The Use of Formative Supports in Teacher Education Programs to Prepare for edTPA

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

In this session, formative supports for online and face-to-face teacher licensure programs utilizing edTPA will be shared. Mean and summative scores for edTPA tasks and individual rubrics will be provided. Differences in online and face-to-face teacher candidates who either received formative supports or did not receive formative supports will be discussed.


Tina Heafner is a Professor in the Department of Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her administrative responsibilities include directing the College of Education Prospect for Success, M.Ed. in Secondary Education and the Minor in Secondary Education. Tina's research interests explore effective practices in social studies education such as professional development schools, technology integration, content literacy development, and service learning. Other research interests include policy and curriculum issues in social studies and content-based online teaching and learning. Publications include seven co-authored books and four edited books. She has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Teacher's College Record, Educational Researcher, Educational Policy, Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Kappa Delta Phi, Theory and Research in Social Education, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, Teacher Education and Practice, The High School Journal, Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education.

Extended Abstract

edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment) is a performance-based, content-specific assessment process designed by educators to determine whether new teachers are prepared to enter the K-12 classroom. edTPA is being utilized at institutions of higher education in more than 30 states to determine teacher readiness. Developed by Stanford University faculty and staff at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE), edTPA consists of the successful completion of three content-specific, performance-based tasks by teacher candidates (“About edTPA”, 2014). Task 1, Planning for Instruction and Assessment, requires teacher candidates to identify a learning segment that they will plan, teach and assess student learning. The teacher candidates must develop a learning segment that consists of three to five daily lessons. They must also develop all instructional materials along with assessments that make up the learning segment. Finally, teacher candidates write a planning commentary using a standard template provided by SCALE for their learning segments in which they provide rationale for instructional decision making. Task 2, Instructing and Engaging Students in Learning, examines a candidate’s instructional methods to determine readiness for the classroom. For task 2, teacher candidates are asked to submit one to two videos with lengths of 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the licensure area. The teacher candidate must also submit an instructional commentary using a standard template provided by SCALE in which they respond to certain prompts, allowing them to critically analyze their instruction. The final task, Assessing Student Learning, requires teacher candidates to select three student work samples and provide thorough feedback addressing strengths and needs of each focus student. They then analyze the findings from these three focus students and common errors of the whole class. Teacher candidates complete an assessment commentary using a standard template provided by SCALE in which they discuss the common errors of their students and their plans to support these students in future instruction based on these findings.

Literature Review
Performance-based learning and assessment represent “a set of strategies for the acquisition and application of knowledge, skills, and work habits through the performance of tasks that are meaningful and engaging to students” (Hibbard, 1996). Many colleges of education are considering performance-based assessments to determine how prepared teacher candidates to enter the teaching profession. Teacher performance assessments are appealing because they encourage teacher learning and reflective practice (Chung, 2008). According to Sweet (1993), there are several methods that been used successfully to assess performance including; 1) open-ended or extended response exercises that require students to explore a topic orally or in writing, 2) extended tasks that require sustained attention in a single work area and are carried out over an extended period of time and 3) portfolios that include a variety of performance-based work. Many performance-based assessments have been found to be effective.

Osborn and Neill (2005) suggest several strategies for enhancing assessment in online learning. These strategies include: 1) strive for authenticity, 2) provide learners with the tools and information they need, 3) create an online environment that supports authentic assessment, and 4) provide opportunities for practice and feedback. Moallem (2004) identifies the potential of the online learning environment for a student-centered, project-based, performance-based assessment system. Moallem argues that this type of assessment system supports measuring learning more authentically, fosters individual and group learning activities, enables students to display critical thinking skills, and emphasizes the integration of assessment and instruction.

