With each passing class I teach I make progress on refining my assessment practices. There is this negotiable tension amongst (at least) three competing interests: 1) the institutions’ need for relevance; 2) the students’ need to achieve accreditation and their need to enjoy learning; 3) my (the instructors’) need to enjoy teaching, maintain institutional relevance and engage students’ learning.
I have been ruminating on whether badges would work for my assessment needs, how I could incorporate badges into formative and summative assessment. The thing is, I need to see development at a skillful level, and at a cognitive level – ie. evidence that there has been an attempt to incorporate new ideas, new perspectives, or new interpretations to understand events.
At present I have resorted to a detailed list of criteria the students can use to guide their work. The idea is, if the students can check off the criteria in relation to their project work and research, they are going to have engaged with the content on some level. It is a bit of a cognitivist/behaviourist approach – that engaging in behaviour affects cognition – even the most superficial engagement has had a cognitive affect.
I use an enactivist approach to teaching and learning, I consider learning as embodied minds engaged in recursive, reflexive autopoietic structural coupling to form temporal composite unities. To foster ecological perspectives of learning, technology and culture, I force learners to seek out ICT affordances that they would not otherwise consider or discover if they hadn’t take the course with me.
This summer I divided the learning activities into three spheres of activity: 1) building ICT skills and confidence; 2) enacting social concepts of cognition in their uses of ICT; and 3) incorporating ICT into their pedagogy and curriculum. This worked out better than expected when I realized a student had submitted a final project that was used during her practicum long before she took the course, and had not been modified to reflect course criteria before she handed it in. All I had to do to get her to re-assess her choice was to have her write up her rationale of how the criteria had been met in the project she had handed in. Of course, she couldn’t do that because the project was done before she took the course and it was impossible that she could have incorporated course content into her work.
I think what I am discussing is the way cognitive development can be flagged within a badge system – as criteria that would indicate behaviours that could only be enacted through particular cognitive processes.
RE. Peer assessment – I have found this to be a dicey proposition, unless there is also assessment criteria for the peers’ assessments of each other. Otherwise, they can just give each other a pat on the back and say, in effect, “job well done,” when in fact the job was only partially (or not at all) done.
I done dood it. The grades for my last course are in. I would like to get back to the badges site one last time today, maybe later, after I have gotten some work done on the house. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of transportable badges, something that would be able to travel with an individual across corporate, educational, and private learning experiences. Don’t they all count for something?
What I like about the concept of earning badges for learning is that there is not failure if one does not progress as planned. There is a record of works accomplished, and there can be thresholds of accomplishment that trigger issuing a composite accreditation – that a body of work was completed. If that threshold is never achieved, the learner benefits from having their efforts recognized at whatever level they accomplished. I am particularly thinking of higher education, when a learner has completed a certain number of courses and acquired some number of skills, but they withdrew, or dropped out, or for some reason where unable to complete their degree. There should be a system for recognizing accomplishments between degrees.
This ties in with the concept of stacking badges, and Stack Overflow, which would signal issuance of some form of accreditation for accumulated learning.
I took professional development courses at my university to improve my instructional skills. The system they had in place was a paper notebook. Everytime I attended an instructional workshop, I was issued a sticker that indicated I had completed that particular learning experience. These stickers were stuck in my notebook, as evidence of my accomplishment. Now, 4 years later, I cannot find that notebook in any of my papers. I have no other record of having attended these sessions. So, in effect, I cannot cite my accomplishment in my CV as part of my professional development activities. An online badge system would solve this problem, especially if the badges were linked to me as a learner, rather than the institution. That way, I can have multiple badges from diverse institutions that provide a composite view of my learning activities.
On the same day I start participating in an online study group at P2PU “Open Badges”, I get a notification from Twitter that I am now being followed by a professional term, thesis and dissertation writing service http://thepaperexperts.com/. I was curious how the service worked, and chatted with an online representative:
What possible meaning is left in higher education? And I can’t say enough about the phenomenal waste of human potential through a system of grading that promotes the top % of learners and leaves the rest as somehow substandard. But that system of promotion is socio-economically biased to privilege those who are in the highest percentile of privilege.