Preparing Preservice Teachers for edTPA
Vitale, 10-17-13

Preparing Preservice Teachers for Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) by Broadening Teacher Education through Consensus Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Michael R. Vitale, East Carolina University

At the present time, over 20 states have adopted or are considering the adoption of the Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) model developed at Stanford University as a measure of teaching proficiency of novice preservice teachers. In doing so, the intention is to add successful performance on the edTPA as a requirement for licensure or certification upon completion of teacher education programs in Colleges of Education. If the present model in North Carolina is representative, the edTPA, which consists of a variety of discipline-specific variants, would be administered through Colleges of Education to senior preservice candidates (i.e., students) at the end of their undergraduate program.

The critical role in the use of the edTPA as a measure of teaching proficiency at the completion of teacher education programs places a new requirement on Colleges of Education. In order ascribe any lack of teaching proficiency as measured by the edTPA to individual students, Colleges of Education must initiate, document, and establish the validity of explicit components within their teacher education programs that provide students with the foundation necessary for successfully addressing the edTPA.

Despite methodological flaws identified by Vitale (2012), the overall intent and structure of the edTPA model has the potential to serve as a credible measure of an important aspect of teaching proficiency. The edTPA requires students to design, develop, implement, and analytically evaluate a 3-5 lesson/hour learning segment on academic content representative of their course of study (e.g., elementary, middle grade content areas) in authentic K-12 classroom settings. The focus and guidelines of the edTPA model incorporate a number of important instructional dynamics, including the coordination of content focus, student learning objectives, instructional strategies, and student performance assessment. Within edTPA, prior learning serves as a foundation for lesson development. Additionally, edTPA guidelines also require providing appropriate feedback to students, evaluating the learning sequence effectiveness based on student performance, and suggesting analytically-based recommendations for future lesson revision. Within the edTPA process, preservice teacher (i.e., candidate) performance is evaluated through a combination of written and video documentation.

Issues in Preparing Students for edTPA Success

Despite its potential value as a measure of teaching effectiveness, the edTPA task faced by teacher education candidates as novice teachers in developing a 3-5 lesson/hour learning sequence is a daunting one. First, the edTPA emphasis on the use of rubrics as a guide for lesson design is misleading. While the rubrics provided are those used in the evaluation of teaching effectiveness, as a group they are not sufficient for guiding students through the overall instructional task in which they are to design, develop, implement, and analytically evaluate the 3-5 lesson/hour learning sequences. As an additional problem, the “upper levels” of edTPA rubrics are unfocused with regard to the core edTPA design task. The result is that to the degree novice candidates focus across the 5-level edTPA rubrics, their attention is directed toward lesson characteristics that either are not relevant or not addressable within a 3-5 lesson/hour learning sequence (see Vitale, 2012). At the same time, edTPA rubric components that detail lesson/teaching flaws for edTPA evaluators do clearly specify aspects of the learning sequence that students must address. Overall, however, the edTPA rubrics do not provide candidates with the detailed form of guidance necessary to design and develop instructionally sound lessons.

Second, in considering the guidance needed by novice teachers in preparing edTPA tasks, the discipline of teacher education can only address the development of edTPA learning sequences in a fragmented fashion that is incomplete. While teacher education programs certainly could provide preservice teachers with practice experiences in addressing edTPA-like tasks, simply engaging in such practice tasks even with the support of faculty is not adequate either for edTPA preparation or, more broadly, for the general form of teacher preparation ultimately applicable to effective professional practice. For example, in the absence of a comprehensive approach to instructional design and development that would allow the edTPA task to be approached as an application of what has been learned within their teacher education programs, preservice education students are forced to address many aspects of the edTPA-required task in a trial and error fashion.

The purpose of this paper is to address key aspects of the preparation of teacher education students in a manner would provide them with a comprehensive foundation that results in successful edTPA performance. In doing so, the paper first presents a rationale for integrating the discipline of teacher education with the broader scope of interdisciplinary consensus research perspectives. Second, the paper outlines the edTPA-required task from the standpoint of interdisciplinary instructional systems design. Third, the paper overviews key findings and principles from interdisciplinary research that are directly relevant to the design and implementation of edTPA tasks. Fourth, the paper suggests how such an interdisciplinary theme could be embedded within a traditional teacher education program in the form of a series of developmental components. Finally, in summary, the paper offers teacher educators a challenge to draw upon such evidence-based interdisciplinary perspectives to strengthen the preparation of preservice teacher educators for edTPA mastery.

