Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Learning to Use Formative Assessment in Mathematics with the Assessment Work Sample Method (AWSM)
Center: NCER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Beesley, Andrea Awardee: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
Program: Teaching, Teachers, and the Education Workforce      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,497,648
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A110392

Co-Principal Investigators: Kathleen Dempsey and Anne Tweed

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop, revise, and field test an innovative professional development program for implementing formative assessments in middle school mathematics. This three-year development project will use the Assessment Work Sample Method (AWSM) to provide teachers with authentic samples of mathematics formative assessment work and an interactive, hands-on experience to increase their understanding of formative assessment and improve their practice of formative assessment. The ultimate goal is to increase students' mathematics achievement. The research team will address three primary research questions: (1) To what extent can AWSM be implemented with fidelity in an authentic education delivery setting? (2) To what extent does AWSM show promise for improving teacher practice of mathematics formative assessment? and (3) To what extent does AWSM show promise for increasing student achievement in mathematics?

Project Activities: Researchers will use an iterative design-research process in which teams of assessment expert advisors, master teachers, and content experts will work together to develop and evaluate the professional development experiences and materials. Over the three years of the project, the research team will: (1) design the professional development materials and experiences, (2) pilot test ASWM with a small sample of teachers, (3) revise the materials based on pilot test research results, and (4) field test with a larger sample of teachers.

Products: Products will include a fully developed AWSM professional development program with teacher and facilitator guides. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in middle schools in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Population: The population for this study will be a sample of approximately 30 middle school mathematics teachers and six mathematics coaches. The pilot test is expected to include six teachers and three mathematics coaches from two middle schools. The field test sample will include 24 middle school mathematics teachers and their students from four middle schools. The mathematics coaches involved in the Year 2 pilot will facilitate the program sessions during the field testing in Year 3.

Intervention: The AWSM has the following features: (a) centering professional development on authentic mathematics assessment work, (b) providing a facilitator to support teacher development from novice to expert users of mathematics formative assessment, and (c) supporting teachers in a collaborative peer review setting to facilitate peer learning around effective practices of formative assessment. Teachers participating in AWSM will meet in teams consisting of all middle-grades mathematics teachers in their schools. A facilitator will lead them through a series of 13 collaborative group discussions that will gradually move them through a process of understanding mathematics assessment work samples and the rubric dimensions, discussing and scoring anonymous samples, creating their own work samples, scoring them according to the rubric, and conducting supportive peer review of one another's work samples. The group discussions are intended to occur during common planning time, so that they are job-embedded in teachers' practice.

Research Design and Methods: The primary research method is an iterative design-research approach. After the intervention materials are developed, a small pilot test will be carried out. Researchers will develop an AWSM Teacher's Guide and an AWSM Facilitator's Guide during Year 1. During Year 2, researchers will pilot test the intervention in one school and data will be collected regarding the feasibility of implementation and participant experience during this pilot study. These data will be used to modify intervention professional development materials and experiences. During Year 3, the research team will conduct a field test to estimate the potential promise of the program for impacting the key outcomes of teacher assessment practice and student achievement. A difference in differences model will be used to estimate the promise of the intervention for improving student achievement in mathematics.

Control Condition. Participating teachers and their students will serve as their own comparison group for the difference in differences estimation of the promise of AWSM to improve teacher practice of formative assessment and increase student achievement.

Key Measures: Key outcomes include teacher use of formative assessment in mathematics as measured by the mathematics assessment work sample (i.e., samples of assessments used during the targeted curriculum unit), and student achievement in mathematics as measured by district-developed common assessments administered twice each quarter. Feasibility of implementation will be measured with a researcher-developed teacher questionnaire.

Data Analytic Strategy: Videos of pilot sessions will be analyzed to document the presence of embedded mathematics and assessment content instruction and the quality of teacher discussions. Analysis of focus groups will provide information regarding participants' reactions to and use of the program and their recommendations for increasing the likelihood that the program can be implemented with fidelity in a real-world setting. Participants' responses to feasibility questionnaires will be analyzed to examine the degree to which the participants implemented the key features of the program with fidelity. A difference in differences model will be fit to pre- and posttest student achievement data to estimate the potential promise of the intervention for improving student achievement.

Project Website:


Book chapter

Dempsey, K., Beesley, A.D., Fazendeiro Clark, T., and Tweed A. (in press). Empowering Students as Partners in Learning. In M. Murphy, S. Redding, and J. Twyman (Eds.), Handbook on Personalized Learning for States, Districts, and Schools. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Beesley, A. D., Clark, T. F., Dempsey, K., & Tweed, A. (2018). Enhancing Formative Assessment Practice and Encouraging Middle School Mathematics Engagement and Persistence. School Science and Mathematics, 118(1–2), 4–16.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Teacher Quality: Mathematics and Science Education in FY 2011.