Apprenticeship Of Observation And Teachers Knowledge Education Essay

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2.1. Introduction

Assessment is at the heart of education, and testing forms the bedrock of educational assessment and presents to high academic standards and institution accountability. Looking at testing as an integral part of teaching practices, I feel that teachers should have knowledge of measurement principles and be aware of the proper way to implement these in the classroom and beyond. Thus, it would be useful if a list of knowledge and skills teachers need to obtain could be developed. In this chapter I examine how a teacher learns to teach. If a teacher is not exposed to any pre- service or in-service training, then I should look at the processes by which teachers reach this level of classroom competence. I also need to explore what is involved in learning to teach in order to find out what teachers need to know and should be able to do. This area is rarely explored explicitly. Researchers usually investigate teacher’s knowledge and teacher’s knowledge sources in case of pre-service and in- service teachers. It has been relatively rarely touched on for the untrained teachers, how they manage to teach or test, and what makes and influences their knowledge. Also, very little is researched when it comes to assessment – related knowledge and the content of educational courses. In this chapter I will explore teacher’s knowledge in education, language teaching, and testing and assessment. Therefore, I will first provide a brief description of the knowledge base components which teachers should gain to formulate their teaching competences as addressed in research. Then, a list of teacher’s knowledge sources as found in the literature will be introduced. This will be followed by a description of assessment – related knowledge and approaches stated in literature to develop teacher’s knowledge and skills.

2.2. Teacher’s knowledge

Literature seems to point to several major ways of approaching teacher knowledge: (1) Types of teacher knowledge, (2) resources for teacher knowledge, and (3) development of teacher knowledge.

2.2.1. Types of teacher’s knowledge

A teacher’s Knowledge -base is largely drawn from other disciplines, and not from the work of teaching itself (shulman1988, Freeman 2002:1). Developing from the work from behaviorist psychologists and reflecting the influence of process -product paradigm that focuses on teacher skill-building as a base of development, Anderson produced a model of skill learning which provides a cognitive explanation for the effectiveness of practice as a method of learning. His ACT model (1983) focuses on how the teacher learns regardless the external factors that might influence the learning process and assumes that there are three types of memory involved in skill learning;

The short- term memory which controls the minute-by-minute thoughts,

The declarative memory which stores the ‘rules’ of doing things, and

The procedural memory where actions are carried out unconsciously through three different stages; cognitive, associative and autonomous. (Randall & Thornton, 2001: 30-32).

Shifting to focus on another important yet missing component of the knowledge base which is the “content”, Shulman (1987:8) proposed categories of knowledge that should constitute a knowledge base using seven categories regardless their subject specialism; they are:

Content knowledge

General pedagogic knowledge

Curriculum knowledge

Pedagogical-content knowledge

Knowledge of learners and their characteristics

Knowledge of educational contexts

Knowledge of educational ends, purposes and values.

Thereafter, different views have appeared and developed regarding the content knowledge, and there has been an abundance of terms used to characterize teacher knowledge, most of which have been developed and extended from Shulman’s framework. Carter (1990) also made a distinction between pedagogical content knowledge and practical knowledge. The latter was described as more personal and situational forms of knowledge. Munby et al’s (2001) reviewed the concept of the craft knowledge, which was characterized as derived in response to practical experience.

In 1998 Freeman and Johnson called for the reconceptualisation of the knowledge base of L2 teacher education. They pointed out that ‘The knowledge base of L2 teacher education has been defined largely based on how language learners acquire a second language and less on how L2 teaching is learned or how it is practiced’ (Johnson et al., 2009 :21). They also argued that knowledge base of L2 teacher education must include not only the disciplinary knowledge or the subject matter but also the content knowledge of L2 teaching (Freeman & Johnson, 1998: 410). In this regard, Pasternak and Bailey (2004) argued that effective teachers must have both declarative knowledge-“knowledge about something”-and procedural knowledge-“ability to do things”. Also, Shulman and Shulman (2004) redefined the different kinds of knowledge that should constitute a knowledge base using five clusters: vision, motivation, understanding, practice, and reflection. Next, they stated that a knowledge base consists of shared knowledge (knowledge a team or community should have), and distributed knowledge (knowledge each member should have). They viewed such a knowledge base not as static, but as dynamic and growing.

Based on this new understanding, Johnson defined the knowledge base as the basis upon which we make decisions about how to prepare L2 teachers to do the work of this profession. Johnson also stated that the knowledge base in teacher education informs three board areas:

a) The content knowledge that involves what L2 teachers need to know

b) The pedagogical knowledge which explains how L2 teachers should teach, and

c) The content-pedagogical knowledge which reflects how L2 teachers learn to teach.


