Can’t believe we reached the end of week 8 already! Where did this semester go? Did and do we have (too much) fun? This was officially the last time my #lthesep12 class got together face-to-face as next week is fully online and in the following week the Professional Discussions take place. Missing my students already… at least we will have the opportunity to come together again for our Christmas picnic on the 12th of December at 12pm. Yeh!!!
This is our 5th LTHE cohort and I can’t stop thinking how different things are with each cohort. Despite the fact that there is a common thread running through, with a new set of students each session feels completely different. Of course the resources have been enriched and changed, the activities and supporting materials refined too, some removed and new ones added as well. I do want to keep this offer fresh and not just repeat stuff that I have used before. I guess, I have also matured (?) in facilitating this module and feel ok to pick ‘n’ mix more organically and intuitively bits out of my toolkit and re-mix and re-purpose activities and resources that I have created over the last few years. I love looking back at my reflections from previous cohorts and also remind myself of what we experienced together. Looking at the photographs we have been taken and stored in our Flickr album is a great help to re-visualise specific moments. I am so pleased I started capturing these moments from the very beginning and we have now such a rich photo album of the module and our experiences.
This week we had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in another curriculum design approach. While last week we experienced storytelling, this week we adopted a Problem-Based Learning approach to investigate assessment and feedback. As many of my students didn’t have first hand experience of PBL, they were asked to access some of the resources in advance of the session and we also looked at the basics at the beginning of the session with one of my students who is an experienced PBL practitioner.
I was observed during the assessment and feedback session with my last cohort by our External Examiner and this is why this particular session was more vivid in my memory perhaps than any other. So, when I started redesigning this session for my current cohort, I wanted to make sure that I would apply the lessons learnt from that peer observation. The key point then was “less is more” throuh decluttering the session. I found that really challenging but I wanted to give it a go. If you would like to read and access all the resources (including video clips from the observed session as well as the open feedback conversation that followed) linked to the peer observation, click here.
Ok, back to now 😉 While I was designing this session, I had some extra tools in my bag which I would only use if I spotted a real opportunity and always keeping in mind the main task! This was really hard as I had extra goodies which I wanted to share with my students. I had to burry my excitement and be patient and wait to see if there was an opportunity to bring them out of the bag… so to speak.
1. How did I feel?
Very pleased that my students keep coming to the sessions, first of all, despite the fact that there are plenty resources online and activities that could keep them going on their own… but would they? What is the added bonus of coming together as a class? What do my students think?
Very pleased to see my students bonding and having conversations in advance of the session. Seeing them smiley and positive and keen to get started is really motivating. I love to surprise my students and try and keep my offer fresh and do different things together that make them think and hopefully act too. This is I think the only and most important thing I can achieve. I can’t change anybody and I don’t want to! But if something I say or do, makes my student think and re-think about themselves, their students and their practice this is fantastic. If this thought then extend to deeper reflection, exploration and experimentation, which I have seen happening, it is pure magic!
So, I felt positive but also wanted to make sure that I keep on track and focused on what I wanted my students to learn this week. It wasn’t an easy task since we didn’t only look at assessment and feedback but also we were trying to do this via PBL. Were my plans too ambitious? No. We need to be challenging and we need to challenge ourselves!
I also felt extremely proud of my students, all of them and how they embraced this session. First of all I loved their openness and honesty about last week’s session. It was useful for me to hear different voices about last week’s session and how perhaps some felt that they didn’t get much out of it (I would add yet, as I believe that it will click sooner or later, the proof if this also started coming out during this week’s session). We do need to be brave to ask our students and accept that some of the stuff we are doing or trying to do with them feel a bit strange or pointless. These more critical voices will help us refine our approaches further. It helped me in this way and while in the past, I probably felt hurt, I have now changed and really do see the benefits of all honest feedback as I would like to improve my sessions and maximise what my students get out of them. So thank you for being so honest my dear students 😉