A Rationale for Integrating Teacher Education and Related Interdisciplinary Perspectives

The rationale for the integration of teacher education and relevant interdisciplinary perspectives is simply that the discipline of science has repeatedly shown that advances in one discipline can be accelerated by incorporating links from other related disciplines. With regard to teacher education, these related disciplines are: (a) instructional systems development (ISD), (b) cognitive science, (c) computer science, (d) instructional design, and (e) applied learning theory (behavior analysis principles). The goal of the present paper is to present specific perspectives from related disciplines that not only have implications for contributing to the preparation of teacher education students for edTPA success; but also for addressing the broader perspective of developing proficiency of beginning teachers in which edTPA skills are considered properly as a subset of broader teacher functioning.

An Instructional Systems Perspective Applied to edTPA Tasks

Figure 1 shows a flow-diagram that represents eight key phases that must be addressed by candidates in completion of any edTPA task.

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Phase 1. In Phase 1, the content focus of the lesson is tentatively selected. The selection is tentative because whether it can be addressed within the scope of a 3/5 lesson/hour lesson will depend on the status of student prior knowledge. Since the edTPA task is to be conducted in a specific classroom setting, the effectiveness of previous classroom instruction in engendering student mastery of such prior knowledge is a critical edTPA factor.

Phase 2. In Phase 2, explicit (measureable) conceptual learning goals are identified and the status of student prior knowledge is determined. Phase 2 is presented as an iterative process in which the final set of learning goals for the selected content are “time scaled” within the 3-5 lesson/hour edTPA instructional lesson framework. Operationally, such a “time scale” is defined as the amount and distribution of instructional time needed to implement the edTPA learning sequence beginning with student mastery of prior knowledge and ending with student mastery of the content to be learned. Again, this is a critical phase in the lesson development process because effective edTPA instruction is dependent on the degree of student prior knowledge on which the edTPA learning sequence is based (i.e., if students do not have the necessary prior knowledge, then a edTPA lesson requiring such prior knowledge cannot be effective).

Phase 3. In Phase 3, once the content focus and measurable learning goals are finalized, assessment strategies for monitoring student achievement progress during learning and for determining student mastery of learning goals are developed.

Phase 4. In Phase 4, a curricular sequence is constructed that represents how student progress is developed from a state of prior knowledge to mastery of learning goals. As an iterative development process, such a curricular sequence is framed in terms of an ordered set of instructional activities in which students would be engaged, along with the supporting teaching strategies and materials to be used. Once finalized, the curricular sequence should also include embedded strategies for assessing student learning progress.

Phase 5. In Phase 5, the learning sequence is implemented using the ordered components developed in Phase 4. As a key part of the implementation process, student progress should be monitored on a continuing basis and, depending on student performance, the learning sequence adjusted in “real time” as necessary. In addition, as a part of the Phase 5 of the edTPA task, self-observation notes should be recorded for analytic use in developing recommendations for revision in a later edTPA phase.

Although not part of the edTPA task itself, it is important to recognize from a systems development perspective that a large amount of such lesson “adjustments” implies that the learning sequence implemented requires significant iterative refinement and re-teaching within a new classroom setting for validation.

Phase 6. In Phase 6, a criterion-referenced, end-of-unit test should be administered to assess student mastery of learning goals.

Phase 7. In Phase 7, information in the form of student performance patterns and trends obtained in Phases 5 and 6 and complemented by self-observations and notes should be used as a basis for reflective analysis about the effectiveness of the learning sequence. Based upon this reflective overview, recommendations should be developed for possible future revisions of the learning sequence.

Again, although not part of the edTPA task, an instructional systems perspective would require the recommended revisions to be completed and the learning sequence to be field-tested with a new group of similar students, an underutilized but important teacher practitioner skill.

Phase 8. In Phase 8, all of the edTPA reporting text and video tasks should be reviewed and edited in final form as necessary.

In general, each of the eight phases address the essential components of the edTPA development/ implementation/reflection process that can be subsequently detailed in a manner that can serve as an explicit framework/guide for novice teacher education students.

Interdisciplinary Perspectives for Strengthening edTPA Task Performance

Although the preceding section provides an overall operational framework for addressing edTPA tasks, it does not provide the specifics within each of the major categories. For example, given that the content focus, learning goals, and means for assessment of learning goals have been finalized, building a multi-lesson edTPA unit would require identification of the specific activities, strategies, and materials to be used.

Certainly, the substantive content within teacher education programs would provide a wide range of possible approaches for incorporation into edTPA tasks that are credible. However, from a complementary perspective, evidence-based approaches from interdisciplinary research also provide a means for strengthening the effectiveness of edTPA tasks in ways not found within the discipline of teacher education.

In this section, a representative set of such interdisciplinary perspectives which could be applied directly to different aspects of edTPA tasks is reviewed. This section is followed by a summary of specific examples of how such interdisciplinary approaches based on these perspectives could be incorporated in edTPA tasks as a means of facilitating successful edTPA performance.

