Daily Archives: February 12, 2015

Buster – Reflection on Learner-centered Assessment

2. Learning-Centered Assessment: After reading the provided resources on self-evaluated and self-directed heutagogical learning, describe your initial thoughts about designing an entire online/blended course or even just an assignment around these ideas/methods. Will you (or have you) consider these approaches? Why or why not? If so, briefly outline your idea(s). The resources that were provided to you were just a start. Feel free to research more to gain additional traction on these types of assessment.

I remember a great English teacher of mine who in the course of our English class gave one great editing tip: go through your paper and change all of the passive constructions to active constructions. After struggling to improve my writing in high school, this tip was just the first of many that empowered me to take constructive steps in editing my own work. The self-evaluation strategies remind me of this particular empowering experience as a student. Students often view evaluation in the humanities as “subjective” and creating rubrics in the classroom (teachers grade with rubrics after all!) would seem to both show the student that there are concrete things to evaluate and improve.

I could see myself incorporating this method into particularly teaching research papers, a core assessment in the religious studies classroom. Things that students might be able to evaluate themselves are the presence of unfounded claims. I have given students a variety of “phrases that indicate evidence” (this claim is based on” etc.) before, and students could definitely learn to critique the strength of their own arguments. I could envision an assignment where students mark where particular claims need more evidence in their drafts themselves, and the next assignment is to list where you would go to find evidence to support those particular claims.

Another important aspect of self-assessment is that many of my students are training to become professional clergy. In this setting, there is often very little immediate management of things like sermon quality. The student needs to be able to ask themselves if the claims they are making from the pulpit are supported theologically and exegetically! In this way, learning how to self-assess during seminary would be an invaluable skill.


Self-direction heutagogical learning is several steps above and beyond the very instructor-guided process of self-evaluation. I admit it is much more intimidating to think how to conceptualize myself as the instructor of a course that is so drastically student directed. My first caution about this model is the great variation in skill that I am confronted with in the classroom. How do I design a student-directed model when some students are gifted researchers and some don’t know what research is? This is, of course, also a problem in the f2f classroom! But I am much more familiar with the model of lecturing to create a common base of knowledge, than in navigating what it looks like to “set students loose” to be in charge of their own learning.

One way to integrate this into the seminary setting might be to focus on the “Student as Producer” model (http://studentasproducer.lincoln.ac.uk/). The students that are being trained in a seminary will go on to be producers of theological knowledge in their own contexts. Perhaps an assignment where the student must develop a Sunday school curriculum would encourage them to identify gaps in their knowledge and address those gaps themselves. This would also mimic what the students will be required to do in “real life,” and thus also fits the parameters of “authentic assessment” (http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm)

Accounting Heutagogy?

In considering the second prompt, my immediate concern related to self-assessment and heutagogy is the student who is purely there for an A and nothing more.  (I think these students are becoming more and more common as grade inflation continues to rear its ugly head.)  If I’m teaching a introduction to financial accounting class, there’s three types of students in the class: those who definitely want to continue with accounting, those who are on the fence, and those who are there because they have to be.  Heutagogy would seem to work with the first two groups, but the third are probably the most likely to take the easy way out and set low goals for themselves.  I would even imagine that the students who self-select into accounting might be overly concerned with objective measures of performance.

I think that classes later in the curriculum might benefit more from heutagogy.  In particular, the topic of auditing is much more subjective in its content and application.  (Auditing, for those who don’t know, is the third-party verification of financial information so that outside parties, such as stockholders, can rely on the information.)  There are so many cases where the correct or incorrect decision is not clear, and as such, the self-set goals of the classes could be much more focused on the students’ involvement in the learning process as opposed to the standard “did you get the right answer” goal.

A particular example would be case-based learning, where students are put in a real situation and asked what they would do in the situation and why.  Afterwards, we would cover what actually happened and why.  This would allow the students to not only self-assess their progress, but even potentially explain why they might still stick with (or change) their decision, even given the known outcome.

In summary. it seems that the more subjective a class’s content is, the more suited it would appear to be for self-evaluation and heutagogy.  But I’d be happy to be wrong about this!

Dever – Week 4 (Prompt 1) Assessment is My Friend and My Enemy

This course has exposed me to several new ideas and techniques of assessment for online teaching. Importantly, these techniques are not only for overall course assessment, but also periodic, in course assessment.

Since most of my instruction is to mature learners, the incorporation of heutagogical learning and assessment is both a refining of and a confirmation of what I need to pursue. However, for my thought process and what I have experienced the development of my assessment parameters and my process will have to be a hybrid of heutagogical learning and “traditional” learning. This is because the idea of “instantaneous” feedback is essential (since my learners are from several very different professions), yet I also have to provide base knowledge as, though business concepts are applicable in some form across industries, the concepts I teach have a singular basis. That is, the different industry and experience dictate heutagogical learning for interpretative exercises and instruction, but the base concepts do not lend themselves to heutagogical learning as they are both rote and the learner may not appreciate the technique or nuances they must learn to make the interpretative aspects of the course/learning possible.

