A new teacher assessment could help UW Education students improve

Sep 28, 2012

University of Wyoming College of Education students will now be part of a Comprehensive Teacher Performance Assessment that will determine the student teachers performance in a variety of skills.   UW was among the institutions that helped develop the assessment that is called edTPA.  Some states already require teachers to pass an assessment like this to get licensed, that is not the case in Wyoming.  But the College of Education will require the Assessment to help develop better teachers.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports.

BOB BECK:  UW Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Allen Trent says  student teachers must show proficiency in a number of areas…

ALLEN TRENT what does:  This assessment largely asks teachers to plan a series of lessons, teach those lessons, videotape a part of that teaching, assess the students work, and then give the students actual feedback, are you telling the students the kind of thing that supports their continued learning.  And then take a step back and reflect on all that.

BECK:  Trent says it might sound simple, but it’s a very involved process that takes a lot of time.  The students have to follow a booklet that is very specific.  UW and school districts have done a good job of monitoring and providing feedback to student teachers for many years.  But Trent says this goes a bit further. 

TRENT:  One of the major differences is that it doesn’t just assess your knowledge of things about teaching.  It assesses whether or not you can actually perform those skills and make it applicable to student learning. 

BECK:  Andrea Burrows teaches Science Education in the College.  She says it really forces students to pay close attention to all aspects of what goes on in the classroom.

ANDREA BURROWS:  How you are taking what you know about you content area and transferring that to students.  And sometimes students don’t pay enough attention to that particular area and there is a whole area in the TPA that is devoted to that.

BECK: Burrows says student teachers are taught to closely look at whether students are meeting the standards and goals required in today’s teaching environment, but she believes the TPA forced them to reflect on that more than maybe they have done in the past. 

A former student who is currently an elementary teacher in Cheyenne agrees.  Jordan Christopolus used the TPA during her student teaching last Spring and she says it helped her with class planning and whether students were getting what they needed.

JORDAN CHRISTOPOLUS:  I think it was very beneficial to sort of reflect on my teaching and reflect on every aspect of teaching a lesson.  I think the questions were very helpful in the sense that really got me to sit down and think what went well, what didn’t go well, what would I change?  They really got down to the nitty gritty, the specific questions to really assess my teaching.

BECK:  This is good news for College of Education Faculty member Diana Wiig who evaluates national edTPA scores on elementary math teaching.  She says UW Education students typically are ready to teach and do well when they graduate, but she noted that the edTPA forced students to prepare more than they had in the past…

DIANA WIIG:  One of the unintended consequences I got when I went in to observe students was I got an incredibly comprehensive lesson plan for me to follow.   So it made them think more deeply…in their words…about what they were doing.  And it extended beyond just that little part…that student teaching TPA part…into the whole semester.

BECK:  Dean of Undergraduate Studies Allen Trent says U-W students will all get the Teacher Performance Assessment this Spring and while it’s useful to prepare students to teach in the real world…he says when they get the scored results, they will be able to determine how they as a college are doing…

TRENT:  Do we have strengths in our program that we want to continue to re-enforce or does the data tell us that we really seem to be weak in these areas.  This will allow us to change our own curriculum.

Trent expects that this type of assessment will prepare the soon to be teachers for other performance assessments they will face later in their careers.  For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Bob Beck.