Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Openness needs a business model

Cover Open is not free. Openness needs a business model. Guess which one the neolibs have in mind.
"Laurillard is careful to separate education from access to resources, but she presents the relationship between the OER movement and web technology as largely unproblematic. I want to argue that the relationship is more layered and more complex, and that openness is an affordance of an assemblage and related to broad social conditions, national politics, economics and law."

Openness, technologies, business models and austerity. Learning, Media and Technology 15 Jun 2015 doi: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1051307
Open education emerged when the state had an active role in shaping and financing post-secondary education. In the twenty-first century, two pressures influence the way openness is conceived. The first is the compounding of neo-liberal economics with austerity following the financial crash of 2008. The second is the consolidation of networked and digital technologies at an institutional and infrastructural level, illustrated by massive open online courses (MOOCs). This article examines the place of open education in this emerging climate of economic constraint and technological possibilities. The article argues that openness is not a property or feature of a technology but that such properties can result in affordances. This understanding informs a review of openness in The Open University (UK), in relation to MOOCs and in the open educational resources movement. A relational view of affordance suggests that openness depends in significant ways on the character of broad social processes and that if they change then the affordances of technologies for openness change with them. The current marketisation of higher education, the reduction in public finances and continuing economic uncertainty lead to contradictory and conflicting pressures. Arguing in favour of education as a public good, the article criticises calls for a ‘business model’.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Common sense about feedback

Exam feedback

This paper takes a common sense approach to fixing "the feedback problem" - the stuff we all know is broken. Clue: It's not rocket science. Fixes needed include:
  • Aligning expectations (of staff & students, and between teams of markers)
  • Identifying all feedback available
  • Develop the student’s ability to self-assess
  • Draft-plus-rework - instead of the student simply producing a ‘finished’ product
  • Improve the linkage of assessment strategies across programmes and between modules/units
  • Ensure feedback is timely
  • Consider the role of marks – they obscure feedback
  • Reduce overemphasis on written feedback – oral can be more effective

All simple, logical and entirely correct. So here's the problem - we all know this, so why don't we do it? What is the structural problem that prevents the fix being implemented?

A scholarly approach to solving the feedback dilemma in practice. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 14 Jun 2015 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2015.1052774
It is clear from the literature that feedback is potentially the most powerful and potent part of the assessment cycle when it comes to improving further student learning. However, for some time, there has been a growing amount of research evidence that much feedback practice does not fulfil this potential to influence future student learning because it fails in a host of different ways. This dilemma of the disjuncture between theory and practice has been increasingly highlighted by the UK National Student Survey results. This paper uses a model of the assessment process cycle to frame understandings drawn from the literature, and argues that the problem with much current practice resides largely in a failure to effectively engage students with feedback. The paper goes on to explore how best to effectively engage students with assessment feedback, with evidenced examples of feedback strategies that have successfully overcome this problem.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A fundamental misalignment: undergraduate science research projects

Darwin The Problem: An industrialized scale higher education system where "research projects" concentrate on the product rather than the process.

Proposed Solution:
"Our analysis suggests that even highly experienced academics involved in the provision of undergraduate research projects experience a range of contradictions around their assessment and evaluation. At the base of these contradictions lies the need for contextual judgement in the assessment of desired higher order, process-related learning outcomes and the misalignment between assessment and desired learning. It is perhaps not surprising, given the role of the journal article as the currency of scientific worth, that formal reports have been adopted as the dominant mode of assessment. However, the misalignment between this mode and the intended learning could be substantially avoided if assessment practices were to be redesigned. While we do not suggest abandoning formal reports, we do advocate the development of ways to make complex learning and higher order thinking visible as an additional and substantial component of assessment, and the concomitant development of appropriate grading criteria. In their study of unassessed, not-for-credit research experiences in science, Laursen et al. (2010) outlined a range of informal ‘markers for growth’ used by project supervisors in judging their students’ progress. They included cognitive, affective and behavioural markers: signs that students were engaging in or developing critical thinking, an understanding of the conceptual framework their project was part of, engagement in research, learning through problem-solving, dealing with risk and uncertainty, and developing independence. They have much in common with the intended learning outcomes described here. As well as confirming and expanding on the importance of these markers, our findings provide more concrete illustrations of the actions and thinking in which a student is expected to engage. We suggest that such (predictive) descriptions could form the basis for formal as well as informal judgements of student progress and achievement. In addition, their very richness and contextual specificity provides a valuable basis for students to form an understanding of how to progress and develop."

Unassessable or simply unassessed?

