Active Learning Strategies for Online Learning: September 10 - 30, 2007

Assessment

Assessment

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
Number of replies: 32

When I talk to teachers about including active learning in a classroom, one of the first responses I receive is "but how would I evaluate that?" or worse they give 5 "participation" marks and don't give active learning real value. So here is our chance to develop some forms of assessment that demonstrate how important reading, writing, reflecting, discussing and creating are in our courses.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessment

by Martin Mackain-Bremner -

Deidre,

Like a number of other SCoPE members, I recently attended ALT-C at Nottingham. Amongst the scores of presentations in 3 principal theme-streams (theams?!) was one given by Prof Geoffrey Crisp, all the way from the Uni of Adelaide, entitled Interactive e-assessments (large scale implementation). Geoff enabled us to access to his list of references on the subject of computer aided /online assessments on a Moodle server at Adelaide, which you may be able to access, though you might have to create an account (let me know if you run into problems). None of this is strictly within the orbit of your kick-off entry on Active Learning, but as I was browsing the Adelaide references I came across this article on the REAP site (REAP was also strongly featured at ALT-C), including the key phrase ''how assessment might be used to engage students in active learning over the course of their studies (Gibbs and Simpson, 2004)''. An investigation of the Gibbs and Simpson paper might be of value.

In addition, Prof Dylan Williams gave a keynote at the conference, on the subject of ''Assessment, learning and technology: prospects at the periphery of control'', which was recorded and is available as an Elluminate Live! session - it is well worth a visit and was, for me, one of the highlights of ALT-C.

Hope all this helps to grease the wheels - I look forward to participating in this discussion.

Martin

(Martin Mackain-Bremner
Defence Academy, UK)

In reply to Martin Mackain-Bremner

Re: Assessment

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
Thank you Martin,
The REAP article makes a very important point,

They showed that where assessments focused on generating feedback and encouraging its use, the learning gains were 'among the largest ever reported for educational interventions'.
 

One of the mistakes that many people (students and teachers) make is viewing feedback as a summative process rather than a formative. Students need ongoing feedback about what they do well (and should continue to do) as well as what they need to focus  more time on in order to learn.

Many years ago, I watched students with academic difficulties spending hours on a computer generated math game that gave instant feedback in the form of a dancing robot. Getting them to participate in a paper-based drill and practice that I marked overnight was like pulling teeth. The computer feedback was non personal and they got to repeat the task or go on to the next level immediately after receiving the feedback.
In reply to Martin Mackain-Bremner

Re: Assessment

by Emma Duke-Williams -
Geoffrey's talk was good, wasn't it! I'm afraid that I missed Dylan Williams' keynote, as I was a bit "conferenced out" at that stage - and wanted to look through a few things. That said, the fact that it was broadcast live let me keep an ear on what was going on, while doing something else.
I do, however, intend to listen properly to it again.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessment

by Colby Stuart -
Since social media came on the scene, I now require contribution to a class blog, wiki and online discussion forum. Students are required to "tag" all contributions with content-related keywords to create easy referencing. We also use del.icio.us for tracking bookmarks.

This makes it very visible to track each student's participation (or lack of it), their content contribution, how they engage with fellow students, and to read the resources (bookmarked) they use for building content. It also helps us, as a class, to understand the individual's struggle with the content or the processes. It also makes clear the different roles people play in doing this - reshaping content on the wiki, adding visuals, setting up discussions and meetings, leading projects, researching.

We then use this to evaluate the students, the course, the teacher and to decide what needs to come next. No more excuses accepted - they are either participating or not.

The upside of doing this is having a body of work at the end that is visible and resourceable for all participants.
In reply to Colby Stuart

Re: Assessment

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
Great work Colby. The issue of visibility is very important. As teachers, I think it's a topic that we frequently ignore because of the Sage on the Stage tradition. Students learning from the work of other students is perceived as cheating when it can be a very powerful educational tool that helps students learn how to learn. As teachers, we frequently forget the steps we took to get to Z, other students can really help with this process.

Visibility is also key to valid assessment. Some instructors are concerned about active learning because they are unsure how to argue with educational departments about marking strategies. Students also need a clear picture of how they will be assessed. The way you approach the issue is very powerful.
In reply to Colby Stuart

Re: Assessment

by Emma Duke-Williams -
Students are required to "tag" all contributions with content-related keywords to create easy referencing. We also use del.icio.us for tracking bookmarks.