Interdisciplinary Models Potentially Relevant to edTPA

This section presents aspects of several interdisciplinary models potentially useful in different parts of the edTPA task.

1. Classic instructional systems development (ISD) models.A representative example of classic ISD models is that of Dick, Cary, and Cary (1982). In many ways, the operational dynamics of ISD models are similar to those of outstanding teachers in that both are “expertise-oriented” and, as a result, very hard to capture in a comprehensive manner. Some important differences between highly-skilled teaching processes and ISD models are that (a) the ISD goal is to develop instructional materials that can be used effectively by others and (b) ISD incorporates an explicit process for iterative refinement of instruction initially developed until it is validated in terms of teacher usability and student performance outcomes using criterion-referenced assessment methodology.

The ISD process consists of three distinct stages that involve different types of iterative refinement. In the first stage, the four major components of the development process are specified in terms of (a) content to be learned, (b) measurable performance objectives, (c) assessments for measuring objectives (entry/student progress/mastery), and (d) curriculum sequencing. As a major part of the development process, these four components are iteratively refined until they fit together in a coherent fashion. In the second stage, learner activities, instructional strategies, and materials are identified. Again, these choices are refined until they fit well with the components developed in stage one. Finally, the instructional system is field-tested and, based on student performance outcomes and other implementation data, the components developed or identified in stages one and two are refined iteratively until they reach criteria for effectiveness based on student performance mastery.

One ISD modification suggested by Dick et al. is to structure the iterative field-test process sequentially so that initial efforts only involve a few or even a single (learner) participant before increasing the size of subsequent fieldtest samples. This approach allows the anticipated initial refinements which tend to be larger in scope to be made in a resource-efficient manner.

Figure 2 shows an overview of the Dick et al. ISD model. In inspecting Figure 2, it is important to note that the model is designed for a scale of curricular development that is far larger in scope than the 3-5 lesson/hour edTPA task. Essentially, Figure 1 presented earlier is a edTPA-focused version of the Dick et al. ISD model.

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As a summary focus with regard to educational implications and edTPA, ISD models provide the means for clearly linking content focus, instruction, and assessment in a manner that is consistent with the edTPA emphasis and makes the resulting instruction conditional on student entry behavior (or prior knowledge).

2. Computer-science-oriented knowledge-based models.The development of knowledge-based architectures in computer science was a methodological advance that allowed the separation of the substantive information used in software applications from the control structure and the computer-person interface (see Luger, 2008). In artificial intelligence (AI) applications involving expert (consultative) systems and intelligent tutoring, the knowledge-base represented the experiential knowledge applied by experts in problem-solving (i.e., expertise) or the academic knowledge (i.e., curricular understanding) to be learned through an intelligent tutoring system. In particular, because the actions of an intelligent tutor were always framed in terms of a particular state of knowledge being learned, such forms of instruction became known as knowledge-based instruction.

The educational applications of knowledge-based instruction always require a careful explication of the core concepts and concept relationships to be learned and their use as a framework for all instructional activities. In this context, it should be noted that knowledge represented as IF/THEN “production” rules could involve concepts and concept relationships and/or conceptually-driven actions, a distinction equivalent to that between declarative and procedural knowledge. From a knowledge-representation perspective, production rules involving relationships among concepts and/or conceptually driven actions provide a learning foundation for both making predictions about events which occur or for understanding events which have occurred (e.g., predicting that a heated substance will expand or offering heating as a plausible reason why a substance did expand).

Figures 3, 4a, and 4b illustrate aspects of knowledge-based instruction. In Figure 3, the major idea is that the organization of content-area knowledge in a manner consistent within the logical structure of the discipline results in a coherent framework of the core concept relationships to be taught and learned. In turn, all instructional activities and strategies are explicitly related to the overall core concept structure.

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Figure 4a shows an instructional architecture common to intelligent tutoring models that illustrates how different components of instruction are organized from a knowledge-based perspective. In Figure 4a, teaching strategies, learner involvement, and student assessment are all conditional on the knowledge that is to be learned. For example, the identification of learner knowledge deficiencies in relation to the knowledge-base serves as the key instructional mechanism for determining what should be taught at a given point in time (i.e., instruction always begins with assessment of the state of student prior knowledge relative to what is to be learned). In turn, Figure 4b shows how the same elements of instruction, undertaken without an explicit reference to an underlying knowledge-base cannot reflect an explicit curricular structure of what is to be learned (i.e., different aspects of instruction may be unfocused and/or incoherent).

As an example, Figure 5 illustrates the application of knowledge-based instruction with regard to a multi-day science lesson on evaporation. As Figure 5 shows, mapping and then sequencing the learner activities on the conceptual framework (i.e., knowledge structure) insures that all different instructional activities form a coherent framework for meaningful instruction.

