Are we assessing the right thing?

Recently I listened to an interview with a college professor in the United States commenting on their daughter’s elementary school science project.  After watching her daughter and classmates struggle with making a working ‘volcano’ to show in the classroom, there was surprise at the amount of time being placed on how good the volcano looked.  Not whether or not it worked, or how well it incorporated materials form the lesson on lava and volcanos, but on how well it looked, because that was what the assignment was being graded on in the rubric.  It caused this professor to question what is the purpose of the assignment, and what is it intended to measure.  Then to take the reflection and apply it to their college courses.

It’s a point well taken, and in setting up our courses at PACE, it’s something we should do as well.

Assessments should be tied to the learning outcomes.  They are designed to see how well students are progressing, as the course is going on, and to see how well they’ve learned all the materials at the end.

In scoring this material, we should strive to ensure that we are marking for an scoring the appropriate parts.  Just like the elementary school volcano project, are we actually scoring the learning of the lesson material?  Or are we scoring how it all looks?

Of course, it’s valid to include marks on the appearance of an essay, or a web page, or other submission, but is that where the bulk of the marks should be?  It’s worth taking the time to reflect on the connection of the assessment method not just to the learning outcomes, but also how the scoring relates to the learning outcomes as well.

Changes to Nexus Full Time Programs

We are making a small change to the set up of courses in the Nexus full time programs.

Starting with the Spring 2018 intake, we will no longer automatically copy over materials from previous courses.  We will continue to set up the shell for all courses, allowing instructors to customize and adopt materials for each intake as they see fit. This will avoid materials appearing in Nexus from different sections, with inaccurate content or due dates.

How Adults Learn

Our partners at Core Strengths did a post on their website about andragogy, how adults learn.  Although they talk about in the context of dealing with clients, the lessons are just as valuable for instructors:

This is the company that produces the material that we use in orientation with the students and try to come back to over the year.  While on their site, poke around a bit and check out the lessons the students are learning about their strengths and dealing with conflict.

Do you like to move it, move it

Keeping students engaged in the classroom takes a lot of different approaches by an instructor.  In some of our larger classrooms, like 2BC55 or 2BC57 or any of the AnX classrooms, being like King Julian from Madagascar, and making a point of ‘move it move it’ during your session can help.

Staying at the front of the larger classroom is great for those students that right there, within a couple of tables of the front.  But for the students at the back of the room, they can loose touch with the instructor and the material.

While too much walking can be a distraction, planning out as part of your lesson when you will walk down the aisle can be a great help to keep everyone involved.  Look for times when the group is engaged on a task, walk down the room and ensure that everyone is working well, find an answer that you can call on someone from the back to answer, so that the whole room feels involved and engaged.

Having a remote from your presentation can help as well, so that you are not stuck at the lectern.

In the larger rooms and larger classes it’s easy to loose a student’s attention.  Being active and moving strategically in the space can help keep everyone engaged and focused.