Assessing What Counts
Most would agree that pupil learning is a fundamental purpose of schooling. Differences arise, however, when conceptualizing what form that learning should take and how it should be assessed. In recent years, there has been increased pressure to improve pupil achievement through educational reform initiatives intended to ensure that all pupils meet high academic standards through strict accountability measures. This dissertation seeks to understand how teacher candidates/beginning teachers, working in this era of accountability, focus on pupil learning over time. An interpretive qualitative approach was employed to complete cross-case analyses on 55 interviews conducted with five participants over a 3-year period. Based on a sociocultural framework, and drawing on constructivist assessment theories and prior research on learning to teach, this dissertation argues that the end objective of improving pupil learning led teachers to enhance their teaching practice by holding high expectations for pupil learning, building personal relationships with pupils, maintaining strong classroom management strategies, and utilizing formative assessment practices. However, engaging in these practices was often a result of a complex process of negotiation between aspects of the school context that functioned as obstacles and the teachers' moral sensibilities Overall, contrary to claims made by stage theory, the beginning teachers in this study demonstrated that focusing on pupil learning was possible with perseverance, commitment to social justice, development of an inquiry stance and an understanding that learning to teach is a life-long process that involves continuous reflection and professional development.