A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 22, 2007

The Reflective and Collegial Teacher

From an analysis concerning High Stakes Testing I wrote in partial fulfillment of an Ed.D.

Another area, often overlooked, is the demands of high stakes testing without providing opportunity to improve the practices of teachers through professional development.  A case study (Passman, McKnight, 2003) of six Texas elementary teachers and the researcher reflected upon Barriers to Change, Conditions of Change, and Discourse of change.  The school which employs these teachers saw a dramatic jump in the passing rate of the Texas Assessment of Academic skills, with an improvement from a dismal 44% passing rate to a respectable 68% passing rate.

In this study a partnership between the regional testing agency, a school and a university professor was forged to provide assistance in improving the writing scores.  The theme of this partnership was that “good teaching can overcome bad testing”.  An intense in classroom professional development of six months was combined with meetings of all participants.  A large part of the study was focused upon barriers, conditions and discourses for change.

Barriers to change were composed mostly of external forces placed upon teachers, such as the state test and administrative mandates.  Focus on these factors often leads teachers to the faulty assumption that good instructional planning is brought upon factors outside of the control of the classroom teacher.  An analysis of the reflections found that these barriers are often insurmountable in the mind of the teacher unless support from the administrator and by that administrator setting about an emotional safety net for the teachers to begin to act as agents of change within the classroom.

Conditions to change were found to be the teachers struggling to internalize changes within their classroom practices.  This is modeled by teachers concerns about giving feedback to students, and delivering it in a way that impacts student learning.  The group discovered that the reflections of the teachers provided more answers to solve these problems in a collegial manner.  As the in-service and reflection period developed, teachers found that they were changing not only in the manner that they approached teaching, but also how students reacted.  All reported increases in morale and in achievement.

The final stage of the professional development was to provide Discourses in change, or to formally articulate what had happened in a coherent manner.  Each of the teachers found that they had internalized methods of teaching and planning that had lead to more direct interactions with their students and with increased levels of communication among their peers.

Of all the studies mentioned, (I had quite a few in this analysis) this one particular study gave practical methods which could be employed by a school or school district to directly impact teacher practices in a high stakes testing environment.  Rather than focus upon the looming test, direct interventions and actions of the teachers with professional development and a dispensation of time and resources for collegial reflection not only changed the atmosphere of the classroom, but impacted directly upon the achievement of the learners.  This study implies using the areas that high stakes testing have actually greatly improved pedagogy, such as critical thinking, explanation, analysis, and writing, is the greatest way to affect the attitudinal factors of the teaching staff towards high stakes testing, but to also positively impact student learning.

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7 Comments »

  1. Sorry about commenting on my own post, but, Dr. Passman and I have a most “agreeable” disagreement about policies concerning High Stakes Testing. I support the policy and he doesn’t. However, we are very much in agreement about student learning, and using literacy – and I use Socratic Constructivism as the road to that objective.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 22, 2007 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  2. In the end I think that the concern for learning and literacy trump the disagreements over policy. As for Socratic Constructivism, while I am far more a deconstructionist, the underlying notion of constructed knowledge is a common theme in our work. One of these days we ought to figure out a way to construct a blog debate regarding policy, sort of a call–response dialog over specific issues. We can save that one for later though. I know how busy you must be with your own research at the moment.

    Comment by Roger — April 22, 2007 @ 1:34 am | Reply

  3. I think you would agree Roger, that with regard to good teaching, you know it when you see it, and when it is seen it is wonderful, but bad teaching’s stench reaches to high heaven!

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 22, 2007 @ 1:36 am | Reply

  4. BTW, #2 is the Author of the study I analyzed. I highly recommend his blog for a variety of noteworthy and well thought out posts.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 22, 2007 @ 1:38 am | Reply

  5. Another article I wrote you might find interesting. It was published in Education in 2001. With little trouble it can be found at the following link: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3673/is_200110/ai_n8959882/pg_1. The piece is a case study of one teacher and the chilling effects of top-down mandates resulting from high-stakes testing in Chicago. Let me know what you think.

    Comment by Roger — April 22, 2007 @ 2:26 am | Reply

  6. I will do so. I’m taking a break from my editing the analysis.

    I hope you liked my views on your study, and you know I’m going to be plying your mind for future comment and feedback as the dissertation looms closer.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 22, 2007 @ 2:55 am | Reply

  7. Have at it. I would love to participate in any way I can.

    Comment by Roger — April 22, 2007 @ 8:29 pm | Reply


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