Beginning science teachers' performances: Assessment in times of reform

Date of Completion

January 2000


Education, Administration|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Secondary|Education, Sciences




The current reform in science education and the research on effective teaching and student learning have reinforced the importance of teacher competency. To better measure performances in the teaching of science, performance assessment has been added to Connecticut's licensure process for beginning science teachers. Teaching portfolios are used to document teaching and learning over time. Portfolios, however, are not without problems. ^ One of the major concerns with the portfolio assessment process is its subjectivity. Assessors may not have opportunities to ask clarifying or follow-up questions to enhance the interpretation of a teacher's performance. In addition, portfolios often contain components based on self-documentation, which are subjective. Furthermore, the use of portfolios raises test equity issues. These concerns present challenges for persons in charge of establishing the validity of a portfolio-based licensure process. In high-stakes decision processes, such as teaching licensure, the validity of the assessment instruments must be studied. The primary purpose of this study was to explore the criterion-related validity of the Connecticut State Department of Education's Beginning Science Teaching Portfolio by comparing the interpretations of performances from science teaching portfolios to those derived from another assessment method, the Expert Science Teaching Educational and Evaluation Model, (ESTEEM). The analysis of correlations between the Beginning Science Teaching Portfolio and ESTEEM instrument scores was the primary method for establishing support for validity. The results indicated moderate correlations between all Beginning Science Teaching Portfolio and ESTEEM category and total variables. Multiple regression was used to examine whether differences existed in beginning science teachers' performances based on gender, poverty group, school level, and science discipline taught. None of these variables significantly contributed to the explanation of variance in the ESTEEM (p > .05), but poverty group and gender were significant predictors of portfolio performances, accounting for 21% of the total variance. ^ Finally, data from interviews, written surveys, and beginning teacher attendance records at state-supported seminars were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. This information provided insight about the quality and quantity of support beginning science teachers received in their efforts to document, via the science teaching portfolio, their abilities to implement the Connecticut Professional Science Teaching Standards. ^