Using a rubric for a blogging assignment

Earlier this year I gave my 3rd year students an assignment in which they needed to write a reflective blog post based on a clinical experience they’d experienced. I just thought I’d share the rubric I used to grade the assignments, as I’ve come across a few people have have had difficulty trying to assign grades to blog posts. This one below is the best that I could manage but would love to hear if you think there’s anything I could do differently.

Short notes on concept mapping

In preparation for a concept mapping assignment I ran during the course of this year, I did some reading on concept mapping, during which I made some short notes. Here they are…

Concept mapping is useful to establish relationships between ideas and has been linked to 30 % improvement in student understanding

Ausubel’s assimilation theory: Meaningful learning involves changing ones current knowledge as a result of the comprehension of new knowledge

Concept: anything that can be named / perceived regularities or patterns

Proposition: an expression of the relationship between concepts

Maps: represents knowledge using diagrams that express concepts and relationships

Linking phrases: without the relations, knowledge would not “cohere”

The most important single factor influencing learning, is what the learner already knows (Ausubel, 1968)

In the process of meaningful learning, people construct meanings for concepts and propositions based on experiences, building up their knowledge structure

Meaningful learning involves changing ones current knowledge as a result of the comprehension of new knowledge

There needs to be:

  • Differentiation of concepts
  • Superordination of concepts under more general, more inclusive concepts
  • Subsumption of new concepts into existing, more general concepts and propositions
  • Integrative reconciliation to achieve coherence and consistency

Drawing a map:

  • Helps the designer understand the problem
  • Is a creative process (new discoveries are made as the map is drawn)
  • Helps establish credibility within the team
  • The map itself offers the first chance to interject the user as a guiding concept for the product

Progressive cognition (3 levels): review at a glance → readable with some attention → deeper, richer understanding can be layered in

Drawing a map:

  1. Identify main concept
  2. List related concepts (don’t worry about organisation, importance, completeness)
  3. Draw a rough map
  4. Interview team members and domain experts
  5. Identify synonyms and instances (remove redundancy, cluster related concepts)
  6. Redraw, redraw, redraw (each time you’ll discover new connections)
  7. Get feedback from the team
  8. Repeat 4-7

Maps can be redrawn and rearranged to highlight different concepts

Choose a dominant position, use a hierarchy, different colours, etc.

Applying theoretical concepts to clinical practice

Concept map about concept mapping taken from IHMC website

I just finished giving feedback to my students on the concept mapping assignment they’re busy with. It’s the first time I’ve used concept mapping in an assignment and in addition to the students’ learning, I’m also  trying to see if it helps me figure out what they really understand about applying the theory we cover in class to clinical contexts. They’re really struggling with what seem to be basic ideas, highlighting the fact that maybe the ideas aren’t so basic after all. I have to remind myself that clinical reasoning is a skill that takes many years to develop through reflection and isn’t really something I can “teach”. Or is it?

For this assignment I wanted the the students to set a learning objective for themselves (I gave examples of how to do this, including using SMART principles of goal setting). They also needed to highlight a particular clinical problem that they wanted to explore and how they would use concepts from the Movement Science module to do this. They needed to describe a clinical scenario / patient presentation and use it to identify the problem they wanted to explore. From that short presentation, they should derive a list of keywords that would become the main concepts for the concept map.

Here’s a list of the most common problems I found after reviewing their initial drafts:

  • Many of them lacked alignment between the patient presentation, the learning objective, keyword / propositions and the final concept map
  • Many of the learning objectives were vague. They really found it hard to design appropriate learning objectives, which meant that their whole assignment was muddled
  • There were two processes going on in the students’ minds: patient management, and their own learning. This assignment was about student learning, but most of the students were focused on patient management. This was especially clear in the learning objective and actual maps they created, which all had a clinical focus on the interventions they would use to treat the patient, rather than the learning concepts they would apply
  • Most of the students created hierarchical maps which failed to identify complex relationships between concepts

After going through their initial drafts, I had another session with them to go through the feedback I’d given and providing more examples of what I expected from them. This assignment is proving far more difficult for the students than I’d expected. However, I’m not sure if it’s because they can’t apply theoretical concepts to clinical scenarios, or if they just don’t have a good understanding of how to create concept maps. I think that they’re having difficulty thinking in terms of relationships between concepts. The maps they’ve been drawing are appropriate in terms of the interventions they’d choose to manage their patients, but the students can’t seem to transfer the concepts from the classroom into clinical contexts.

