Thursday, January 26, 2012

Academic writing classes (OCW) for this semester

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I'd like to welcome two groups that I'll be facilitating this semester to the Collaborative Understandings website: English Composition II and Thesis Seminar.  Those taking English Composition II are first year, pre-service English language teachers and those taking Thesis Seminar are in their final semester of study (a BA in English language teaching).  Although these courses are designed for credit-seeking students, much of the content and work will be done through open courseware, available to learners and educators alike.  To get started, refer to the instructions below.



English Composition II


Thesis Seminar


If any educators interested in doing a virtual writing exchange, feel free to contact me!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Becoming a more connected educator

The following question was posed at 49:23 from the recording Steve Hargadon: Live Interview Tuesday, January 17th - Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on "The Connected Educator".

Question: How do you know if you are a connected educator?

Reply: ...starting to connect with other people, sharing ideas, put the students first, open-minded kind of people who enjoy learning, who get excited about inquiry, want relationships, self-directed, drawn towards collaboration, together we are more than we are as individuals, enjoy the negotiation of meaning and ideas with other people, 

I would response differently to this question.

It's not about knowing if you are connected or not, because we are all connected.  I'll rephrase a bit: You know the benefit of becoming connected if you are looking at relationships with other people; conceptualizations, educational philosophy, ideologies, theories, ideas, and other cognitive aspects; and materials used to interact with others (i.e., technologies, artifacts, etc.) in order to form the meta-cognitive insight into the affect others have on your own behavior and beliefs as well as the affect you have on others.  It's not always putting others first.  It's about realizing that helping others can have a personal benefit, which is a slightly different, yet important distinction.  It's not about wanting relationships just for the sake of it, but rather recognizing the relationships that promote learning.  A "connected" educator is drawn to making connections, not necessarily just collaborating or cooperating with others.  And although together we are more than we are as individuals, that's not the motive for becoming "connected".  It's more local than that.  It's more at the personal level and those boundary nodes that link directly back to the individual.  In a connected world, there is no "negotiation of meaning".  Businesses negotiate with each other because that's how the world works, so to speak.  Learners and teachers negotiate because there is a curriculum.  Basketball teams negotiate in order to win games.  And yes, we can learn through negotiation.  But when it comes to (professional) learning - which in education means educators who interact with whomever they choose, whenever and wherever they choose, there is no (or at least less) negotiation, only the growing and pruning of connections that aid some future benefit (i.e., connecting ideas, people, and artifacts as dynamic assemblages).  Meaning is also a sticky word.  I'd rather say associations or patterns that people recognize that stimulate inferences.  

When it comes to learning, it's not about the practice or program, but rather it's about the person.  As an educator, I put myself first when it comes to my own professional learning.  

So, I'll restate the question: How to you become a more connected educator in ways that benefit your own professional learning?





Saturday, January 21, 2012

Open content licensing for educators (#OCL4Ed)

Open content licensing for educators is a free online workshop that kicks off tomorrow, designed for educators and students who want to learn more about open education resources, copyright, and creative commons licenses.


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Sunday, January 15, 2012

CU Live: Creative Ways to Design a Teacher Education Program

Join us Wednesday for a Google+ Hangout to discuss Creative Ways to Design a Teacher Education Program.  We're using the Twitter hashtag #TESOLOER for those who do not wish to participate in the hangout.  The session will be recorded and will be uploaded to this post and website.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Formative Assessment that Transforms the Individual

Points to consider from yesterday's Google+ post...

What's the argument for capturing formative assessment?

Summative assessment attempts to measure learning and formative assessment improves learning.  Improving how teachers learn should be a larger part of the evaluative (judgmental) process.  Too often, a teacher's evaluation is limited to a numeric representation used to form judgments on the knowledge, skill, and disposition of an individual.  Instead, teacher evaluations should rely on iterative and reciprocal interactions (among all stakeholders) based on qualitative and quantitative data where assessment and instruction and support cycle through more fluidly.  We need more than a single snapshot of evidence of one's competence, we need an entire photo album.    

