Decisions and Tensions: Summative Assessments in PBL Advanced Placement Classes
Cooper, Susan Elizabeth
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This study examines how teachers navigate tensions between communicating expectations for college level work and student motivation as they determined summative grades in an AP Environmental Science course. Semi-structured interviews and a think-aloud protocol were conducted while teachers in poverty-impacted urban high schools determined final semester grades. Analysis centered on the ways these teachers negotiate the tensions between college preparation (rigor) and keeping students engaged (rather than discouraged) as they determine report-card grades. Teachers in the study showed differences in how they negotiated these decisions and tensions as they grappled with delivering high level content to students choosing to take on the challenge of an AP Science course. This study also revealed the tensions and negotiations involved in the strategic decisions teachers must make while balancing the rigor of a college curriculum with providing equity of access to future learning opportunities in higher education for poverty impacted students while taking on district changes in policy and new mandates regarding assessment. Findings show that given multiple competing inputs from various communities of practice, teachers structure their decision making in what they believe is in the best interest of their students so that they can go on to higher education opportunities. Looking at the multiple inputs from others also suggests the onus is on the teacher to broker what the grades they give mean to multiple groups invested in students’ grades for a variety of reasons. Implications for how to support teachers’ summative assessment practices for those who have open access to their AP courses are discussed.
- Education - Seattle