Description of Formative Support Structure
The Graduate Certificate in Teaching program is an 18-hour (6 course) program that ends in initial teacher licensure.  Prospective teachers in this program are both lateral entry teachers and second career individuals. Lateral entry teachers are those that have secured a teaching position and are simultaneously working on coursework that leads to licensure. Candidates who are admitted to this program hold a baccalaureate degree in the content area or relevant to the content area of licensure they are pursuing. This insures that teacher candidates enter the program with background content knowledge.

edTPA formative supports are embedded in early coursework so that students do not enter the student teaching semester without knowledge of edTPA, the three tasks required of edTPA and the 15 rubrics used to score the edTPA work product.  When candidates begin the first semester of the program, they participate in an edTPA orientation.  This is facilitated either synchronously online or face-to-face for all teacher candidates depending on program track.  In the Planning for K-12 Instruction course, the first course within the Graduate Certificate in Teaching Program, teacher candidates complete an abbreviated Task 1.  Candidates create two consecutive lessons of a single learning segment and complete written commentary in which they respond to various prompts regarding Task 1.  Candidates learn about academic language functions and language supports in the Integrating Reading and Writing Across the Content Areas course. They learn about differentiation approaches in the Diverse Learners course as well as providing supports for all learners.  These skills are evaluated in Task 1. Next, candidates revisit these skills as they develop abbreviated Task 1 and Task 2 examples in their Content Area Methods course. Formative supports continue during the student teaching semester as candidates learn more about assessment and focus on these supports for Task 3 – Assessing Student Learning. Teacher candidates also receive support as they pull together all three tasks.

In this study we sought to determine how formative supports affected online and face-to-face teacher candidate learning outcomes as measured by edTPA.  The research questions that guided this study are:

  1. Were there differences in mean and summative performance for online and face-to-face teacher candidates who were provided formative supports for edTPA? 
  2. Were there differences in mean and summative performance for online and face-to-face teacher candidates who were not provided formative supports for edTPA? 

edTPA data were collected for one year for all program completers of the graduate certificate in teaching program in the Department of Middle, Secondary & K-12 Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  This program utilizes online and face-to-face delivery platforms. The sample for both program structures included all program completers during the 2014-2015 academic year.  The sample included 84 teacher candidates who were enrolled in student teaching, the final course of the program. There were 42 completers in both fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters. Subgroups were created for online and face-to-face teacher candidates who either received or not receive formative supports during their graduate licensure program.  These subgroups are as follows: nF2F/Formative=23, nF2F/No-Formative=19, nonline/Formative=31, nonline/No-Formative=11.  Steps were taken in data analyses to control for group size differences.

Data Analysis

Data analysis revealed several findings.  Candidates who completed the 100% online program without formative assessments scored the highest of the four subgroups.  Face-to-face candidates who did not receive formative supports had the lowest summative and mean edTPA scores.  While formative assessments helped on campus teacher candidates, it had the opposite effect for online students.  All mean scores were within the upper limits of national recommended professional performance standard range for edTPA scores (37-42) as determined by SCALE. Statistical significance was found on four rubrics: Rubric 4: identifying and supporting language demands, Rubric 6: the learning environment, Rubric 7: engaging students in learning, and Rubric 8: deepening student learning.  When no formative supports were offered, face-to-face candidates had lower scores on edTPA and as a result were less prepared to teach.  On one of the four significantly different rubrics (Rubric 6: learning environment), face-to-face candidates who engaged in formative tasks throughout their program received higher scores than online candidates who did not. Teacher candidates completing the online licensure program without formative supports scored higher than all other candidates on two-thirds of the edTPA rubrics. 




About edTPA. (2014). Retrieved from

Chung, R. R. (2008). Beyond assessment: Performance assessments in teacher education. Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(1), 8-28.

Hibbard, M. (1996). A Teacher’s Guide to Performance-Based Learning and Assessment. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Moallem, M. (2004). Alternative and Performance-Based Assessment in Online Learning: Analysis, Framework, and Strategies to Systematically Assess Student Learning. AECT Conference, Chicago, IL.

Osborn, L. & Neill, J. (2005). Assessment in Today’s Online Learning Environments. 19th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. University of Wisconsin Madison.

Sweet, D. (1993). Performance assessment. Office of Education Consumer Guide, September 1993(2).