Videocamera in focus in the foreground aimed at a teacher talking to students out of focus in the background

Students, faculty explore experiences with ethics, edTPA assessments

The College of Education & Human Development created the Dean’s Doctoral Research Fellowship to recognize newly-admitted doctoral students for their outstanding scholarly accomplishments and academic potential. As fellows, they receive funding that supports their research projects and helps them become scholars who make significant contributions to their field of study. 

This issue of Research & Innovation highlights a selection of their research. 

by Claire Miller 

The new edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment) is a portfolio students submit to showcase their ability to teach in a subject-specific classroom.

Student teachers enrolled in university education preparation programs must record and submit video clips of their own teaching as part of the portfolio, which is used in the teacher certification process.

Headshot of Martha Donovan

Martha Donovan

Doctoral fellows Martha Donovan and Susan Cannon set out to study teacher candidates’ and university supervisors’ experiences with ethics in their decision making and how the edTPA plays a role.

“We wondered how we as supervisors would negotiate the tension between helping preservice teachers to reflect on their practice as they prepare to enter the field and preparing them to pass a high stakes assessment,” Donovan explained. “We also wondered how the high stakes nature of the assessment might impact the teacher candidates’ attention to dilemmas of the field versus dilemmas of the assessment.”

Donovan and her colleagues all supervise students during their student teaching experiences and have found they discuss the edTPA more often than they’d previously anticipated. In addition, students seem very focused on the assessment’s requirements and the steps they must take to create a strong portfolio, often bringing up questions and concerns during class time.

“We are concerned that this focus, especially the technical aspects of it, are a challenge to students’ perception of teaching as critical professional work,” Cannon said. “We have noticed that they are focused on meeting the technical requirements of edTPA instead of on the larger questions of what it means to be a teacher and to engage with students in learning. We think that in the future, such research may help teacher educators understand the potential ethical implications of high stakes assessments on teacher candidates and supervisors and help keep open lines of inquiry about priorities and pedagogical values in teacher education.”