Conceptualizing mathematics teachers' use of open-ended assessment items
Sanchez, Wendy Burleson
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Research indicates a gap between the assessment practices recommended in mathematics education reform literature and teachers' actual assessment practices. One way that has been suggested to help move toward the reform vision is the use of openended assessment items. The purpose of this study was to understand the factors that influence teachers' use of open-ended assessment items | Theories of intellectual development formed a framework for investigating teachers' beliefs and relation to authority. These theories, along with theories of reflection, were helpful in conceptualizing interpretations of teachers' actions. | Case studies focused on three secondary mathematics teachers who had participated in projects designed to enable them to create and use open-ended assessment items in their teaching. Seven face-to-face interviews, approximately 24 hours of classroom observation, and the collection of artifacts comprised the data for each participant. Inductive analysis was used to analyze the data. | Findings indicated four salient factors that affected the teachers' use of openended assessment items: beliefs and authority, reflectivity, knowledge, and system constraints. Some of the factors interacted. A description of how each factor influenced teachers' use of open-ended items is provided. | The findings suggest that preservice and inservice teacher education programs go beyond an attempt to get teachers to use open-ended assessment items to focus specifically on how to use student responses to such items to inform teaching. The study adds to the robustness of the claim that a relationship exists between an individual's relation to authority, reflectivity, and the extent to which he or she is able to implement reform. It is suggested that staff development, if it is to help teachers move in the direction of reform, should focus on more than teaching or assessment techniques per se, and begin to challenge the fundamental assumptions that underlie teaching and assessment in the first place. Staff development, like preservice teacher education, should provide contexts for reflection and challenges of beliefs that hinder teachers' movement toward reform.