also interviewed before and after the professional learning intervention about their experiences of assessment in science classes. Further data were collected using classroom observation, surveys, work samples and records of informal discussions. Data were analysed to generate thick descriptions of teachers’ progress and the participants were given the opportunity to provide feedback on the descriptions of their progress. The Data collection and analysis involved ensured triangulation of data which contributes to the credibility of the research, the process of member checking contributed to the confirmability of the findings and a high degree of consistency with parallel data has demonstrated that the findings are dependable. This study identified key determinates of a change in practice which led to the development of a model that describes the factors necessary for significant and sustained change in practice. The data revealed that teachers' assessment practice is determined by the level of pedagogical content knowledge they have, their existing beliefs about the purpose of assessment and their understanding of the criteria used for assessment. To facilitate change teachers require a significant amount of professional learning and a high level of collegial support. No change to practice is likely to occur unless a teacher has their existing practice and beliefs challenged. For change in practice to be sustained teachers need to experience success in their new practice, they need time to develop confidence in the new strategies they adopt and must ultimately undergo a change in their belief about the purpose of assessment. There are parallels between the theoretical revolutions that occur in science, the conceptual changes that occur in science students and the profound changes in assessment practice that some of these teachers experienced. This research has led to the development of a model that describes the process and factors that facilitate a revolution in teachers' professional practice.

LCSH Subject Headings

Science teachers -- Western Australia.

Grading and marking (Students) -- Western Australia.

Science -- Study and teaching -- Western Australia.

Access Note

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