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As a summary focus with regard to educational implications and edTPA, knowledge-based instruction amplifies the idea that building a conceptual curricular framework is of paramount importance in insuring that instruction is coherent for learners.

3. Cognitive science models.The cognitive science models presented here are consistent with the idea of knowledge-based instruction because both emphasize the role of conceptual knowledge in learning and applications. However, in doing so, cognitive science models emphasize the dynamics of knowledge representation in learning and knowledge utilization by focusing on the role of knowledge as the basis of “expertise” (see Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). In their work, Bransford et al. noted the distinctions between the performance of experts in comparison to novices. Essentially, unlike novices, experts are proficient in organizing and accessing conceptual knowledge with automaticity in problem solving and other applications. Unlike novices, experts do not apply formal reasoning processes to address applications or to solve problems. Rather, experts simply know what to do “automatically” in a manner that implies accessing and applying the conceptual knowledge they have gained previously through extensive experience.

The underlying dynamics representing the distinction between the performance of experts and novices was addressed by Anderson (1987) in the 1980’s who pointed out that problem solving by novices logically requires the use of heuristic (step-by-step) procedures that may or may not yield a problem solution while, in comparison, experts just know what the problem solutions are. Because of the differences in the knowledge-base of novices (fragmented minimal knowledge at best) and experts (rich conceptual knowledge), Anderson noted that experts are able to perform by drawing on in-depth knowledge.

In considering the question of how such advanced conceptual knowledge is developed, Anderson (1982) pointed out that the dynamics of cognitive skills development to the point of expertise/automaticity follows the same processes that parallel the development of motor skills. In this regard, the development of both kinds of conceptual skills require the instructional components of modeling, formal guidance, and extensive practice/review distributed across time. As part of this process, Anderson also explained how such forms of instruction are required for the transformation of declarative into the forms of procedural knowledge evidenced by experts.

As a summary focus with regard to educational implications and edTPA, curricular mastery is best considered a form of expertise in which conceptual declarative and procedural knowledge is developed to the level of automaticity, a process that necessarily involves extensive immediate and distributed practice.

4. Instructional design models.In comparison to classic ISD, instructional design models incorporate components that more directly reflect learning principles in a manner that has an instructional/ teaching focus. In scope, however, instructional design models are consistent with and are able to incorporate different aspects of ISD, AI/computer science, and cognitive science models.

The strongest example of an instructional design model is the Direct Instruction Development Model (DI) which consists (in part) of a variety of highly detailed teaching practices (Engelmann & Carnine, 1982). What makes the DI model unique is that all of the components in the design model are described as detailed procedures that are specific enough for use by teachers in instruction. The first group of DI development components considered here involves focusing instruction on how to teach core concepts by using patterns of examples and extensive teacherstudent (or teacher-class) interaction. Included are procedures for (a) introducing different types of basic concepts (i.e., relational [e.g., larger vs. smaller], non-relational [e.g., full vs. empty], multi-dimensional concepts) and action skills (e.g., adding sets of numbers), (b) combining concepts and/or action skills to form concept relationships, (c) sequencing the instruction of elements that form a set but which are not conceptually related (e.g., the association of letter symbols to letter names), and (d) developing hierarchical concept structures (e.g., animals and types of animals), and (e) developing advanced cognitive/thinking skills by transforming explicitly guided student performance into covert skills at the level of automaticity.

The second group of DI development components consists of guidelines for instructional program development which include (but are not limited to) procedures for (a) expanding the scope of initial/introductory teaching of concepts to authentic concept application settings, (b) scheduling of instruction using “multi-track” design in which different topics are addressed in the same lessons in a parallel but independent manner across multiple lessons before the topics are combined, and (c) the scheduling of immediate, short term, and cumulative review.

In emphasizing the focus of instruction on core concepts, the DI development model is consistent with curricular research findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) which showed the importance of emphasizing core concepts in instruction (Schmidt, McKnight, & Raizen, 1997). Specifically, TIMSS found that the science and mathematics curriculum in high achieving countries had three key characteristics: (a) a conceptual focus on core concepts, (b) a conceptually coherent structure for organizing core concepts and subconcept relationships, and (c) the careful (explicit) articulation of core concepts across grade levels.

In the study, TIMSS international performance measures found that the U.S. was not a high achieving country in mathematics or science and that the U.S. curricular frameworks met none of the three characteristics of high achieving countries. Rather, TIMSS findings described U.S. mathematics and science curriculum as highly fragmented (i.e., “a mile wide and an inch deep”) and noted that U.S. mathematics and science textbooks- rather than facilitating greater curricular coherence- magnified U. S. curricular fragmentation.