How easy do they find the tagging? I find that I have difficulty remembering the tags that I've created for myself, (which is why I like WordPress as a blogging tool, as the categories are always visible). I'm also often unsure as to what to call something, so I'd be interested to know how your students get on with it? If they have a resource that one student finds & wants to tag it with a particular tag, do others then re-use that tag, or do they pick a synonym / related word because they prefer that word?

I'd also be interested to know the differing uses of a blog & the forum - but I'll ask you that offline (I have students using personal blogs for reflection & a forum for class discussion).


In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Assessment

by Colby Stuart -
Emma, as they begin, they are unsure and use folksonomies that can be very peculiar. This becomes a discussion topic in the forum, and is soon resolved. A list of reference samples slowly starts to build on the wiki, and voila!...they start learning how to tag. The best way is to let people try and to let others help. If they experience this, they will retain it. And, they will start taking this out of the learning situation and into their work lives.

By the way, we use WordPress for blogs for all the right reasons....including OpenSource participation.

We use the blog to post ideas, stories and a way to share what we're learning. It creates a documentation of everything for reference. We can go back to posts at any time and make comments on them if we want to add more to that post.

We move our discussions into the forum to avoid wasting class time. (We use the www.simplemachines.org forum software, also OpenSource.) Here, we expand on posts and other learnings. We also arrange appointments for work groups, coaching - and manage the calendar here.

Over the past year, we also hold conference calls on Skype, taking notes in the chat window from Skype and then moving those notes into the wiki.

The wiki is important. It is a repertoire of all the learning, topic driven, cross-referenced with links to blogs and discussions. I always start out the wiki with the session plan so that if someone loses their reader, they can always access the course study.

Eventually, we would like to add video-learning...always learning about what's out there and testing it.
In reply to Colby Stuart

Re: Assessment

by Emma Duke-Williams -
We use the blog to post ideas, stories and a way to share what we're learning. It creates a documentation of everything for reference. We can go back to posts at any time and make comments on them if we want to add more to that post.

I've tended to steer clear of group blogs, and tend to prefer forums - in part due to that last thing you mentioned "make comments". If you have a forum & someone finds an interesting thread a few pages back & answers it, then it's at the top of the list next time someone logs in. If someone finds an interesting blog post a few pages back, and posts a comment, only the blog owner knows ...

I had a group of students using Eduspaces in the first semester of last academic year (October 06- Feb 07). They also had personal blogs, which they kept. However, the group blog was rarely used, other than by me, despite encouraging. Now, it could be the fact that they didn't get marked for that, whereas they did for the personal ones.
However, in about January, they updated the software, so that a group blog could have a forum view - so now the most recently commented post could be at the top, rather than the most recently created. It can also have the blog view. I'm going to be interested to see if that makes a difference to the way that they use it this semester (different students, same unit).

I note that you've added " We move our discussions into the forum to avoid wasting class time" Do you find that they are more likely to answer an older post in the discussion than on the blog, or do they tend to use the blog for very different matters.

Increasingly I feel that wikis / forums are good for groups (often for different things, but for groups), where blogs are much better for an individual (unless you've got something that invites few comments - e.g. log of a project, where you need to know who did what, when).
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Blogs/Forums

by Derek Chirnside -
Emma, I think this is part of a question we really have not got deep enough answers on yet:  The dynamic inside out heads and in our corperate identity on the difference between forums/discussions boards and blogs.  This is complicated by many factors:
*some software that alters the view instantly.  (Like in Interact, our system, you can change a number and the blog is viewed identically to a threaded forum, just like you describe)
*Assessed of not.  :-)
*purpose of the activity.  eg forums seem to be better for coming to group consensus.
*useability quirks

I was looking at this over the weekend.
Here are some links:
1. http://www.fullcirc.com/weblog/2004/08/blogs-and-bulletin-boards.htm
2. [ASIDE- Wikis and blogs!!  ??  Complications from new software: " A bliki (also known as a wikiLog, wog, wikiWeblog, wikiblog, or bloki)" . . . .
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliki]

In my opinion it has partly to do with the nature of the surrounding interaction: whether this is a transmission model or a knowledge sharing/construction model, whether it is individual or group/collaborative, the purpose of the interaction.  But I think there are deeper commfort issues in our minds we have yet to fathom.  Why is it that one little group (10 Y2 Sociology students say) just take off and it's wonderful and a similar group down the campus just flounder??  (The facilitator maybe?  The setup?  The time of year - blogs at exam time jost don't work!!  but in week ne of the semester -. . .  ??)


