Teachers educators perceptions of authentic assessment tasks in cooperative learning groups: trends and challenges
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Nowadays, teachers are facing increasing demands in their work: dealing with diverse groups, supporting the learning process, taking into account the students needs, interacting with students parents …etc…These challenges require student teachers to be prepared for real professional contexts of their profession. It also requires teacher’s educators to be well aware of these challenges.The aim of this study is to identify the assessment tasks teachers’ educators assign in cooperative learning groups. It also aim at finding out what are their perceptions of an authentic assessment task in cooperative learning and how they evaluate its degree of authenticity according to the five-dimensional framework of an authentic assessment (the task, the social context, the physical context, the assessment result, the criteria and standards)developed by (Gulikers & al, 2004).This qualitative study deals with the trends in teachers’ educators’ assessment task practices.We conducted it in Norway and France due to our mobility as a student of the Erasmus Mundus Master- Mundusfor. Our sample population comprises 11 teachers’ educators either from teacher education for vocational education and training or from general teacher education. They work in university colleges in Norway and teachers training centers in France called Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres (IUFM).Our theoretical background is informed on the one hand by the socio-constructivist nature of cooperative learning that states that learning is a process of successive stages, an interaction between the individual and his environment, with his peer and his teacher (Dyste, 2008) . It is also informed by theories of authentic assessment that posits that discourses, products and performances must have value or meaning beyond success in the training center and reflect professional practices (Newman, Wehlage, 1993). We then asked our participants to reflect on their practices. We used semi-structured interviews to collect the data and proceeded to their discourses content analysis according to an a priori coding based on our research questions (types of assessment tasks, authenticity dimensions, and challenges). Results show that the most common assessment tasks used by the teachers’ educators in cooperative learning groups are :( 1) group oral presentations (2) seminars,(3) group research works,(4) oral or written self-reflection tasks,(5) weblogs, (6) group projects and (7) portfolios. These assessment tasks are generally, either prescribed by the curriculum and the national program, or used instinctively by teachers’ educators who have perceived the potential of these tasks to induce some professional competences during the training. In addition, during the assessment tasks, the teachers’ educators sometimes assign some tasks individually to the student teachers inside the group. However, they consider them as authentic meaningful interactions as the student teachers cannot fulfill their assignments without cooperating with their classmates. The teachers’ educators consider those isolated works and reflections inside the cooperative group as useful for the future professional development of the student teachers.The teachers’ educators attach the same importance to our five elements of authentic assessment tasks. However, the physical context, which is rated as the same with the criteria and standards, does not all the time meet their expectations in terms of adequate teaching and learning resources material. The other difficulties are most of the time expressed in terms making students tolerant to peer-assessment on the one hand, and ensuring individual accountability and the group goals when the tradition in grades giving in their respective educational system consists in whether awarding individual grades or group grades on the other hand. The results suggest that cooperative learning has positive effects in preparing student teachers, and more authenticity in the assessments tasks will provide prospective teachers with the necessary competences to tackles the challenges of their profession. This can only be done with well-trained teachers’ educators constantly reflecting on their practices. Our results also imply that teachers’ educators consider the acquisition and the development of professional competences by the prospective teachers as a collaborative and cooperative endeavor that should involve policy makers and professional of Education. The role of stakeholders in teacher education for providing necessary funds, infrastructures for the teachers training centers is seen to be crucial for meeting real-world practices. Some interesting impulses for theoretical and practical further research suggest investigating on a larger sample on the following questions : student teachers’ perceptions of authentic assessment tasks in cooperative learning groups; who should decide on authenticity in education among the stakeholders?; do simulated school-based assessment tasks really account for authentic assessment? The answers to these research questions will certainly provide ways for improving teaching practices in teacher education.
Mundusfor Erasmus Mundus Master Degree - Education of Professionals in Education