Figure 6 shows an example of a coherent curricular framework for an instructional program focusing on core concepts in earth and physical science that was developed using the DI model. Designed as an introduction to a college earth science course, an area in which textbooks are encyclopedic rather than conceptually coherent, the concept map illustrates how the concept of convection explains fundamental earth science phenomena occurring in the atmosphere, earth, and oceans and, in turn, is itself explained by core physics concepts (i.e., how matter reacts to heating, cooling, force, density and pressure). In turn, within the instructional program itself, the DI teaching procedures resulted in the development of in-depth core concept understanding by learners while minimizing the necessary instructional time (i.e., a total of 35 lessons).

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Figure 7 illustrates a second concept map representing how a year-long course in U.S. History also developed using the DI development model that uses the core concepts of Economic/Human Rights Problems, Societal Actions, and Action Effects as a conceptual framework for relating and interpreting the dynamics of otherwise disparate historical events traditionally presented to learners only in the form of a sequence of events ordered by dates.

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Complementing Figures 6 and 7 are two additional curricular concept maps that show core concepts arranged in a coherent structure (Figure 8- Earth Climate, Figure 9- Biology). Each of these curricular maps could be used as a framework for a combined application of ISD, cognitive science, instructional design, and DI development principles that would result in a form of highly coherent instruction that would meet TIMSS standards.

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As a summary focus with regard to educational implications and edTPA, consistent with ISD and other interdisciplinary models, a strong approach for developing optimally effective instruction is to use a core concept structure for instruction that is both coherent and articulated across a grade or grade levels and within which embedded DI teaching procedures are employed to maximize learning effectiveness.

5. Applied learning theory- Behavior analysis principles for learning and motivation.Classic behavior analysis principles (Skinner, 1953) provide a substantive and methodological foundation for all learning applications. From a methodological standpoint, the idea of “functional-definitions” serves as a powerful standard for the conceptual foundations of any discipline that addresses behavioral phenomena (i.e., simple or complex behaviors that are observed or defined through observations). In behavior analysis, a functionally defined concept is one that dynamically ties a class of procedures to the effects of that procedure. For example, in behavior analysis, the functional definition of the term “positive reinforcement” is a class of procedures (presentation of/access to a reinforcing event contingent on a behavior) that has the effect of increasing frequency of occurrence of that behavior.

Since such functional definitions are dynamic in the sense that they always link a procedure and associated effects, such definitions provide operational guidelines for the application of the knowledge represented by them. In this sense, functional definitions are analogous to the use of production rules in computer/cognitive science in that they provide practitioners with the capability to implement a procedure to engender an effect on behavior or to identify analytically plausable reasons why a behavior is or is not occurring. As a result, having an understanding such basic principles can provide support to practitioners addressing behavior problems they face from a preventative or a remediation standpoint.

With regard to substantive aspects of behavior analysis principles, several provide practitioners with useful perspectives. First is gaining an operational understanding of the concept of response-contingent reinforcement (positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement as the removal of negative events) as a means of increasing behavior occurrence and punishment (direct punishment, removal of positive events as punishment [time-out]) as a means of decreasing or eliminating behavior). Within this context, understanding negative reinforcement that may evolve into avoidance processes and punishment are aversive-control dynamics common to many classroom settings. In contrast, explicit positive procedures for establishing desired classroom behavior (e.g., student engagement in instruction, learning outcomes) and for eliminating inappropriate behavior (i.e., time-out/ punishment) are not well understood and, as a result, under-utilized by teacher practitioners.

Complementing the ideas of reinforcement and punishment in behavior analysis is the concept of stimulus control and transfer of stimulus control (fading). In this context, the idea of a “stimulus” is simply a term used to denote “events”. Limiting this example to positive reinforcement, a behavior comes under stimulus control when it is associated conditionally and procedurally with positive reinforcement. So, students may be positively encouraged (via positive reinforcement) to work cooperatively in small groups on a classroom project but to cheer as loudly as possible when attending a school sporting event. However, more important are behavior analysis principles relating to “transfer” of stimulus control from one “event” or “condition” to another. Although the concept of “scaffolding” is typically used to denote such transfer scenarios in teacher education, the underlying behavior analysis principles provide a foundational basis for the dynamics involved for optimizing such transfer processes not only for behavior itself, but for initial building and elaboration of concepts in learning settings.