2.2.2. Teacher’s knowledge sources

Teacher’s knowledge construction is a process developed during their personal and professional lifetime. With regards to studies explicating the sources of teacher knowledge, Grossman’s (1990) identified sources such as apprenticeship of observation and professional preparation. She also found that subject matter knowledge is closely related to the teacher’s pedagogical content knowledge. She also studied the potential influence of professional coursework. Similar to Grossman’s study, teacher experience has also been named as a source of knowledge (e.g. Dittrich et al., 2000). Furthermore, collegial support has been found to contribute to content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (Sengupta & Xiao, 2002) and help develop novice teachers’ personal professional knowledge.

Apprenticeship of observation’

This concept was first proposed by Lortie to describe “the influence a teacher’s past experience as a student has on his /her teaching” (1975: 62).This resulted in what Bachmann describes as the ‘folkways of teaching’ that is ‘ready-made recipes for action and interpretation that do not require testing or analysis while promising familiar safe results” (1987: 161). This model thus provides learner teachers with ‘default options’, “a set of tried strategies which they can revert to in times of uncertainty (Borg, 2004: 274). Johnson (1994: 446) and Borg (2004:257) argue that the result of this highly influential period of observation is the dominance of teacher’s default model at the expense of the educational inputs they have been exposed to during a teacher education course. However, ‘the apprenticeship of observation still provides those teachers with a powerful, albeit limited, intuitive understanding of teaching’ which should not be underestimated’. (Borg, 2004: 275).

Formal Professional preparation

Teachers also can obtain the knowledge they need through pre-service or in-service preparatory courses. Ellis et al argues that teacher preparation can be divided into two categories: a) experiential practices: they occur through teaching practices where learner teachers are required to teach actual students in real classrooms, and b) awareness raising practices which are intended to develop student teacher’s conscious understanding of the principles underlying second language teaching practices, using tasks and activities. (1986: 26). Teacher educators have noted a lack of research and theory concerning language professional preparation (Ellis, 1990; Freeman, 1996).

Personal professional knowledge

This concept is probably meant to express teachers’ interest in improving competences and knowledge to direct their own personal goals. In my perspective, this can include three aspects; teacher cognition (beliefs), teacher’s practical knowledge and teacher’s image, and teacher’s research.

Lynch’s study (1990:119) illustrated the way teachers make ‘tactical decision(s) to adopt a particular classroom procedure’ (actions) which are entwined with their mental scripts, (beliefs). Consequently, teachers’ beliefs hidden underneath their actions become a safe and perhaps a temporary resort for teachers in order to make classroom decisions. Recently, Borg identified one aspect that connects to teacher’s actual instructions in the classroom. It is so-called by him as “teacher cognition”. Borg defines this term as ‘ the unobservable cognitive dimension of teaching … it is what teachers know, believe and think’ (Borg, 2003: 81). This is based on past substantial research, which shows the connection between the psychological constructs and teachers’ actual instructions in the classrooms, and also on the assumption that ‘teachers are active, thinking decision-makers who make instructional choices by drawing on complex, practically-oriented, personalised, and context-sensitive networks of knowledge, thoughts, and beliefs’ (Borg, 2003:81). Although a considerable account has been paid recently to teacher cognition, very little reference has been made to ‘the contextual factors which may have facilitated or hindered the kinds of decisions teachers were able to make’ (Borg, 2003:98). This implies that teacher’s knowledge can be influenced and even informed by particular contextual factors or what is named as the ‘culture of teaching’ by (Feiman-Nemser & Floden, 1986). This notion implies that the social and institutional contexts in which teachers work inform their practices and actions in the classroom. (Richards & Lockhart, 1996:30). It also raises the role of the classroom and the institution cultural environment in constructing teachers’ beliefs and knowledge; for example, interactions with other teachers, administrators, students and the working environment.

Clandinin (1992: 125) has described personal practical knowledge as knowledge ‘that is constructed and reconstructed as we live out our stories and retell and relive them through processes of reflection’. So that, PPK plays the role of filtering teachers’ experience through a process of reflection; a ‘ critical examination of experience, a process that can lead to a better understanding of one’s teaching practices and routines’ (Richards& Farrell, 2005: 7). This implies that reflection can inform teachers’ knowledge and help them collect information on one’s practices as a basis of any necessary change. In other words, reflection on teachers’ practices can provide important opportunities for them to acquire or produce many kinds of new knowledge. This can make PPK a ‘sequential way of knowing’ (Golombek et al., 2009: 157). One significant component of teacher’s PPK is ‘teachers’ image’ it is the moral and the emotional side of teacher knowledge. This image originates in a ‘person’s past experience, and is reconstructed to meet the demands of the current situation, and pointing to the future hopes and experiences. (Golombek et al., 2009: 156).

