When I first began the Assessment in E-Learning course, I didn't have much knowledge about formative versus summative assessments or how technology tools could be used to help assess students' learning. So, this class has helped me quite a bit in terms of educating me about how I would like to proceed with my own classes, both online and face-to-face. You can see the culmination of my work in this class by visiting my final project. There, you will see information on the college, course, and students that were the content for my project. As the project progresses, the course outcomes are provided, and four example learning objectives are also discussed, along with activities and technological tools used for assessment purposes. Along with the objectives, a concept map of the aforementioned material is found in a visually comprehensive chart illustrating the scaffolding of activities. Also, a taxonomy chart is provided to highlight the use of Bloom's higher-level thinking in the wording of the objectives.
This blog has been a wonderful way for me to reflect on the course material, and it has helped me consider how I will apply what I have learned to my own teaching.
Having spent a good part of the last two weeks putting together my final project, I can hardly believe that I have completed it. It seemed like such a daunting task when I began, but I am thrilled that I have created an artifact for what I have learned in the Assessment in E-Learning course. Being able to connect the class curriculum with my own teaching has provided me with some amazing insight into what I do that is already working, and more importantly, what I would like to improve in my own classes. Over the course of the last couple weeks, I have engaged in some exciting research about assessment and composition courses. Peter Elbow, whom I came to know years ago while I was a grad student, speaks specifically about the most beneficial way to grade student writing. I have always admired his student-centered approach, and I know that I will be thinking about adding more low-stakes assignments with fewer surface-level comments and more global commentary for students. I see a strong connection between Elbow's ideas and the cybercoaching concept I discussed in last week's blog post. Being able to guide students through their writing makes the process so much less about the product and the grade, and so much more about what they are learning and applying to themselves as writers.
Another interesting find for me was Sanford Gold's research on online versus face-to-face instruction. I felt validated as I read that instructors found their online classes to be more engaged and interested in discussing class issues than the face-to-face students. Since this semester has been my first encounter with online teaching, I couldn't agree more with Gold. My online classes have contributed to discussion in such a way that exhibits their abilities to think critically about the readings and to engage with one another on a scholarly level.
Lastly, having to address various learning styles, as well as plagiarism, as part of the project, was a very helpful component for me. Although I have always had students work on the "writing process," which certainly helps to pull in different learning styles and diffuse the possibility of plagiarism, I would like to work even more on the portfolio concept, which allows students to explore their writing through various vehicles, as well as curbs students' considering plagiarism. As discussed by Elbow and Jian, Sandnes, Huang, Li, and Law, students oftentimes cheat because they are lost or feel overwhelmed by the material. By working through each step of an assignment, plagiarism is cut down in two ways: 1) The material the students are writing about is uniquely their own, and it would be difficult to find those ideas somewhere else, and 2) The feelings of anxiety are lessened tremendously when they are coached and working step-by-step.
Ultimately, the final project has brought many issues to my attention, and I look forward to implementing them in order to work toward more student engagement and success.
Elbow, P. (1997). Grading Student Writing: Making It Simpler, Fairer, Clearer. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (69), 127-140. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
Gold, S. (2001). A Constructivist Approach to Online Training for Online Teachers. JALN, 5(1), 35-57. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
Jian, H., Sandnes, F., Huang, Y., Cai, L., & Law, K. (2008). On Students' Strategy-Preferences for Managing Difficult Course Work. IEEE Trans. Educ. IEEE Transactions on Education, 5(2), 157-165. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
Naomi Jeffery Petersen provides great advice in the essay “Cybercoaching: Rubrics, Feedback, and Metacognition, Oh My”: “The instructor must decide what and how to communicate the assessment to best serve the student’s readiness to develop further” (7). This concept of not just preparing the assessments, but also presenting them in a way that is purposeful for students really focuses on the significant role assessments play in students’ education. Dealing with each student as an individual, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach works to move students along when they are ready. For instance, through the use of cybercoaching, students work through each step of what they need to learn. Once students master one item, for example, the instructor/coach continues the coaching to move students to the next level.
As we move students through the stages of learning, rubrics are a great way to assess students because they provide a focused understanding of grading criteria. According to Petersen,“The advantage of developing a completely articulated analytic rubric that describes each criterion in concrete terms for recognizing insignificant to proficient work is that the teacher has a common language for discussing the issue with students” (8). This language should be used in the cybercoaching sessions, and it helps the student gain a clearer understanding of the assessment criteria, particularly in writing courses, where subjectivity seems to abound.
