Flexible Learning requires portfolio-centred course design.

ePortfolios, and indeed their analogue counterparts, allow learners to make selections of educational evidence, bring them together so that the learner self-manages their reflections, progress and learning journey. They can also be used as tools for storing and sharing assessment, academic records and certifications.

I recently had a discussion with a colleague who advocated LinkedIn as a portfolio platform for vocational tertiary learners. That assumes that learners are ready to share the results of their endeavours, to present themselves to the world. A networking portfolio. That is one facet of a good portfolio tool. The process of selecting artefacts to share, writing articles and posts for LinkedIn is certainly advantageous for established and confident learners, but it is not suitable for the vast majority. LinkedIn is a professional social networking platform first and foremost, and an effective one, but it is not an ePortfolio for learners.

An effective ePortfolio tool is essential for contemporary learners in an environment in which digital forms of learning are ubiquitous. The ability to bring together, to aggregate, all forms of informal, non-formal and formal learning is something any serious educational provider needs to consider now.

An ePortfolio tool could provide the backbone of all the diverse provision across work-based, distance and flexible forms of learning. It diminishes the importance of where specific learning experiences are sought, which platforms students are required to logon to access their learning content, and instead provides a single reference point. ePortfolio tools that can be linked to any number of different virtual learning platforms and commercial storage options (Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc), that enables artefacts to be selectively shared or kept private already exist.

The Mahara ePortfolio ( https://mahara.org ) environment is one of those New Zealand government funded initiatives that, despite a lack of ongoing investment, has continued to exist simply because it is fundamentally sound. I am merely a user of Mahara and have no commercial or other vested interest in the platform. But I am beginning to anticipate how useful, and central, it could be to the mission of all educational providers if serious attention and investment was made into the Mahara platform. Learners would be able to logon to their ePortfolio, in effect as their personal portal, and be able to search across all provision, from micro-credentials to full degrees, across all modes of delivery. Learners would be able to add options to their ‘wishlist’ and could submit it for career advice. Learners would be able to move across different modes and locations as life intervenes. With some further integrations and a bit more UX development, learners would be able to upload images and video from the construction site, kitchen or orchard. Learners would be able to talk to other learners outside of their cohorts or courses, across providers and their platforms. With some additional investment Mahara can be used across all forms of ePortfolio use in vocational learning.

Portfolios can provide a personal profile, serve as a capstone portfolio for a qualification, a reflective space and a store for artefacts. It could also be used as a portal for other assessment and learning resources.

Flexible learning requires a portfolio-centred approach to learning.


Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

Taxonomies of Educational Outcomes

Delighted to share an interactive walk-through of the recently updated poster (available here). Click in the top right-hand corner to make the interactive fullscreen. There is also a video walk-through of the same poster below. Note the title of the poster has changed from using ‘objectives’ to ‘outcomes’.

In-Class Evaluation (Guidance for Educators)

Transcript:

Welcome all. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues, if you think they’ll find this of interest. 

I want to talk today about why it’s important that we listen to our students during our teaching practice. I think, first of all, just want to clarify the distinction between providing feedback to students and taking evaluative comments from students.

I think sometimes the language we use is a little bit loose and that complicates things. It also devalues the sense of feedback that students are actually receiving during the course of their learning experience. I think we should always label anything we provide to students for feedback on their learning or in their learning, as feedback, and then anything we receive from them is evaluation at an institutional level of national surveys and in our individual practice. So I want to talk about the way we elicit evaluation from our students. So obviously the easiest way of doing that is to read the room. You’re looking for individual responses. You may be need to avoid focusing on that one very negative, grumpy, miserable looking student and read the room on that basis. You don’t want to imply that that is the common feeling, but if you scan the room, you’ll be able to see whether or not there is a good degree of engagement. I think we need to distinguish between that kind of very informal in session evaluation and more formal mechanisms for evaluation.

And I want to talk about an, an in session evaluation, and then I’ll talk about end of course, or end of module evaluation, in just a moment. Want to focus in this conversation about the way in which we use in class evaluation and the model that I personally prefer, and it works best in a face-to-face environment if you are teaching a series of courses, but it also works in an online environment as well.

Something called small group instructional diagnostics, S.G.I.D., which is essentially a way of eliciting from the students, some evaluative comments on what they’re learning, how they’re learning in your classroom, the structure of the questions that you ask are very important, they’re more important than how you actually ask them. Formal SGID is actually you leaving the classroom and having a colleague coming and running a session with your students for 15, 20 minutes.