I would consider my strengths in assessment the ability to see the course I teach as a dimensional entity. Meaning, I feel that the course is both a tool provider and an application. I try to ensure that the learners appreciate from the beginning of the course that there are short-term and long-term goals and celebrations – and that as a result it makes sense to the learners that the assessment and feedback amounts, types and techniques be unique to that section of the course. I try to explain and obtain understanding/appreciation of this from the learners by incorporating this idea explicitly in the course orientation and syllabus.

Hence, my assessment design for the first part of the course (base) will consist chiefly of quizzes, Qualtrics, and some Adobe Connect. For the more interpretive part of the course, assessment and therefore adjustment will be through Adobe Connect, minute papers, mind mapping, some polling, and VoiceThread demos and feedback.

Dever – Week 4 If I Knew Anything I’d Be Dangerous (Prompt 2)

After reading the provided resources and examining the supporting research on heutagogical learning (HL), my thoughts are mixed as to its use in educational environments, including online educational environments. Meaning, the use of HL for mature learners is probably more prevalent with mature learners than people appreciate, though in my experience and research it is almost exclusively used in an adaptive manner rather than in the “pure” or stand-alone form described by its formal definition.

Again, based on my experience, research, and review of “supportive or evidentiary” research shown for HL, it seems evident that three major ideas standout when considering HL. One, HL is extraordinarily useful and can enrich the learning experience for both the instructor and the mature learner because assessment of learning and how to best provide a learning platform is an ongoing process. Two, the idea that the learner can shape her own learning experience or “what is important to learn” is a troubling concept for several reasons, most importantly the concept that if the learner knew completely what was important to learn, then they may not have to even seek a course or instructor. Three, the plethora of misinformation and “incorrect facts” that seem to be the bane of research and “Internet-based” or distance learning can be a real danger.

HL can be a useful learning tool because, as was pointed out in the articles provided and discovered through research, the idea of the degree of an increased or heightened applicability of the materials and information being taught to the field (real world) can be invaluable to the instructor and to the learner. Feedback from the learners seems to be richer (greater in amount and detail) than in other models. This enhanced feedback can allow the instructor to augment the course content and approach (both for the current course and future iterations of the course) to more closely address the needs of the learner within the course and to stimulate the continued thinking process and desire to learn of both the instructor and the learner. One basis for the idea that HL may stimulate the continued thinking process and desire to learn of both the instructor and the learner is that based on richer and faster feedback (i.e. compared with other learning models) the stimulus of “if this is true, maybe there is more or a better way out there to be discovered”, is moved to the front of the mind.

At this point in lauding HL as a learning tool where the idea of the degree of an increased or heightened applicability of the materials and information being taught to the field (real world) can be invaluable to the instructor and to the learner, it is important to point out that HL has been in use far longer and with more frequency than many article narratives would lead one to believe. In several fields HL methodology is the prominent learning tool because of any number of factors including geography, differences based on individual physiology, cultural context, fiscal parameters, and religious and/or social morays. HL can assist in the fact that learning does not take place, realistically, in a vacuum for mature learners.  As pointed out in our assigned readings, nursing and engineering are two fields where HL is used extensively and has been since the late 1970s – perhaps it was just not formally named in that particular vernacular. It should be noted that HL is also used extensively, and since at least the 1980s, in (perhaps) unexpected fields such as banking/financial services: for a banking example, one can look to instruction across an institution-wide educational need such as procedures of money laundering that need “local learner” feedback over online systems to tailor the education to the different laws, business procedures, fiscal parameters, etc. of the country or locality.

After lauding the positive aspects of HL as touched on above, it is important to consider the idea that the learner can shape her own learning experience or “what is important to learn” can be a troubling concept for several reasons, most importantly the concept that if the learner knew completely what was important to learn, then they may not have to even seek a course or instructor.  My major idea here is that using a pure HL model, even with a mature learner, promotes the idea that the learner knows what there is to learn – though they are seeking instruction. This is illogical in its pure form. Meaning, conceding that a mature learner brings life and field experience and an expansive thought process to the course and thereby can assist in judging the import of course direction and materials, a major portion of her rationale in taking the course is because she needs some guidance and mentoring in what is important to learn and, importantly, she is seeking to be informed of something she does not know by an “expert” in that particular field (aka the course instructor). Succinctly, you do not always know what you do not know – and you may never know something valuable if you influence your instructor to go in a direction that impedes or prevents you from learning a new technique or method or seeing the value in a method you had dismissed because of circumstance or how it came to you to learn. This can stunt your learning and thinking process. Of note, an additional danger in this is that a concession to a particular direction that has been augmented through HL feedback or process is that it could stunt your fellow learners’ learning and thinking processes.

