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Designing Engaging Learning Opportunities

Workshop aligned to UKPSF A1-A2,  K1-K4, V1 

The third element in a constructively aligned course design and stage six of the 8-SLDF is the learning activities that allow students to prepare for the assessment of their learning outcomes. This is not about the content that we share with our students; it is about how we develop an appropriate strategy to do that. Some modules will require a good deal of knowledge to be acquired by novice learners and a set-text and discursive seminars may be the appropriate strategy. Could we use one-minute papers, 'Pecha Kucha', lightning talks, and other techniques to secure student engagement? Alternatively, we might be designing a more advanced module in which a discovery learning approach is more appropriate. Could we use enquiry based learning models here instead, asking our students to prepare to take a debate position, run a Moot or team-based discussion? The important thing is that we are developing a strategy and practical approaches that build on our design, not seeking innovation for innovation's sake. The pages for this stage of the 8 Stage Learning Design Framework are summarised as:

      1. The content to be taught should serve the students ability to evidence the ILO
      2. The skills and attributes that are taught at a topic, week or session level should be designed to rehearse elements of the assessment
      3. Not everything that engages students is directly assessed but everything they are asked to do should be justifiable as informing the assessment and ILOs.

You might want to ask yourself as a course design team

        • How closely mapped are the  ILOs to each topic, week or session outline?
        • How confident are you that you cover the ILOs appropriately in terms of weighting and importance?
        • How much variation is there in the learning approaches taken throughout your module?
        • How are you enabling students to develop skills beyond knowledge acquisition?

    See 8-SLDF pages for a fuller explanation.

This 33-minute presentation is from a session delivered to an internal audience of colleagues on my final day at BPP University as part of Digital Literacy Day (16 Feb 2018). Set-up as a demonstration, sharing QRs, Padlet, Twitter. After six years leading a portfolio focussed around teaching enhancement, scholarship and research and educational technology adoption, I outlined the pervasive nature of resistance to change and issued a call for recognising the urgent need to embrace sound educational technology practices. The presentation sets up the premise that our educational history has created a walled garden within which the majority of our academic practice exists. I suggested a few alternatives to existing practice, encouraging colleagues to take some small steps. These included Voicethread as a an interactive discussion platform and H5P (I misspoke in the video and said HfP!). H5P provides a degree of interactive possibilities.

My challenge to my colleagues was about who was going to design the learning experiences through educational technology. What is the relationship between instructional designers and content specialists? What about their relationships with 'classroom' practitioners?

 

This morning's short coffee note identifies some of the functions, and their advantages, in establishing 'enhancement circles'. For faculty working in a less than supportive context, this works well as a collegial mechanism for personal, and collective, enhancement.

Reaching out to colleagues outside your immediate sphere, from different disciplines or institutions, you can establish a personal supportive network. I think between three and six colleagues Is about the right number. This means you can usually find someone to exchange practice with but you won't run out of people too quickly. Remember that peer observations do not necessarily have to be done in person. In theory, you could be observed by someone in a different country providing they have access to video recordings of your practice. Just make sure that you provide your observer with some specific guidance, requests of what it is you want them to comment on explicitly. Focusing on something specific in your practice will help you focus and deliver a better quality of the evaluative comments.

Remember that whilst it is important that Members of your enhancements circle or all practising at the same level of study, in other words, all undergraduate, postgraduate, pre-university level. The discipline is significantly less important in terms of identifying effective practice. I hope to hear back from some of you as to how effective this approach might be for you in your context.

 

Version 3.0 of the SOLE Toolkit has been released on the solemodel.org website today.

The toolkit is an integrated spreadsheet workbook that supports implementation a learning design based on the SOLE Model. The SOLE model advocates a holistic approach to learning that encourages designers to recognise that the student spends significant time away from formal learning contexts and that they bring experience and context to any learning situation.

The changes in Version 3.0 reflect a desire to strengthen the student's use of the toolkit as an advanced organiser. These changes include:

  • Active Verbs – the terms used to describe the elements of the SOLE Model now uses active verbs to describe each of the elements.
  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is now charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled.
  • Completion Record – allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent.
  • Objectives Met Record – allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

You can download the toolkit from this website here. As always this work is free to use but as always I would appreciate feedback from users as to changes they make and the usage they make of the work.