2. What did I learn?
Decluttering is good! The session made me think: do we too often over-stimulate our students? Or is this not possible? In the world of mass-distructions, are we all effective filterers? Can we ignore distructions? Bits that get in the way and hinder us from staying focused and on task? But what would be wrong if we suddenly change direction? What if the big learning opportunities are actually created by some of these distractions that we can’t resist? Not sure if all that makes sense here and I didn’t really plan to write about it but my fingers are hitting the keyboard and I guess I am thinking about these things as well as I am reflecting on cluttering and decluttering. Before Simon observed me last time I ran this session (even running sounds horrible but I am going to leave it!) I never thought that my sessions are cluttered. Maybe I would characterise them full or varied or rich but not cluttered. Cluttered has a negatve aftertaste and maybe that is why I still remember his words so strongly and I think this is a good thing because he did make me look at my sessions in a different light and re-think what I am doing, how I am doing it and most importantly why.
We do need to trust our students and this is something I have discovered a while ago but the idea resurfed this week. We need to trust them that they do want to learn and give them the time and space to do so. I think this happened despite the fact that some might have felt that they didn’t have enough time this week. Too much time can also be bad and the more time we get the less some of us might do, so productively doesn’t really increase with the time available. What we need is focused time on activities and I think we got that.
The PBL groups worked well together and everybody contributed to the task (I made some observations regarding how the chairs operated within the PBL groups which correspond with previous similar situations and evidence to me that PBL as a one off might not be the most effective way to build more generic skills but I suppose, there is an opportunity to take some of the PBL roles out and use them in other collaborative learning activities that will enable students to develop a variety of skills. I think there is an opportunity there for me to do this a bit more in future sessions!!!) and sticking the instructions to the tables this time, did work better than last time. Also the roles where there and the simplified FISh model developed in collaboration with Lars Uhlin worked better than more complex and more widely used PBL models. Structure and scaffolding of learning is important but I do think that too much complicated structures turn learners into robots and this is not something I would like to encourage. Definitely not!
I loved how my students in all 4 PBL groups, and then the two supergroups we formed to share the findings with each other, decided to use storytelling as a way to do this. I didn’t influence them or made any suggestion. Was this a conscious decision (based on last week’s approach) or did this happen naturally? As we humans love stories anyway? I would love to find out. Especially as we immersed ourselves into storytelling with and about students experiences at uni… I am pleased I recorded both and share them with you here. They are both wonderfully creative with powerful messages and I would also love to find out what my students’ students would say watching these. Could any of you share these with your students and let me know their reactions?
3. What would I do differently?
Overall, I am pleased with what we achieved during this session. Mixing PBL and storytelling, the second, thanks to my students ;), to investigate assessment and feedback practices in HE worked really well. I am pleased I decided to declutter the session, use FISh, the simplified PBL model but it did feel strange that we didn’t make a proper feedback sandwich, with proper bread, lettuce and the rest (but the metaphorical feedback sandwich was discovered by one of the PBL groups with a little help from the Sandwich fairy 😉 I also didn’t share the magic white sauce story with my students, which is a shame, I think…
So, what would I do differently?
- It would have been useful to have a set of resources within the classroom, a mini resources-bank or mobile library with books and journal articles around assessment and feedback beyond the digital resources in the classroom.
- I could also invite students to participate in this session and perhaps I could ask the Student Union to help me find a few who would like to take part in this week’s activities.
- Another idea that just popped into my head would be to invite 2 academics who experience a dilemma with their assessment and/or feedback practice and use their story as a trigger, so that the problem is definitely authentic. Actually the more I think about it the more convinced I am that I should give this a go with my next cohort.
There is always room for improvement. 😉 Looking forward to planning some of the above ideas with the next cohort. Exciting and excited again. This is the way it should be…
Yesterday, we, Dr. Chris Smith a former colleague at the University of Salford, Craig Despard, a current student on the PGCAP programme and I shared our social media eportfolio assessment approach at the eAssessment Scotland 12 Conference as part of the online programme.
Further clips about our e-portfolio are available here
It was a real privilige to be involved in such an exciting and innovative conference and we had a rich conversation about using social media to build portfolios with colleagues who asked us loads of interesting and challenging questions that made us think. Which is a great! We had the opportunity to reflect on the finer details of our intervention and identify further opportunities to make it even more effective for future cohorts.