Nancy again. "Online community has been an important part of the Internet, mainly forming around email lists, bulletin boards and forums. In recent years, the ascendancy of blogs has introduced a new platform for communities. This article looks at some of the emerging patterns of blog based communities and raises some questions for their strategic application."  A year ago the jury was still out: can blogs, or a constellation of blogs create community?  I thinkt he answer is now a resounding yes.  Under certain circumstances.  And learning is in there somewhere.  Some of the courses I have to deal with have hit on the magic sweet spot and blogs take off.  I have some tentative conclusions, but more analysis is needed.


Mathemagenic's Lilia Efimova:

I'm taking another look on the work on weblog conversations we did with Aldo de Moor in 2004 (Beyond personal webpublishing: An exploratory study of conversational blogging practices). Then we did a manual analysis of a single conversation between multiple weblogs and proposed a number of characteristics of conversational blogging practices.

Since then many things changed. Not only there is much more research on all weblog things, but also now there are more tools to do weblog analysis. For my dissertation I want to use weblog analysis tools developed by Anjo (an overview - Understanding weblog communities through digital traces: a framework, a tool and an example) to extend the analysis to more conversations. (snip

I'm pretty sure (based on non-systematic observation ;) that blogging practices have changed from 2004, most likely in respect to the following things (mainly those affecting linking between weblog posts that is at core of our definition of a weblog conversation):

  • Relations between people have evolved and many conversations are moving from weblogs to other media. An example of that is in my paper with Andrea, but I guess many longer-term bloggers could tell similar stories.
  • Number of (relevant) weblogs have expanded, so reading practices of some people have changed (do you read weblogs of others as closely and as consistently as in 2004? I don't.)
  • Large scale introduction of tagging and evolution of categorisation-related features of weblog tools might have changed practices of organising one's thinking in a weblog, so there is less need to rely on linking to one's own posts.

Other issues with the dataset:

  • The community membership is defined in some (attempting to be objective, but far from perfect) way. Some members are probably missing, others do not necessary belong to the community if defined in other ways (e.g. based on topical analysis).
  • We have only weblog posts (and not comments) in the dataset, which limits the analysis (e.g. we can't do a proper comparison with the conversation analysed in the paper with Aldo, which included weblog posts and comments).
  • Some conversations may span boundaries of a community, so those will not be discovered or will be "truncated".
As a little whimsical aside, Lila has recently become a mother, and has in her blog these superb posts on KM, life and blogging: mixed in with advice to feeding mothers.  cool


Commoncraft has a post on comparing blogs and discussion boards.


Web Dawn has a cool blog: click to display it as a forum.  :-)  (But for an old conservative for me, It's not quite there yet . . .)


I'm thinking hard about thjis at the moment.
Any further links and connections to artlicles are welcome . . .

I apologise for the LONG post.  I don't have time now to write briefer.  Yet.
-Derek
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Assessment

by Colby Stuart -
Emma, Derek has shown the spotlight on some of the issues. Your concern about only seeing the top post - or the blog owner only seeing posts - generally can be a choice in how you set your preferences.

Also, there is a big difference between an internal blog and an external blog. We develop the blog preferences together and set them according to how we want to communicate and work together.

For our class blogs, we use them to post what catches our eye, content links, announcing events, and so on. Students can comment and build on the content with more links. If we want to discuss a post, we do not do that in comments, we move that to the forum. This gives students the chance to open a dialogue and take time for reflection - ask questions of others. In normal classroom timelines, there is not enough time for students to build this kind of dialogue -particularly for students who are not as quick to repond or as extroverted as others.

From my experience with my student groups, they find this helps them connect not only with the content, but offers them ample space to contribute and build on the content, making the learning process much more personalized.

There are students who have long graduated who are still referencing these blogs and adding links and comments to older posts to continue to build a topical archive as a resource for themselves and their other students from that time. It also keeps them in touch with one another - offering to meet in different cities when they are in town.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Assessment

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
This issue goes back to what you are using the blog for. Asking students to write a blog about their learning is a wonderful personal reflective activity for the student. They may be more open in that reflection if they aren't worried about being critiqued by other students.