Just like cybercoaching and rubrics can helping the learning process, self-assessment helps students gain a clear understanding of how their own learning is progressing. By having to assess oneself, the metacognition of the task helps students acquire a sense of their own strengths and weaknesses and then work accordingly. Petersen clarifies, “Students are asked to self-assess their drafts by looking for descriptors that apply to their drafts. . . . The goal is to foster self-assessment and self-regulated learning” (9). This type of learning is exactly what we want students to achieve. Something that isn’t accomplished in a vacuum (only in school), but something that they will continue to do throughout their lives.
Ultimately, the goal is to help students by making learning as authentic as possible. One last way to work toward this authenticity is to provide a beginning of the course survey to let students know that we instructors are interested in them and their goals. I have created an example for a community college freshman composition course here. My objective is to let students know that I am truly interested in working with them and that I am listening intently on how the class can be significant for their goals.
Petersen, Naomi Jeffery. “Cybercoaching: Rubrics, Feedback, and Metacognition, Oh My!” E.C. Moore Symposium: "Putting Student Learning First" Indiana University Purdue University, 25 Feb. 2005.
Coming off of working on the midterm exam, this week’s task of composing four learning objectives for our course was helpful in gaining perspective and focus for what we want our students to learn. I was particularly struck by Nirupama Akella’s macro-holistic design concept, which takes the idea of chunking and turns it a bit on its ear. We have all read that “chunking” is a great idea, and it is, but we also need to look at providing students with a strong sense of why they are being asked to do smaller tasks. Without providing purpose, students may very likely feel as if they are being asked to do busywork: work that they mindlessly complete for a grade and don’t revisit. With that idea in mind, Akella reflects on Charles M. Reigeluth’s elaboration theory, which “puts the learner in the center of the learning process” (Akella). Therefore, the goal becomes not just the small tasks that lead up to the larger ones, but giving the larger idea at the beginning of a lesson so as to provide students with the bigger picture of how the content will be helpful/useful in the overall scheme of what they are learning.
The goal of teaching should be “about analyzing and addressing the needs of the learner in a macro fashion. . . . [because a] learner will always need to know the path and goal of instructions” (Akella). Hence, I foresee my class following Reigeluth’s use of starting each module with an “epitome,” which “is a large holistic comprehensive tangible example that should be positioned at the top of all weekly content” (Akella). With this epitome, students come to understand that what they are learning can be compartmentalized within the larger goals of the course. For instance, in my freshman composition course, one of the goals is for students to learn to read and analyze college-level texts and compose essays, drawing on various scholarly sources, using academic prose. I would begin each of the chunking pieces with an epitome that “enables the learner to start with a wide-angle view and then zoom in on relevant parts” (Akella). If you look at the following Assessment Taxonomy Table, you can see how each task moves toward the ultimate goal, and the progression of students’ thinking moves upward on Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy from more basic undertakings, like thinking and discussing to more complex, higher-level thinking, like analyzing and synthesizing.
Akella, Nirupama. "Macro vs. Micro? Arguing for the Whole and Not the Chunk!" ELearn Magazine, an ACM Publication. The Association for Computing Machinery, Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
This week has been a whirlwind of assessment information, focusing on authentic assessment that makes students' experiences meaningful. One way to encourage meaningful learning for students is to use the jigsaw technique. Jigsaw groups are one way to help establish meaningful peer collaboration, as each group member explores a specific area of a broader topic/theory and then educates the other group members of the findings. Group participants then compile the work into a final product that each person has had a major role in creating. By using jigsaw groups, members act as teams and work together to produce a fully-developed paper or project. According to “Amador and Mederer’s “Migrating Successful Student Engagement Strategies Online: Opportunities and Challenges Using Jigsaw Groups and Problem-Based Learning,” “Research on the jigsaw method of peer learning suggests that students can benefit more from the jigsaw group approach to learning than they might benefit from trying to master each topic by themselves, because each can focus her/his expertise; subsequent discussion centers more on overlapping themes among topics and leaves time for higher-order comparisons and critical thinking” (90). That "higher-order" critical thinking definitely helps us remember what we are asking students to do and why . . . think Bloom's taxonomy.
