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Keywords:

  • formative assessment;
  • teacher cognition;
  • teacher education

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative exploratory study was to identify factors that influenced prospective and experienced secondary level science teachers' reasoning as they evaluated or selected tasks to formatively assess their students' understanding of scientific concepts. The analysis of the coded written responses revealed two categories of factors that influenced the teachers' reasoning: (1) characteristics of the task and (2) characteristics of students or the curriculum. Characteristics of the task related to qualities of the task regardless of the learning environment in which it would be used, such as the level of student thinking demanded by a task. Characteristics of the students and the curriculum related to the learning environment in which an assessment task would be implemented, such as students' abilities to complete the task. Both prospective and experienced teachers' task evaluations were influenced by the same factors related to the characteristics of the task, although their interpretations of the meaning of each factor varied. In addition, experienced teachers' task evaluations were more likely than prospective teachers to be influenced by factors related to characteristics of students and the curriculum. The findings are discussed as a conceptual framework that presents the identified factors along three different dimensions: (1) the influence of task, student, and curriculum characteristics, (2) the influence of expectations for success, and (3) the influence of teaching experience. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 45: 1113–1130, 2008