"Young Male Wearing Winter Cap" by imagerymajestic
imagerymajestic@freedigitalphotos.net

BPP colleague John Irving has taught me a great deal about reflection, self-coaching and self-observation since I joined BPP University College in the summer 2010. John has a way of looking at educational context which is still alien to me at times but hugely challenging.  I think we all want to work with people who stretch us and challenge us and I'm often frustrated at the lack of thought leadership around me. So it's been a delight in recent months, as John and I embarked on a third module in our pilot PGCert programme, to write an overview of reflective practice together and explore the implications of reflection for educators, particularly in the context of professional education.   Very much a case of standing on the shoulders of giants this paper, part our own reflection, part literature review, identifies the very personal characteristics of reflective practice and the importance of emotion in that process.  It explores the nature of reflection served by solitary deliberation and engagement in communities of practice and identifies the individual attributes of reflection as defined by Schön and Brookfield. Finally, this paper provides a review of several reflective models and suggests that personal transformation and reflective practice must form the basis for effective teaching. We've found Brookfield's four critical lenses a very effective way to contextualise and plan our academic development support and this paper fits nicely for us into a growing body of resource to encourage faculty to embrace the change! The paper is available for download on my pages on Academia.edu and from BPP's Publication pages.

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[See Pages for Educational Taxonomies]

Since October 17th 2012 [see updates] when I shared the most recent work on visualising taxonomies in a circular form and aligning these active verb patterns to particular assessment forms, I have had some great feedback - for which thank you. As a consequence, I have made a few clarifications which I hope will help those of you who want to use these visualisations in your conversations with peers or in academic educational development sessions. The biggest change has been to 'turn' the circles through 72' clockwise so that the vertical denotes a "12-noon" start. I hesitate about this because it perhaps over stresses our obsession which mechanical process which isn't my intention, but many said they would prefer this and so here it is. The second change has been to review, in the light of my own use, and some literature sources (noted on the images themselves) some of the active verbs and evidence.

I am very grateful for the feedback and hope to receive more. In answer to the question about citing this work; there is a journal article and a book chapter in the works, in the meantime please feel free to cite the blog posts. Or indeed personal correspondence at spa@sijen.com if you would like to share how these may be working for you in practice.

Click on the images to get a decent quality print version - please email if you would like the original PowerPoint slide to amend and modify.


Cognitive Domain - Circle - Taxonomy - Version 4 - November 2012 (Intellectual Skills)

Cognitive Domain - Taxonomy Circle

Affective  Domain - Circle - Taxonomy - Version 4 - November 2012 (Professional and Personal Skills)

Affective Domain - Taxonomy Circle

Psychomotor Domain - Circle - Taxonomy - Version 4 - November 2012 (Transferable Skills)

Psychomotor Domain - Taxonomy Circle - after Dave (1969/71)

Knowledge Domain - Circle - Taxonomy - Version 2 - November 2012 (Subject/Discipline Skills)

This representation is perhaps the most 'controversial' as it represents the 'knowledge dimension' articulated by Anderson and colleagues as a separate domain. For the purposes of working with subject-centric academics within their disciplines as they write intended learning outcomes and assessment, I have found this a useful and sensible thing to do. I have separated out the notion of 'contextual knowledge' which is also not going to please everyone.

Knowledge Domain - Taxonomy Circle

I hope these representations are of some use to you in your practice. Simon (13 Nov 2012)

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[See Updated Pages for Educational Taxonomies]

Circular representations of educational taxonomies
Four 'Domains' of educational objectives represented in a circular form

I think being able to visualise things is important. Faculty and learning designers need to be able to see Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) take shape and mant find existing lists are uninspiring. It’s not uncommon for faculty and instructional designers to get tired and weary of ILOs; they can feel restrictive, repetitive, formulaic and sometimes obstructive. In previous posts I’ve tried to suggest that the bigger picture, the challenges of effective 21st century university level learning design, make them not only useful, but also essential. If you don't agree, don’t bother reading. I’m not going to try and persuade you. If you think there’s some truth in the argument and you want to engage with ILOs to make your teaching more focussed, your students increasingly autonomous and your graduates equipped with meaningful evidence, then I hope I have something worthwhile sharing and will welcome your thoughts.

My argument is that a module (a substantial unit of a full years undergraduate study), and the programme of which is part, should have clearly articulated outcomes in four domains:

  • Knowledge and understanding – or the knowledge domain
  • Intellectual Skills – or the cognitive domain
  • Professional Skills – or the affective domain
  • Transferable Skills – or the psychomotor domain

I’m suggesting one SHOULD expect to see a different distribution of ILOs between the outcomes in these domains depending on the focus of the module and the level of study. One might expect to see a second year anthropology module on ‘theoretical perspectives’ emphasising cognitive outcomes and a module being studied alongside it on ‘research design and techniques’ emphasising affective and psychomotor outcomes. One might reasonably expect to see more foundational ‘knowledge and understanding’ outcomes in the first year of a programme of study, and more ‘cognitive’ outcomes at the end of the programme. The lack of this 'designed articulation' in many modules undermines their value to the student and ultimately to faculty.

