Research from The Educational Forum: edTPA and Illusions of Rigor (Part 1)

Today’s bloggerDover_photo_sm is Dr. Alison G. Dover (@AlisonDover1), Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. She writes here in the first of a two-part series to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Dr. Dover and Dr. Brian D. Schultz) in The Educational Forum.

Part 1: Learning How to Grow

What does it mean to be a good teacher? For most teachers and teacher educators, the answer to that question would include some variation of “it depends.” It depends on our context. It depends on the needs of our students. It depends on the demands of our content area. A good biology teacher might not make a good history teacher; an excellent high school teacher may or may not have the qualities required to teach first grade. Good teachers are able to respond reflexively to a complex constellation of factors. They draw upon their curricular, pedagogical, and professional expertise to identify the best approach for a given teaching moment. They nourish curiosity, evoke engagement, prioritize justice, and challenge themselves and their students to grow within and beyond the classroom.

Do you agree? Or would you have defined it differently? Which of us is right? Why? These are the sorts of conversations that teachers and teacher educators have throughout (and well beyond) the teacher preparation process. We are always asking: What are you doing? Why? Is it working? How do you know? What will you change? Through interactions like these, candidates develop and articulate personally, culturally, and contextually resonant visions of themselves as teachers, and begin the challenging work of developing the skills necessary to enact their vision while responding to the ever-changing demands of their students and profession. It’s not easy: candidates grapple with research, theory, and mentorship, experiment with different curricular and pedagogical strategies, and learn from their successes and mistakes. But it is critical practice for the demands of a career in education. Good teaching is a perpetual act of becoming, and good teachers learn how to grow.

However, changes to teacher preparation are putting processes like these at risk. We are undergoing a seismic shift with uncertain fallout. The newly proposed federal Teacher Preparation Regulations have met widespread critique for (among other things) their “reliance on scientifically discredited processes of test-based accountability and value-added measures for data analysis” and support of privately run “fast-track” teacher licensure ventures. Well-respected universities are creating online-only teacher education programs, where candidates are evaluated exclusively by video. Citing a “teacher shortage” and the “expertise of individuals in business and industry,” the Alabama State Board of Education recently decided to hire part-time classroom teachers who hold neither undergraduate degrees nor teacher licenses. These policies reflect a broader context of privatized, profit-driven education reform, in which the rhetoric of rigor, accountability, and choice is being used to systematically destabilize public—and teacher—education. It is a changing world.

These reforms risk damaging the vital process of candidates learning how to grow in their profession. In Part 2 of this series, I will concentrate on the impact of one such reform: high-stakes, privately operated teacher performance assessments, such as the edTPA.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Dover and Dr. Schultz’s article, “Troubling the edTPA: Illusions of Objectivity and Rigor,” free with the education community through February 29, 2016. Read the full article here.

Chicago area teachers, preservice teachers, and teacher educators are invited to continue the conversation about edTPA at DePaul University’s Winter Education Issues Forum: Taking a Critical Look at the edTPA. This year’s forum will be held on February 18, 2016, and is free and open to the public.

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