Preparing Secondary Science Teacher Candidates for the edTPA: Digging Deeper into Assessing Student Learning

1. New York State began requiring successful completion of the edTPA as a component for teacher certification as of May 1, 2014 (The State Education Department/The University of the State of New York, 2012). This performance-based assessment is already in place as part of program completion or for state licensure in thirteen states. Three additional states are taking steps toward implementation, and twenty other states have at least one provider of teacher preparation exploring edTPA (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education [AACTE] & Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, & Equity [SCALE], n.d.). This new assessment requires teacher preparation programs, such as our Master of Arts in Teaching Program at the American Museum of Natural History [AMNH MAT], to revise existing curricula and potentially develop additional workshops, seminars, or other program components in order to support their teacher candidates.
When we were first informed of our state’s decision to require the edTPA for teacher certification, we determined that we would begin supporting our teacher candidates by infusing edTPA “formative experiences” (SCALE, 2013, p. 1) into program coursework. We described these course-based formative experiences to the ASTE membership in a 2015 conference workshop (Contino, Short, & Howes, 2015). In 2016, we offered another workshop to the ASTE membership. This workshop explored the edTPA support our program has provided for the past two years to our teacher candidates: five full-day workshops based in focused instruction on various aspects of the edTPA commentaries that we have found are especially difficult for our teacher candidates (Contino, Howes, & Cooke-Nieves, 2016). During this workshop, we described how we developed scaffolds to support our teacher candidates, and provided time for workshop participants to begin to develop their own edTPA scaffolds. This year, we would like to offer an ASTE workshop that specifically examines Task 3: Assessing Student Learning, which requires teacher candidates to analyze their students’ learning and academic language use (SCALE, 2015a).
We chose to focus on Task 3 since local, state, and national data shows us that teacher candidates are scoring the lowest on this task. The national total mean score for Secondary Science from September 2013 – June 2014 was 45.5 (n=831; range=15-75) with a mean Task 3 score of 14.7 (range=5-25). The New York State total mean score for this same time period was 46.7 (n=230) with a mean Task 3 score of 15.2 (SCALE, 2015b). Our teacher candidates submitted the edTPA in Secondary Science in April 2014 and received their scores in May 2014. Our total mean score was 50.4 (n=17; range=32-61; s.d.=6.7) and our mean Task 3 score was 15.9 (range=8-20; s.d.=3.1). Our teacher candidates’ total mean score and mean Task 3 score were higher than both the national and state means during this time period.
The national total mean score for Secondary Science from January 2015 – June 2015 was 44.3 (n=944; range=15-75) with a mean Task 3 score of 14.5 (range=5-25). The New York State total mean score for this same time period was 45.9 (n=222) with a mean Task 3 score of 15.3 (SCALE, 2015c). Our teacher candidates submitted the edTPA in Secondary Science in April 2015 and received their scores in May 2015. Our total mean score was 53.6 (n=14; range=35-64; s.d.=7.17) and our mean Task 3 score was 17.4 (range=12-21; s.d.=2.34). Our teacher candidates’ total mean score and mean Task 3 score were higher than both the national and state means during this time period as well.
The edTPA dedicates almost one third of its requirements (one out of three major “tasks” and five out of fifteen rubrics) to the assessment of student learning. This choice reflects a consensus among educational researchers that formative assessment, including appropriate teacher feedback (Brookhart, 2008; Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006), is central to supporting learning at the secondary science level (Boston, 2002; Clark, 2012; Duschl & Gitomer, 1997; Gearhart, Nagashima, Pfotenhauer, Clark, Schwab, Vendlinski, Osmundson, Herman, & Bernbaum, 2006; Otero, 2006; Ruiz-Primo & Furtak, 2007). Thus, teacher candidates need to learn about the role that formative assessment plays in all stages of instruction. They are often not yet aware that their students will demonstrate various levels or aspects of understanding of any given concept, and that learning is much more complex than “getting it or not” (Gearhart et al., 2006; Otero, 2006).
Studying students’ learning through formative assessment can help teacher candidates develop a more sophisticated understanding of students’ learning. In addition, providing feedback that goes deeper than indicating “right or wrong” is in itself a practice that teacher candidates need to learn. While the edTPA does not explicitly require “formative” versus “summative” assessments, the rubric questions for Task 3 such as “How does the candidate use the analysis of what students know and are able to do to plan next steps in instruction?” (SCALE, 2015a, pg. 37) encourage the use of a formative assessment because it provides the opportunity to analyze student learning, and then plan to act upon that analysis. The edTPA provides guidance and impetus to explicitly teach strategies for assessment and feedback throughout teacher education experiences, and to provide multiple opportunities for candidates to practice the design, implementation, and analysis of formative assessment with real students.
The purpose of this workshop is to aid the ASTE membership, specifically teacher educators, in thinking about what the Task 3 Rubrics require and how they might support and guide their own teacher candidates through edTPA in their respective institutions.