The basic principle is that an outcome should be assessable. Lots of great stuff can happen in your teaching and students’ learning that DOESN’T need to be assessed. It can be articulated in the syllabus, it just isn't a measured outcome. A student should be able, at the end of this course of study (module or programme), to evidence that they have attained the intended learning outcomes. This evidence has been assessed in some way and the student is then able to point to the ILOs amassed throughout their programme and say “I can demonstrate that I learnt to DO this”.

Representing Taxonomies

There has been a significant shift in the language we now use from the original work in the 1950s by Bloom and colleagues. The passively descriptive language of Bloom's Taxonomy has become the active language of Anderson and Krathwohl (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). The taxonomies have moved from Evaluation to Evaluate, from Analysis to Analyse. This is significant in that the emphasis has moved away from describing what the focus of the teaching is supposed to be, to the demonstrable outcomes of the learning.

The illustration above consists of four visual ‘wheels’ that I have used to discuss learning outcomes with faculty in the context of module and programme design at Massey University in New Zealand and at the LSE and BPP University College in the United Kingdom. These visual representations were inspired by work done elsewhere, on the cognitive domain in particular. The first documented example of this circular representation I have been able to find is attributed to Barbara Clark in 2002, but a great many people have since represented Bloom’s original, and the revised, cognitive domain in this way.

The circular representation has the higher level terms at the centre, proto-verbs if you will, surrounded by a series of active verbs that articulate actions an individual might undertake to generate evidence, of their ability to represent to proto-verb. The circular visualisation also serves to create a more fluid representation of the stages, or divisions, in the proto-verbs. Rather than a strict ‘step-by-step’ representation where one advances ‘up’ the proto-verbs, one might consider this almost like the dial on an old telephone, in every case one starts at the ‘foundational’ and dials-up though the stages to the ‘highest’ level. Each level relies on the previous. It may be implicit that to analyse something, one will already have acquired a sense of its application, and that application is grounded on subject knowledge and understanding. So the circle is a useful way of visualising the interconnected nature of the process. Most importantly in my practice, it’s a great catalyst for debate.

The circular representations of the domains and associated taxonomies also serve to make learning designers aware of the language they use. Can a verb be used at different levels? Certainly. Why? Because context is everything. One might ‘identify’ different rock samples in a first year geology class as part of applying a given classification of rocks to samples, or one might identify a new species of insect as part of postgraduate research programme. The verb on its own does not always denote level. I talk about the structure of ILOs in a subsequent post.

Circular representation of Educational Taxonomies
Structure of the circular representations of Educational Taxonomies

More recent representations have created new complex forms that include the outer circle illustrated here. I’ve found these rather useful, in part because they often prove contentious. If the inner circle represents (in my versions) the proto-verbs within our chosen taxonomies, and the next circle represent that active verbs used to describe the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) AND the Learning and Teaching Activities (TLS), the outermost circle represents the evidence and assessment forms used to demonstrate that verb. Increasingly I’ve used this to identify educational technologies and get faculty thinking more broadly about how they can assess things online as well as in more traditional settings. The outermost circle will continue to evolve as our use of educational technologies evolves. In Constructive Alignment one might reasonably expect students’ learning activity to ‘rehearse’ the skills they are ultimately to evidence in assessment (Biggs & Collis, 1982; Boud & Falchikov, 2006) and the forms to enable that are becoming increasingly varied.

Re-visioning  Taxonomies

One of my favourite representations of the relationship between the knowledge dimension and the cognitive domain is from Rex Heer at Iowa State University’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/RevisedBlooms1.html accessed ). It’s an interactive model that articulates the relationship, as Anderson and Krathwohl saw it, rather well. My own interest, as we look to effective ILOs, is to separate out the knowledge dimension as a subject or knowledge domain and have faculty articulate this clearly for students, before reconnecting to the other domains. A process I’ll talk about subsequently.

Here are my four ‘working circles’ using adaptations of taxonomies from Anderson and Krathwohl (Knowledge and Understanding, and Cognitive), Krathwohl et al (Affective) and Dave (Psychomotor). I have adapted the Knowledge Dimension of Anderson and Krathwohl to do two things; to describe the dimension in terms of active verbs rather than as a definition of the nature of the knowledge itself, and I have incorporated a stage I believe is under represented in their articulation. I have added the ability to ‘ contextualise’ subject knowledge between the ability to specify it (Factual) and the ability to conceptualize (Conceptual). I have also rearticulated the original ‘Metacognitive’ as the ability to 'Abstract'. This will doubtless need further work. My intent is not to dismiss the valuable work already in evidence around the relationship between a knowledge dimension and the cognitive domain, rather it is to enable faculty, specifically when writing learning outcomes, to identify the subject, discipline or knowledge to be enabled in more meaningful ways.

