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Final Reflections on Online Learning and Assessment

Patricia Christian

Assesment in E-Learning Professor Datta Khalsa, Ph.D. University Wisconsin Stout August 3, 2012

Final Reflections on Online Learning and Assessment Introduction What is the return of investment for individuals who are raised in a digital age? Does it depend upon the design of input from various technologies? You may have seen young children reading books on IPADS or middle or high school level students using IPADS in an interactive assessment or collaborating on a project. The return of investment will depend upon the level of engaged critical thinking by these digital natives while using the technology on a daily basis. Educators in the middle age range are also challenged as states adopt to link E-courses to the Common Core standards (Education Week, 2011). Virtual Paradigm Shift Buhagiar discusses the alternative assessment paradigm as a shift from measuring learning towards assessment that is explicitly designed to promote learning as a meaning-making process. Traditional forms of assessment are described as: Learning unfriendly because the results may reveal what students recall, about what we think they should remember. (Ellis, 2001)

Curriculum unfriendly because there is an emphasis on the recall of factual knowledge with heavy reliance on memory and rote learning (Gipps & Stobart, 1993; Torrance. (1993). Teacher unfriendly in the sense that teachers are always concerned about high stake testing and avoiding the public embarrassment and humiliation. (Smith, 1991). Student unfriendly because instead of motivating all students to work harder and encourage them to carry on learning, has a de-motivating influence on most of them and effectively pushes them out of the system (Broadfoot, 1996). Gipps and Stobard identify six purposes of classroom assessment: Screening Diagnostic Record keeping Feedback Certification Selection

According to Harlen (1994, p139), Assessment in the new paradigm is in fact no longer seen as a scientific or objective activity. In recognition of the

postmodern notions of multiple realities, subjectivity and knowledge construction, it is perceived instead as an inexact matter and can never be an exact one. There is room for subjectivity on high stakes exams- for example state exams. Test questions may be poorly written and the rubrics may assess information which students were not asked to include in a response Gipps (1994). Understanding of quality assessment is defined in terms of trustworthiness. Qualities of a trustworthy assessment include credibility, transferability, dependability and authenticity. Authentic Assessment Formative assessment when used throughout instruction enables the instructor to take note of areas which need to be retaught or reviewed. adding technology into our design of assessment practice, learning is empowered (Davies, 2010). In a report by the Institute of Education in London, the benefits of E-formative assessment are speed, automation, scalability and adaptability; communication can be held synchronously or asynchronously. Various web tools like Voice Thread, Web Ex, and WIKI are examples of technologies through which outcome based assessments can be made. Using authentic assessment can be time consuming but necessary. For example, assessing student writing takes time, but teachers alone should not be the only eyes monitoring a students progress. Through the use of Six Traits of Writing students learn the traits and how to identify them in their own writing as well as their peers. In the process, formative By

assessment is ongoing as the skill of writing is taught. Researchers from the Institute of Education at the University of London state almost any technology can be used in a formative way if the right conditions are set in place (Daly, Laurillard, Mor, Mellar, Pachler, William). A framework with effective pedagogy in e-assessment will drive instruction. Of course there are foundational theories such as Blooms Taxonomy which has been rewritten in Andrew Churches guide entitled, "Bloom's Digital Taxonomy" which is very helpful in pointing out the difference between LOTS (lower order thinking skills) and HOTS (higher order thinking skills). Bloom's revised taxonomy is an extension of the learning process. Throughout the taxonomy learning is occurs at every level. Andrew Churches summarizes succinctly: "Before we can UNDERSTAND a concept we have to REMEMBER it Before we can APPLY the concept we must UNDERSTAND it Before we can EVALUATE its impact we must have ANALYSED it Before we can CREATE we must have REMEMBERED, UNDERSTOOD, APPLIED, ANALYSED and EVALUATED". (Churches, p.6) Transferring face to face (F2F) learning objectives and activities to online learning is challenging. First you must identify what it is the students need to learn, or the essential understandings. Then you must provide activities to practice the information being learned. Lastly there must be a summative assessment to see how the students make application of the

information learned. By using the Backward Design Process also known as Understanding by Design process (McTighe, Wiggins), you begin instructional planning with the end in mind. Instructional Design When we plan instruction to promote thinking and learning we must begin with the question, What should be assessed? Our goal is for our students to become citizens and lifelong learners who are inquiring and reflective thinkers, effective communicators, self-directed and ethical people, responsible citizens and world contributors (U.S. Department of Education). In order to inform instructional planning we must have decisive answers from the beginning to the following: How students will understand what is required What constitutes evidence of student learning How it will be gathered and recorded to determine at which standard a key element outcome will be achieved. How students will demonstrate their understanding across a range of contexts How students may be involved. (U.S. Dept. of Ed. P.16)

Through authentic assessments students are able to make meaning through the process. One way to involve students socially is through collaboration

on projects or through strategic conversations around a topic which involves students using higher order thinking skills (HOTS). Social Skill Building through Collaboration One venue for strategic conversations to become a viable learning tool is through cyber-coaching. Dr. Naomi-Jeffery Peterson addressed three One was

invited topics at a symposium Putting Student Learning First.

deep thinking, the second technology and the third was assessment. These three topics are incorporated in cyber-coaching which provides personalized feedback appropriate for higher levels of thinking. Coaching is defined to include a tutorial function of monitoring student progress in order to provide feedback of improvement. Cyber-coaching is a way to use readily available technology for the coaching function of an instructor. (Peterson p. 3)A coach looks for skills to develop which means monitoring is taking place in order to give constructive guidance and feedback. This notion of cyber-coaching imbeds current theory and research in cognitive science. Rubrics are the Coachs tool of choice for feedback to analyze a task according to multiple criteria. By using various learning

design and assessment elements a constructive approach can be used to create a learner centered model for e-learning. Examples from Information Technology and Business fields are delineated in E-Learning and Constructivism: From Theory to Application. The three categories for

elements of Constructivism are the design of the learning activities, learning assessment and the instructors roles. Outcome based instruction can be equated to assessment for understanding. Meaningful instruction when assessed demonstrates understanding by being able to construct meaning. Instructional rubrics are instrumental in promoting sophisticated thinking and learning. They help teachers teach, as well as evaluate student work. (Andrade) Instructional rubrics vary but there are two essential features in all: a list of criteria and gradations of quality. Instructional rubrics are easy to use by both teachers and students. Creating rubrics as an instructional activity can be empowering for students. They will understand the design and components in the rubric and how it functions to help them provide constructive feedback. Andrade justifies the use of instructional rubrics because they: Are easy to use and to explain. Make teachers expectations very clear. Provide students with more informative feedback about their strengths and areas in need of improvement than traditional forms of assessment do. Support learning. Support the development of skills. Support the development of understanding. Support good thinking.

Conclusion Curtis Bonk, author of The Perfect E-Storm and Sharing the Journey, describes the progression of technology in education. His report in 2004 predicted an evolving trend in the technologies we currently use. His projective analysis provides a blueprint for the future of online learning which schools, universities and businesses will need in order to create engaging platforms for learning. As we move toward National Common Core Standards, it would behoove us to integrate standards of technology. In order to learn forward, we must embrace the tools and instructional strategies which will assist us in teaching our learners to become critical thinkers who are passionate about learning. There is a place at the table in cyberspace for all who desire to learn for a lifetime.

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