A few weeks ago I spent 3 days at Mont Fleur near Stellenbosch, on a teaching and learning retreat. Next year we’re going to be restructuring 2 of our modules as part of a curriculum review, and I’ll be studying the process as part of my PhD. That part of the project will also form a case study for an NRF-funded, inter-institutional study on the use of emerging technologies in South African higher education.
I used the workshop as an opportunity to develop some of the ideas for how the module will change (more on that in another post), and these are the notes I took during the workshop. Most of what I was writing was specific to the module I was working with, so these notes are the more generic ones that might be useful for others.
Content determines what we teach, but not how we teach. But it should be the outcomes that determine the content?
“Planning” for learning
Teaching is intended to make learning possible / there is an intended relationship between teaching and learning
Learning = a recombination of old and new material in order to create personal meaning. Students bring their own experience from the world that we can use to create a scaffold upon which to add new knowledge
We teach what we usually believe is important for them to know
What (and how) we teach is often constrained by external factors:
- Amount of content
- Time in which to cover the content (this is not the same as “creating personal meaning”)
We think of content as a series of discrete chunks of an unspecified whole, without much thought given to the relative importance of each topic as it relates to other topics, or about the nature of the relationships between topics
How do we make choices between what to include and exclude?
- Focus on knowledge structuring
- What are the key concepts that are at the heart of the module?
- What are the relationships between the concepts?
- This marks a shift from dis-embedded facts to inter-related concepts
- This is how we organise knowledge in the discipline
Task: map the knowledge structure of your module
“Organising knowledge” in the classroom is problematic because knowledge isn’t organised in our brains in the same way that we organise it for students / on a piece of paper. We assign content to discrete categories to make it easier for students to understand / add it to their pre-existing scaffolds, but that’s not how it exists in minds.
Scientific method (our students do a basic physics course in which this method is emphasised, yet they don’t transfer this knowledge to patient assessment):
- Observe something
- Construct an hypothesis
- Test the hypothesis
- Is the outcome new knowledge / expected?
Task: create a teaching activity (try to do something different) that is aligned with a major concept in the module, and also includes graduate attributes and learning outcomes. Can I do the poetry concept? What about gaming? Learners are in control of the environment, mastering the task is a symbol of valued status within the group, a game is a demarcated learning activity with set tasks that the learner has to master in order to proceed, feedback is built in, games can be time and resource constrained
The activity should include the following points:
- Align assessment with outcomes and teaching and learning activities (SOLO taxonomy – Structured Observation of Learning Outcomes)
- Select a range of assessment tools
- Justify the choice of these tools
- Explain and defend marks and weightings
- Meet the criteria for reliability and validity
- Create appropriate rubrics
Assessment must be aligned with learning outcomes and modular content. It provides students with opportunities to show that they can do what is expected of them. Assessment currently highlights what students don’t know, rather than emphasising what they can do, and looking for ways to build on that strength to fill in the gaps.
Learning is about what the student does, not what the teacher does.
How do you create observable outcomes?
The activity / doing of the activity is important
As a teacher:
- What type of feedback do you give?
- When do you give it?
- What happens to it?
- Does it lead to improved learning?
Graduate attributes ↔ Learning outcomes ↔ Assessment criteria ↔ T&L activities ↔ Assessment tasks ↔ Assessment strategy
Assessment defines what students regard as important, how they spend their time and how they come to see themselves as individuals (Brown, 2001; in Irons, 2008: 11)
Self-assessment is potentially useful, although it should be low-stakes
Use a range of well-designed assessment tasks to address all of the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) for your module. This will help to provide evidence to teachers of the students competence / understanding
In general quantitative assessment uses marks while qualitative assessment uses rubrics
Checklist for a rubric:
- Do the categories reflect the major learning objectives?
- Are there distinct levels which are assigned names and mark values?
- Are the descriptions clear? Are they on a continuum and allow for student growth?
- Is the language clear and easy for students to understand?
- Is it easy for the teacher to use?
- Can the rubric be used to evaluate the work? Can it be used for assessing needs? Can students easily identify growth areas needed?
- What were you evaluating and why?
- When was the evaluation conducted?
- What was positive / negative about the evaluation?
- What changes did you make as a result of the feedback you received?
Evaluation is an objective process in which data is collected, collated and analysed to produce information or judgements on which decisions for practice change can be based
Course evaluation can be:
- Teacher focused – for improvement of teaching practice
- Learner focused – determine whether the course outcomes were achieved
Evaluation be conducted at any time, depending on the purpose:
- At the beginning to establish prior knowledge (diagnostic)
- In the middle to check understanding (formative) e.g. think-pair-share, clickers, minute paper, blogs, reflective writing
- At the end to determine the effectiveness of the course / to determine whether outcomes have been achieved (summative) e.g. questionnaires, interviews, debriefing sessions, tests
- Feedback from students
- Peer review of teaching
- Knight (n.d.). A briefing on key concepts: Formative and summative, criterion and norm-referenced assessment
- Morgan (2008). The Course Improvement Flowchart: A description of a tool and process for the evaluation of university teaching