A new study examines the impact of assessment-based professional development on teachers’ motivational characteristics.

Dr. Corey Palermo, Vice President of Performance Assessment Scoring at Measurement Incorporated, teamed with Dr. Margareta Maria Thomson at NC State University to investigate teacher motivation associated with professional development (PD) in the context of a large-scale assessment program. From 2009–2012, over 200 teachers received PD in item writing, item review, and anchor setting (i.e., selecting responses that exemplify each rubric score point). The goal of the PD was to increase teachers’ assessment literacy and formative assessment capacity. Teachers were encouraged to use the assessment strategies in their classrooms and to reflect on their approach to performance assessment and assessment for learning.

Teachers seeking professional development

All study participants (119 teachers) completed an online survey in which they reported their motivations, ability beliefs, and values including instructional changes related to their PD. Ten of the teachers also participated in phone interviews conducted to explore teachers’ perceptions of their PD experiences.

Study results, published in Teacher Development, showed that participants reported a high degree of intrinsic motivation for and associated social and pedagogical utility value with their PD. Participants overall reported positive ability beliefs, a high degree of usefulness, importance, and interest associated with PD, and positive changes to instruction and assessment. Additionally, results showed that teachers’ intrinsic motivation and ability beliefs were significant, positive predictors of changes to instruction and assessment. Teachers’ narrative accounts augmented the quantitative results and revealed the complexity of participants’ values, which were found to be influenced by teachers’ instructional beliefs, opportunities to reflect on the nature of instruction and assessment, and state policies on assessment.

While findings are subject to limitations associated with the research methodology, they show that changes to teachers’ ability beliefs appear to be an important outcome of PD and warrant greater attention. Further, large-scale assessment programs show potential to increase teachers’ assessment literacy and efficacy by supporting active learning, collaboration, and classroom application of new strategies, as well as critical thinking about student learning.

Palermo, C., & Thomson, M. M. (2018). Large-scale assessment as professional development: teachers’ motivations, ability beliefs, and values. Teacher Development, 1-21. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/13664530.2018.1536612