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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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DU PLESSIS, Elize  and  VAN DER WESTHUIZEN, Gert. Teacher knowledge of assessment - implications for teacher education. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.2, pp.551-567. ISSN 2224-7912.

Teachers' assessment literacy is one of the most significant competencies and capabilities in education. South Africa has experienced several curriculum changes in past years, which the latest Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) attests to. Curriculum changes make it difficult for teachers to adjust their assessment practices. Assessment is accepted as an integral part of learning and should be planned and conducted in a constructive way and not as an add-on to teaching and learning. Professional development for teaching includes a strong component of the theory and practice of assessment, and teachers are expected to make this component part of their pedagogical knowledge and to apply it. Assessment practices are shaped by teachers' faith in their teaching capabilities. In this article we focused on the experiences and the knowledge of teachers who have completed a programme for the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at a distance teaching institution and who have been teaching for at least five years. The aim of this study was to scrutinise assessment practices using Bereiter's conception of knowledge building as a theoretical framework. This perspective works on the assumption that teacher knowledge grows and adapts constantly through teaching practice. Such knowledge contributes to shared knowledge in the profession and the teaching community. In this way, knowledge is built in a community of practice where participants draw on their personal epistemologies to share and enhance pedagogical knowledge. Bereiter's framework of knowledge building is used in this study to gain a greater understanding of professional preparation in general, covering the full range of curriculum practices, including assessment. Professional preparation of assessment practices is seen as a form of situated learning and a constructive process that blends theory and practice. Knowledge of different methods of assessment is required and ought to be covered in professional preparation programmes such as the PGCE. Teacher knowledge about assessment should include knowledge about the importance of feedback. Without timely and constructive feedback, learners cannot meet course outcomes. A total of 20 teachers were purposefully selected and 14 volunteered to participate in the research. The ages of the five male and nine female participants ranged between 26 and 54 years. Each of the participants had at least five years of teaching experience. The qualitative data were supported by additional information collected by means of open-ended questions to determine the participants' views on good assessment practices, the role of feedback and actions that can be taken to optimise learning. All ethical requirements were adhered to. Thematic coding and analysis were carried out to guard against bias and to ensure trustworthiness. The findings indicate, among other things, that teachers do not lack confidence but need more assistance with professional growth in respect of classroom-based assessment. The need for training in assessment tools such as rubrics and the use of technology and taxonomies was highlighted. The need for assistance from school management teams to enable teachers to implement an assessment plan was also emphasised. Furthermore, it was suggested that teachers undergo extended teaching practice to prepare them for reality. It is important for policymakers and teacher training institutions to have a better understanding of the what and how of professional knowledge building regarding assessment in the classroom. In the light of the research results, it is recommended that preparation by means of a PGCE programme should have explicitly stated purposes to guide assessment and should include lecture videos on the use of taxonomies, rubrics and technology. Teacher training should be holistic if it is to produce all-round, reflective practitioners who can advance learning in schools.

Keywords : assessment for learning; curriculum assessment; knowledge building; professional learning; pedagogical beliefs; teacher knowledge.

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