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The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ - The New York Times
"It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that."
learning  learningoutcomes  outcomes  academia  assessment  evaluation  quantification  measurement  accountability  highered  highereducation  2018  mollywhorthen  criticalthinking  johndewey  metrics  inquiry  efficiency  standardization  standardizedtesting  capitalism  content  complexity  howwelearn  howwethink  knowledge  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  schools  pedagogy  teaching  skepticism  bureaucracy  corporatism  corporatization  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Art of Teaching
[via: "The slide deck for the workshop is superb. Such a great experience, so grateful to @tchoi8 & the other participants."

referencing also: "How I learn to build things. Something I created for @tchoi8’s Art of Learning workshop at @eyeofestival." ]

[video: "Absence is Presence with Distance"

"As an artist, I work with technology and narrative – formal and relational projects. As an activist, I examine personal and political – practice and praxis. As an educator, I create feedback between plastic and elastic – learning and unlearning. My talk is set at the dawn. We are waiting for the sun to rise and we are full of questions. What’s the role of an artist as an activist now? How can we critique oppressive systems that create the sense of ‘others’ based on ability and legal status? What’s kind of pedagogy can we experiment through alternative schools? How can we create a community among those who have nothing in common? By creating art, we can give form to our intentions, contribute to making the world we want to live in.

( For a companion posting to this talk visit: )]
taeyoonchoi  education  teaching  purpose  routine  ritual  silence  flow  conflict  communication  structure  nurture  authority  kojinkaratani  jean-lucnancy  community  howweteach  pedagogy  learning  howwelearn  eyeo2017  unlearning  curriculum  syllabus  sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputation  art  craft  beauty  utility  generosity  sfsh  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  classideas  cv  reciprocity  gifts  kant  discretion  instruction  discipline  johndewey  bmc  blackmountaincollege  justice  annialbers  stndardization  weaving  textiles  making  projectbasedlearning  materials  progress  progressive  unschooling  deschooling  control  experimentation  knowledge  fabrication  buckminsterfuller  constructivism  constructionism  georgehein  habit  freedom  democracy  paulofreire  judithbutler  sunaurataylor  walking  christinesunkim  uncertainty  representation  intervention  speculation  simulation  christopheralexander  objectives  outcomes  learningoutcomes  learningobjectives  remembering  creativity  evaluation  application  analysis  understanding  emancipation  allankaprow  judychicago  s 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Data collected about student behaviour doesn't help improve teaching or learning
"Universities and schools around the world face constant pressure to find measures that demonstrate their impact on student learning. Most recently, they are devoting immense amounts of time, money and other resources to a new measurement approach called learning analytics.

Learning analytics captures data about student and teacher behaviour, most frequently from the learning management software systems (LMS) used by schools and universities to design, manage and deliver their programs and courses.

The data includes tweets, file uploads, downloads, logons and participation in LMS blogs and chat rooms. This data is frequently augmented with information from other systems like student records and administration.

The goal of learning analytics is to establish what works to improve learning and teaching in the same way other fields use analytic approaches to predict the behaviour of shoppers, banking fraudsters and stock traders.

The idea of using data to understand and predict better learning and teaching makes complete sense, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that the learning analytics data gathered is not much about learning or teaching.

When analytics systems monitor the behaviour of shoppers, or fraudsters, or stock traders, they are watching what people do when they shop, commit frauds or make trades; the behaviour the analysts are interested in predicting.

In learning analytics, the concept is the same – to predict whether students learn well and teachers teach effectively.

However, the quality of learning and teaching cannot be determined from the behaviours being watched and counted by an LMS or related systems.

Why? Because knowing how many times a student tweeted or used a chat room has little to do with how teachers teach or the ways students learn.

The current learning analytics approach is like deciding whether a medical practice is successful by counting whether people attend their appointments or pick up their prescriptions, instead of focusing on doctors interacting with patients and the quality of what happens when they do.

No data to show it works

Not surprisingly, there is no body of evidence showing that LMS and other system data improve student learning or teaching.

It is not the case that current learning analytic data is irrelevant. It is correlated with student engagement and participation and may offer general indicators of student needs. It just does not inform teachers or learners what they need to do better or differently to make learning happen.

Focusing on things that do not make an important difference to student learning means we are not paying attention to the things that do.

Over 50 years of research on learning and teaching has told us about what makes a lecture active, how students work best in groups, the strategies that help students learn most effectively, and what makes for quality assessment.

These things among many others are well known, while data about them can be gathered from the interaction among teachers and students face-to-face or online.

Most importantly, they are powerful predictors of student learning. The issue is worthy of serious concern because the things we measure focus our attention, shape our priorities and can ultimately determine what we understand and how we behave. This is a big problem if you are not gathering the right data.

Learning analytics data and the systems that gather it have become proxies, surrogates for what we should be measuring to improve student learning.

Three ways to solve the problem

1. Pay attention to the over 50 years of research about learning and teaching that show visible effects on student achievement, including what makes co-operative and teacher-led learning most effective.

2. Build technology tools that help teachers to design, deliver and evaluate what they do in ways that include effective learning and teaching approaches. A growing body of research is showing that technology can be used in a different way to assist teachers design and deliver more effective learning experiences. This approach offers the potential of a new kind of learning analytics data that focuses on what learners and teachers do.

3. Gather data directly from the people involved – the students and teachers. Ask them to give feedback when they are designing, delivering and participating in learning and teaching, instead of surveilling them. This feedback emerges all the time from the day-to-day interaction among students and teachers.

We know that doing something about these things can make a big difference in student learning. Implementing the three solutions means focusing on the evidence we need instead of the data we have.

We can gather data on how well programs and courses are designed, whether effective practices are being employed, whether assignments line up with what is taught, and whether all those efforts are improving student learning outcomes.

The problem with learning analytics is not simply another example of education wastefully impersonating other fields for little benefit.

These types of data and the systems that gather them are defining what learning and teaching mean. At present, quality is being defined by the data that is available instead of the feedback we need about learning and teaching in schools and universities."
students  schools  data  behavior  2016  learninganalytics  teaching  learningoutcomes  howweteach  surveillance 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Fortnightly Mailing: We must ..... a call to action to create the university of the future
"1. We must encourage the reuse and remixing of rich media. ... 2. We must embrace the full promise of mobile devices as learning platforms. 3. We must award credentials based on learning outcomes. 4. We must enable a culture of sharing. 5. We must take care that open resources include the context that will enable its use and understanding."
education  learning  teaching  students  sharing  pedagogy  openaccess  openness  colleges  universities  mobile  phones  mobilelearning  change  gamechanging  manifestos  remixing  reuse  credentials  learningoutcomes  access  highered  remixculture 
november 2009 by robertogreco

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