Teachers have the opportunity to construct knowledge about teaching and learning. Research by teachers, (Lytle& Cochran-Smith contend, is a way of generating knowledge that contributes to both knowledge for use by the teachers for themselves and knowledge for use by the larger university communities (1992: 22). They also propose that knowledge for teaching is “inside/outside” rather than “outside-in, ‘ a juxtaposition that calls attention to teachers as knowers and to the complex and distinctly nonlinear relationships between knowledge and teaching as they are embedded in local contexts’. (1992: 23).

It is worth noting that mentioned aspects strongly bring into play the elements of Socio-cultural theory of mind by Vygotsky (1978/1986) in many terms. One term is the individual perspective- oriented aspects, which are directed by teachers’ intentions and desires to knowledge. It emphasises the role of teacher’s agency in keeping up to date with theory and practices in the teaching profession, examining their teaching styles and improving their teaching skills. Another one is that teacher’s cognition is formed through engagement in social activities, and that cognitive development is an interactive process mediated by culture, context, and social interaction. (Johnson, 2009: 2-3).

2.2.3 Research related to teacher knowledge and development

Research in language education has involved teacher knowledge categorization. These categories are convenient for analysis and could be adopted to inform teacher education. Presenting separate and discrete categories of teacher knowledge has pointed out to minimize the complexity of teacher knowledge (Johnston et al., 2000) especially when the boundaries among types of knowledge are fuzzy (Sengupta &Xiao, 2002).

In terms of teacher knowledge development the most mentioned sources are teacher education and teaching experience. Wallace as well, in his adopted reflective model of teacher professional development, highlights two elements related to teacher knowledge; the received knowledge that means ‘facts, data, theories, etc- which either by necessity or by convention associated with the study of a particular profession’ as well as the experiential knowledge which refers to “the practical experience gained by the professional action” (Wallace, 1991: 52). A tension between these two major types of teacher knowledge exists as Munby et al. (2001) identified in their review in of literature of teacher knowledge and development in general education. According to Munby, a tension can be termed as between two modes of thoughts. Burner (1985) has stated; the first reflects the declarative or propositional knowledge and the second refers to the procedural and experiential knowledge. However, those types of knowledge can work together as an integral whole instead of separate competing parts. Schoonmaker’s (2002) study illustrates how there is a dialectic among personal knowledge, teacher education knowledge and practical knowledge.

2.3. Assessment-related Knowledge

2.3.1. What teachers need to know about assessment?

A number of scholars have summarised what they regard as non-subject- specific desired teacher assessment skills. Stiggins addresses that these skills should include teachers’ awareness of the assessment purposes, knowledge of students’ learning targets, assessment methods, well communicated assessment results and students’ involvement in their own assessment (2008:20). One recurrent concept in the literature which refers to intellectual competences a teacher needs related to assessment practices is named as ‘assessment literacy’. Although no standard definition of this concept exists in the literature, I feel assessment literacy may be effectively described as “the knowledge about how to assess what students know and can do, interpret the results of these assessments, and apply these results to improve student learning and  program effectiveness” (Webb, 2002). Webb (2002) lists some skills related to the basic principles of quality assessment practices.

How to define clear learning goals, which are the basis of developing or choosing ways to assess student learning;

How to make use of a variety of assessment methods to gather evidence of student learning

How to analyze achievement data (both quantitative and qualitative) and make good inferences from the data gathered;

How to provide appropriate feedback to students

How to make appropriate instructional modifications to help students improve;

How to involve students in the assessment process (e.g. self and peer assessment), and effectively communicate results;

Most importantly, how to engineer an effective classroom assessment environment that boosts student motivation to learn

In his state- of- the- article entitled ‘Assessment literacy for the 21 st century’, Stiggins (1995:240) also proposes some other aspects related to teachers’ competencies regarding testing practices. He deems that:

‘Assessment-literate … come to any assessment knowing what they are assessing, why they are doing so, how best to assess the achievement of interest, how to generate sound samples of performance, what can go wrong, and how to prevent these problems before they occur’.

