Algebra I teachers' use of open-ended assessment items
Ice, Nicole Foster
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Research has shown that mathematics teachers’ current assessment practices are not consistent with recommendations in the mathematics education reform literature. One recommended strategy is the use of open-ended assessment items. The purpose of this study was to investigate factors that facilitated or impeded teachers’ use of such items.|Models of epistemological development provided insight into the teachers’ beliefs about mathematics, teaching, learning, and assessment and orientation to authority. The beliefs and orientation to authority were then examined to determine their influence on the teachers’ use of open-ended items. Literature on reflective thinking was used to discuss the ways the teachers were thinking about their instructional and assessment practices, as well as their actual practices. The teachers’ thinking and practices were then examined to determine their influence on the teachers’ use of open-ended items.|Two eighth-grade Algebra I teachers who had participated in a professional development project designed to expand their understanding of the purposes and uses of assessment, as well as to change their instructional and assessment practices, were participants in the study. Each teacher completed a survey, was interviewed, and was observed teaching. Artifacts were collected that included copies of tests, quizzes, worksheets, handouts, and graded student assessments. Inductive analysis was used to analyze the data.|Beliefs, authority, reflection, knowledge, and constraints emerged as factors that influenced the teachers’ use of open-ended items. An interpretive analysis of each of these factors is provided and includes how each factor influenced the teachers’ use of open-ended items. Findings include that although teachers were able to use open-ended items on tests and score student responses to those items, they did not use information about students’ thinking to inform instruction.|The findings suggest that preservice education and professional development programs should help teachers move beyond simply using open-ended items and help them use student responses to such items to inform instruction. Additional implications for teacher education and research are given.