Date of Award

Winter 12-27-2018

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Mitchell Bruce

Second Committee Member

Shirly Avargil

Third Committee Member

Jon Shemwell


While there is widespread agreement that effective formative assessment supports student learning in science, the knowledge teachers need in order assess learning remains sparsely studied. In 1999, Magnusson, Krajcik, and Borko (MKB) proposed that Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK, Shulman 1986, 1987) is a distinct knowledge domain that synthesizes three base domains that include science subject matter, pedagogy, and context. The MKB model identified Assessment Knowledge as one of five components of PCK. Since 1999, several studies have used the MKB framework, but have left Assessment Knowledge underdefined. In 2012, Avargil, Herscovitz, and Dori proposed a revision based on empirical study, putting Assessment Knowledge outside of and above PCK. This empirical study seeks to clarify the theory and definition of Assessment Knowledge by investigating the knowledge teachers use when planning and carrying out formative assessment in their classrooms. Methods used in this study are grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006), phenomenology (Groenewald, 2004), and case study approaches (Yin, 2017). The data gathered to inform the study include multiple cycles of interviews with four teachers, observations of classroom teaching and assessment, and classroom artifacts including student work. In this thesis, case studies from two formative assessment cycles are presented and discussed. We found that in the context of teaching with new science materials, teachers relied on diverse knowledge to inform their assessment decisions. Orientations, a component of PCK according to the MKB model, influenced assessment decisions in ways that align with the MKB framework. But other aspects of how teachers’ PCK influenced assessment decisions can be better described using a modification to the MKB model that was introduced by Park and Chen in 2012. How professional knowledge shaped assessment decisions differed across cases, showing that interactions among the domains and components of professional knowledge are complex. In each case, the goals of assessment were for teachers to increase their Knowledge of Students and Knowledge of Instruction, which are both components of PCK according to the MKB framework. But the knowledge gained by teachers through the assessment process differed in the two cases. Lack of alignment across knowledge domains and components constrained learning in one case, while alignment supported learning in the other. One implication of these findings is that practicing the alignment of assessment tasks can be a pathway for teachers to develop their professional knowledge as they synthesize multiple knowledge domains and components, and test and reflect on their decisions. Another implication is that refinement of current theoretical frameworks may be needed in order to better illustrate the shaping role of orientation as well as the complex influencing relationships among the knowledge domains and components. This study motivates additional case studies to understand factors that shape how knowledge domains and components interact, as well as further investigation of ways to support teachers in developing alignment across the domains and components of their knowledge.