And that usually would happen around a third of the way through your course. This is to elicit whether or not the students are getting what you’re intending they get, whether they’re experiencing the learning as you intend it to be, to be experienced. There are a number of different ways that you can do this.

I think it works quite well to literally just hand out pieces of paper with four blocks on and ask them to fill out, put something in each of those blocks. But it’s really important the order in which the questions are asked. 

So you’re going to ask the students what’s happening on this course that is supporting their learning, not what am I doing to support your learning? What is supporting you in your learning? What is hindering you in your learning? What could I be doing differently to support you? And fourthly, what could you be doing differently to support your own learning? It’s very important that you end with them thinking about it as a reflective exercise.

Very often, students will say that last comment. What can I, what can you be doing for your own learning? Students will very often say, oh, I need to do the pre-reading or I need to prepare better for class or so, it encourages them to take some degree of ownership over their own. It’s really important that when you collate all of those responses that you do feed back.

So if you’re teaching face-to-face or online on a weekly or, or a regular basis, some scheduled basis, it’s really important that you then say to the students, I listened to you, you suggested this is what strengthening your learning collectively, I’m going to do more of that. This is what’s hindering, I’ll try and do less of that.

That gives students a sense of participation and a sense of ownership in the learning process. That’s a very important part of getting evaluation from students. 

The more formal aspect of end of course, or end of module evaluation. It’s usually structured around whatever institutional regional or national surveys are carried out.

Historically institutions used to just do their own end of course evaluations and tutors regarded that as almost a tick box exercise. It’s become much more significant in many countries to have institutional data that is then aggregated across the, the entire piece. And I think it’s important that you recognize that those questions are not necessarily questions that you have any direct control over, but it’s very important that you are aware of what those questions are because you can then signal answers to the students through the course of the course, through the course of the learning. 

So I think it’s really important to be aware of what the end of course evaluation looks like, which you’ll probably end up administering, although you may not be able to control the questions, but you do have complete control of the in-class evaluation that happens.

So please feel free to share this video with colleagues. If you think it’s interesting, like and follow. 

Be Well

Educational Posters for Sale

Colleagues have been asking me for some time whether they can have copies of the various visualisations that I have produced over the years. These were usually developed as posters, from A3 to A1 sizes, for workshops and events. I am happy to share high-quality originals for colleagues to include in publications but I think it appropriate to charge for the majority of them.

The updated 2022 version of my comprehensive taxonomies of educational objectives poster is available. This and future versions will be available as high-quality downloads to be printed locally. This saves a fortune in packaging and postage and allows you to decide whether you want it board-mounted, matte or gloss, and so on.

In the setting up phase of this new ‘storefront‘, here is a discount code for 20% off the price. Just put in the code G4G5EURM at checkout. Look out for more useful visualisations and resources being posted over the coming months.

Evaluation, Assessment and Feedback (Guidance to Educators)

Transcript

Welcome all. Please feel free to share this video if you think it would be of interest to your colleagues.

I want to talk today about some of the terminological differences that we have across the English language teaching world, particularly the terms, evaluation, assessment, and feedback. In North America, the word evaluation is very often used to describe the way we measure students’ performance. In United Kingdom, in Australia and New Zealand, we generally use the term assessment. So evaluation has a different meaning in parts of English-speaking world than it does in North America. Likewise, Assessment and evaluation are sometimes used more as synonyms in the North American context. And you need to be aware of that when you read literature, if you read any of the journals, you will find that sometimes those terms are used differently to perhaps your context. So, it’s worth being aware of that.

There’s also a distinction between evaluation and feedback, which is more conceptual rather than definitional. Which is that feedback is always what we give to the student. We should always be focusing on the feedback that’s given to students on their learning and evaluation in the UK, Canada, Canada, to some extent, but certainly in Australia and New Zealand, is used to describe what they tell us about our own performances tutors, or about the course or the institution. So, they provide evaluative comment, and we provide them with feedback.

I think it’s important that we try and stick to that use of language. If only because students need to value feedback in everything they do, and it’s much easier to label things as feedback for the benefit of your students if you’re consistent in the language that you use. So, feedback is given to students. Evaluation is provided by students, and evaluation in North America is sometimes synonymous with assessment. I hope that’s of interest.