If we look at USA educational history, which has employed mostly summative evaluation systems, we see great success in the past. 

Is the USA successful because they relied on mostly summative evaluation systems?  Can we claim great success when there has been virtually no increase in college entrance exam scores yet great advancement in the way we communicate using recent technologies developed over the last 40 years?


Business and other institutions seek entrants with "21-century skills" such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, etc.?

I question whether relying on summative assessments (as an end measurement) properly allows one to make the accurate inferences on the level of "21-century skills" a learner has.

What proof do we have that formative-heavy evaluation is the right direction.  Pedagogy isn't an exact field of study.  Are we sure?  Are we taking educated guesses based on environmental situations and observations?

Since pedagogy and learning are not exact fields of study, we're better off referring to the current literature on formative assessment and the notion that individuals learn in different's out there.  Formative assessment does not rely on direct cause-and-effect relationships to teaching and learning, but rather provides the means for greater interaction around the learning process.  Sometimes it looks not only at the act of learning (via a myriad of evidence), but the act of becoming as well.  If properly aligned, formative assessment can impact standardized reporting (Transformative assessment).    

What is the right mix? How do we back it up as sound?

Asking what's the right mix is like asking what's the best way to do it.  It's not about practices or programs, it's about people.  There is no magic formula.  It's about having honest, open, and ongoing discussions where the learner links content, context, and conduits together in a meaningful and relevant way.

Gates is one of the biggest innovators of all time ... could his foundation be wrong? 

I'm questioning the relevance of the report.  And I would question anyone who claimed they knew how others learn best.  Research-based learning principals are fine as long as they are being discussed within a local context. 

...isn't most summative evaluation really just an end result or snapshot of mostly an ongoing formative process which leads to the numerical grading process?

No.  Evaluating one's learning requires the collection of qualitative, quantitative, and relational data in parallel (not serial) that provides a cycle of planning, implementing, and reflecting on and in practice.  This needs to be done at the classroom, school, school-district, state, and federal levels simultaneously where reports like those generated by the Gates Foundation become just one small piece of the puzzle.

For example, at ITESM, teachers are heavily evaluated on the numerical advancement of students between their beginning TOEFL scores and their ending TOEFL scores for the period. While this indeed is summative evaluation .... it really doesn't explicitly highlight the formative assessment that took place between the periods .. it isn't captured by the system at all like summative evaluation is (numbers are number after all, nice and concrete). But, that doesn't mean that formative assessment and learning hasn't happened. It has. Most formative record-keeping is done informally by the teacher, some of which really can't be documented.

Why not evaluate English language teachers by collecting a mass of evidence: TOEFL scores, eportfolios, OER projects, openly shared experiences in online communities, workshops, conferences, most significant change stories, etc.  We should make formative assessment explicit and then judge it along with summative forms of assessment as well.  I would personally place more emphasis on formative than summative assessments, making formative assessment more formal.  Ideally, it's entirely about formative assessment - if quantitative reporting were done in a more timely fashion, it too could be treated as formal assessment (i.e., dynamic assessment).  When quantitative reports are issued months, perhaps years after the actual event, one has to question it's relevancy.  It's like trying to get over a cold by performing an autopsy.  I'd prefer to take care of one's health by taking preventative measures and take one's temperature periodically. 

So even though the Gates Foundation is focusing on the numerical end point, isn't it really an indication of how well the teachers formative evaluation skills are in getting to that point?

​No.  It could mean that formative assessment is working extremely well but is not being reflected in the report, or it could mean that formative assessment has no impact on the change process.  Thinking in terms of order, produce the quantitative information first, then immediately follow it up with a lot of formative assessment.  Then continue formative assessments with period quantitative reporting (take the temperature).  Formative assessment needs to be based on past experience (problems) and should be included in the evaluation process.  What's important is that there is not a lot of lag time between the quantitative and qualitative reporting - should be like days or weeks instead of months or years. 

