Tuesday, June 30, 2015

3 Minutes with Scott McLeod

Scott McLeod of Dangerously Irrelevant.org has a three minute video presentation on how schools need to change that pretty much sums up what I think is wrong with schools and how they need to be fixed.

Scott is an IT innovation guy, so he naturally sees IT is the driving force of reform, but I think assessment runs a close second as a potential engine of change. If we move away from assessments based on regurgitation and move towards more authentic assessments that require students to assume more responsibility for, ownership over, their own learning, then the classroom as a whole will move to a better model of learning. The authentic assessment petered out, not because teachers, students or parents rejected it, but because conservative politicians brought in policies (e.g., no child left behind) that effectively killed any attempt to improve schools in America--and what's big in America slops over the border into Canada. I cry a little every time I find learning reduced to "read the chapter and complete the 'scavenger hunt' worksheet--yeah, that's how we encourage kids to think deeply about what they have read and to contextualize their learning. Head::Desk. Change evaluation, change what we tell students we are looking for--give them learning targets that are clearly defined, worth learning, and which allow them a modicum of control and ownership, and we could change schools overnight. Continue to use traditional models of assessment, and it doesn't matter how much our policy statements claim schools are about life long learning or critical thinking or whatever the buzzword for actual learning is these days, because none of that will matter in the face of students knowing what counts for marks is regurgitation and compliance.

Watch Scott's 3 minute video for a succinct overview of the problem and the real targets and then ask yourself how we would have to change assessment if we took him seriously.

(Also watch his TEDx talk here which contrasts extracurricular learning with the lack of learning within schools."Get out of their way, and let kids be amazing,"Scott concludes....By the same token, how can we change assessment from anxiety producing exams that get in the way of learning to helpful feedback that strengthens and extends learning?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Meme: item writing

If the answer answers the question you asked, it gets the mark, whether what was intended or not. Write clearer questions.

But it is okay to acknowledge humour and then ask student to verbally tell you answers so that you can still assess actual understanding to ensure learning--but you still have to give them the marks, regardless.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Meme: Write Better Instructions

Well, duh! If the answer answers the question you asked, it gets the mark, whether what was intended or not. Write clearer questions.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Meme: Grade Deadlines

Every prof ever...except maybe for the bad ones who decided on your grade BEFORE marking....

Registrar once told me 25% of profs don't get their grades in on time, so make that "two days after grades are due". I always struggled to make the deadline, but it made me feel a lot better to know that getting marks in at the last minute still better than a lot of my colleagues.

On the other hand, students should not be in the dark about their grades until they are posted. Grading processes, including how grades on assignments are weighted, should be completely transparent.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Meme: Item Writing

Think about your distractors as carefully as you do the correct answer. Get a colleague to review your questions for double meanings and so on before using them with the students. When a student correctly answers a question with an unexpected alternative, give that student the mark, and then change your question for next year immediately, before you forget.