A third major idea when considering HL, is that the ideas, concepts, plethora of misinformation and “incorrect facts” that seem to be the bane of research and “Internet-based” or distance learning can be a real danger. As pointed out by Allyson and others in this class during Module 1, the real world has a direct effect on any learning environment.  This direct is exacerbated, I would contend, with the mature learner because they have a larger amount of real world experience and have been exposed to a greater range of influences through either more education, more job  experience or more life experience. This is both good and bad. It is good because the experience can focus material and help judge the import of material. It is bad (or dangerous) because it can prejudice against an approach or limit material scope based on prior “bad” experience (based on factors other than the actual approach) or steer toward unreliable information sources.  Two examples of my point are: (1) many people through their business or education or social mentors were indoctrinated consciously or subconsciously in a certain, particular approach to education, execution and viewpoint. This thought process of “how it should be done” clouds the idea of alternative learning and methodologies that maybe important or even more relevant/correct. The danger is a particular learner in an HL environment may steer away from a valuable learning experience if not guided to learn the new way. , and (2) as  evidenced by the debunked “science” currently swirling around the idea of pediatric vaccines, the internet and research, while usually valuable tools, can cloud a learning experience in an HL environment. Meaning, in an HL environment learners who are given freedom to augment their learning experience, focus and breath may inadvertently move toward a less rich and accurate experience and thought process due to lack of exposure to information of which they are unaware or initially dismiss (i.e. without strong instructor guidance).

While recognizing the dangers or difficulties/limitations with HL, I do believe it is a valuable tool to add to my online teaching toolbox. It is definitely something to incorporate because of the assessment of content and direction that it affords toward practical application.  To me information for information sake has a place in everyone’s life to improve mental acuity. However, information for practical application for recreation or career or business or health or other purpose should be the dominant learning environment.  In my opinion, HL helps an instructor help learners (and themselves) get there.

My return into the world of numbers and letters

It has taken me a while to adjust back to letter grades.  I attended an nontraditional college in Ohio were faculty provided us with narrative feedback at the end of course rather than a letter grade. I felt that this philosophy was really focused on assessment rather than evaluation. I appreciated it as a learner, and really soared in that environment. For me, I took off the achievement based test experience, and transferred learning into a process and experience.   When I moved into graduate school and encountered letter grades again, I recall being in survival mode. No longer was my opinion or the instructor’s opinion important, it was numbers that took center stage.  As a learner,   I took little time to reflect on what I should be learning and attempted to move from assignment to assignment. It did not help that most instructors did not refer to their syllabus beyond their first day.  Little did I know that I would become an instructor, and I would agonize over learning objectives and assessments just like those before me.

Upon further reflection I fear I have fallen into the same formula in my own practice where I articulate the goals of the course and introduce the objectives, but I rarely refer back to them as the course proceeds. I don’t think there has been a time where I linked the learning objective directly to an assignment didactically for the learner.  Normally I just focus on the rubric that has been created for that assignment to guide the learning and grading process. Of course the rubric is aligned to the goals, but I have to wonder, what would happen if I offered both the learning objective and the rubric intentionally linked for the learner when assignments are given and graded?

The course that I have proposed is the second in a series that addresses graduate writing.  In its current form, assignments receive a grade after multiple revisions.  Each revision stage has a rubric.  The end goal is to create a journal that consists of individual academic journal articles that the students have written as well as two collaboratively written articles.  This final product is also assessed through a rubric.  At all stages we are addressing concerns of audience, organization (micro and macro), selecting sources and avoiding plagiarism.

I already feel comfortable creating formative assessments for this course. Already in the in classroom experience we use pre-assessments, include discussions as assessment, and ask student to recall information on a regular basis. This course in particular is reviewing and expanding what was learn in the semester before, the formative assessments work very well.

Along with formative, this course already supports self-assessment well.  One of the typical activities in a language learning classroom is self-editing where the learner is able to use the rubric developed by the instructor to edit their product.  This allows them to critically think about their language selection and organization in the context of instructor expectations.  I think one area of growth would be to include broader self-assessments focused on the language learning experience itself or a post self-assessment where they reflect on their abilities after the course.

I think the course needs improvements in diagnostic feedback and authentic assessment. We do use class time to check in with our learners, but I really like the idea of adding anonymity into the process so that they are not concerned about “the teacher knowing”. I could imagine surveys at the end of each class to see if they understood the objectives of each class.  At the same time, our classes tend to be very small, at times 5 students, so it hard to maintain this safe space.  In the areas of authentic assessment, I recall some of my previous posts on content-based instruction.  For a long time researchers have understand the deep motivation residing in language learning mirroring the reality.  However, here in the ELSP, we serve a huge number of disciplines which limits how many real experience we can recreate without excluding some students.  As a compromise, we aim for general academic English tasks and attempt to provide the learners with skills they can apply in their own fields.  I imagine the online space is an area that I can create more genre specific exercises, or learning objects,that can address this need.