The teachers believe that interaction with class mates is useful may not be motivation enough to engage the learner. Because our schools are focused on proving academic achievement through marks, our students will rarely engage in online commenting unless they receive marks and some guidelines about what is expected.

Online forums have a different dynamic because they are more like classroom discussions that are less focussed on an individual and more on the back and forth interaction of discussion.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Assessment

by Jeffrey Keefer -

I really struggle with tagging. Either I am inconsistent or I forget to do it. Perhaps one of the struggles is that there does not seem to exist a centrally agreed-upon folksonomy. This reminds me of the contribution of the old Dewey Decimal System, where this get placed (or tagged) in a standardized way.

Since so many people use tags, I wonder why a centralized format has not seemed to have developed yet. Does anybody know if any work has been done in this area?

In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Assessment

by Colby Stuart -
Jeffrey, lots of work on taxonomies is available...just Google, sit back and dive in. Folksonomies are personal and you can work toward to shared set of keyword tags. I try to do this per each class because it helps everyone with findability. We keep track of those in the wiki, where everyone can reference them.
In reply to Colby Stuart

Re: Assessment

by Jeffrey Keefer -

Colby, I know there are a lot of taxonomies available--that is the problem. There are multiple ones, which in turn means consistency is not yet possible. I tag most of my own personal blog posts http://www.silenceandvoice.com/ with Technorati tags, so they will be searchable. However, I tag them in ways that I search (which means I commonly use multiple-word tags rather than abbreviations and underscores which other people prefer).

I like having the freedom to do this, but with taxonomic freedom comes inconsistent tagging.

In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Assessment

by Colby Stuart -
Jeffrey, I think you've hit the nail on the head. Is it more important for you to find things - or is it more important for others to find content?

If you choose Technorati tags (there is a great little widget for that!), then you could choose to use the most "socially acceptable" so that others can access your stuff. That's your own personal choice. These choices should always be part of the active learning discussion.
In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Tagging comments

by Derek Chirnside -
From Re: Assessment by emmadw on Monday, 10 September 2007 9:19:00 a.m.:
How easy do they find the tagging? I find that I have difficulty remembering the tags that I've created for myself, (which is why I like WordPress as a blogging tool, as the categories are always visible). I'm also often unsure as to what to call something, so I'd be interested to know how your students get on with it? If they have a resource that one student finds & wants to tag it with a particular tag, do others then re-use that tag, or do they pick a synonym / related word because they prefer that word?

The thing about tagging is that there are no RIGHT answers - at least in one respect.  Poor tags (in that they lack shared meaning) just kind of fade away.  In this respect, some students of a particular disposition do find this hard.  Two things I observe:
  1. They want things 'right'.  They can be then very tentative in doing it.
  2. They want their tags to be used or at least not ignored and they can feel bad.  :-)
IMO, this is an area that could be researched.

OK - you are unsure about what to call something.  I say: 1) does this mean you are unsure about it and need to do more thinking? or 2) is there several possible tags that may fit? or even 3) can you create links no-one has made before?  The idea (as I see it) that tagging is sort of self correcting, and initially the more tags the better.

I'm now going to contradict myself.  A scenario: person X tags a case study that is patently Behaviouristic/direct instruction with a constructivist tag.  What do we do?  ie some tags are wrong.  :-)  I'm trying to manage the collaborative side of things to smooth this out - and building in a critical evaluative feedback loop.  Sometimes we succeed.  :-)

From Re: Assessment by quantumbrands on Monday, 10 September 2007 11:14:00 a.m.:
Emma, as they begin, they are unsure and use folksonomies that can be very peculiar. This becomes a discussion topic in the forum, and is soon resolved. A list of reference samples slowly starts to build on the wiki, and voila!...they start learning how to tag. The best way is to let people try and to let others help. If they experience this, they will retain it. And, they will start taking this out of the learning situation and into their work lives.

This is learning my modelling, and immersion - just what we mean by ACTIVE.  "Try and be helped."  superb.  Yes and Yes.

From Re: Assessment by jeffkeefer on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 10:38:00 a.m.:
I really struggle with tagging. Either I am inconsistent or I forget to do it. Perhaps one of the struggles is that there does not seem to exist a centrally agreed-upon folksonomy. This reminds me of the contribution of the old Dewey Decimal System, where this get placed (or tagged) in a standardized way.

'Forget'.  ''Inconsistent.  Point taken.  A good tagging application WILL assist with this.  IMO: we all have this to some extent, just press on through.