We spend a lot of teacher training time on formative stuff. Either a teacher gets it or does not get it (this has been my observation experience as a teacher trainer). And, I think that mostly gets reflected in the end result ... which should also include some formative project work too. So even though something looks and smells like summative, my feeling is that, to a great extent, the summative is a leading indicator of a teachers formative learning and evaluation skills.

My experience has been different.  I see that teachers understand things by degree - I hardly ever classified it as teachers get it or they don't.  Same goes for students, come to think about it.  Teachers come from different perspectives, have different experiences applying their knowledge, have different levels of empathy or feelings about their craft, etc.  So the learning process is taking them from where they are currently to a new "place".   To measure the degree of understanding teachers have, different types of timely data are required: quantitative, qualitative, and relational.  I would argue that the longer it takes to produce a quantitative report and then act on it, the less formative it becomes.  Another risk quantitative reports have in terms of their formativeness is that the results can be too general.  I have a hard time accepting the report from the Gate Foundation as being formative.  But certainly a school-generated quantitative report has the potential to be formative.

I kind of want to believe that Dan Pink got it RIGHT. Which teachers do you think will do better with students nowadays? Those with left-brained or right-brained predominances? Perhaps this is key to the end measurable result? How does a teacher's cognitive processes lend to productive formative assessment and ultimately summative assessment?

​I don't view people as being left or right brained...they're all "full-brained" to mesmiley.  I don't consider learning styles or other personal attributes in isolation.  I watch to see how teachers adapt to their environment by trying to  facilitate particular networked topologies that link information, context, delivery.  Adapting to one's environment not only is cognitive, but physical/material, and affective.  Reporting procedures needs to add value to the process of adaptation.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Assessment that Transforms the Learner

How Do We Include Students In The Formative Assessment Process? - Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo - Education Week Teacher.

I was asked to elaborate on a tweet related to how we can include students in the formative assessment process.  But since I had to sign into Educational Week (EW), I opted to post here instead - I don't enter into EW enough to remember my password.

We include students in the formative assessment process by listening to them.  We listen by taking part in informal discussions, instructional conversations, Socratic Method, academic prompts, performance tasks, quizzes and exams, eportfolios, etc.  We listen to them not relying only on a limited number of forms of assessment, but rather through the collection of many different types of evidence that allow us to make better inferences on student achievement.

In one sense, instruction and assessment are separate in that formative assessment should make instruction better (Popham, 2008).  Formative assessment should inform and transform.  How might that happen?  First, after having collected enough evidence from the students, teachers should determine when instructional adjustments are necessary.  This might include spending more time on a particular unit, given students more time to complete a task, or reviewing concepts that students seems to still be missing.  Second, teachers oftentimes need to guide students in making adjustments to learning tactics.  This might mean advising them to better organize their study habits or providing them reading strategies that help them read more effectively and efficiently.  Formative assessment through instructional and learning tactical adjustments then emerge at the classroom level and at the school level; that is, it's oftentimes a top-down and bottom-up change initiative.

In other sense, the line between instruction and assessment becomes harder to define.  As we are constantly assessing learners for understanding, slight instructional or tactical adjustments might be less noticeable or less defined.  An example might be simply checking homework only to find out that students might need a quick review before continuing on to the next unit.  Or perhaps a student was unaware of a change in personal learning tactics that transformed over three or four months.   

Besides relying on the different forms of assessment, we listen to our students by simply talking to them; asking them, perhaps on a weekly basis, the following:

What did you find easy this week?

What was difficult for your this week?

What did you enjoy doing?

What did you not enjoy doing?

How would you prefer to interact this?

What type of additional help do you need?

If these questions are asked frequently enough, there will be time to make minor adjustments throughout the course so that learners receive the support they need.