In 2012, TPA was renamed edTPA, to emphasize the “the educative nature of the assessment for teacher candidate learning and program renewal” (Professional Educator Standards Board, 2012).
Claiming that TPA was renamed edTPA to emphasize educative features is an exaggeration. There are practical reasons companies rebrand their products.
The most plausible reason, in the case of edTPA, is that an insurance company has owned the domain tpa.com since 1993. Pearson, Stanford’s operations partner, began using edtpa.com in 2012, presumably since tpa.com was already taken. Another reason is that TPA has been used as a general term to describe other performance assessments, according to California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which uses the phrase Teaching Performance Assessment and the acronym TPA on its website. Leaving edTPA as TPA would have caused confusion and interfered with SCALE Stanford’s ability to enforce trademark and copyright provisions on their product.
Adding the prefix ed does not make an activity educative. Continuity linked to interaction makes an experience educative, according to John Dewey (1938).
Continuity refers to the principle that humans respond to experiences and learn from them. Interaction goes with continuity since humans recollect previous experiences to make predictions about the future and then adjust their behavior accordingly. Alternatively, miseducative experiences are those that “narrow the field of further experience.”
Hopefully, student teachers completing edTPA portfolios exit the process feeling ed- (rather than) mis-educated.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education.
Generally, rubrics for Task 1 and 3 are similar across disciplines and handbooks in edTPA. Examples include scales dealing with how lessons build on one another, using instruction to support learning, and eliciting student self-assessment on the learning targets.
The rubrics in Task 2 are somewhat different across handbooks since they describe specific learning activities student teachers should use in their portfolios. The exception to this is the rubric dealing with classroom management, which is the same for every discipline.
Since specific learning activities are inferred from Task 2 rubrics, the most efficient place to begin planning lessons is by examining Task 2 rubrics, and then organize learning activities that align with these descriptions. Some example activities according to Task 2 rubrics follow:
Secondary Science: Students construct a scientific argument, related to a science concept or phenomenon. Students display data to support of this argument.
Elementary Literacy: Students use a specific literacy skill, such as write to learn. Candidates determine beforehand whether students have requisite knowledge to use the skill, and also model its use.
Social Studies: Students analyze documents, events, or phenomenon and then form an interpretation. Students generate an argument from their interpretation and support the argument with evidence.
Performance Assessment of California Teachers (2010). Supporting Documents for Candidates. Retrieved from http://www.pacttpa.org/_main/hub.php?pageName=Supporting_Documents_for_Candidates
Student teachers are able to plan their portfolios around three, four, or five lessons. As long as other requirements are met, it is more efficient to write three lessons instead of four or five.
Think of your edTPA portfolio as a mini-unit. Your plans need not connect to any content that has come before or that will come after. But you do need to assess students’ prior learning and background knowledge. This can be accomplished with pre- and postassessment, but your portfolio does not need to reflect long-term learning or achievement. The portfolio is a snap-shot of what students learn over a short period of time.
Use a preassessment to describe students’ current understanding of the content (specifically the learning targets). Plan and deploy three lessons aligned with the edTPA model of teaching and learning according to your handbook. Then, conclude with a postassessment.
Planning three lessons instead of four or five will eliminate lesson writing, inclusion of additional instructional materials and it will also focus your commentary writing.
Pearson Inc. will charge student teachers $300 to score their edTPA portfolio. According to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education website, this is a “fair” price.
It could be argued that the price is fair since Pearson has to pay for scoring, training, and information technology used for collecting and storing portfolio elements. Pearson is also paying SCALE Stanford, since this group owns edTPA.
Nevertheless, student teachers don’t receive much for their money, only 15 numerical scores. There is no feedback. Suggestions for improvement, or justification for marks are absent, and most educators agree that these are basic elements to fair and effective assessment.
Pearson Inc. does give users an opportunity to request feedback, presumably from university personnel. Presenting this option is deferring responsibility. For $300, Pearson Inc. should be providing some information about why particular scores were assigned. Plus, university personnel are not allowed to make substantive suggestions for improvement, and even if they did, the portfolio has been submitted.
Since being fair is important, student teachers should request feedback. They should request it from the owner of edTPA, SCALE Stanford, or from Pearson Inc.
The Context for Learning informs the assessor about your particular teaching circumstances, such as school demographics, block scheduling, and length of class period. Write the context for learning with general characteristics in mind, and then narrow to specifics. Use the entire amount of space allowed for the Context to achieve the following goal:
- Show that you know your students well enough to plan effective lessons for them.
Examine a sample Context for Learning here.
The central focus is the long-term goal that unites the learning targets. It does not have to be accomplished within the learning segment. The central focus can be described in terms of student behavior, or it can be presented as a concept (originally, edTPA began as PACT [Performance Assessment for California Teachers] and the central focus was defined as a concept).
Nevertheless, probably as a result of standardizing edTPA, concept was renamed as central focus to appeal to a wider audiance, but the important characteristic of the central focus is to use it to unite the learning targets across the learning segment.
For example, the following Central Focus in secondary social studies serves to unite these three learning targets.
Students apply reasoning skills to conduct evidence-based research. (In this case, the goal is to apply reasoning skills, and the concept could be reasoning skills or evidence-based research).
Related Learning Targets
- Students define artifact and list three characteristics of an artifact.
- Students define inference and describe three steps to take to make an inference about a historical artifact.
- Students make inferences about artifacts and write two inferences about the people that made the artifact.
You can either begin planning with a State standard in mind or not. It is just as easy to write your learning targets, pick the central focus, and then locate a State standard that aligns with your plans. Alternatively, you can begin with a State standard, and then write your central focus and learning targets. The order doesn’t matter as much as showing that your learning targets build on one another and are united under the central focus.
Academic language is one of the more confusing elements of edTPA, because it applies unfamiliar and vague terminology to basic elements of grammar and language instruction.
One way to manage Academic Language in edTPA is to sort it into three elements, and then define each element and show how it can be incorporated into the learning target.
- Language function means the verb used in the learning target, such as identify, analyze, summarize, define, explain, conclude, justify, compare, sort, and so on.
- Language demand means the assignment or product the student makes, such as essay, paragraph, sentence, speech, lab report, reflection, play, poem, comic strip, magazine article. poster, and the like.
- Vocabulary, which includes any words the student should be able to define in order to comprehend the content of the lesson. These words may be specific to the discipline (artifact in social studies) or just general words used in school (list, characteristics, infer, analyze).
Academic language includes two additional parts, discourse and syntax. Discourse means talking. Student teachers completing edTPA don’t conduct class discussions, they conduct class discourse. Syntax is defined as grammar conventions, symbols, tables, and graphs (traditionally, most people define syntax simply as the way words are organized in sentences). Using the word syntax only matters if your students are using symbols or making tables and graphs to represent information (e.g. in science and math).
One of the most efficient ways for including Academic Language elements is to incorporate them into your Learning Targets.
For example, consider the following Learning Target for secondary social studies:
Students define artifact and list three characteristics of an artifact.
The Language Function is to define. The Language Demand is to list (on a piece of paper). Vocabulary includes artifact (social studies specific) and characteristics (general). Adding adjectives such as three enable efficient assessment of whether students have achieved the learning target.
Writing Learning Targets with 1) a verb to show language function, 2) a product to show language demand, and 3) with a few vocabulary words is an efficient way to show inclusion of Academic Language.
EdTPA emphasizes speaking and writing over other forms of communication. This emphasis means that student teachers endorsing in elective disciplines (visual arts, physical education, music) will need lesson activities, assessments, and work samples that include written or spoken elements.