Dewey was NOT tagging.  Consider a book on Madagascar.  Does it go in travel, history or geography?  It can only go in one place.  Tags have only one pile of items, but multiple tags per item.  Tagging arose because of the failure of taxonomies to meet our needs.  There is lots written on this, like Clay Shirky's article http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html  (I don't totally understand this article, but it is interesting to read.  He says: taxonomies don't work.

"struggle with tagging"  quite understandable.  How can our puny pea brains really manage all the ideas and concepts we deal with in the level of subtly needed.  BUT IMO, tagging helps us order to the extent we are ready for just our little intersection with the great fuzz ball of ideas.

From Re: Assessment by quantumbrands on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 12:33:00 p.m.:
Folksonomies are personal and you can work toward to shared set of keyword tags.

Hmm.  I'd have thought "Folksonomies are corperate"  "Shared set" - yes.

I think this is cool: folksonomies used to really push thinking in a formal taught course, with little real need to drive students.  It's a world they can enter into.  Active learning in a real and meaningful context, taking stuff as quantumbrands said, into their work lives . . .
In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Assessment

by Emma Duke-Williams -
I really struggle with tagging. Either I am inconsistent or I forget to do it.

I know exactly what you mean! I'm not a great del.icio.us fan - I prefer iKeepbookmarks because it has folders. I'd personally rather have the same bookmark in several folders, than have to worry about whether I prefer e-Learning, eLearning, or whatever.

That's also why I like WordPress - I can have my categories, I can add to them if I want, I can have multiple categories, but I don't have to remember them all the time. I know that many people on the WordPress forums would like to have native tagging, rather that having to use a plugin; I've no object whatsoever to them having native tagging, but I hope that they don't remove categories!

Others have mentioned using technorati tags - it's not something I've thought of, though if I'm at a conference or whatever, then I do try to add the tags in my mirrored blog (which is Elgg based, so has tags), but, given that I blog primarily for ME, not for an audience, it's not something that is particularly important to me.

I don't feel that I need to have a given taxonomy, as Jeffrey has suggested, however, I like being able to chose words that suit me. (Someone, Derek I think,  suggested the idea that I might be choosing the wrong word - I agree, that could be a problem ... but I'd like to think that I haven't so far!)

I guess we all have different ways of organising things (says she with piles of paper on the floor that have to get back into some semblance of order before this evening!) - which is why have differing attitude to the use / ease of tagging.


In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Assessment

by Colby Stuart -
Assessing the purpose of a blog is also important. If you blog only for yourself to archive thoughts, then you do not have to serve a purpose for others. If you blog for a particular audience or participants (also important to qualify - one is broadcast, the other is engagement), then making content "findable" for them should be a strategy that requires having tools to access that content.

Findability is personal and very important to researchers and those who use references.

Peter Morville wrote a great book on this a few years ago called Ambient Findability http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0596007655/findability-20

He also has a blog: http://findability.org

Del.icio.us plays an integral role with a classroom communication and participation tools. It is another archive, reference and tool for the students to track links and easily find them again. If students build an integrated "tool box" of a blog, forum, wiki, del.icio.us and other social media, they can much better engage in content, communication with one another and the docent, and the learning process. And, not just for that course, but there is dcocumention and a referencing system in place to continue to engage with content and one another. It leaves the learning process much more open. Kind of like OpenSource learning.

This makes assessment much more visible for everyone - and for contribution to that assessment. This is the heart of 21st Century learning - participation.
In reply to Colby Stuart

Re: Assessment

by Cristina Costa -
I do think that is indeed the right approach. Students creating content in context, and at the end seeing the result of their joint effort as they contribute to the knowledge wealth of a wider group by leaving things published and accessible to and in the WWW. I also believe it validates and stimulates students' work, as they develop their own voice and are, in a way, "exposed" to a wider community.
I do encourage staff here at the Uni to do the same. We have some projects starting really soon where we are aiming to students to engage in wikis and in discussion Forums for that same reason. It is also a  great way to initiate students in an active way of learning.

I just wish more people would adopt such strategies. I think it will come with time. I am positive we are getting there.

Thanks for sharing!  ;-)
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessment

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

Questions to ask yourself about feedback

  • Do students actively engage with assessment criteria and standards?

  • Are there formal/informal opportunities for self and peer assessment processes?

  • What kind of feedback is provided: does it help students to self-assess, self-correct?

