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Supporting Teaching Practice Through Assessment Activities

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Action Research

The term action research is much in use today. For us, action research is essentially the thoughtful use, by educational professionals, of sound information for the purpose of improving teaching and learning. There are several different types of information that are of value for this purpose:

  • information about the learning goals
  • information about the degree to which individuals and groups have achieved targeted learning goals
  • other information about the learner (e.g. gender, academic aptitude, extent of achievement on related  learning goals
  • information about the processes and conditions of instruction and the educational environment

Time and resources prohibit extensive collection of data on these critical factors in most educational settings. By necessity much of this information must be implicit for the teacher.  However when we do use information for planning, assessment, and evaluation it must be of high quality and used rigorously.  For example, it is important that a judgment made by one educational professional concerning the extent of attainment of a learning objective be the same judgment that another would make. Otherwise the judgments that we share with students, parents, colleagues, and the school district are unreliable.  Having reliable information about student attainment is a necessity for educational professionals. (See our discussion of reliabilty of assessments.)

On the other hand there is the question of what inferences and interpretations may reasonably be made from available information. If information is used without knowledge of and concern for its limitations, unwarranted inferences can be made which prevent a clear understanding of what is happening in an educational setting. Our assessments and accompanying explanations are designed to address the issues of information quality and use and, so, to provide a rigorous foundation for action research.

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