Benefitting from approaches, like the jigsaw, is exactly what I experienced this week. By working with my group mates, we were able to educate one another about the various pros and cons of three different electronic assessments: Google Apps, Twitter, and Pathbrite (you can see the entire project here.) I selected Pathbrite, which is an electronic portfolio for students to use. They can do many things from creating a resume portfolio with pictures, links, and videos, to working on a more class-specific portfolio as I envision for my use. I can imagine students using Pathbrite to chart the course of their writing process and also use it as a reflection tool to work through how they can become stronger. As the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) states, portfolios can benefit students in a number of ways:
Amador, Jose A., and Helen Mederer. "Migrating Successful Student Engagement Strategies Online: Opportunities and Challenges Using Jigsaw Groups and Problem-Based Learning." MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 9.1 (2013): 89-105. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
CCCC Taskforce on Best Practices in Electronic Portfolios. "Principles and Practices in Electronic Portfolios." NCTE Comprehensive News. NCTE, Mar. 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.
This past week's class has been very eye-opening. One of the things that I'm most excited about is the reading and video by Curtis J. Bonk. His “The Perfect E-Storm: Emerging Technology, Enormous Learner Demand, Enhanced Pedagogy, and Erased Budgets” really helped me to pinpoint an area that I would like to explore in my classes: the use of e-portfolios. By having students journal about their writing process, I anticipate that their view and comfort with writing could improve. Likewise, e-portfolios could be an effective element of assessment for students because I would be able to read their reflections as they work through the writing process. The reflective element of learning is such a a powerful one, and one that leads us through a more meaningful learning process.
This week we also were asked to create a mind map, something that I had never done before, so this was a great activity in terms of pushing me outside of my comfort zone. By organizing outcomes, activities, and assessments in an easy-to-read and follow manner allowed for a new perspective on this important process on which I know I need to focus. My mind map below illustrates working through a series of assignments dealing with reading, critical thinking and response, and writing.
After having taken the "Test" to determine if I was a more teacher- or student-centered instructor, I learned that I am very student-centered. All but one of my responses to questions fell under the heading of student-centered. I am also bowled over by the Online Assessment Resources, which provide a wealth of assessment information, including authentic assessments and rubrics. As a composition instructor, I particularly liked Grant Wiggins's article "The Case for Authentic Assessment" and his assertion, "To improve student performance we must recognize that essential intellectual abilities are falling through the cracks of conventional testing" because he really hits the nail on the head in terms of the lack of purpose with current assessment tools. If we want to prepare students to be successful once they finish their classes, we must assess them in ways that are meaningful. I found a couple of interesting tools at the Learning Object Repository that I can see trying out in my classes. For my developmental composition courses, I can definitely see using the Identifying Incorrect Sentences lesson. It would allow students an opportunity to review run-ons, comma splices and fragments and move at their own pace while they work through the video. Likewise, the Summary Writing lesson would also be helpful in all levels of composition. As a way to solidify the importance of summary for developmental students and understand what they've read, summary plays a major role far beyond the composition classroom. Transfer-level students could also benefit from the activity as they review the significance of summary in presenting research and others' ideas to their readers.
The more I read, the more I realize how much great information is out there. I will always be a student since there is just so much to continually learn.
The course started off with a bang the first week. There was so much great information about various types of assessments, and it was a great foundation for the coming weeks. Being able to differentiate between formative and summative assessments and also read about the "antiquated" nature of assessment in United States schools was very interesting. Beyond the reading, I feel as if the class is made up of amazing students. What an interesting array of people from classroom teachers (at various levels) to educational administrators, to those in other fields altogether. I love being able to gain feedback from such a broad spectrum of professionals. The ice-breaker activity was fun in that we had to interview a classmate, and I was thrilled to connect with Kate Carbaugh, who lives in McConnellsburg (Southern Pennsylvania) with her husband, son, daughter, and dog. Kate teaches at a middle school that is housed in a high school. She is just beginning the E-Learning certificate program, and Kate hopes that this class will help her improve and align assessments with best practices in her English, reading, and internet literacy classes. Like Kate, I, too, hope that this class will provide me with more meaningful assessment tools so that my composition students (both online and face-to-face) will gain the most from their time in my classes.
Here is a link to our class wiki, which we participated in the first week as well. It was a fun activity, and one that I could see using in a class too since it gives the students a feeling of being more actively involved in the class from the start.
Hi, my name is Lisa, and I am an English professor at a community college in Southern California. This blog is my way of tracking my progress in my Assessment in E-Learning course (EDUC 762) for the University of Wisconsin, Stout's E-Learning and Online Teaching Graduate Certificate program.