Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How can assessment and instruction live as one? (#eduquestion)

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During I have a question #2 (see video below), several questions were addressed (using the Twitter hashtag #eduquestion); one in particular that I posed and one which I would like to discuss in more detail here was, How can assessment and instruction (and not accreditation) live as one within an online course?

When I say, accreditation, I mean receiving grades, diplomas, certificates, etc. in formal education; and badges, certificates of completion, etc. in informal education.  Albeit important, I'd like to exclude the topic of accreditation from what I'd like to cover in this post and also will not need to make any real distinction between informal and formal education as I think my overall thesis applies to both.

TeacherRefresher presents a concise outline (PowerPoint presentation) of the differences between assessment of learning, assessment for learning, and assessment as learning.  If assessment and instruction are to live as one, some combination of these three types of assessment usually exists.

In an online learning environment, assessment of learning might be receiving constructive criticism from one's peers or outside experts (not just the instructor, trainer, facilitator, etc.) pertaning to what a learner understands (content) and can do (process and product).  Making the learning process as transparent as possible yields (i.e., through online blended learning scenarios) more dynamic interaction where assessment of learning can more effectively take place.

Assessment for learning can be linked to assessment of learning by allowing the instructor to reflect on learner progress to see what future changes in learning designs or instruction are needed, and what learning tactics are needed on the part of the student.  Perhaps a new video or different problem-solving activity is in order.  Maybe a subsequent review or more didactic learning session is required.  It's been my experience that any changes to a learning design and/or learning tactics be considered as a negotiation between instructor (trainer, facilitator, etc.) and learner through ongoing reflection (i.e., reflection-in/on-action).

Assessment as learning takes summative and formative assessment one step further by allowing learners to begin the process of matching individual goals with institutional or organizational goals (e.g., syllabus, curriculum, company mission/vision statements, etc.).  For instance, online courses with the various social media tools available allow learners to more actively design their own rubrics (as assessment tools), which in-and-of-itself gives learners a chance to interact and think critically about how they learn best, and how to best approach their individual weaknesses.

In all three examples - assessment of learning, assessment for learning, and assessment as learning - instruction is "baked in".  Many of the open, online courses that I have experienced (we used to call them distance courses before MOOCs came along), learners really had to take it upon themselves to see how these three types of assessment fit within their own learning experience - course facilitators tended to lecture and attendees conducted discussions as they pleased.  In formal educational settings, assessment (along with accreditation like grades etc.) is typically forced onto the learner, which too tends to interfere with finding the right mix of this assessment trilogy.

Regardless if in a formal or informal educational setting, recognizing that assessment and instruction are not mutually exclusive but rather reciprocal and iterative throughout the learning experience does away with the antiquated notion that instructors must first teach learners (or students must learn something first), then assess what students (theoretically) have learned later (i.e., two separate and isolated processes).  Online learning, with its inherent potential for interaction and transparency, embraces assessing of/for/as learning so that both intentional and incidental learning can emerge in more effective, effecient, and engaging ways.

What do you think?  How does assessment and instruction intertwine within an open, online course?