These images are provided as JPG images. If you would like me to email the original PowerPoint slides (very low-tech!) so that you can edit, amend and enhance, I am happy to do so. I only ask that you enhance my practice by sharing your results with me.

I hope these provoke thought, reflection and comment. Feel free to use them with colleagues in discussion and let me know if there are enhancements you think would make them more useful to others.

Cognitive Domain - Intellectual Skills

Cognitive Domain - Intellectual Skills

Affective Domain - Professional and Personal Skills

Affective Domain - Professional and Personal Skills
Affective Domain - Professional and Personal Skills

Psychomotor Domain- Practical, Technical and Transferable Skills

Psychomotor Domain- Practical, Technical and Transferable Skills
Psychomotor Domain- Practical, Technical and Transferable Skills

Knowledge Domain - Subject and Discipline Knowledge

Knowledge Domain- Subject or Discipline Skills
Knowledge Domain- Subject or Discipline Skills

The next post will illustrate the usefulness of these visualisations in drafting Intended Learning Outcomes with some examples.

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Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing : a revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.

Biggs, J. B., & Collis, K. F. (1982). Evaluating the Quality of Learning: Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome Taxonomy. Academic Press Inc.

Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (2006). Aligning assessment with long‐term learning. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(4), 399–413.

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Edited October 19th 2012 in response to feedback.

MOOCs, self generated OER based curricula, kite-marking schemes, and elaborate credit transfer schemes are a reality in increasingly complex higher education sector. Students often pursuing studies from within the world of work where physical mobility of employable precludes commitment to a single campus based programme over four years require well defined, constructively aligned, module designs. Clever module design means clever programme design, clever portfolios and successful institutions. Learning design is no longer just an issue for the Quality Office; the Strategy people are beginning to care too.

The vast majority of UK Universities now are able to produce detailed module and programme specifications for their teaching programmes. Specification templates usually detail the aims and objectives, resources, indicative scheme of work, staffing and mode of delivery. They also routinely use a template to generate the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) for the module or programme. Frequently divided into three or four sections covering, knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills (cognitive domain), professional and practical skills (affective domain) and general transferable skills (psychomotor skills), these templates are completed with varying degrees of comprehension as module validation panels will attest.

The logic is that to achieve a well-structured and constructively aligned curricula, the module team should determine what the ILOs for the module are to be (Biggs & Tang, 2007). What will the learner be able to do at the end of the module? Having determined the ILOs the team would then determine how they would enable the student to demonstrate achievement of the outcomes and draft an appropriate assessment strategy. Then, and only then, the module design team would look at what the student needed to be able to demonstrate and work out what was needed as input. Outcomes first, assessment second, teaching inputs third.

It’s not an easy thing to do. As teachers we’re passionate about our subjects, anxious to impart what we know is important, what ‘did it for us’, and at some point in this process many faculty will ‘go native’, reach for the seminal text (or the nearest thing to it, their own book), and start thinking about what the students need to know. This can of course produce fantastic learning experiences and there are a great many exciting modules drafted on the backs of envelopes without specification templates. They don’t make for effective records of achievement however.

Accreditation of prior accredited learning has always been a challenge. An effective template for module and programme design makes a significant difference. Students should be able to identify from their transcript exactly what it is they can evidence as intended learning outcomes. I would argue further that phases in learning and teaching activity should also have notable objectives that map directly to the ILOs (See the SOLE model described in Atkinson, 2011).

So how many intended learning outcomes, how many affective, how many cognitive, how many is too many? My next post will be my reasoning on that issue.

Atkinson, S. (2011). Developing faculty to integrate innovative learning in their practice with the SOLE model. In S. Ferris (Ed.), Teaching, Learning and the Net Generation: Concepts and Tools for Reaching Digital Learners. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for Quality Learning at University: What the Student does (3rd ed.). Buckingham. GB: Open University Press.

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An online discussion forum should be an effective way of engaging students in careful and considered reflection, yet often they represent time-consuming and frustrating experiences for faculty. Getting students to share thoughts and ideas, balancing contributions and knowing when to stimulate, moderate or step-back can be challenging. I’ve long found the advice to faculty, much of it still rooted in Computer Mediated Conferencing (CMC) models of the early mid 1990s-mid 2000s, unresponsive to the context of learning and the changing nature, and expectations, of learners.