Our webinar was well received and we were 40 participants in total (later we were invited to participate in a RadioEduTalk show in the evening, the recording is available at http://edutalk.cc/radio-edutalk-29-08-12-eassessment-scotland-o (our conversation starts 45min into this recording), including us and our conference facilitator. The webinar has been recorded (and I dread the moment when I will watch it… still feeling very strange when listening to myself and seeing myself and hearing my own voice). I think though that the recording will be a useful resource for our programme and provide some details to future students why we are doing what we are doing and how it is working. We are of course, in constact conversation with our students and have taken their ideas and suggestions on board so far and will continue to do so.
During the webinar we shared some sample e-portfolios and I am including the links here as well for your information.
portfolios from current students on the programme
Craig Despard at http://despard.wordpress.com/
Rebecca Jackson at http://rebeccajacksonpgcap.wordpress.com/
Dr. Gemma Lace-Costigan http://gemmalace.wordpress.com/
a complete portfolio from an alumni
Neil Currie (Neil kindly made all his feedback, including summative feedback available to the public. So that you can get a rich flavour of all the feedback and conversations we had throughout the module.
Yes, we are very transparent. Feedback is not locked away. All formative feedback is openly shared and accessible to everybody who has access to the e-portfolio. Actually we never said to anybody that the formative feedback should be private or public. It seemed to be normal that they would keep it public, which is really encouraging for us tutors and of real value for all our students since all students would be able to access tutor and peer feedback provided. So learning through feedback provided to others is also enabled and there is evidence that students do read the feedback tutors and peers provide to their peers. Ok, here is Neil’s e-portfolio http://asboallstar.wordpress.com/
During the webinar questions were asked about
- why we picked the specific platform
- how assessment and marking works
- impact on students’ own practices
- if the style, organisation and creativity are included in the assessment criteria
- how feedback works
As soon as the recording is available, it will be added here.
We didn’t really focus very much on the details of our feedback approach but disussed more generally the assessment approach and I am therefore including a link to a clip about the feedback we provide and what I feel is important and why. This can also be found within the list of clips linked to our e-portfolios.
Book chapter linked to this work
Smith, C and Nerantzi, C (in print) ePortfolios: Assessment as learning using social media, Waxmann publishers, series ”Gesellschaft for Medien in der Wissenschaft” (Association for Media in Science, http://www.gmw-online.de)
We are now all able to access the mp3 files (technical problems have been solved! This is super!!!) and have started listening to each other’s contributions. NO more emailing mp3, which I would do, but only if necessary. This is really exciting now since we are in a dialogue and learning with and from each other is happening too.
Over the last few days, I focused on assessment and what I really wanted to get out of this pilot, or what I wanted the students to get out of it. I decided to continue providing formative assessment to stimulate further reflection and learning. This is the most important part for me and I can already see that the students are learning from the process. At the end, I am going to ask students to evaluate their journey based on specific criteria which I am putting together at the moment…
Focus on the following about your audio reflections and make a judgment for each of the following elements:
3. Expressing thoughts, ideas and issues in context
4. Self-awareness, Emotions
5. Ability to step-back
6. Viewing thoughts, ideas and issues from different perspectives
7. Evidence of taking responsibility and reviewing practice
8. Testing ideas in practice
9. Engage in a dialogue with each other
10. Anything else you would like to share ;o)
I could give students a scale for some of the above but I am more interested in qualitative data…
Should I do both? Not so sure. I could have maybe one general scale about one of the elements in the above list.
Also, I need to think what I am going to ask participating students to evaluate the MoRe Pilot. Currently on my list of questions is:
What are you taking away?
Do you feel you have learnt something? What is it?
What did you enjoy most?
The above are not final, just some initial ideas. I need to think a bit more about the questions and what I want to find out. I need some questions on the support, the technical side of it, the feedback, the interaction… but don’t want to have a long list of questions. Asking about everything.
Also, I am not sure if I should ask the questions during our final discussion, use an online survey builder such as www.surveymonkey.com or ask students to provide their answers as another audio file or just add a text post to the MoRe space. I think it would be better to ask students individually and give them time to provide the answers, so I will probably go with surveymonkey.com
5 March: and I did create a survey with surveymonkey. It has more focused questions. I will review it over the next few weeks before distributing it to participating students.