Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Guillermo Solano-Flores

Second Advisor

Kathy Escamilla

Third Advisor

Lucinda Soltero-Gonzales

Fourth Advisor

Kara Viesca

Fifth Advisor

Claudia Mills

Abstract

The purpose of this exploratory study was to determine the extent to which teachers are critical users of assessment for emerging bilingual students and to identify which factors affect their critical use. A critical user of assessment is a teacher who engages in critical thinking and action. Critical thinking is defined as a practice that takes place within social context that develops the skill of reasonable, reflective thinking. In this work, the notion of critical thinking operationalizes Kahneman’s (2010) model of System I and II thinking. In this model, System II describes effortful mental activity, whereas System I describes routine thinking. The conceptual framework proposes ‘critical engagement’ as an additional component, describing activities based on critical thinking.

Participants included 82 teachers. 72 teachers were surveyed, six “focus” teachers were interviewed and observed, and four teachers were only interviewed. Half of the teachers had experience in a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) educational program. The data sources were composed of interviews, classroom observations, and survey information. Data sources were organized and coded to identify the proportion of activities that represented the various components of critical thinking and action: System I, System II, and the Critical Engagement (CE) component. Narratives of the six focus teachers were developed based on the data. Trends in the survey data were identified.

Of the three components, results indicated that System II was used the least. Some teachers engaged in CE component activities more than others, showing a higher level of critical use of assessment. Characteristics of teachers who engaged in CE component activities frequently were identified to create a profile of a critical user of assessment. CLD program experience proved to be inconclusive. School, district, and state level requirements emerged as a factor with a negative influence on teachers’ critical use of assessment. This evidence suggests that a strict focus on data driven instruction disempowers teachers to act critically in their practice. This highlights the need for providing teachers with the freedom and support to develop as critical users of assessment so they can, in turn, foster habits of critical thinking in their emerging bilingual students.

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