A fundamental misalignment: intended learning and assessment practices in undergraduate science research projects. (2015) Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education doi: 10.1080/02602938.2015.1048505
Authentic experiences of research are seen as valuable elements of undergraduate science, providing motivation for students and linking the research and teaching activities of academics. But as such experiences are made available to increasing numbers of students as formal, graded parts of the curriculum, important questions are raised about their pedagogical function and the ways in which they are assessed. This article draws on interviews with academics involved in the provision of such experiences to ask: what do academics intend that their students learn, and do conventional approaches to project assessment relate clearly and effectively to these intended outcomes? We describe four categories of intended learning and suggest that conventional approaches to assessment are fundamentally misaligned with most of these outcomes. We argue that this is due to the focus of these approaches on the products, rather than the processes and experiences, of research, a focus that partly arises from a sense of discomfort with assessment based on context-dependent judgements informed by subconscious expertise. We further suggest that alternative approaches to assessment could build on academics’ own descriptions of the experiences and behaviours they value in students.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Flipping lectures: a reflective diary

Jeremy Pritchard has shared his experience of flipped lectures in the form of a reflective diary via SpeakerDeck. (Anyone else used SpeakerDeck? Looks interesting - no audio narration option though?) I like this format more in many ways than the traditional academic paper for this sort of discussion and it's very helpful to have experience shared in this way. Well worth a read:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Social media in education again already

Bluebottle I've just finished writing yet another invited review article on ... yawn ... social media in education. This paper could have been written 10 years ago. In fact, I think I did. Part of me wants to ask Why is this taking so long? 
And yet, the early days Internet analogy to the printing press answers that question. Wake me up when we've moved on.

Josefsson, P., Hrastinski, S., Pargman, D., & Pargman, T.C. (2015) The student, the private and the professional role: Students’ social media use. Education and Information Technologies, 1-12
Research has shown that students perceive a distinct divide between educational and private use of social media. The present study explores this divide by focusing on master students’ perception of roles when using social media in a higher education context. A qualitative method has been used, mainly comprising of analyses of home exams and interviews, which were conducted with students enrolled in the master’s course “Social media technologies”. Results support previous research stating that students perceived a distinct divide between educational and private use of social media, and furthermore provide a more detailed understanding of this divide. The results from the study also indicate that there is yet another type of use: social media as a tool for career-building purposes, or what is labeled as professional use. Implications of social media for use in higher education are described through the analysis of three roles as performed by the individual: the student role in educational settings, the professional role for career-building, and the private role.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dangerous words - critical perspectives on methodology in pedagogic research

Neoliberalism I'm off to give a workshop on pedagogic research this afternoon. Individual career trajectories aside, you might think that's a comparatively neutral activity. It turns out that "academics must develop a counter discourse to that of neoliberalism if higher education's wider societal responsibilities are to be served". This paper argues that:
"both the Structure of Learning Outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy and constructive alignment downplay the distinctive characteristics of different forms of knowledge. Learning conceived according to such a model can easily become co-opted into the production of employable subjects. Our analysis suggests that significant gaps remain in the basis for one of the most widely adopted perspectives on learning and teaching in use today."

Tin hat on then.

Critical perspectives on methodology in pedagogic research. (2015) Teaching in Higher Education 20 (4): 442-454. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2015.1023286
The emancipatory dimension to higher education represents one of the sector's most compelling characteristics, but it remains important to develop understanding of the sources of determination that shape practice. Drawing on critical realist perspectives, we explore generative mechanisms by which methodology in pedagogic research affects the sector's emancipatory potential. In this, we critique the research that led to the Structure of Learning Outcomes taxonomy. Our analysis here enables us to offer a revised version of the taxonomy that is sensitive to horizontal knowledge structures. We further consider a set of studies employing approaches to research that were sensitive to variation in knowledge across disciplines, social relations, reflexivity, corporate agency and other considerations, enabling us to illuminate the stratified basis for our explanatory critique. There is potential for our analysis to assist in developing approaches that are distinctive to research into higher education.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Teaching and communicating science in a digital age

Drosera capensis Teaching and communicating science in a digital age
This F1000Research channel brings together papers developed from presentations made at Teaching and Communicating Science in a Digital Age, a Society for Experimental Biology symposium involving Higher Education Professionals from across the globe to reflect upon the impact that digital technologies have and will have upon aspects of the communication of science:

  • Tweets from the forest: using Twitter to increase student engagement in an undergraduate field biology course: "Although students did not think they would use Twitter after the course was over, 77% of the students still felt it was a good learning tool, and 67% of students felt Twitter had a positive impact on how they engaged with course content."
  • Challenges and opportunities for early-career Teaching-Focussed academics in the biosciences: "We identify that there is a need for the learned societies to come together and pool their expertise in this area. The fragmented nature of the Teaching-Focussed academic community means that clear sources of national support are needed in order to best enable the next generation of bioscience educators to reach their full potential."
  • Digital collaborative learning: identifying what students value: "Here we present findings generated on PlantingScience, an online community where scientists from more than 14 scientific societies have mentored over 14,000 secondary school students as they design and think through their own team investigations on plant biology."
  • Interactive lectures: Clickers or personal devices? "We find that students prefer interactive lectures generally, but those that used their own device preferred those lectures over lectures using clickers. However, device users were more likely to report using their devices for other purposes (checking email, social media etc.) when they were available to answer polling questions."
  • Digital teaching tools and global learning communities: "We report on our ongoing efforts to develop a global learning community that encourages discussion and resource sharing."
  • Why do we bother? Exploring biologists' motivations to share the details of their teaching practice: "In this paper I explore the motivations of these individuals to disseminate the detail of their teaching practice. I reflect upon my own experience and my observations of the experiences of others and in doing so I explore common enablers/disablers to engagement with SoTL."