Discussions with groups of teachers focusing on assessment that goes on in their classrooms can quickly lead to some basic questions: What is really worth knowing? What is worth teaching? What counts as knowing? What is competence? What is excellence? How does a particular piece of work reflect what a student understands and is able to do? After conducting classroom assessment professional-development programs with teachers, staff members at TERC (Love, 1999) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, concluded:
When done well, a discussion by teachers of students' endeavors can lead to deeper understandings about individual students and can provide information about the quality of assignments, teaching strategies and classroom climate. Perhaps most important of all, it provides a rich professional learning opportunity for teachers. (p. 1)
This section articulates an agenda necessary to enhance these professional perspectives and to improve these skills. There is no single and clear sequence in which the various issues, skills, and perspectives that are entailed might best be explored and understood in teacher development. A variety of components will be called into play, sooner or later, in any rich program of professional development that starts from a focus on formative assessment. The order in which they arise may well depend on the particular interests and starting points of the teachers involved.
Any comprehensive professional-development program associated with improved formative classroom assessment corresponds closely to the framework for formative assessment itself. That is to say, professionaldevelopment activities need to address establishing goals for student learning and performance, identifying a student's understanding, and articulating plans and pathways that help students move towards the set goals. In addition, assessment-centered, professional-development activities need to attend to providing feedback to students, science subject matter, conceptions of learning, and supporting student involvement in assessment.
Clarity about the purposes and goals being pursued in and through the curriculum is essential. Learning how to establish these goals is an important step to improving assessment in one's classroom. In inquiry