Sunday, October 24

Evaluating Learning in PLE/Ns


Assessment and learner evaluation presents a probem similar to that which exists between hard and soft systems:
Apparently, hard processes = learning management systems and standardized testing  ans soft systems = no clear way to ascertain the quality or depth of learning. Therefore it doesn't require an extraordinary leap of faith to assume that an effective system of learning would maintain a balance between hard processes, soft processes and technologies which would reflect the needs within a particular context.

My focus therefore is to explore "how do we measure what matters, and, to whom does what we measure matter? 
There's been much discussion about the differences between testing, evaluating and assessing. The terms appear to frequently be used interchangeably. As I understand it, testing applies to assessments which have definitive yes/no answers e.g yes/no and multiple choice tests. Evaluation enters into a greyer area where judgements are made by the evaluator. For example, a teacher may use testing to identify  a students understanding of mathematical processes, however taken into account would be their daily interactions, conditions at the time ongoing assessments

Reading Keith Hamons post generated a new perspective for me.
All statements about any student are provisional. "This is John, an exemplary A student, and this is Mary, a problematic F student" are both provisional, and do not say all that can be said or measured about either John or Mary or about ourselves for measuring and saying such things. That to teach any thing, we must define that thing, but our definitions are always provisional, always subject to change, usually sooner rather than later.
I'd not really thought about it in this way before. I had of course considered the element of subjectivity with respect to many forms of assessment. However, the pigeonholing of a student can have great impact on not only future learning but on life. Many students are hamstrung by low expectations formulated by uninformed educators. While tests can generate a peer comparative 'score' and are situational, the evaluation of attitude and values is completely subjective and can be more reflective of the personality dynamics existing between teacher and student. There  is a real danger of students only living up to what appears to be expected of them.

"Our educational systems are overwhelmingly informed with the myth of the individual. Our testing regimes, grading regimes, pedagogies, epistemologies, and learning theories are all based on the individual, ignoring the role of the network or rhizome, in the creation and management of knowledge"
I have observed that the vocal MOOC contibutors are comfortable pursuing their own leads which supplement the course readings and generate discussion. Consulting the course agenda in order to guide thinking processes has been helpful and to see how the topics relate to one another - a learning destination.

In my field of primary education, diagnostic testing prior to the commencement of a unit represents a gauge of sorts. The comparison of diagnostic and summative assessment results represents a yardstick. Formative assessment is also often included which allows for an ongoing evaluation of both student progress and pedagogical effectiveness. The program is 'supposedly' dynamic, continually revised for maximum productivity.Hmmmm......

With a MOOC, the strengths and weaknesses of the guinea pigs are unknown, and the facilitators are unfamiliar with the learners' normal learning paradigm, so perhaps the best assessor of learning in this case would be the learners themselves. If the MOOC were to re-create a 'traditional' pedagogical stance with facilitator as imparter of knowledge, I would doubt its effectiveness, however this has not been the case and I would suggest that the only form of attempted manipulation appears to have come from a small minority of participants with a personal agenda.

September 28, 2010

“One of the things we know about learning is that learning with emotion is a far deeper experience than learning without emotion,” 
Van Sant uses the site in his courses (Technology, Entertainment, Design) This features top presenters talking about a diverse offering of topics. Van Sant believes that technology provides access to a vast array of content which possesses the potential to resonate emotionally with students in this way, however he sees barriers in the delayed response time, not being able to respond in the moment to engaging content. 

He regrets the loss of many teahcable moments
In a typical online learning environment, students react and post to a discussion board or blog and wait for a response. “I think it’s one of the downsides of asynchronous learning. You lose that opportunity for the teachable moment,” Van Sant says. “There are many positive aspects to online learning, such as thoughtful reflection. One of the things I see, the students who do not often volunteer or engage in on-the-fly discussion in a face-to-face classroom will turn around in an online environment and become significant discussants. Not that they’re lazy in the classroom; they just don’t process information on the fly quite like somebody else.”

“The goal isn’t to cater to all eight individual multiple intelligences. It’s about providing, over the range of a course, the opportunity for people to learn and express their learning within their strengths and not always have to operate within their deficits. To do that, you need variety. You need redundancy. You need multiplicity. You need different ways of sharing and knowing. … What happens here is working in a much richer environment. It is a challenge for us to understand that in this rich environment we’ve got to become masters of that domain.” 

Rob Kelly, Online Education, Online Teaching Challenge: Creating an Emotional Connection to Learning, part 2,September 30, 2010

 With online learning being a relatively new medium the jury will be out for some time yet as to the effectiveness of this type of study, particularly in a largely unstructured course such as a MOOC. From what I have read and heard, the main features essential to good practice seem to be: dialogue(both sunchronous and asynchronous); learner commitment; facilitator support and a strong degree of learner autonomy.This autonomy impacts on, and is impacted by, time management, content choices, pace, interface navigation and assessment.
Perhaps all indications lead to rethinking our notion of 'individual' as a discreet individual to the notion of a Janus like personality, two pronged, a mashup of a unique humaneness and a network rhizome !

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