Learning community

How can assessment and instruction live as one? (#eduquestion)

[caption id="attachment_1148" align="alignright" width="300"]Attribution: https://flic.kr/p/d43JtU Attribution: https://flic.kr/p/d43JtU[/caption]

During I have a question #2 (see video below), several questions were addressed (using the Twitter hashtag #eduquestion); one in particular that I posed and one which I would like to discuss in more detail here was, How can assessment and instruction (and not accreditation) live as one within an online course?

When I say, accreditation, I mean receiving grades, diplomas, certificates, etc. in formal education; and badges, certificates of completion, etc. in informal education.  Albeit important, I'd like to exclude the topic of accreditation from what I'd like to cover in this post and also will not need to make any real distinction between informal and formal education as I think my overall thesis applies to both.

TeacherRefresher presents a concise outline (PowerPoint presentation) of the differences between assessment of learning, assessment for learning, and assessment as learning.  If assessment and instruction are to live as one, some combination of these three types of assessment usually exists.

In an online learning environment, assessment of learning might be receiving constructive criticism from one's peers or outside experts (not just the instructor, trainer, facilitator, etc.) pertaning to what a learner understands (content) and can do (process and product).  Making the learning process as transparent as possible yields (i.e., through online blended learning scenarios) more dynamic interaction where assessment of learning can more effectively take place.

Assessment for learning can be linked to assessment of learning by allowing the instructor to reflect on learner progress to see what future changes in learning designs or instruction are needed, and what learning tactics are needed on the part of the student.  Perhaps a new video or different problem-solving activity is in order.  Maybe a subsequent review or more didactic learning session is required.  It's been my experience that any changes to a learning design and/or learning tactics be considered as a negotiation between instructor (trainer, facilitator, etc.) and learner through ongoing reflection (i.e., reflection-in/on-action).

Assessment as learning takes summative and formative assessment one step further by allowing learners to begin the process of matching individual goals with institutional or organizational goals (e.g., syllabus, curriculum, company mission/vision statements, etc.).  For instance, online courses with the various social media tools available allow learners to more actively design their own rubrics (as assessment tools), which in-and-of-itself gives learners a chance to interact and think critically about how they learn best, and how to best approach their individual weaknesses.

In all three examples - assessment of learning, assessment for learning, and assessment as learning - instruction is "baked in".  Many of the open, online courses that I have experienced (we used to call them distance courses before MOOCs came along), learners really had to take it upon themselves to see how these three types of assessment fit within their own learning experience - course facilitators tended to lecture and attendees conducted discussions as they pleased.  In formal educational settings, assessment (along with accreditation like grades etc.) is typically forced onto the learner, which too tends to interfere with finding the right mix of this assessment trilogy.

Regardless if in a formal or informal educational setting, recognizing that assessment and instruction are not mutually exclusive but rather reciprocal and iterative throughout the learning experience does away with the antiquated notion that instructors must first teach learners (or students must learn something first), then assess what students (theoretically) have learned later (i.e., two separate and isolated processes).  Online learning, with its inherent potential for interaction and transparency, embraces assessing of/for/as learning so that both intentional and incidental learning can emerge in more effective, effecient, and engaging ways.

What do you think?  How does assessment and instruction intertwine within an open, online course?


Letting Go in the Classroom

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For many teachers, letting go of both classroom control and well-designed lesson plans seems extremely difficult. It also seems like a really bad idea. But teachers need to "embrace the messiness that is learning," says master teacher and author Robyn Jackson.

Connectivism and Relational Trust

leadership is about relationship, and nurturing of relationship with others in the networks (Suifaijohnmak's webblog)

I agree to a degree.  It's about making the connection then developing the connection in a way that builds trust.  This is intuitive and would make sense when working with the same individuals over time.

But I also learn by occasional connections I form online.  For example, I might get some information from one source with no strong relational affiliation, then take that information to a more relational-trust network or community and build on the idea.  In fact, there are many possible learning scenarios that do not include connections that are built solely on relational trust.

