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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
Praxis exams, and pass several standard assessment exercises that are spread throughout the program (Zeichner, 2000). An example of one these standard assessments is the Behavioral Event Interview and Self-Assessment described by Zeichner (2000:10):
[This assessment is] an hour-long interview conducted in the second semester of field experiences. Each education department member interviews two students each semester. The aim of the interview is to give students a chance to talk about their actions and thinking in relation to working with pupils. It focuses on stories elicited by questions (e.g., Can you tell me about the time you came to a realization about children’s development through an experience with a child or children?). The students then are asked to use their stories as data for a self-assessment process focusing on the five advanced education abilities (e.g., Where do you see yourself drawing upon x ability? Where do you see a need to strengthen this ability?). The interview is audiotaped and students take the tape with them to complete a written self-assessment. They set goals for their next stage of development in the teacher education program and then meet for a second session with the faculty interviewer.
The final two semesters are considered the beginning of professional practice, during which student teaching occurs. To be accepted for student teaching, students must demonstrate communication ability at level 4, successfully complete all four pre-student teaching experiences, and pass another standard assessment exercise—the Professional Group Discussion Assessment. Zeichner (2000:11) also describes this assessment:
Students compile a portfolio that includes a videotape of their teaching together with a written analysis of that teaching in relation to the five advanced education abilities, cooperating teacher evaluations, etc. The student then participates in a half-day interview with principals and teachers from area schools who are part of a pool of over 400 educators helping to assess students’ readiness for student teaching.
Assessment as Learning
The philosophy behind Alverno’s program is based on the premise that only through integrating knowledge, skills, and dispositions in observable performances can evidence of learning be shown. Assessment is treated as integral to learning. It is used both to document the development of the abilities and to contribute to candidates’ development. Alverno’s faculty describe their approach as assessment as learning (Diez et al., 1998). As practiced at Alverno, assessment as learning has the following features:
Expected learning outcomes or abilities are stated, and candidates are aware of the goals toward which they are working.
Explicit criteria for performance are outlined to guide candidates’ work and to provide structure for self-assessment.