Graduate Student Spotlight

The Research/Project Spotlight initiative features emerging research and projects conducted by CERA’s graduate students. The spotlight initiative further the mission and goals of the association by providing a structured means to enhance the visibility of the association, support the work of its members, and support knowledge mobilization efforts to better communicate research efforts and findings to the broader education community.

Ali Ahmad Abidi (University of Calgary)

Ali Ahamd Abidi - Ali Abidi

Title of Project: Building Secondary Preservice Teachers’ Capacity in English Language Authentic Assessment

Research Questions:
Main research question:
To examine preservice secondary English Language Arts (ELA) teachers’ conceptions of language authentic assessment and their expertise in the design of language authentic assessment tasks for implementation in classroom practice.

Subsidiary questions:
1) What are preservice secondary ELA teachers’ conceptions of and expertise in authentic assessment prior to and after professional development?
2) How do preservice secondary ELA teachers translate their learning of authentic language assessment into their practicum?
3) What factors facilitate and hinder preservice secondary ELA teachers’ learning and practice of authentic language assessment?

Project Description: Given the prominence of assessment in today’s classrooms and the importance of assessment for students’ meaningful and deep learning, this study undertakes to showcase the learning processes involved specifically in the design and use of authentic assessment tasks in ELA classrooms. This study intends to track changes in teachers’ conception of and practices in design principles of language authentic assessment tasks by offering a professional development program. The research contributes to continued calls for enhancing the preparation of preservice/ beginning teachers in the areas of assessment in a diversified classroom. The findings of this research would serve to identify gaps in teacher preparation and guide improvements in preservice assessment education to better prepare preservice teachers’ learning needs in authentic assessment task designing capability, which in turn will lead to improvement in ELL students’ language competence. It is my belief that comprehensive understanding of the assessment-related knowledge of preservice teachers serves the dual purpose of informing both the nature and scope of teacher education and the specific direction of professional development initiatives for in-service teachers. The study employs a mixed-methods design in which quantitative survey data and qualitative interview and artifact data will be collected from 15 teacher candidates or preservice secondary teachers who are enrolled in the BEd program at a university in Western Canada. Using the Learning by Design model (Kolodner, 2002), an intervention, i.e., a week-long summer institute, will be designed by the authors to provide authentic task design opportunities for the participants. The participants’ change in conceptions of authentic language assessment will be measured using the same survey instrument prior to and upon completion of the summer institute.

Next steps for this project: 1. A survey instrument is being adapted for data collection in a planned pilot study in the winter of 2019.
2. The PD participants will be invited to take part in in-depth, one-on-one interviews. The interviews will be audio recorded and transcribed verbatim for open coding and thematic analysis.
3. The assessment tasks created by the participants will be analyzed using Koh’s (2011) criteria of authentic intellectual quality.
4. Concept maps designed at the summer institute will be used to iteratively reflect on their hands-on experiences to achieve design challenges. Their concept maps will be coded using content analysis.

CERA’s impact on Ali Ahmad Abidi’s work: 1. Being a CERA member increases my willingness and preparedness to communicate my findings with experts and colleagues.
2. It makes me feel more responsible, as a member of a larger community of researchers, in managing all the stages of the research process more meticulously and methodically, especially, the ethical considerations.
3. It has also provided me fresh perspectives to look at my own work which has added value to it.