  • Does the feedback focus on learning goals rather than on marks?

  • Is feedback acted upon?

  • How is feedback used to shape teaching?

- Dr David Nicol, Re-engineering Assessment Practices in Scottish Higher Education [REAP] http://www.reap.ac.uk/projectEdu.html





 

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessment

by Inge Ignatia de Waard -

hi all

All the online courses have self-assessments with immediate feedback. The immediate feedback is very important, the students get a lot of information out of this feedback.

The same is true for examinations: the students get feedback after the examination to enable them to better understand the provided content.

Each test is also carefully screened. If a specific question always get a high percentage of wrong answers, the question is revised or taken out.

The assessments (and courses) are also evaluated by the students to get a clear picture of what can be improved.

To enable the best possible objective grading system in online discussion boards at the institute, we use a grading template. The grading mechanisms are also mentioned to the students, giving them the opportunity to produce the best possible discussion content.

Things teacher take into consideration for grading a student:

  • amount of input that a student provides;
  • quality of the input;
  • if she/he gives references for better understanding;
  • is the material relevant to the topic;
  • does the student take initiative (provide extra information);
  • ...

This evaluation process is also done on any courses that are given, including the eLearning courses as well as the face-to-face courses. The feedback is used to optimize the curriculum.
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Assessing Creativity

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
Creative Thinking is one of the standard components of critical thinking. Is anyone here assessing creativity? Anyone giving extra credit for creative presentations or processes or products? 
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessing Creativity

by Colby Stuart -
Dierdre, this is a BIG issue for those who are not creative, nor aware of the core frameworks for creative thinking. As a seasoned Creative Director in my regualr work, I always include elements of creative practices for students to include in their research and presentations.

The way I present this is multi-dimensional. For some, it means they can add photography or images like charts and maps - basically illustrating their ideas to tell the story. For others, who think more conceptually, they can build on visualisation by adding more meaningful or semantic or semiotic applications.

I do reward people for their imagination and for their efforts to be imaginative - wherever they can enhance the story and help people connect to content.
In reply to Colby Stuart

Re: Assessing Creativity

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
Colby, you have just raised one of the problems with one fits all assessment. approve

When I was in Grade 9, I took an art class with a teacher who had a very rigid definitions of Art and I barely passed because I can't draw. The teacher told me to reconsider my academic choices. Persistent soul that I was, I took art in Grade 10 with a different instructor who agreed with the fact that I couldn't draw sad, but he really encouraged me to explore my creativity and expand my definition of Art. I ended up with very good marks in his class and a life long appreciation of that elusive process - creativity.

Over my long years as a teacher, I have seen many student's creativity dismissed as academically unimportant. In many cases as you say, it's because the teacher doesn't understand creativity's role in thinking and problem solving. Whenever I hear about people who did poorly in school but who have contributed to the world's knowledge (Einstein or Edison for example), I mourn for our schools inability to acknowledge/reward creative thinkers.

Robbie Williams, the British pop star has a very caustic poem about the teacher who humiliated him to the point of tears, dismissed his interest in music and encouraged him to join the Army because he'd never amount to much. Warning this poem may be offensive to some because of vulgarity. I include it here because of the pain and anger that persists 20 years after the experience. 

I deal with this conundrum by saying, "Here is the goal/objective that you need to achieve", then giving the students some options about how they can demonstrate their achievement. The majority of them will opt for the standard paper or MCQ, but I've seen some really creative alternatives and additions that have then become part of my teaching material for the class.
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessing Creativity

by Colby Stuart -
Deidre, what we did not realize back then, that we are far more aware of know, is that most elementary and high school teachers have limited educations, experience and scope. They impose their own values on students rather than searching for ways to bring the learning into possibility.

My son, who is a very talented artist and writer, was shamed in his 7th class by an art teacher who knew nothing about art...in a private school that cost me 12,000 per year. Needless to say, I was furious. Downside is that we can never "un-ring that bell".

We have a responsibility to students to help them learn - not to teach them. Creativity is actually the ability to identitfy and organise relatinships into new concepts - creativity is not about the ability to draw. To someone who is not creative, they do not understand this. Most teachers are not creative. NOt their fault, just part of their value system.