Please feel free to like, share, and follow.

Be well.

Guidance for Educators: Avoiding Burnout

Transcript:

Welcome all. Please feel free to share this video with colleagues if you think they’d find it of interest.

Want to talk today about burnout. Being a teacher, being a lecturer, being an academic, very often leads to periods of intense pressure, and very often we see colleagues burning out. They leave the profession.

They literally just find the ongoing pressure too much to bear, and I think it’s really important that we support each other, but we also have to preserve ourselves and avoid exhaustion. We do that by setting boundaries. You need to learn to say no. You need to learn that your responsibilities have a limit.

Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to, take on all of the pressures, all of the responsibilities that our students expect the entire institution to provide for them, and it’s important that we make time for relationships, for relaxation, for recreation. 

Education is a team game or a theatrical piece. It’s not a single performance. It’s not a solo game, nor are you actually a solo performer. You’re not a stand-up comedian standing alone on your stage. It’s a team effort. So if you do feel yourself under oppression. If you feel overly stressed, turn to a colleague and ask them for support. If those colleagues aren’t available for you to lean on, then you need to learn to escalate because it’s not your responsibility to run the entire college or the entire university or to run the entire school sector.

You need to be able to escalate your own stress just in order to avoid burnout. So if you feel the pressure lean on a colleague, if there’s no colleague to lead on, escalate.

Be well.

Guidance to Educators: Developing professional relationships

Transcript:

Welcome all, please feel free to share this video with colleagues if you think they would find it of interest. 

Let’s talk today about building professional relationships. Teaching can be quite a lonely experience. Depends a little bit on the organization that you teach in. You might be teaching in a very isolated part of the world, or you might be teaching a very specialist discipline. You might be the only person teaching that particular subject in your school, even in your area. 

And having good connections with other practitioners that understand you, understand your context, definitely do serve to lower the level of anxiety that you might feel. There’s evidence to suggest that well- connected educators do suffer less anxiety.

So reaching out now is much easier. There are any number of digital platforms that you can engage with and connect with other people. And in doing so you benefit not just that level of human connectivity, but you’re also using them as a source of new ideas, new sources, new perspectives. 

It’s very important if you do get involved in any of these platforms that you do become a contributor, as well as a consumer. That’s not just because that’s fair. It’s just, it’s also that echoing your voice is really important, using your voice to mirror the practice of others is part of the process of building those relationships.

Even if it’s just to go back to someone who’s posted something, you found a value to just say “I’ve used what you suggested. It worked very well for me” or it didn’t and I made this adjustment, and I did it this way. Having that level of feedback is really important. 

So, I’m on a number of different platforms. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Twitter. I’m on Instagram. I’m on Tik Tok. I’m on YouTube and I’ve got my own website, but I think the two that everyone needs to start with are Twitter and LinkedIn. Build a profile on LinkedIn, doesn’t have to be expansive, but at least something that gives people a sense of who you are as a person.

And then Twitter is a great way of just picking up ideas, sources, perspectives, re-tweeting things that you think are of interest, identifying things more widely, and posting them and share that community experience. You’d be surprised how quickly it does build and giving you a solid network to lean on will undoubtedly reduce your anxiety. 

So you might want to try some of those platforms for yourself. See how it goes. 

Let me know. Be well.

Guidance for Educators: Post-session reflection

Guidance to Educators: Reflecting after sessions

#teachers #learning #educators #education #university #tutors #lecture Visit http://www.sijen.com for transcripts and links. Please share, like and follow.

Transcript:

Welcome all. Please feel free to share this with colleagues. If you think they’ll find it of interest. 

Let’s talk today about how you handle a session that doesn’t go so well. Any problems that crop up can be quite demoralizing. Sometimes you walk out of a session thinking either I dropped the ball or the students didn’t respond. Something just didn’t work in any given session. 

Now not every session is going to go well. It could be something you have failed to plan for, it may be that you misjudged the receptivity of the students. It may be that they just were very resistant to what it was you’re asking them to engage with in the session and how you manage that system dynamic is obviously very problematic.

