Professional development through a formative assessment rubric in a K-5 bilingual program
Keywords:formative assessment, elementary education, professional development, writing pedagogy, case study
This case study uses an action research approach to the implementation of a systematic bilingual writing assessment that K-5 teachers administered over a two-year period in an inner-city public school with a two-way bilingual English-Spanish program. The study reflects the importance of developing an awareness of academic discourse over time, as teachers participated in a writing assessment project that included the administration of writing prompts and corresponding analysis of student writing through use of grade level rubrics, three times each year. The instrument was developed by the first author, a participant-observer who in the role of writing coordinator also led professional development workshops, and provided mentorship to teacher participants. The second researcher is an outside expert on bilingual writing who participated in the retrospective interview stage of the study. This paper will focus on insights from semi-structured interviews with teachers that reveal their current views on aspects of the writing assessment project. The questions prompted teachers to review the rubrics and associated assessment materials to garner insights about their participation in the assessment project. Thematic analysis of the interviews indicates that teachers enhanced their awareness of discourse structure and the writing process, as they incorporated the rubrics for several pedagogical purposes: more targeted whole group instruction, strategic and flexible grouping of students, and more deliberate selection of topics to support writers during individual conferences. Furthermore, teachers appreciated the ability to systematically track writing growth across the academic year, an option that had formerly been used solely for documentation of reading development in this setting. The influence of standards in providing goals for instructional outcomes is also discussed. Changes in the form of assessment are unlikely to enhance equity unless we change the ways in which assessments are used: from sorting mechanisms to diagnostic supports; from external monitors of performance to locally generated tools for inquiring deeply into teaching and learning, (Darling- Hammond, 1994: 7)
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