From the standpoint of classroom applications of general motivation practices based on behavior analysis, two approaches are useful. The first is based on work by Premack (1965) whose research focused on explaining the conditions under which an event either could be reinforced by other events or itself serve as a reinforcing event. Specifically, Premack investigated the conditions under which one event would serve as a reinforcing event for another and the conditions which would reverse the relationship. On a simplified basis considered in a classroom setting, Premack’s work (see Wasick, 2004) showed that (a) more preferred activities would always serve as reinforcers for less preferred activities and (b) such relative preferences could be determined by controlling access to an activity relative to free-access conditions to increase its reinforcement value. For example, if a child liked to spend 2 hours a day reading, then limiting the accessibility of reading to 1 hour per day would make reading a more preferred activity when used (i.e., made available) as a reinforcer. The second application is based on work by Medland (Medland & Vitale, 1983) who developed patterns for teacherto- student verbal statements referencing student behavior for reinforcement of behavior or for motivation of desired behavior. In Medland’s system, complete verbal reinforcement statements always consist of three elements: (a) a recognition of the social or academic behavior displayed by a student (or group), (b) a positive status/change/improvement with regard to the behavior or a positive characteristic of the behavior, and (c) a naturally occurring consequence of the behavior.

In considering these statement components, the three types of naturally occurring events that can be referenced as consequences are: (a) sensations/emotional changes (e.g., positive feelings), (b) newly structured world (i.e., something new produced through student work), and (c) access to desired events/activities. In turn, such natural consequences can referenced as applying to (a) an individual or group of students or (b) what the student has done for others (e.g., peers, teachers, parents). In such statements, the behavior that is being reinforced is explicitly referenced by the teacher. And, given the behavior, the positive change/improvement or, alternatively, a positive behavioral characteristic that is observed and referenced by the teacher in the verbal statement must necessarily reflect student prior and present performance.

An example of a verbal statement a teacher might say is: John, this is the third day in a row (improvement) you have gotten all of your work finished (behavior). I know that makes you feel proud of yourself (consequence). Or: Martha, you read every word clearly (behavior) for the first time (improvement). Soon you will be able to read the books you want to take home (consequence). Although these examples seem stilted, they are very effective when delivered to students in a sincere and informal manner in a classroom setting.

Complementing verbal reward statements, Medland also developed a format for “challenge” statements to motivate future student behavior. Although the emphasis is different, the elements of challenge statements are related to reinforcement statements. In challenge statements the elements presented by teachers are: (a) stating the desired future academic or social behavior, (b) identifying a possible future consequence resulting from the behavior, and (c) engaging the student in a simple commitment challenge. Unlike reinforcement statements which reference behavior that has occurred, in challenge statements teachers identify the desired future behavior and the possible future consequences. Then a challenge component is added that requires a commitment response from the student (e.g., You did it yesterday, can you do it today? or Mary did it successfully, can you do it?). An example of a challenge statement is: John, if you can get all of your work done on time and it is correct (desired behavior), you will earn an A for today (future consequence). Can you do it? (challenge).

In general, Medland’s verbal reinforcement/motivation patterns include all necessary elements to be effective from a behavior analysis perspective. In addition, his system does include more elaborate applications of positive verbal statements such as building positive student attitude/self-confidence and recognizing student progress in completing components of more complex tasks involving hierarchical or sequential learning.

As a summary focus with regard to educational implications and edTPA, behavior analysis principles and applications provide an understanding of what-to-do, how-to-do-it, and why-do-it in a manner that underlies positive approaches to classroom learning and motivation. Although the degree to which students are engaged in the tasks in a learning sequence is not emphasized in edTPA, it is a necessary requirement for implementing an effective edTPA learning sequence.

Specific Applications of Interdisciplinary Perspectives to edTPA Tasks

The following identifies at least one major application from each of the preceding interdisciplinary areas for possible use in strengthening effectiveness of a edTPA task.

  1. ISD. The ISD approach could help provide an overall framework for lesson segment development, including goal analysis and different uses of criterion-referenced assessment.
  2. Computer science/AI. Explicit representation of conceptual knowledge to be taught and learned could help provide a framework for coherent learning sequence design.
  3. Cognitive science models. Cognitive science models could help focus instruction on core concepts, concept relationships, and the role of practice in building automaticity (or proficiency). However, within edTPA 3-5 lesson/hour learning sequences, the cumulative effect of practice is limited.
  4. Instructional design models. Instructional design models could help provide explicit strategies for introducing and broadening the scope of understanding of concepts and concept relationships in instruction along with guidelines for implementing high-efficiency, multi-track curricular design (i.e., allocating instructional time to teach multiple concepts per lesson repeated over several lessons). In addition, the use of “propositional” concept maps (e.g., Figures 5-6-7-8-9) could be highly useful in instructional design and implementation as learning support tools.
  5. Applied learning theory- Behavior analysis principles for learning and motivation. Although not an explicit part of edTPA, the use of verbal reinforcement/challenge statements on a consistent basis for individuals/groups could help facilitate student engagement in instruction in a manner that establishes positive attitudes toward and self-confidence in learning.