It should be noted these explanations of assessment literacy emphasise assessment and student learning, rather than assessment as measurement. It is also important to note that these explanations focus on skills and testing practices at the expense of the theoretical knowledge. In more recent studies, little is written about the importance of having the theoretical input underpaying the taught assessment skills in any educational course. The importance of learning the theoretical part of knowledge is relatively ignored since the focus on learning assessment skills is believed to be as an only “learning by doing” process. Therefore, a need to conceptualise more clearly the concept of ‘assessment literacy’ is demanded. However, Instead of conceptualizing assessment literacy solely as a set of given skills, I feel we should also focus on the conditions needed to foster such skills and the theory that underpin them.

2.3.2. A new approach to teacher’s assessment knowledge

Bookhart (2011) approaches the aim of having a unified base of theoretical and experiential knowledge, and lists educational assessment knowledge and skills for teachers. This list emphasises on the content knowledge as a part of teacher’s competencies to be gained in order to run any assessment task as well as on procedural knowledge and skills- learning. Therefore, I will firstly list those standards and then explain the aspects that touch on assessment in relation to my own subject area.

The first four are related to the declarative knowledge; knowing the content related to assessment in general, see (2.2.1). According to Bookhart, teachers should:

Understand learning in the content area they teach.

Be able to articulate clear learning intentions that implied by standards and curriculum goals, in such a way that they are attainable and assessable.

Have a repertoire of strategies for communicating to students what achievement of a learning intention looks like.

Understand the purposes and uses of available assessment options and be skilled in using them.

Be able to analyze classroom questions, test items and performance assessment tasks to ascertain the specific knowledge and thinking skills required for students to do them.

Figure 1: declarative assessment knowledge for teachers, adapted from Bookhart (2011: 7).

These aspects refer to the necessity of teachers obtaining subject- matter knowledge, the ability to communicate this knowledge with students, and the competency of learning how to do that. They also imply that teachers should be aware to what students need to learn, their expectations and purposes which should articulate the basis of assessment. This content knowledge that includes ‘knowledge of how the content is taught and learned as well as the disciplinary content itself’ (Bookhart, 2011: 6) is important to learn because all kinds of assessment should be based on specifying what exactly to be assessed in the first place and then how to assess. This, in turn, implies that teachers should know how to formulate valid, sound and consistent assessment, thereby to master the notions of the five principles of language measurement which are …. cited (see, for example Bachman et al., 2010); They are ‘validity, reliability, authenticity, practicability, washback effect’ recursively; from theory to practice and from practice to theory. The content knowledge is also needed to measure students’ knowledge and attain the intended targets. They also focus on the cognitive competencies teachers should gain in order to be able to analyse students’ needs and to identify what to assess in relation with the learning goals and most importantly how to assess. Those needs include the thinking strategies students should be taught, this helps teachers choose the proper type of items and the level of test’s difficulty.

The other aspects imply the other side of teachers’ knowledge about assessment; procedural knowledge. This includes the strategic skills of assessment-tasks making and marking procedures see (2.2.1). Bookhart states that teachers should:

Be able to construct scoring schemes that quantify student performance on classroom assessments into useful information for decisions about students, classrooms, schools, and districts.

Be able to administer external assessments and interpret their results for making decisions.

Be able to help students use assessment information to make sound educational decisions.

Understand and carry out their legal and ethical responsibilities in assessment as they conduct their work.

Figure 2: procedural assessment knowledge for teachers, adapted from Bookhart (2011: 7).

These elements put an emphasis on the technical side of test making, including test construction, validation, and administration. Teachers as well should be able to work out a marking scheme; a full key that provides the possible answers and the rules of accepting the alternative answers. This process guarantees what is called the criterion validity of the test. This kind of validity deals with test results and examines “how far results on the test agree with those provided by some independent and highly dependable assessment of the candidate’s ability” (Hughes, 1989: 23). There is also an emphasis on looking at the marking scheme as an integral part of teaching and learning. This implies the washback effect the students’ assessment’s results might have on teaching and learning.

2.3.3. Why develop teacher’s ‘assessment literacy’?

Teachers are expected to use a variety of assessment instruments to measure students’ learning and integrate various forms of assessment to not only support their instruction but also measure students’ progress. Thus, teachers must develop and maintain a sound understanding of assessment practices and theories. Assessment literacy involves the understanding and appropriate use of assessment practices along with the knowledge of the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings in the measurement of students’ learning (DeLucaa& Klingerb, 2010: 419). Davies (2008) posits that there is a trend of incorporating not only skills and knowledge necessary for language testing professionals but also the principles concerning such domains as validity and ethics. Practical Language Testing typically reflects such a trend when Fulcher (2010) indicates in the preface that his book was incubated not only with a view to providing the applicable knowledge and practical skills but also with an increasing awareness of language assessment in “the larger social, ethical, and historical context” (p. Xiii cited in Qian & Pan,2011). It is also important to note that the body of research has drawn a clearer picture of what happens when teachers assess their students. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the thought processes underlying such assessment. Meanwhile, there has been a long and ongoing tradition of research looking at teacher thinking (reviewed in Borg, 2003) for example. Freeman states that research into the mental life of teachers what he calls “the hidden side of teaching”- is key to understanding and improving teacher’s professional development and practices. (2002 :1).

