Supporting the Technical Requirements of the Teacher Performance Assessment Protocol

Pete McCauley
Elizabeth Finsness

The Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) is a nationally available assessment of teacher candidates’ readiness to teach. The assessment focuses on the impact the teacher has on student engagement and learning. The assessment is modeled after the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) performance assessment for experienced teachers and draws from research on effective teaching. More than 27 states are in various stages of implementing the TPA as an assessment of candidate performance. Minnesota and five other states are national leaders in the adoption and implementation of the TPA in teacher education.

TPA At The University Of Minnesota
Initial licensure candidates complete the TPA as a required part of their teacher preparation program at the University of Minnesota. Teacher candidates experience elements of the TPA throughout their preparation program and then complete the full TPA as a culminating assessment during their student teacher experience. Program faculty and clinical supervisors advise candidates on the expectations of the TPA and support their completion of the assessment. Program faculty consider the candidate’s performance on the TPA as one assessment among several that lead to a recommendation from the University for the candidate to obtain a teaching license in Minnesota.

TPA Scoring Process
National scoring of the TPA is conducted by an external agency. Candidates submit their TPA electronically and trained, certified scorers in the candidate’s specific subject area assess the performance on 12 five-point rubrics. At the University, the performance will be assessed formatively in courses and as a summative assessment within each program area.

Technology Challenge
The TPA requires that candidates demonstrate how they are “Engaging Students & Supporting Learning”.  Candidates provide evidence of their ability to engage students in meaningful learning tasks and demonstrate how they facilitate students’ understanding of the content.  The artifacts submitted include video of teaching and written commentary. Each program discipline (such as English Education, Science Education, etc.) has slightly different video requirements. The challenge, however, in supporting our teacher candidates with technology resources was consistent: How could we provide resources, support, and instruction in order to help facilitate the teacher candidates’ recording and submission of videos for the TPA without asking them to become video production experts? We found our answer with Apple’s iPad 2 product.

Since September 2010, the College of Education & Human Development at the University of Minnesota has aggressively pursued an iPad Initiative.  “By providing iPads to all freshmen, the college seeks new ways of expanding learning beyond the classroom” ( In addition, the College decided to make a number of iPad 2 devices available for checkout through the Student Services office, primarily to serve the needs of students taking classes in the College and who did not have iPads of their own. However, because of the advanced video production capabilities of this device, it also serves as an excellent resource for candidates looking to complete the video portion of the TPA.

Prior to implementing the TPA, the college had already been supporting student teachers in need of recording themselves for peer and instructor review. During the pilot year of the TPA implementation in 2011, we supported candidates using consumer model digital cameras with instructions and hands-on support for editing and uploading using a computer. As soon as the iPad 2 product became available, we considered it as a potentially ideal solution for our candidates.

Supported solution
Elizabeth Finsness, the TPA Coordinator for CEHD, approached the Academic Technology Services unit within the college for help in supporting the candidates’ needs for a video solution ( A group convened, consisting of Elizabeth Finsness; David Ernst, the Director of Information Technology for CEHD; Jennifer Engler, the Assistant Dean for Student Services; and Pete McCauley, Video & Media Specialist for the college. The group reviewed three different “package” options before deciding on the iPad 2 kit. The first was a Kodak Zi10 digital camera, and the second was a Canon Vixia camcorder. Both of these options would accept a wireless mic kit, and would require editing / uploading via a computer. However, using the iPad 2 and a wireless mic kit would allow candidates to record, edit, and upload video right on the device itself. The group quickly decided it would be best to support the iPad video kit because of the self-contained nature of the workflow.

A small set of accessories was identified as necessary to aid in the recording of videos using the iPad.  
  • A stand to support the iPad while recording the teacher candidate in front of the class or collaborating with students
  • A wireless lavaliere microphone (and necessary adapter) to record clear audio of the teacher speaking while giving them a hands-free experience in order to lead their class appropriately
  • A carrying case for the entire kit
  • The iPads needed to have the iMovie App installed in order to allow the teachers candidates to edit their videos
  • The DropBox app was also required to be installed so that users could upload their edited videos to an online storage system, from which they could then submit the videos for review by their supervisors and Pearson.
The teacher candidates can now check out an iPad Video Kit from the Student Services office for up to ten days at a time. The equipment checkout is administered using software called Booking Point (, which easily tracks the student checking out the equipment and ties it to their University x500 identification. After the iPad Video Kit is returned to the Student Services office, the iPad is wiped clean and re-imaged, deleting all of the previous users’ settings and passwords and preparing the device for the next user.