So after any session, educators really need to sit back and reflect if it, even if it just takes a few minutes, even if they’re just doing it in their heads, they need to be thinking about what went well, what didn’t go so well. If it doesn’t go well, there’s a particular problem in any given session, it’s a really good idea to journal it, write something down, even just a few notes on the back of your notes are fine, but to write something down as soon as possible after the session. To discuss it with colleagues, just to literally go back to the, whatever the virtual coffee room is, or the staff room and talk to your colleagues about why something didn’t go well and be open about that. You won’t be judged for it if you’re honest about it. 

And thirdly, to reflect, and how deeply you reflect will depend a little bit on whether it was a serious issue or, or relatively minor issue. You maybe want to think about, from a positive perspective what you would do differently if you had it again.

And if you were faced with those similar circumstances in the future, how you might plan to do it differently. So it’s really important that you do reflect at some level, either using notes, conversation or indeed just thinking about it. I always try and make some notes after a session, particularly if it hasn’t gone well, but even if it’s gone well, I might want to make a note as to why I think it might’ve gone well.

I think it’s really important, and I would encourage you to do that. So do try something like that, try something similar. 

Let me know how it goes. Be well.

Guidance for Educators: Making time for learning

Transcript:

Welcome all. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues, if you think they’ll find it of interest.

Let’s talk about how you make time in your learning. We all have a very busy curriculum. We have a lot of ‘content’ to get through a lot of concepts and learning, to convey to students during any one session. I think it’s really important that we make time for learning. I think teaching is better equated to a version of television rather than of radio. There’s a concept in radio of ‘dead air. Every, every silence has to be filled. That’s not true in television. If you’ve got something visual to look at, you don’t need to provide words to go with it.

So unless you’re developing podcasts for teaching, I think there’ll always be a visual element in any teaching encounter that you’re designing. There’s no need to worry about the dead air.

And in fact, a well-planned teaching session will always have space built into it, time built into it, to allow for some quiet reflection. And I think you do need to build that into your session at pertinent points, during any session that you’re delivering. So you can build in reflective questions.

For example, something I used to do literally to put up a slide that would have a question on it and just say. We are going to pause for a minute. I’m going to encourage you to think about that. Make some notes. Sometimes students might start talking to each other. That’s not necessarily a big problem. It’s only for a minute. It gives you a chance to gather your thoughts, have a glass of water, but it also paces the session quite effectively.

So please have a go try something similar. Let me know how it goes. Be well.

Ukraine: a teachable moment finding its way into our curricula.

Graphic of Ukrainian Colours
In recent weeks as the war in Ukraine has unfolded I have watched educators trying, with significant success, to use events as teachable moments. The intricacies of shifting boundaries and conflicts used to fuel debates about historical context. Economics teachers use economic interdependences between countries, evidenced through oil and gas supplies, phosphates and grains to great effect. Exploring ethnic identities form a core part of anthropological and social sciences conversations. What I see, are teachers in the English-speaking liberal democracies, the ‘West’ (where I have sight), teaching this war as not being ‘over there’, as some distant disconnected experience
. Rather it is being taught in the context of ‘it is happening here’ or at the very least ‘could it happen here?’

Very often teachers are struggling to answer questions from students and still ‘getting through’ the prescribed content, predetermined in curriculum structures and resources imposed from outside. The best national, regional and institutional systems empower teachers to leverage events that are affecting their students. The worst amongst them have rigid content requirements. These later are written by bureaucrats not by teachers. Concepts are more powerful than content, ideas more enduring than facts. Giving students a framework for critical thought using ideas and concepts allows them to seek out and identify facts and content. Importantly, it empowers the student to make connections between disparate thoughts, across time and geographies.

I think education should be radical, it should be focused on change, not on maintaining the status quo; it should be focused on transformation not normalising; it should be focused on the individual as a member of diverse and overlapping communities, not as unique cogs in a machine. Radical education should be innovating not perpetuating, enriching not sustaining, challenging not confirming.

Oscar Wilde said that

“The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.”

True. So little has changed since the 19th century despite the dawning of a digital Information age. In my view, we are still too committed to a curriculum of content rather of concepts.

Courageous teachers across the world are navigating troubling times with creativity and insight. They are often forced to bend and circumvent an imposed curriculum to make the learning effective and real. Why teach about supply and demand to business students using Californian almond production when you can explore the impact of disrupted wheat exports from Ukraine? Why explore the English Reformation when a contemporary example of religious disaggregation is happening today in the Orthodox Churches. Ideally, teachers should have the flexibility to compare and contrast established (predetermined resources) with students’ own contemporary comparators.

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