Paper Summary

Direct link:

Promising Practices in Professional Development of a Performance Assessment Pilot at the High School Level

Thu, April 3, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Convention Center, Floor: 100 Level, 116


The purposes of this commentary are to articulate the pathway of professional development that led to the design and implementation of a student assessment framework for teacher evaluation in the New York City Local Measures of Student Learning Assessment Pilot, 2012-13. In doing so, we identify turning points in teacher perspectives and practice as related to the professional development experiences and explore the constraints and challenges that impacted the project.

Perspectives, Modes of Inquiry, and Data Sources
To interpret our experiences, we are using a tri-focal lens that draws on research about communities of practice (Coburn & Stein, 2006; Seashore Louis, Febey, & Schroder, 2005), theories in adult education and educational leadership and reform (Mezirow, 2000; Drago-Severson, 2012; Coburn, 2003). These perspectives have allowed us to reflect on our own experiences designing professional development and on the ways participants engaged with the project. Data sources for this commentary include a compilation of narrative reflections of experiences taken from meeting notes, workshop artifacts, program evaluation documentation and facilitator’s experiences.

Point of View/Findings
Our organization has been supporting secondary schools across New York City in designing formative assessments for nearly seven years. We have developed a strong belief that the conditions for communities of practice to evolve into transformative learning experiences are ideal when teacher teams engage in an inquiry process involving teacher designed tasks in cycles of assessment. Our contribution to this project allowed us to utilize promising practices we had developed in small schools for low stakes, and test them in a high stakes situation outside of their school community.

Based on our experiences and research, we believe that effective professional development must be predictive and responsive to meet participant needs. When the professional development either anticipated needs, or responded to needs that emerged throughout the project, we found that participants were able to leverage their learning beyond the scope of the project and into their classroom teaching practices, tapping into Coburn’s (2003) “elaborated conceptualization of scale that requires that reform not only reach more widely but also more deeply into schools to effect and sustain consequential change.”

Scholarly Significance
“If communities of practice do indeed present promising avenues for improved student learning, there is a pressing need to explore the conditions necessary to support and sustain them” (Stein & Spillane, 2005)
On the surface, this study helps those in teacher education and development to identify promising practices in professional development that generate deep engagement from teachers around complex issues like teacher evaluation. In contemplating these promising practices however, this work challenges us to reconsider the purpose and value of designing performance assessments as a one-time measure of student or teacher performance as opposed to an investment in long lasting professional growth for teachers, teacher leaders and policy makers.