I still see the relational trust as a community-based perspective whereas the individual and the role the individual plays within a variety of communities as a connectivist perspective.  Again, communities based on social capital and relational trust (Serviovanni, 2005) certainly have merit, but I do not think it's a complete look at how we can learn best - growing connections that are transactional, collaborative, and/or relational, all of which are dependent on the individual and the context.

A video on the importance of relational trust:

Why Learning Online is Better Than Offline

This past Sunday I unfortunately missed a webinar titled Why Learning Online is Better Than Offline (Lasse, 2010), but was able to view the recording - which I would recommend.  Lasse begins by making a distinction between online and offline learning in terms of control (i.e., people, context, demands/goals, learning on demand, etc.). At 25 minutes, 29 seconds, the following comment was made:

of course learning happens in all environments, but if we are talking about intentional learning of a topic, a comfortable environment is critical   

In a formal, more traditional classroom, the impression is often that students are learning what we as educators are teaching through intentionalism.  But how often is this really the case?  Take a simple conversation for example.  How frequently do intentional conversations take off on non-intentional directions (this webinar is an example of that, but more on that later).  It's impossible to predict with certainty what implications will result from what we say, whether we are having a simple two-way conversation or one-to-many exchange as we commonly find in the classroom.  This is precisely why formal education will always have a gap between the written and taught curriculum.

The second aspect of this comment deals with the need for a comfortable environment in order to learn.  This notion overlooks one important aspect of learning which is diversity.  Sometimes a difference of opinion makes us feel uneasy, uncertain, uncomfortable, etc., but a counterargument is exactly what is needed in education.  We expect this in academic writing, why not in other aspects of education as well?  I've learned more when I've had to question my own beliefs, thoughts, or understandings which invariably did not include a comfortable environment.  On the contrary, it was the uncomfortable environment that motivated me to reflect on my own understandings or lack thereof.      

As mentioned above, I got the impression that the "intention" of the presentation was to have more of a debate as to whether online or offline learning was better.  Instead, the conversation shifted to educational term definitions, web tool recommendations, and general teaching questions that had little to do with the debate.  Not saying this is a bad thing, only that learning is by-and-large not an intentional act, but rather an implicature (whether correct or not) based on prediction.

And the discussion continues...

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CCK08: Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft

This week made me think about Sergiovanni´s distinction between Gemeinschaft (community) vs. Gesellschaft (society) as ideal extremes and Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbell´s treatment of dealing with diverse classrooms through an individualism/collectivism dichotomy.  The latter, I believe, parallels more with George´s definition of connectives in that individual efforts and identity are not compromised for the sake of the group´s goals and objectives.  Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbell´s deal with how "individualistic" attributes of US culture are different than the rest of the world, seen more as a collectivist culture.  They go on to explain how teachers can account for these differences and thus take advantage of them in creating more of a dynamic and productive learning experience.  The main difference between these two perspectives is that Sergiovanni speaks to participants as a whole in shifting the paradigm while Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbell deal more with accepting and working with the dichotomy in a practical sense (less about actually trying to shift the paradigm).

CCK08: explanation of connectivism from Bauwens

Bauwens mentions here the following:

1. ...a transmission from someone that has the knowledge with someone who doesn't have the knowledge.
2. The value becomes in your experience in tapping the network  rather than the particular relationship between teacher and learner.

Doesn't this first statement put more value on the importance of content while the second statement places more value on the "pipe"? And isn't the teacher part of the network? 

Building a learning community within a class requires that clear objectives be established (i.e., desired results that learners understand), learners have the chance to self-assess, and they collaborate with others (1).  Adhering to a connectivism learning theory (based on the description in this video) leaves me to believe that it's more important to simply "tap the network" and let the learners create their own network set (I wanted to say interpret) that guides them to some intended practice.  But teachers are looking for a type of practice that provides the evidence needed to accurately evaluate the learner (based on the class objectives), so learners must be able to distinguish between good and bad content (i.e., understanding, knowledge, skill, process, or concept) as they prepare for their future or ongoing practice.  This is where I think the teacher plays a critical role as part of the learning network as a whole.