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Although I am a part of the context in which this study was conducted, some emerged insights related to teachers' knowledge were surprising and interesting. One important point is the preponderance of socio-cultural theory of mind as a preferable means of teachers' knowledge at the expense of the concept of 'apprenticeship of observation'. The other one is the contradiction between teachers' views and practice when it comes to designing tests collaboratively. The last one is adopting for a pre-service form of training as a more effective method of improvement than the in-service. I will introduce those points and perhaps give them a rational seeking for an improvement.
5.1.1. Teachers' knowledge sources.
My research shows that teachers mostly rely on their experience, interaction with colleagues, their own reading, and the instructional knowledge the institute provides in order to access the assessment knowledge. While the literature indicates the important influence of teachers' previous lives as students on their teaching practices, data explicitly highlights that this kind of influence is absolutely absent when it comes to test construction. Teachers in this context tend not to recall the images they obtained during their studying time despite the fact that those images act as default options and easy sources which teachers usually retrieve when they have difficulties. This can be reasoned as follows:
Firstly, perhaps teachers did not recognise the influence of their previous observational knowledge in examinations when they were students on their current testing practices or maybe they did not consider it as a form of their knowledge.
Secondly, the absence of 'apprenticeship of observation' influence on teachers' testing practices might be due to the issue of learning about testing specifically. Although testing is an integral part of teaching, it seems that there is a default belief about learning to design tests as a practical and a 'learning by doing' process. Consequently, teachers' present and practical experience might take the place of their unobservable and unconsciously-gained knowledge, at least in their eyes.
Thirdly, although it was long assumed that the educational experiences of being a student would enable a novice teacher to cope with his/her new role, 'much of the empirical research in general education has long since changed this view' (Farrell et al, 2009: 183).This might due to the fact that 'the change in role from student to teacher is not a simple transition' (Farrell et al, 2009: 183). It follows that students ' are not privy to the teachers' private intentions and personal reflection on classroom events' (Lortie, 1975: 62). It is rather that students are likely to reproduce the observational actions of teachers which locate in their minds as images. Thereafter, when those students become teachers they return to those images to inform their practices especially when they have no proper educational input. In the case of learning about testing through observation, the only mental image teachers might recall from their prior learning experiences is likely to be a sheet of paper being placed on their desks in exams.
Finally, Lortie noted that students are not deliberately studying their teachers in order to inform their own later practices. What they learn via observation is 'intuitive and imitative rather than explicit and analytical'; it also has nothing to do with pedagogic principles (1975: 62).
On the contrary, learning through interaction with colleagues is rather prominent and superior in this context. My research emphasises the role of socio-cultural theory in teachers' learning about assessment. Interaction seems to mediate the way teachers learn and inform their new input. It acts as a tool through which social constructivist learning theory situate learning (Bookhart, 2011), especially that assessment activities are considered as cultural events in this context in terms of people gathering, discussing and socialising.
5.1.2. Role of context
I agree with Borg et al when they state that teachers' practices cannot be fully understood unless we have 'an understanding of the context they work in' (2009: 165), and the impact of this on their practices. The role of context in this study seems to have a great influence on teachers' decision making vis-à-vis assessment. What was very surprising to me is that four teachers said that assessment was mainly for diagnosing their teaching style when asked about their usual testing purposes. One can rationalise this by the fact that all of participants are part-time teachers whose practices are evaluated by two measures at the end of every course; the test's results and the evaluation sheet (see chapter 1). This reflects that teachers feel insecure and uncertain about holding their jobs which might affect their teaching and testing practices as well as attitudes. So maybe teachers resort to test their students as a kind of earlier self-evaluation which guarantees remaining in their jobs.
The influence of context can be also identified in terms of designing tests collaboratively. Doing that, one teacher showed her negative attitude towards collaboration. This attitude may be due to her experience stemming mainly from the lack of positive working relationships with other teachers and the power superiors used to lead the argument and making the decision about tests. This reinforces the role of socialization process within new contexts, and how it can influence [teachers'] conceptions of what it means to be a teacher (See Farrell, 2001). Although research indicates that collaboration in learning is found to be effective, some teachers in this context still prefer working individually because their experience has not been one of the collaboration. In this case, the institution might assign an expert mentor who stands in a similar distance among all teachers and make the ultimate decision. Or this can be solved when writing the tests within workshops where every group of teachers can evaluate the decision of other groups.
5.1.3 Types of knowledge
My research shows that teachers have developed their own strategies for assessment through their time of experience in the teaching profession in general. It indicates that they lack the declarative knowledge but instead, they have their own strategic, cognitive and practical knowledge. Improving those types of knowledge can happen through the following recursive cycle. a) Since some scholars, Williams (1988) Farrell et al (2009), put an emphasis on starting from teachers' experiences, prior knowledge and beliefs in any attempt to support their learning, it is crucial to first re-examine and evaluate this prior knowledge. This helps trainers formulate an accurate basis of assessment knowledge teachers might share and helps each trainee to individualise the input they receive, internalise it and reproduce in his/her own practice. b) Transforming theory into teachers' practices and establishing a dialogue between theory and practice in teachers' minds. c) The practical side of teachers' knowledge can be exploited as a bridgehead to practitioners in an attempt to theorise their practices. d) A continuing process of reflection on the received knowledge and the prior knowledge, so that teachers can reflect upon the new input of declarative knowledge and internalise it with reference to each individual's professional concerns and experiential knowledge.
