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."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sustainable assessment revisited

Arse "Sustainability in education may be interpreted as a feature of educational systems. It is not just about sustainability of the physical environment, but also about the sustainability of educational practices, some of which may be too resource-intensive to survive in a constrained financial environment. That is, promoting teaching, learning and assessment practices that involve less face-to-face but perhaps more effective contact between teachers and students. However, such a view of education is too narrow and provision-centred. What is more important for the longer term is to look at the notion of sustainability from the perspective of learning. What educational practices are needed now in order to form and sustain learners who will be able to operate effectively in a complex society?
From such a viewpoint, sustainability becomes transformed into a question of whether educational provision equips learners effectively, not just for immediate educational requirements, such as what they need to be able to do in a course, but also for whether it prepares them for what might be required in the future whether that be in educational institutions or beyond. That is, in higher education do educational activities equip learners for the multiplicity of challenges they will face after graduation? From this perspective, the consumption of educational resources is judged in terms of their effect in producing students who go on to become self-managing persons who, in association with others, can draw on whatever they need to continue learning effectively beyond the end of the course and be able to make judgements about their own learning outcomes. Sustainable learning is thus a function of what students gain from education, not what inputs are put into the process.
This paper focuses on the particular role of assessment in sustainability debates within education. It considers what sustainable assessment means and what is involved in building such ideas into courses to support learning in the longer term. Teachers may well be teaching with the longer term in mind, but unless this work is actively supported through assessment practices, their good intentions can be inhibited. This paper positions sustainable assessment as a way of rethinking outcomes, curriculum and pedagogy away from a focus on disciplinary knowledge to what students can do in the world. It reviews literature that has taken up the idea of sustainable assessment and its implementation. While it is judged to be a successful intervention in thinking about assessment, it suggests that the implications of sustainable assessment have yet to be fully embraced. This paper considers where the emphasis for further development should be and what related ideas might also be considered. It concludes by identifying directions for embedding sustainable assessment in courses and it discusses some of the key issues to be considered, with a particular stress on the role of assessment design."

Sustainable assessment revisited. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 09 Mar 2015 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2015.1018133
Sustainable assessment has been proposed as an idea that focused on the contribution of assessment to learning beyond the timescale of a given course. It was identified as an assessment that meets the needs of the present in terms of the demands of formative and summative assessment, but which also prepares students to meet their own future learning needs. This paper reviews the value of such a notion for assessment; how it has been taken up over the past 15 years in higher education and why it might still be needed. It identifies how it has been a successful intervention in assessment discourse. It explores what more is needed to locate assessment as an intervention to focus on learning for the longer term. It shows how sustainable assessment can help bridge the gap between assessment and learning, and link to ideas such as self-regulation, students’ making judgements about their own work and course-wide assessment.