It is remarkable how quickly Gilly Salmon’s Five-Step-Model (Salmon, 2000) became for the majority what Stephen D. Brookfield might describe as a paradigmatic assumption (Brookfield, 1995). The need for familiarity with the tool or context, a first-step, is itself now profoundly complex. Learners have hugely differing understandings of the function, and etiquette, ‘within‘ a given online communication tool. One of Brookfield’s lovely example of ‘hunting assumptions’ is the illustration of a common-sense assumption that to circulate around the classroom having assigned group tasks shows engagement, interest and commitment, whilst he suggests it may well be interpreted as a lack of trust and distorts learner responses to the task in hand. How quickly have we adopted Salmon’s notion of responsiveness, encouraging faculty to respond to each student posting, as common-sense, our paradigmatic assumption. Salmon herself is not to blame for this, the context of her original model had a very different digital landscape to underpin it, that notion of personal presence less well articulated, learners experiences of commenting, rating, sharing, reviewing in a myriad of different online contexts is something ‘new’.

So this week, while I watch colleagues around the globe initiate MOOCs and discuss global OER standards, I set myself a more modest task. I wanted to explore what we thought worked well in online threaded text-discussion and why there appeared to see an enduring negativity, from students and staff, about the dreaded ‘discussion board’.

Screenshot from asynchronous staff workshop in VoiceThread
Screenshot from asynchronous staff workshop in VoiceThread

I set up a one week asynchronous online continuing professional development (CPD) workshop for faculty and learning support staff discussion effective thread text-based discussions online (we have Blackboard 7). The workshop was to run during the working week, from Monday 9am to Friday 5pm, with a ‘new’ topic added each day and an encouragement for colleagues to ‘dip-in-and-out’. What was different from our usual institutional practice was we did it in Voicethread (www.voicethread.com).

A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide-shot that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in four different ways. Users can use text, voice using their computer microphone, upload a pre-recorded audio file or capture a video on their webcam. In the US they can also use the telephone.

Users can also draw on the slides while commenting, allowing them to annotate a diagram, image or schematic; they can also zoom-in to the image for more detail. Users can also create multiple identities, allowing them for instance to take on a group leadership role whilst remaining a member of the group, or adopt more playful and creative personalities. VoiceThreads can be embedded in the existing VLE or another web page and can also be archived. It is primarily a web browser based tool, now also available on iOS mobile devices and available in an accessible screen reader version or very low bandwidth version, and users have no software to install.

The tool itself has strengths and weaknesses and, whilst I declare it is a tool I’ve used and evaluated previously (Burden & Atkinson, 2010), I am not seeking to promote it. Rather what I wanted to do was to take faculty away from their existing assumptions about discussion threads and have the conversation in a very different context. As we explored each day a different theme it proved remarkable how some contributions followed the ‘discussion board’ convention, whilst others playfully sought to exploit the new technological opportunities the environment afforded them. One colleague made a series of short, positive and responsive contributions in response to others, what might be seen as rather appropriate netiquette in online discussions. However, because the comments were all appended to the end of a timeline, those responses (unless clearer ‘tagged’ as such) appeared as ‘hanging interjections’ without context. None of the 79 contributions during the week, except for my own, used anything but text which I felt was disappointing.

In coming weeks I will analyse the pattern and nature of the responses in more detail, and critique my own model of facilitation in this context, but what has emerged immediately is how quickly some ‘assumptions’ have been set and are subsequently modelled even when users find themselves in a different communication context. This is perhaps one of our biggest challenges as educational technologists and developers, or instructional designers, is to recognise our quickly solidifying paradigmatic assumptions and move beyond them. The digi-ecology is in constant flux and we need to consistently challenge how we do what we do.

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. John Wiley & Sons.

Burden, K., & Atkinson, S. (2010). De-Coupling Groups in Space and Time: Evaluating New Forms of Social Dialogue for Learning. In L. Shedletsky & J. E. Aitken (Eds.), Cases on Online Discussion and Interaction (pp. 141–158). Hershey, Pennsylvania: IGI Global.

Salmon, G. (2000). E-moderating : the key to online teaching and learning. London: Kogan Page.

It's always a strange thing to find oneself positioned as an 'expert'. Today I found myself addressing 20 wide-eyed third-year statistics students on the art of the presentation. I was, it seems, the expert on presentations, and provided advice and guidance based almost entirely on what not to do, based on the cumulative experiences over educational technology conferences and educational media conferences over the last 10 years. Curiously, and worryingly, effective.

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