edTPA: Reflecting on the complexity of teaching
Earlier in the month, a viewpoint was posted about the new requirement of submission of an edTPA portfolio by all incoming teachers in Connecticut as yet another barrier to teachers entering education. (See “The edTPA – another barrier to entry into teaching” by Aram Ayalon.)
I respect the view of the author; however, as an educator who has the pleasure of working with this program, I must present another side and view of this issue.
First, let me address some of the statements regarding the process which does ask prospective teachers to submit a portfolio of lesson plans, videos, and reflections. While Pearson is the vehicle used to deliver and assess the work, edTPA was developed by faculty and staff at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE). Portfolios are graded by evaluators, all of whom are required to have at least five years of experience teaching in the content area that they are grading and be active teachers.
Regarding teacher autonomy, the teachers are 100% in control of deciding what unit and lessons they submit. I would challenge and disagree that this is not a good thing. As a classically trained teacher, I had to go through student teaching and all of the other hoops that are required by standardized education programs. All this portfolio asks is that you take that experience and put it together in a way that allows you to articulate both what and why you make the choices you do within the classroom.
The majority of the questions within the portfolio are reflective in nature and allow space for the candidate to explain how they utilize their knowledge and relationship with their students to make the learning both equitable and accessible. Isn’t this exactly the dynamic and agile part of the everyday experience of our profession?
Also, other questions focus on asking the teachers to explain why they made the curricular instructional and assessment choices that they did and what they would do differently based on how the students performed. When looked at as a whole, this process asks someone new to the field to reflect on what is working and what doesn’t, very similar to the type of action research that they will be asked to do as a part of a professional learning community within their school campuses and districts.
I feel that the edTPA process is both transparent and reflective and in an age of gatekeeping assessments within many fields, gives enough autonomy and control to the candidate to support a teacher, even a neophyte one, to be able to say that they have proven to others in their field that they are ready to take on the responsibility of the profession.
We ask for the same proof from incoming doctors who must prove their ability to critically think and reflect during their boards. If, like doctors, we are asking to be seen as professionals who play a vital role in society then what is wrong with having an exam that allows us to enter the profession as one?
Kelly Wooward lives in Middletown.
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