Before we can assess creativity, we need to understand it.
In reply to Colby Stuart

Re: Assessing Creativity

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
Standardized students become standardized teachers because they have been successful in a standardized system. In my daughter's creative writing class in high school, she wrote a screen play for a horror movie (she wants to be a movie director). The teacher gave her a 54 because she didn't like horror movies and didn't think a young woman should be writing such things(her words from the paper). I took the play to our writer-in-residence who thought the play was astoundingly good and who took it upon himself to write the school a letter criticizing the mark. The school principal responded by writing him a letter reprimanding him for interfering and making a strong statement for the teaching competence of the instructor who I knew had admitted to never taking a creative writing course in her life, nor had anything she'd written been published.

So my point in this discussion is not to highlight negative experiences with teachers but rather to emphasis the importance of valuing differences in the ways that students actively engage in learning and to highlight the importance of making creative thinking visible and valued.
In reply to Colby Stuart

Re: Assessing Creativity

by Derek Chirnside -
Colby, I think many of us have had similar experiences.  I nearly pulled my boy out of the school he was in last year for this very reason.  The school is really good if you 'sit down, shut up and do what you are told'.  But they were at war with my son otherwise.

For creativity: I have never put this as a criteria in assessment in High School projects I used to run.  I have this vague sense it was like assessing 'intelligence' and was uneasy about this.  Now that I think about it I have not really thought about it properly.

You said: "Creativity is actually the ability to identify and organise relationships into new concepts - creativity is not about the ability to draw."

This is very helpful.  I know kids who can draw, but are not really creative in the sense of doing new things, synthesis, connecting etc.  They are the kind of artist who will do well in an architects' firm formalizing someone else's brief.  This in contrast to a kid who can see a bottle and a glass on the table and think "The glass would look good balanced on the bottle".  @#$%^&

What I was rubric creating in the past I'd have "Evidence of original thinking" as a facet.  Sort of "I know it when I see it"  :-)  [I get the feeling if I read these theorist you talk about a whole new world would open up]

In my HS teaching days, what I found was this:
  1. I don't like assessing these things.
  2. But I did assess - to highlight the skills, reward where I could . . .
  3. And I think students found themselves taken into new places they may not have gone because of this, even if it was not natural to them.
    ie do 2 things: stretch them into uncomfortable areas.  Let them have opportunity in the things they are good at.
  4. Regularly (not enough to bore them) talk about learning, engagement, comfort, discomfort . .
  5. - - - > Active learning I hope.
Coming to my vague ill defined point: I think it takes effort to help students become active learners.  I wonder what the difference is online?

-Derek
Another Good discussion Deidre.  I'm not really engaging with everything.  Just dipping in once a day.  There are LOTS of things interesting to think about in these posts . . . .
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Assessing Creativity

by Sharon Porterfield -

It's the end of a work day and I'm having random thoughts, but as I read Derek's post, I wondered about the evolution of active learning and why it's not reaching some of the K-12 schools. Granted, there are teachers within each school that provide more opportunities for active learning than others, but is our public education system - as a whole - so entrenched in "how things have been done for the past 50 years" that it's not ready to depart from  the "sit down, be quiet, and listen to me talk" mode of teaching?

Moving from Saskatchewan to Alberta has reinforced the disparity for me. In Alberta, we have publicly funded charter schools where the provincial curriculum is taught through individual charters. For example, my son attends a school where the curriculum is taught through arts immersion. Not only does the school have classroom teachers, but it also has seven full-time practicing and accomplished artists encompassing drama, dance, art, music, and literary arts. We chose this school for him because it is more activity based than the "sit down and listen to me talk" school down the street. The number of private schools out here is overhwhelming, too. This leads me to question - if parents are choosing alternatives to public education - why isn't public education sitting up and taking notice?

And, if we can't get the public education sector to notice, how do we promote active, inquiry-based learning at post-secondary levels? And, how do we promote active learning in training based corporations where the goal is to "get 'em in, get 'em trained, and get 'em out working again"?

I'm enjoying this topic very much. Thanks for hosting it Deirdre!

Sharon

 

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessing Creativity

by J. Leong -
Paul Torrents has done a lot of work on assessing creativity.
In reply to J. Leong

Re: Assessing Creativity

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
I couldn't find any information on Google scholar for Paul Torrents. Do you have more information?
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessing Creativity

by J. Leong -
Torrence, Paul . I spelled it incorrectly before. There's loads of resources on the web.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Assessing Creativity

by Bonnie Skaalid -
The author is E. Paul Torrence.  I googled him and came up with this page on Creativity  http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/c/creativity.html (gotta love that Google!)