Something Happened on the Way to Completing the edTPA: A Critical Case Study of Student Teachers’ Perceptions of the edTPA


Leila T. Heil, University of Colorado-Boulder

Margaret H. Berg, University of Colorado-Boulder


The edTPA, a culminating performance assessment of student teachers’ planning, instruction, and assessment, is currently used in 33 states, with some requiring a minimum score to receive licensure. Given the high stakes nature of the assessment, faculty adhere to coaching guidelines that do not allow them to suggest changes to narrative commentary or provide numerical feedback (Denton, 2013; SCALE, 2014). Various criticisms have been made of the edTPA, including reported reliabilities, scorer backgrounds, authenticity of teaching tasks, performing arts academic language connections, and administration by a for-profit company Pearson (Parkes, Powell, Orzolek, Garrett & Berg, 2015; Berg & Smith, 2014; Madeloni & Gorlewski, 2013; Wearne, 2014).


Over the past six semesters, our university has gathered edTPA-related data that track student teachers’ edTPA scores and experiences. Comments from others mirror those of our students, noting a link between required reflection, deeper thinking, improved teaching effectiveness and preparation for similar full-time teacher evaluations while also recognizing the quantity of time required for edTPA completion and redundancy of some prompts (edTPA/AACTE, 2015; Sawchuk, 2013).


While aforementioned sources suggest both positive and challenging aspects of edTPA completion and implementation, the number of sources that include student teacher perspectives is limited, and those available tend to emphasize positive aspects of edTPA completion. This research addresses a need for balanced evidence of student teachers’ perceptions of the edTPA.

This intrinsic case study (Stake, 1995) of Spring 2015 student teachers’ perceptions of the edTPA documents critical incidents related to edTPA completion at one university. Participants were seven student teachers with varied degree concentrations and one faculty member who taught student teaching seminar. Data were collected via focus group and individual interviews, edTPA student teacher surveys and student-instructor email exchanges. An inductive coding (LeCompte & Schensul, 2012) approach was used to identify themes. Method triangulation, external auditor, and member checks strategies (Creswell, 2013) were used.


Similar to other student teachers (edTPA/AACTE, 2015), participants had positive responses to the edTPA including planning differentiated lessons; considering the impact of unique aspects of the school community; and reflecting on classroom approaches and effectiveness. At the same time, participants had critiques of the edTPA that were germane to this student teaching cohort including aspects of large-scale standardized assessments; suggested task completion deadlines that do not align well with school program calendars; and concerns with supporting Pearson as a for-profit company. Some criticisms had an emotive or funded (Dewey, 1933) quality, noting a tension between the “de-personalized” edTPA completion experience and edTPA differentiation focus as well as impact of the edTPA on faculty-student and student-cooperating teacher interactions.


While negative perceptions of the edTPA may lessen over time, music teacher educators could initially make such critiques transparent as students complete the edTPA, which might provide a broader context for these critiques. Emotion-laden critiques may be rooted in a generational preference for learning through collaboration (Wong & Wong, 2007) and dualistic thinking (Perry, 1998). Findings indicate that the edTPA is functioning as an inquiry-based catalyst for curricular modifications and increased faculty-student discussion of policy-based topics.




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