Establishing an ISD Thread in Teacher Education (With Emphasis on edTPA Tasks)

The goal of embedding an ISD thread in teacher education would be to prepare students for successful performance on the edTPA while broadening their preparation for their initial teaching positions. To be implemented successfully, such an ISD thread could be “embedded” in a coherent/developmental way as “modules” within selected courses across the 4 semesters that comprise the Junior and Senior years.

The overall design of the ISD Thread in the form of such modules would focus first on mastery of the critical components necessary for learning sequence development and then, with subsequent guidance on integrative lesson development applications, to prepare students to design and field-test 3-5 lesson sequences similar to those required by the edTPA model.

The specific structure and sequencing of the ISD Theme(Module) components is outlined below. In considering these, the component structure assumes that teacher education students have the content knowledge understanding necessary to engage in the sequence of activities.

Mastery of Key ISD Components

The following ISD components are intended to provide a foundation for subsequent edTPA practice exercises. As key edTPA components, these would be addressed independently in a modular fashion by embedding them as activities within teacher education classes.

Module 1- Curriculum content analysis. Curriculum content analysis would focus on starting with a specific instructional standard or content topic and separating (parsing) it into conceptual constituents that can be sequenced for instruction. Primarily, in the context of edTPA tasks, a strategy for use by novice teachers conducting such analyses would be to define what student performance outcome(s) would indicate mastery of the standard or concepts to be learned. To do so, novice teachers would perform the mastery tasks while reflectively identifying through self-observation what knowledge and skills are necessary to perform the task successfully. Once this is accomplished, then the identified knowledge and skills can be transformed into a guide/framework for instruction in which such successful performance can be modeled and then used to guide students in performing the task successfully. However, if the resulting performance task is too complex for such a modeling/guidance process to be applied effectively, then the mastery task can be separated (i.e., parsed) into components to which such a modeling/guidance process can be applied. The result of such a recursive process is the establishment of a framework for what should be taught and in what sequence.

Module 2- Criterion-referenced test development. Given a specific content standard or topic, the focus of this component is to engender proficiency in developing criterion-referenced tests to assess student understanding/mastery. The development of criterion-referenced tests always requires explicit “domain specifications” that clearly describe the performance students must display for mastery and the scope or context over which such performance is to be displayed. The development of such tests therefore requires the development of specific test items that are representative of the range of student performance and student performance settings. Although there are a number of options for scoring criterion-referenced tests, the most instructionally-relevant scoring scheme is to develop items that distinguish students who understand the content tested from students who do not and score performance on the items as pass-fail.

Module 3- Constructing propositional concept maps as guides for instruction. Figures 5-6-7-8-9 are all examples of propositional concept maps. By definition, in propositional concept maps, all concepts (usually nouns) are connected or linked (usually verbs) so that each concept-link-concept forms a complete sentence or proposition (i.e., noun-verb-noun). In addition, propositional concept maps are organized hierarchically so that core or big ideas are placed on the top of the map, subordinate concepts below, and illustrative examples on the bottom (see Figure 5). When well-constructed through either an iterative individual or group process, the resulting maps provide a coherent perspective that represents the knowledge to be taught and learned.

Module 4- Ability to demonstrate use of DI teaching algorithms for concepts and concept relationships. As noted previously, DI teaching algorithms consist of procedures for using patterned sequences of positive and negative examples to teach concepts, concept-skills, and hierarchically-structured concepts/skills. The purpose of such algorithms is to facilitate the introduction of such conceptual knowledge in an unambiguous and time-efficient fashion.

Module 5- Proficiency in recognizing student achievement using verbal reinforcement/feedback statements.This module would focus on the use of the specific verbal reinforcement (and challenge) statements developed by Medland to provide positive feedback to students as they progress through different stages of any learning task.

Use of the Preceding ISD Components to Develop Multi-Day edTPA-Style Learning Segments

Once teacher education students have proficiency on the preceding five modules, they are well-prepared to address the process of edTPA lesson development. The following activities are integrative in that they imply proficiency regarding the preceding five modules or alternative lesson design apporaches. Additionally, the sequence of lesson development activities described below starts simply and then evolves into the more complex activities required of edTPA tasks. As in the preceding section, the following edTPA development activities would be embedded within appropriate teacher education courses.

Integrative Activity 1. In this activity, the preceding ISD components would be used as a framework for developing a 3-5 lesson sequence on a specified topic in a manner consistent with major edTPA requirements (e.g., coordinate content focus, instruction, and assessment; providing evaluative student feedback, reflective analysis). As part of this development process,canditates will necessarily have to conduct preliminary research to determine the status of prior knowledge for the students they plan to teach. This development task could be replicated as an assignment in different teacher education classes with individual or pairs of students. Therefore, the final instructional unit developed could be an individual or pair assignment.