They’re used to memorising the content because that’s how we assess them i.e. our assessments are knowledge-based. Then they go into clinical contexts and almost have to re-learn the theory again in the clinical environment. There doesn’t seem to be much transfer going on, in terms of moving knowledge from the classroom context to the clinical one. I haven’t researched this yet, but I wonder what sort of graduate we’d get if we scrapped classroom teaching altogether and just did everything on the wards and in the clinics? I understand the logistical issues of an apprentice-based approach to teaching large groups but if we didn’t have classroom time at all, maybe it’d be possible?

CHEC short course: teaching and learning

Today was the first day of a short course looking at teaching and learning and is pretty innovative in that it is co-ordinated by, and open to, academics from several higher educational institutions in the Western Cape. It’s being organised by the Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC). The course runs for the next month, during which we attend a session a week, and includes an assignment component. In this case, the assignment is to develop and evaluate a teaching activity using principles from the course.

The content of the course is aimed at new lecturers or those with experience who’d like to explore new ideas in their teaching practices. I thought it’d be interesting to engage with people from other institutions and see what I could learn from them. The sessions are really short so there isn’t much time to cover a lot of ground. However, the interaction seemed pretty good today. Most of the notes below were thoughts I had that were inspired by what was said, and not really content from the session.

What do teachers and students do to create learning spaces?

Students’ learning behaviour is a response to the education system they’re a part of

Perceived relevance influences participation (it’s not necessarily about actual relevance)

Challenging boundaries can develop critical thinking

Definitions of learning are context dependent i.e. it’s hard to pin down a definition of what it means “to learn”. Remembering a fact is different to more efficiently performing a task, but both are “learning”

Bloom’s taxonomy implies that certain “types” of learning are more developed than others, but “Evaluation” can be done at a basic level, and “Remembering” can be complex

How do you enable self-expression as a means of developing creativity / engagement?

When we mediate teaching and learning experiences with technology, are we producing a fundamentally different thinking process? If we are, then “e-learning” isn’t just about using technology…then it really is something different that should stand alone

How does “what students do” impact on how they think? How can I make better use of our learning spaces to change students’ thinking?

How do you get students to prepare for class, engage during class, and follow up (reflect) after class, in order to reach specific learning objectives?

If you give homework, do you need to make sure that students do it? If the homework task is designed to develop thinking, and then you assess the students’ ability to think, doing the homework task stops being work for the sake of work. Completing the homework then has a real positive outcome in terms of facilitating deeper understanding, which increases the probability of the student being deemed “competent”, which makes them more likely to do the homework.

Concept mapping assignment in Movement Science

Fora while I’ve been toying with the idea of using concept mapping for an assignment in the Movement Science module that I teach and I finally took the plunge. See below for the assignment I gave the students using CmapTools to explore relationships between the concepts in the module and clinical practice. It’s my first attempt at using concept mapping so would love any suggestions or ideas. Have you used concept maps? How did it work out?

Concept Mapping in a Movement Science physiotherapy module

Aligning curriculum with assessment

Our department is gearing up for it’s annual planning meeting, where we review the physiotherapy course from the past year and plan for the next one. This is also the year that our newly formed Directorate of Teaching and Learning has developed an institutional teaching and learning policy, with a strategic implementation plan over the next 5 years. As part of the development of a scholarship of teaching and learning at the university, all faculties and departments are now being asked to develop their own teaching and learning policies, aligned with the institutional one. I’ll be conducting a short workshop at the planning meeting, where we’ll look at the institutional departmental policy and flesh out the draft document I’ve been working on for the past week or so.

As part of my presentation, I’ll be showing an example of how we can align a simple assessment task with the departmental teaching and learning policy. Here’s my initial idea, feedback or comments are welcome.

Personal attachment to research

Yesterday I had a meeting with my supervisor to discuss the assignments I’m going to run as part of the first objective of my PhD. Together with a systematic review and a survey, I was interested in using student and staff participation in a social network to derive additional data that would help me form a baseline understanding of their attitudes and skills around teaching and learning practice, as well as establish the level of digital and information literacy within the department.

After joining the SAFRI programme, I incorporated the social network idea into my SAFRI project, but unconsciously ended up with a different agenda. Instead of using the network to highlight potential problem areas and the challenges of teaching with technology, it morphed into me trying to demonstrate the effectiveness of using a social network to facilitate reflective practice. In hindsight, it’s clear that the 2 projects were at odds with one another, and the objectives were definitely not aligned.