5.1.4. Nature of preparation and timing
Five of my respondents said that they preferred pre-service educational courses as the best means of developing testing. They reasoned their choice by the need to be aware to what they are going to face. Wharton (1998) in her outline of a pre-service course on assessment adds that in her pre-service course she could include a language testing component and sought to increase confidence in trainees and to encourage an exploratory approach of learning. However, and since the process of developing teachers' assessment literacy should be ongoing and continuous, I suggest that both pre-service and in-service courses should function as a complementary part of the other. However, in my perspective, the mechanism of both courses perhaps should start with eliciting teachers' knowledge, linking it to the assessment theories and principles and then giving time to individuals to practice it and finally evaluate it collaboratively.
5.2. Development framework
Insights acquired by those four observations into such issues are valuable and can help trainers experts provide a proper content of any perceived educational course and facilitate their task of supporting trainee teachers. Therefore, starting from teachers' needs and concerns and taking advantages of those insights, I will suggest a framework of developing teachers' literacy in this particular context.
First of all, any cognitive development should be considered in light of the social and contextual practices and also the circumstances that already formulated it and that might change later on.
Secondly, In order to guarantee the process of development is ongoing, we might develop other forms of training such as: a) supporting teachers' research which allows them to share their experiences, communicate and evaluate their practices. b) Encouraging self-reflection and keeping diaries about their experience with each test they design and mark and then discuss it with the mentor. c) Creating a social positive institutional life to enhance the interaction and the collegial support that seemed to inform the majority of their knowledge about testing. I suggest that head of department and head teachers should take this intuitive and do this task. It is because I think that the procedures of creating a healthy and positive atmosphere are likely to be prescribed by those who have the power. This can happen through several ways: a) lessening the level of formality between the manager and the novices, so this can influence the superiors' behaviour with novices. b) Monitoring the way the teachers are performing when dealing with novices. c) Rewarding those who positively interact during social tasks and provide the professional support which others need.
Thirdly, teachers in my context are in a desperate need to have a pre-service training course, I should emphasise that the continuous development is also crucial and should be given a greater deal of interest. Another point I would like to add here is that the content of any professional assessment preparation should consider delivering all types of knowledge those teachers lack, especially declarative knowledge. There are some perceptions to the assessment and measurement competencies. Teachers (see 4.2.4) and I consider necessary in this context. Therefore, teachers should be taught how to:
Design the course objectives or the learning goals and match them to the test specifications.
Internalise testing principles and concepts; validity, reliability, authenticity, practicability and the washback effect.
Select, construct and use a variety of assessment methods.
Write Score- selected and constructed- response format assessment
Mark a test and do the grading.
Interpret test's results for making decision such as (diagnosing, grading.....).
In this dissertation I was trying to say that teachers' learning about assessment is likely to be understood and applied when it is situated and linked to the circumstances a particular community of practice imposes on teachers' and trainers. An exclusive reference to what teachers think, know and practice is crucial as well. Taking those aspects into consideration, in addition to perceive a comprehensive content of assessment knowledge and then formulate a proper educational approach would be feasible in the way of development. I also would like to emphasise that the role of management and the support of the head of department is crucial and therefore should be activated to solve any problems that hinder any opportunity of improvement. This includes helping teachers feel secure in this profession so they are motivated to professionalise their testing practices and even create new objectives. Especially that my teachers seem to be open to change and improve; they openly expressed their dissatisfaction with their present level of assessment knowledge and uncertainty about their testing procedures.
It is incontrovertible the necessity of preparing teachers before and within their teaching time before thinking of evaluating their practices. The institution's administration should facilitate teachers' testing development, provide resources; at least a guidebook with fixed rules of tests formats and administration policies, and ensure supportive environment. That might help us as teachers see ourselves as learners who always need to seek new assessment knowledge and evaluate their assessment practices although being learners and becoming more competent assessors means a personal commitment of time,Â effort and energy. However, being an assessment literate is worthwhile because 'We owe it to ourselves and our students to devote at leastÂ as much energy to ensuring that our assessment practices are worthwhile as we do toÂ ensuring that we teach well' (Boud,1998: 2).Â Weigle adds that "A solid understanding of assessment issues should be part of every teacher's knowledge base, and teachers should be encouraged to equip themselves with this knowledge as part of their ongoing professional development" (2007: 207).
In this study, have I attempted to pave the way to research as a tool of improvement since my research is the first to be conducted in our department. Meanwhile, I highlighted a very primary and basic issue and intended to give perceptions for improving assessment literacy which I have considered appropriate in our context without working out all the necessary details.
Weaknesses and Limitations
Two of my questions were inadequately covered due to the limitation of using a questionnaire in understanding some information. Especially those related to teachers' perceptions about the role of apprenticeship of observation in their practices and teachers' purposes of designing tests. I wish I could have the opportunity to explore teachers' needs in a deeper way, and give more space to their stories that could have enriched the finding. If this study were to be replicated, few parts such as teachers' preferences about educational preparation and their attitudes towards collaborative work would have taken the form of qualitative data collection, a case study in particular.