Once the initial unit is developed, the next step is to field-test the lesson with N=1 students. This will provide information needed for revision. Upon completion of the necessary revision, the lesson should be tested on another N=1 student. The purpose of N=1 field tests is that such tests are minimally intrusive while providing important experience in lesson design and iterative refinement.

Upon completion of the task, students should prepare a brief report on the revisions and on the field-test mastery performance of the students on criterion-referenced tests before and after the revision.

Integrative Activity 2. In this activity, the preceding five ISD components would be used as a framework for developing 3-5 lesson sequences on specified topics in a manner consistent with major edTPA requirements (e.g., coordinate content focus, instruction, and assessment; providing evaluative student feedback, reflective analysis). Again, as part of this development process, canditates will necessarily have to conduct preliminary research to determine the status of prior knowledge for students they plan to teach. This development task could be replicated as an assignment in different teacher education classes with individual or pairs of students. However, the final instructional unit developed in preparation for edTPA should be an individual student assignment.

Once the initial unit is developed, the next step is to field-test the lesson with a small group of students representing a classroom. This will provide the information needed for revision. Upon completion of the necessary revision, the lesson should be tested on either another small group in a demographically similar classroom. The purpose of the two-phase small-group/classroom field-test sequence is to provide experience in iterative refinement.

Upon completion of the task, students should prepare a brief report on the revisions and on the field-test mastery performance of the students on criterion-referenced tests before and after the revision.

Summary and the edTPA Challenge

The adoption of the edTPA as a requirement for licensure (or certification) of preservice teachers offers a significant challenge to Colleges of Education with undergraduate teacher education programs. The potential of the edTPA to engender systemic changes in teacher education programs is not because it provides the equivalent of a “snapshot” of teaching quality. Rather, it is because the edTPA-required task is an application of instructional development/design methodology that typically is not addressed as such within teacher education programs. While certainly individual faculty could work supportively with a small number of students to guide them through the forms of edTPA practice tasks represented in Interactive Activity 2, an important question is whether such an approach would be scalable on one hand and what professional growth benefits would accrue to the students participating in such an experience that would be transferrable to their future as teacher practitioners. Essentially, from a candidite perspective, capturing what is essentially the application of faculty expertise to edTPA-like tasks without the guidance of a formal ISD development model would be difficult to accomplish.

While there is no doubt that teacher education faculty could provide effective guidance for a limited number of students, the same cannot be said for the discipline of teacher education itself. Certainly there are aspects of the teacher education literature that are relevant to preparing preservice teachers for the edTPA task. However, at present, there is no way to fold the interdisciplinary perspectives relevant to successful edTPA performance presented here within the teacher education literature. Rather, this paper would argue the scope of the interdisciplinary perspectives presented are far more general with regard to conducting the mini-instructional design/development tasks required by edTPA. As a result, the elements of the teacher education literature relevant to edTPA can readily fit within the scope of the interdisciplinary perspectives presented here. Addressing the issue of preparing candidates for the edTPA task by linking the formal teacher education literature to an interdisciplinary ISD approach does raise systemic issues regarding the potential integration of the two disciplines in a manner that best meets the scientific standard of parsimony.

The final question and challenge addressed here is if the modular and integrative activity structure presented in this paper is implemented, how could the modules and integrative activities be mapped into an undergraduate teacher education program in an efficient and effective manner. In considering this question, it is important to recognize that the edTPA model would have variants for different teacher education programs. So, the incorporation of a set of modular emphases and interactive pre-TPA activities are not likely to be the same in each program area. From a systemic standpoint, however, there is no doubt that an emphasis on edTPA will require strong initiatives in Colleges of Education for preparing their preservice teacher education students to successfully accomplish edTPA tasks.

At the same time, with the recognition that the educational implications of the interdisciplinary perspectives presented in this paper are far broader than simply addressing edTPA requirements, an important question for the field of teacher education is whether the interdisciplinary research findings presented here and other more recent related interdisciplinary research can be incorporated into the teacher education literature and, eventually, into teacher education programs.


(The following references are not comprehensive. Rather they should be considered as “markers” showing the original sources/dates for the interdisciplinary perspectives presented in the paper. These dates show that a majority of these perspectives date back between 20 and 50 years. Note also- the Dick et al. and the Luger citations are textbooks with multiple editions- but their initial editions were 1982 for Dick et al. and 1992 for Luger. While there is substantially more recent work in each area, it is important to realize that the interdisciplinary perspectives do represent long-standing consensus research findings that have been available for some time but not accessible through the teacher education literature.)

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