In an attempt to reconceptualize teacher’s knowledge base, Freeman &Johnson argue that the knowledge base should include knowledge of language learners, learning and pedagogy. Teacher learning should also consider teachers’ learning and professional lives and socio-cultural contexts in which they work. Doing so will mean examining the nature and experiences of language teacher- learners throughout their careers from the time they participate in the practices of teaching (1988: 413).

2.3.4. How teachers acquire this knowledge- teacher development

As argued earlier (2.2.2), teachers are often offered several knowledge sources that help them learn to teach. Learning to teach is conceptualized as ‘a long-term, complex, developmental process that is the result of participation in the social practices and contexts associated with learning and teaching’. (Johnson 2009: 10). Therefore, providing teachers with unified base of all types of knowledge is needed to be continuous. Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2005) argue that teacher education must lay the foundation for life-long learning, with the ultimate goal of “helping teachers become professionals who are adaptive experts” (p. 359 cited in Johnson 2009, 10). Freeman argues that teacher learning is the core activity of teacher education and therefore that any improvements in the professional preparation of teachers need to be informed by researching teachers’ mental lives which represent the hidden side of teaching, teachers learning ways and teachers’ knowledge resources. According to those three aspects, I would suggest that teachers need to be prepared for teaching and testing and this process should be ongoing by providing teachers with both pre-service and in-service courses.

In this regard, very little research is conducted about teaching language testing to novice or experienced teachers. Wharton (1998) research on the language testing component of a pre-service training course at a British university, trailed a pre-service course on language testing focusing basically on teaching skills through ‘learning by doing’ process and then providing some content information about the tasks and activities that have been worked out. She, however, emphasises that this pre-service course is very much the beginning of her trainees’ education. Therefore, if teachers need ‘to gain a fuller understanding of the issues discussed, they will need to read, attend conference presentations and engage in a discussion with colleagues’ (1998: 131). Johnson’s et al., (1999) research on teaching a testing course to in-service teachers covers extensively the theory of second language testing with a balanced emphasis on practical sides of testing; such as writing, administering and analysing a test of trainees own marking. Both articles deliver the message that professional development should be looked at as an ongoing process and that is in the hands of each individual. Hence, perhaps any educational assessment course should focus on teacher development and should particularly rely on teachers’ own experience inviting them to consider new theories in the light of their previous experience. Moreover, the content of such courses should cover all types of knowledge introduced in (2.3.1) and not neglecting one at the expense of another one. The content also needs to be contextualised, situated, and focused on skills as well as theories underpinning them. It should also been taken into consideration the contextual and the social factors that might create new neglected resources of knowledge such as teachers ‘interaction and the institution’s social life (2.2.2).

2.4. Conclusion

When teachers change role from teachers to learners, they need to develop their knowledge, skills and self-awareness. They need content knowledge of testing skills, language systems and testing and teaching theories. They also need process skills to attend respectfully to learner teachers, to elicit their perceptions and to see what should be adapted effectively in a given context and the way to do that. Yet, in order to be able to self-evaluate their knowledge, skills and practices, they need to have a good level of cognitive skills or what is called the self awareness; the ability to control their actions and reassess the assumptions that underpin them. All learning is a process of taking information, interpreting it, connecting it to existing knowledge and beliefs, and, if necessary, recognising understanding to accommodate that information and professional learning is no different. If teachers learn by constructing their own understanding from their experiences, they will be more critical to any new received knowledge which will allow them to check their understanding against the views of others and the culture that has been recorded in the knowledge, theories, models, formulas, and stories that make up the curriculum and the disciplines. (Earl and Lemaieu et al., Hargreaves, 1997: 206). Developing assessment literacy is, I argue, essential for teachers entering today’s classrooms. However, little is known about the content that it is most important to include in these assessment courses in order to provide teacher candidates with the necessary assessment literacy to begin their teaching career. (DeLucaa& Klingerb, 2010: 422). Another gap could be identified here is that the role of context as a source of knowledge or a trend of teaching practices is rarely mentioned, while lots of testing practices could be influenced and informed by this particular context. These issues will be discussed further in chapter 5.

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