In support of this system, a dedicated website was published to help the teacher candidates navigate the demands of the TPA requirements ( The overall content for this site was developed by Elizabeth Finsness, with technical support materials developed by Pete McCauley. In addition to contextual information about the TPA itself, the site includes written tutorials on how to record and share video using a number of different devices including the iPad; a demonstration video on how to set up and use the iPad Video Kit; and links to other University resources for students that need help with recording and video production. We wanted to make sure that we supported the teacher candidates in their pursuit to fulfill the requirements of the TPA as best we could.

The true value of this iPad Video Kit solution lies in the self-contained nature of the protocol. Users can record, edit, compress, and upload their videos all on this one device. Until recently, this kind of requirement would demand that the teacher candidate record using a video camera, tripod, and wireless microphone, transfer the video files to a computer for editing and compression, and then upload the video files to the web as a final step. With the iPad Video Kit, there is no need to learn how to use a video camera; no dependence on another computer for editing the video; and no need for transferring content to another machine in order to share the content. Once the edited video files have been uploaded to the user’s personal Dropbox account, they live on “the cloud” in perpetuity until the user decides to delete them. If need be, the user can download them to another device in order to then upload the files to the Pearson evaluation site or other digital portfolio site; or, they can just provide links to the videos on Dropbox as needed.

There are indeed some challenges associated with this solution. For instance, not all users are well versed with the iOS operating system and need a little time to figure out how to use the iPad for recording. Batteries in the wireless mic need to be fresh every time; and there is a special adapter to connect the microphone to the iPad that can be lost easily. In addition, the process of editing and exporting videos in iMovie takes time to learn, as does getting used to the method of uploading video files to Dropbox from the iPad. However, not only do similar challenges exist when using more traditional video production tools, one could argue that there are many more challenges to a novice user.

In addition, users are often faced with the challenge of creating video files that are too big to be uploaded to the evaluation website. We have tried to avoid this by recommending that candidates export their videos using one of the pre-set choices in iMovie, but they don’t always follow our recommendations to the letter. In addition, some of the candidates have a lower level of computer literacy, which provides challenges when uploading and downloading video files to a secure storage system, connecting to a wi-fi network, and copying and pasting appropriate URL addresses.

Teacher education at the University of Minnesota currently does not include comprehensive training in the area of computer literacy. There is certainly some; but in many programs, teacher candidates are left mostly to their own devices regarding prerequisite computer skills. Without this familiarity, simple tasks such as downloading and uploading files, connecting to a wi-fi network, and understanding different file types and compatibilities can present significant obstacles when fulfilling the required tasks for completing the TPA.  Perhaps the implementation of the TPA will spur the creation of more courses or workshops on computer literacy for teacher candidates.

The iPad video kit solution became available during the halfway point of submissions for many of our teacher candidates during the spring of 2012. At the time of this publication, candidates were just completing their TPAs, so we have not yet collected formal survey data. Several candidates who were able to pilot the iPad Video Kit voiced satisfaction with the solution. Many of our school districts have invested in iPads as well and they noted that learning how to use the iPad to create video for the TPA inspired them to use this solution in their own classroom with their students when they reach their career goal – a teaching position in their very own classroom. As of this writing, the total number of candidates that took advantage of this resource has not been tallied, and formal evaluations have yet to be performed. We sincerely hope that the population served by this solution found it a helpful resource for submitting the required materials for the TPA program!

Here is a link to a short video outlining our selection of the iPad Video Kits in support of the TPA video requirements:
“CEHD: Teacher Performance Assessment - Video Support Overview”


Pete McCauley <>
Pete McCauley is the Video and Media Specialist with the College of Education and Human Development, where he assists faculty and instructors in creating and using multimedia to aid and enable teaching and learning. Since graduating with a BA in Communication from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Pete has spent many years in the film and television industry under many guises. Prior to coming to the University, Pete was a producer for the multimedia production company Dreamworld Studios in Eden Prairie MN. Pete lives in St. Paul with his wife and son and is also an active performing musician in the Twin Cities area.
Elizabeth Finsness, PhD <>
Elizabeth's role within the Educator Development and Research Center includes coordinating the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) for initial licensure candidates and collaborating with licensure and common content faculty to design rich and authentic curriculum and assessments for candidates. Elizabeth serves on the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI) leadership team. Her experience in urban and suburban Pk-12 institutions district administration includes technology integration and strategic planning. She was a TIES Minnesota Technology Leader, and conceived the Technology Integration Collaborative Teachers Initiative that earned the first TIES Leadership Team Award. Elizabeth earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Education Policy and Administration.