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Developing Expertise With Classroom Assessment in K-12 Science: Learning to Interpret Student Work Interim Findings From a 2-Year Study CSE Technical Report 704 Maryl Gearhart a, Sam Nagashima b, Jennifer Pfotenhauer a, Shaunna Clark b, Cheryl Schwab a, Terry Vendlinski b, Ellen Osmundson b, Joan Herman b, Diana J. Bernbaum a aCenter for the Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning (CAESL)/University of California, Berkeley bCenter for the Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning (CAESL)/University of California, Los Angeles December 2006 National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) Center for the Study of Evaluation (CSE) Graduate School of Education & Information Studies University of California, Los Angeles GSE&IS Building, Box 951522 Los Angeles, CA 90095-1522 (310) 206-1532Copyright © 2006 The Regents of the University of California The work reported herein was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant ESI-0119790 to WestEd for the Center for Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning (CAESL). Views expressed in the paper do not necessarily represent the views of the National Science Foundation.1 DEVELOPING EXPERTISE WITH CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT IN K-12 SCIENCE: LEARNING TO INTERPRET STUDENT WORK INTERIM FINDINGS FROM A 2-YEAR STUDY Maryl Gearhart a, Sam Nagashima b, Jennifer Pfotenhauer a, Shaunna Clark b, Cheryl Schwab a, Terry Vendlinski b, Ellen Osmundson b, Joan Herman b, Diana J. Bernbaum a aCenter for the Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning (CAESL)/University of California, Berkeley bCenter for the Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning (CAESL)/University of California, Los Angeles Abstract This article reports findings on growth in three science teachers’ expertise with interpretation of student work over 1 year of participation in a program. The program was designed to strengthen classroom assessment in the middle grades. Using a framework for classroom assessment expertise, we analyzed patterns of teacher learning, and the roles of the professional program and the quality of the assessments provided with teachers’ instructional materials. The premise of this volume is that formative assessment is a critical component of effective instructional practice. To support student learning, teachers need to gather ongoing evidence of student progress, and use the information to give students helpful feedback and make appropriate adjustments in instruction. The importance of classroom assessment is represented in guides issued by professional organizations (National Research Council [NRC], 2001a, 2001b), standards for teacher practice (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Council on Measurement in Education, 1999; American Federation of Teachers, National Council on Measurement in Education, & National Education Association, 1990), and research on the effects of classroom assessment on student learning (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Brookhart, 2004; Crooks, 1988; Natriello, 1987; Shepard, 2001; Wiliam, Lee, Harrison, & Black, 2004). Clearly the need for teacher assessment expertise is well established, yet far less is known about the ways that teachers develop2 the expertise. Our article addresses this gap with an analysis of the growth of three middle school science teachers during their first year in the Assessment Academy, a long-term program focused on classroom assessment. The program’s core strategy was an assessment portfolio that guided teachers in the design, implementation, and evaluation of assessments for curriculum units. In the first year, teachers completed two portfolios with support from facilitators, colleagues, and program readings and activities. We will focus on teachers’ evolving expertise with interpretation of student work, and consider the supportive role of the portfolio, gaps in Academy resources, and the challenges teachers were faced with by weak assessment tasks and criteria. Our findings have implications for the design of professional development as well as the assessment resources provided in instructional materials. The Academy Program: Context and Strategy The National Science Education Standards envision classrooms where students engage in the processes and debates that constitute the professional work of scientists (NRC, 1996). It is a challenging vision, and classroom assessment is key (NRC, 2001a). To support the development of inquiry and conceptual understanding, teachers need to engage students with the conceptual content of inquiry activities, and scaffold learning by monitoring student understanding and refining instructional approaches based on sound information. Teachers should be using assessments that capture the full breadth of students’ knowledge—of science concepts, inquiry processes, and science facts and vocabulary—as well as the alternative conceptions that students construct in the process of building understanding of complex science ideas (NRC, 2001b). The vision places great demands on science teachers, who need deep understandings of science and conceptual development as well as expertise with assessment in order to develop quality assessment methods and interpret student understanding in sound and valid ways (Shepard, 2001). The premise of the Academy program that we followed was that teachers build this assessment expertise by working with colleagues and facilitators in a sustained program focused on teachers’ instructional materials. The Academy invited five districts to identify teams of three to four teachers (across grade levels) and one administrator to participate in a 3-year program. Participants were provided modest compensation, and districts approved release days. District teams convened several times a year to organize as cross-district grade-level3 teams and collaborate on classroom assessments for curriculum units. The Academy’s core strategy was an assessment portfolio that supported the grade-level teams as they designed, implemented, and evaluated assessments for units with the support of facilitators; teachers completed two portfolios their first year.1,2 Developed in consultation with assessment specialists, the portfolio tasks and resources were the focus of institute activities, and guided teachers between institutes as they implemented assessments and reflected in writing on the quality and usefulness of the assessments. The


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