Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

How are mentor teachers assessing student teachers professional practice in school sites. How to validate their judgments

Keywords: mentoring, assessment of professional practice, teacher preparation

Author: Mrs Alison Mander (University of Southern Queensland, Qld, Australia)

Undergraduate pre-service teacher education programs value highly the professional practice elements of courses as the conventional way to engage pre-service teachers in relevant work integrated learning. In fact, pre-service teachers generally report these professional experiences as contributing most to their professional learning.

One significant issue for teacher educators is the problems associated with validating and moderating the school evaluation reports of pre-service teachers. Increasingly also, in trying to find more discriminating ways to evaluate teacher candidates for available teaching positions, employers are turning to professional experience reports and their gradings as a measure of applicants’ abilities and suitability to teach. This increases the significance of the professional experience reports and consequently, the reliability of reports needs to be assured.

This paper reports on a pilot study that investigated ways in which school personnel assessed preservice teacher performance. Interviews were conducted with a small sample of pre-service teachers and their mentor teachers at several stages in the professional experience process. Information was collated on how school teachers viewed their pre-service teachers in relation to the specific criteria laid out by the university course examiner. The findings show that the process of assessment of professional practice is a complex one, and that mentor teachers in different contexts, perceive performance in different ways. Implications of this study are discussed as they relate to improvements in teacher education course development and the equity of assessment of professional experience.

In school professional experience has been generally pass/ fail rated. Employing authorities and the university are pressing for finer discrimination between students. Currently at USQ, clear criteria are provided to help mentor teachers assess students in professional practice, but anecdotally mentors appear to use other criteria to form their judgment. This needs to be investigated and clearer guidelines provided to permit comparison (and equity)between student results.

Date: Thursday 24 January 2008, 2.00-2.30

Venue: Carrick Three

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).