2. The following is an outline of the workshop that shows the sequence and duration of the activities:
1. Introduction of edTPA Tasks and edTPA Rubrics (20 min)
2. Exploration of the five Task 3 Rubrics and Understanding Rubric Level Progressions in five small groups (30 min)
3. Presentations of Rubric requirements (15 min)
4. Examination of a sample Task 3 Commentary written by a teacher candidate in small groups (25 min)
5. Whole group discussion of Commentary scores (20 min)
6. Whole group discussion on application to home institutions (10 min)
The entire duration of this workshop is 120 minutes. Through this workshop, participants will be introduced to the requirements for the secondary science edTPA. After a close examination of the Task 3 Rubrics and Understanding Rubric Level Progressions, participants will present Rubric requirements. Next, they will evaluate and discuss a sample Task 3 response. Lastly, participants will discuss how this experience might apply to their own situations at their home institutions as well as ask questions and share experiences.

3. After attending this workshop, participants will be able to:
1. Describe the Rubric requirements for edTPA Task 3: Assessing Student Learning;
2. Identify the strengths and needs of a sample edTPA Assessment Commentary; and
3. Explain how they might apply elements of this workshop at their home
During this workshop, we will begin with an introduction to edTPA and what secondary science teacher candidates must know and be able to do in order to successfully complete this performance assessment. Next, we will divide participants into five small groups to examine the requirements for edTPA Task 3 (using the Rubrics and Understanding Rubric Level Progressions). During this time, the three presenters will check in with participants to answer questions and discuss what they are finding. Next, participants will present their findings to the whole group. Following presentations, participants will be given a sample Task 3 response that they will evaluate in small groups (approximately 3 participants per group). We will then discuss Commentary scores and the reasoning behind them. Lastly, we will allow participants to share how they might apply elements of this workshop to work they are doing with their own teacher candidates and field questions and share experiences. We will judge the effectiveness of our workshop at meeting our learning objectives based on the participation level of the participants in the discussions of Rubric requirements, evaluation of the sample Commentary, and application of the workshop to their home institutions.

4. The presenters will obtain and share the email addresses of the participants so that they might continue to support each other in implementing supports for the edTPA following the workshop. Additionally, the presenters will be available to the participants via email after the workshop.

5. Those within the ASTE membership who would be the most interested in our workshop would be those involved in teacher preparation at both the graduate and undergraduate levels such as teacher educators, methods instructors, curriculum instructors, clinical supervisors, and advisors. These key players in teacher preparation programs will need to support teacher candidates in successfully completing the edTPA in their own programs by developing formative experiences and workshops. This workshop will give them an opportunity to explore how they might best begin developing activities to support teacher candidates.

6. This workshop will be conducted by Dr. Julie Contino, Dr. Elaine Howes, and Dr. Natasha Cooke-Nieves. All three are Senior Specialists in Science and Teacher Education and Faculty in the Master of Arts in Teaching Program in the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. During Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, Drs. Contino, Howes, and Cooke-Nieves attended various workshops focused on the implementation of edTPA, offered through the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities. They used the data from formative assessments carried out in a Curriculum and Instruction course and science methods course in the AMNH MAT teacher residency program in order to develop five edTPA workshop days for teacher candidates as they prepared for edTPA submission as part of the certification process in New York State. These workshops included examination of the Rubrics, guided activities to help candidates tackle Commentary prompts, and peer review of lesson plans, videos, and commentaries and have now been offered to three cohorts of teacher candidates (n=46). Currently, the AMNH MAT program has a 93.5% pass rate on the edTPA (n=31). Workshop evaluations, plans, and materials, formative assessments from courses, and edTPA scores are reviewed annually in order to revise and implement the workshops for the next cohort of 15 teacher candidates. From 2014 to 2015 we saw an increase in our total mean score from 50.4 to 53.6 and an increase in our mean Task 3 score from 15.9 to 17.4. The means for each, individual Task 3 Rubric (Rubrics 11-15) increased as well.

7. We plan to offer this workshop free of charge. The workshop could accommodate 20-30 participants. We plan to allow drop-ins until we reach capacity. Ideally, participants would come with a colleague from their home institution. For this workshop, we would require space for the participants to work in small groups (possibly tables that accommodate 6-8 people per table). We would need a projector. We plan to provide each participant at the workshop with hardcopies of the edTPA Rubrics and a sample Task 3 Commentary but they will not be permitted to keep these copies due to edTPA regulations.