Assessing with Technologies Panel, ATN Assessment Conference
E-learning and role-plays online (Fang Law et al)
The presentation begins with the now-discredited, or at least heavily contested, concept of the “net generation”, including quoting Kennedy’s report (2009) which is part of the research showing that the net generation is not a particular useful concept, nor empirically sustained. It then provides the goal for the learning: employability (including quoting Gillard on the need for skills that work for work). The particular emphasis here is negotiation skills
The research described in this paper is based on discussions with three staff in business fields, looking at advantages and disadvantages of online assessment options for role-plays, with role-plays teaching the negotiation skills in an authentic way. Lecturers involved in the research had already done role-plays. They found it hard to move the role-play to a fully online environment and, instead, preferred to do role-plays in the traditional manner – co-present – and then using additional aspects online to finish off the roleplays. One critical aspect of good role-plays is debriefing; the presenter indicates that online modes enable much faster debriefing than traditional paper modes [quite why this is the case I don’t know – perhaps simply the ‘turnaround’ of paper? If so, it’s a relatively narrow application of the potentials of electronic writing]. Paper lists various straightforward ways in which ‘technology’ supports the roleplay process, principally around feedback and discussion and reflection.
Creating change in traditional assessment strategies… (Toomey et al.)
Emphasis on assessing real-world skills; using real situations not just artificial mock-ups. Thus, the presenter is saying real work needs to be performed, and then assessed, not that we attempt scenarios or similar. The research reported is on high school students in VET programs. The understandings of what is assessment and how people learning, as well as the whole economic structures involved, make the results of only marginal interest outside of the specific context, aside from the basic idea that one can wear camera glasses, record what one is doing, and then be assessed on what is seen (and heard) on the resulting video. Students assess themselves on the video, use it to improve.
Encouraging student self-assessment…(ReView) (Lawson et al.)
Students’ “active engagement with assessment standards” (Tenet 5 from Rust) : this point is a key foundation. Project reported here is ALTC project on knowledge of graduate attributes among staff and student and how are they built in to assessment. The technology discusses here is an online system, ReView, to make marking and assessment easier for staff; yet, it can also be used for self-assessment; and further, comparing the two perspectives. (Nice system – see commentary re its potential for massification of higher education). Research showed that, when students knew what GAs were, this helped them in their learning. Research also showed a global mismatch between student and tutor perceptions of students’ skills – students tended to overrate at first. When they did follow-up assignments, they did indeed align their expectations of stands to what was shared among the teaching staff.
Another paper heard today in this panel that relies on the simple dichotomies of the net generation, including the claim that students in this generation prefer active learning to passive learning. Rather like the claim that Web 2.0 technologies will (like Web 1.0!) make learning and students and teachers more likely (necessarily going) to work in a constructivist way. In fact, there is some evidence that students now are just as, or more, passive in their learning; at the very least, one cannot link a generational change around technology to the presumption of activeness, since it ignores the critical importance of learners motivations and skills for learning. The same theme developed in another paper, adding the concept of ‘learners on the go’- what does this mean?
However, it does occur to me that we might look at the specific modalities of communication that have become culturally associated with online communication. For example, while students probably do not assume that ‘assignments’ can be done via social networking tools perhaps they associate ‘feedback’ with a kind of rapid, interactive, short communication of the sort found in status updates, SMS and so on. Furthermore, students’ assumptions about ‘time’ are more likely to be influenced by the rapid, just-in-time nature of contemporary mediated communications, such that ‘timely’ for a student might be entirely inappropriate for the business of assessment grading.
Law’s paper also prompted me to think that some of our attempts to build in ‘online technologies’ are, largely, based on an intuitive sense that writing on a screen somehow makes reflection and interaction more likely to occur. This sense has, for me, two origins. First, of course, the considerable literature asserting this state of affairs without much detailed empirical research (though some exists); second, that society is using these technologies and there must, therefore, be a way or indeed a requirement for them to be used. If, however, we stopped thinking of technologies as ‘tools’ and begin thinking of them as channels, we may find a better basis for understanding and therefore tuning what is going on to the outcomes we seek. Ultimately, what is reported in many presentations as ‘the use of technology’ is probably better understood as the use of additional, different or more effective communications channels. Furthermore, we might well seek to understand reflection as communication with oneself, of relocating one’s thoughts outside of the self to be visible for reconsumption. If this is done electronically, then perhaps that is because many students do not write on paper anymore for this kind of life-work.
There appear to be two quite distinct trends in the way technology is operating to change our approaches to teaching and learning. One trend is the use of networked computing to enable activities and operations that used to be done primarily by people, in a shared culture, in ways that involve considerable time and money and which become increasingly attenuated and prone to failure if they are scaled. For example: in years past several tutors would work with a lecturer in a large unit, perhaps 400 students, and the processes of moderation and management would be done in meetings and so on. When scaled to units of 2000, these cultures and practices begin to fail, especially in conditions of economic constraint. Some of the technologies now being developed enable the same outcomes – moderation, commonality, management of assignments and so on – but on a massive scale and with greater distribution. The other trend is to use computing and related technologies to create hyper-individuality, to attempt to emphasise and promote the individual rather than the class. Potentially, we see both modern and postmodern trends at work simultaneously: modernity demands mass; postmodernity demands individualisation.