The Development of an Assessment for Learning Pyramid Conceptual Framework: A Case Study on Formative Assessment Pedagogy in Preservice Preparation

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Katharine E. Cummings

Second Advisor

Dr. Chris L. S. Coryn

Third Advisor

Dr. Regena Fails Nelson


Formative assessment, assessment for learning, mathematics teacher education, feedback


Research shows that assessment for learning (AfL) or formative assessment (FA) practices can have a positive impact on student learning; yet, teachers report that they are under-prepared to implement quality AfL practices. Additionally, preservice teacher preparation courses lack explicit instruction on the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to implement AfL. This three-paper dissertation builds upon the research base of FA and AfL in mathematics education and includes components that (a) clarify the constructs of FA and AfL, (b) provide a descriptive case example of how an instructor can implement quality AfL practices, and (c) highlight the nature of feedback provided by preservice teachers.

The first paper includes the findings of a systematic literature review of AfL and FA that produced the Assessment for Learning Pyramid as a conceptual framework that can help educators unpack the knowledge, skills, and practices needed to implement quality AfL. The second paper contains a descriptive case study of the use of the Assessment for Learning Pyramid as a professional development framework in a coaching context with a teacher educator. The case includes a description of the intentional implementation of clear learning expectations and student feedback, with findings from planning sessions, classroom activities, and teacher reflections. The third paper reports the results of a qualitative study designed to investigate the nature of preservice teacher feedback in the context of mathematical justification. Analysis found that feedback contained praise, clarity of representation, errors or omissions, and action oriented most frequently. Specific types of actionable feedback are described.

Student evaluation, which contains student assessment, is one of three main branches of evaluation; thus, the three-paper dissertation contributes to the fields of evaluation and mathematics education. The contributions include clarifying the constructs of AfL and FA, providing a descriptive case study that bridges theory and practice in teacher education, and lastly articulates actionable feedback in the context of mathematics. The dissertation research provides evidence that the Assessment for Learning Pyramid is a useful tool in supporting educators’ enactment of quality AfL pedagogy.


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