When my supervisor pointed out that there was inconsistency in the 2 projects I really struggled to accept it. I was adamant that my methods were fine and she suggested that I hand over facilitation of the assignments within the network to other staff who didn’t have such a high personal stake in the success of the project, and I strongly disagreed. I found several reasons to explain why I had to be the person to run it, the strongest of which was that “…no-one else will try as hard as I will to make sure it works”. Which kind of made her point.

When I went away and thought about our conversation I reviewed my objectives for the 2 projects, and then it was clear that they really were 2 different projects. One was suggesting that this would be a useful tool to describe the current state of affairs, which I know will be less than ideal. The other was intent on proving that the network would be a positive tool, rather than describing what would happen if we just incorporated one into the department.

After the painful realisation that I’d let my personal desire for this project to succeed override my objectivity as a researcher, I agreed to let others lead the social network assignments, with guidance from me. This will greatly reduce the impact of researcher bias, as well as synchronise the objectives of the 2 projects. As it stands now, it will more accurately describe the state of the department in terms of attitudes and skills around teaching and learning, and the levels of digital and information literacy, which will give me valuable data that will inform the next objectives of my study.

This was a great learning experience for me, and a warning of the dangers of getting too close to one’s project. There are some situations where the researcher can be an integral part of the project, but this experience has shown me when it would be detrimental to the process.

Assignments

Over the last week I’ve given my fourth year physiotherapy students 2 assignments to be completed over the next few months. Here is a basic rundown of each.

The first assignment is part of the continuous evaluation for the Management module I teach. The students must create a website for a (fictional) private physiotherapy practice. They’ll be using Google Sites as the platform, which seems to be the simplest approach that removes most of the barriers to creating sites for people with no experience in this regard. I wanted to make the technology as small a factor as possible, which I think Sites does quite nicely. The objectives for the students are that they should be better able to:

  • Identify relevant information that potential clients would need to find their practice
  • Identify and make use of professional guidelines on advertising and self-promotion
  • Learn new skills that will better prepare them for practice e.g. establishing an online presence using freely available tools
  • Be creative in how they present themselves and their practices

The second assignment is part of the Ethics and Human Rights in Health module that I teach. Students will use a wiki to explore the differences in community-based physiotherapy in South Africa (University of the Western Cape) and Ireland (Royal College of Surgeons), as part of an international collaborative project on Physiopedia. This assignment will focus on groupwork and collaborative learning, using the content as a framework on which to build a body of shared experiences. They will be working with Irish physiotherapy students to create short narratives on the different learning and practical experiences of stutdents working in both countries. The objectives (for our students) that they should be better able to:

  • Identify relevant sources of information to provide background to the narratives
  • Highlight the role of the physiotherapist in community-based healthcare settings
  • Explore and discuss some of the ethical and patient rights issues inherent in the South African healthcare system
  • Engage in dialogue with students who come from different backgrounds, cultures and socio-economic environments, acknowledging the perspectives of those who experience the world in different ways
  • Make effective use of technology to community with and share ideas with peers who are geographically dispersed
  • Participate in the peer review process, by commenting on the work of other groups

I’ll be reporting on the progress of the students as they work on these assignments, and will be making any findings available following their completion.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-28

  • Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge – 7 Principles http://bit.ly/1J8gpw #
  • Can’t wait for my netbook to arrive so that I can play with Moblin 2.0…http://bit.ly/gqdOV #
  • BMJ Case Reports blog: Finding your doctor through their published case reports http://bit.ly/3qEG9y #
  • Trends and issues in open and distance learning in Africa IRRODL, Vol 10, No 4 (2009) http://bit.ly/Goafv #
  • Seeking health information online: does Wikipedia matter? J Am Med Inform Assoc. (2009 Jul-Aug] – PubMed Result http://bit.ly/13fKqO #
  • Ethics assign. for 3rd yr South African physio student. Please visit & comment to show support for innovative approach http://bit.ly/1QzNAT #
  • “What’s New in the Sixth Edition of the APA Publication Manual?” from http://bit.ly/Sn7da #
  • “The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning” from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl #
  • “New Edition of the APA Manual | Virtual Canuck” from http://bit.ly/1yjoz #

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Third year ethics assignment

I just wanted to send out a quick post to highlight the great work that one of my third year students has done as part of her ethics assignment.  The idea was to discuss the topic of human rights in South African healthcare using any method that the students wanted to.  I’m getting some great feedback from them, which is pretty exciting considering that students almost never want to discuss their assignments.

Here’s the link: http://laurenharwin.wordpress.com/

If you like the idea, please consider posting a comment or two on her blog, as she is trying to generate a conversation around the topic.