#PLENK2010 Evaluation and assessment

I am skating around the edges of this MOOC. I am not unduly worried about this. I have been involved in MOOCs before and know that you need a lot of time to be involved in and make sense of the chaotic mess that is nearer the ‘heart’ of it – and currently I don’t have that time – or more likely, my priorities are elsewhere.

However, ever since CCK08 I have been thinking about the problematic issue of assessment when learning in a MOOC – (see for example the final paragraph of this post – A Pause for Thought – in October 2008)  – so Helene Fournier’s presentation on Elluminate tonight attracted my attention (recording not yet posted – but eventually it will be posted here – http://ple.elg.ca/course/moodle/mod/wiki/view.php?id=60&page=Recordings )

I will have to listen to the recording again – because I know there is lots of thought provoking stuff in there – but I was distracted through a lot of it by the insistent thought in my head that there is a distinction between assessment and evaluation which Helene said she used interchangeably. I’m not usually pedantic – but assessment has such an impact on so many people’s lives that I think it is important to ensure that we are all talking about the same thing ( as much as is possible).

Many thanks to Viplav Baxi (who I ‘know’ from CCK08 :-))  for posting this link – http://www.adprima.com/measurement.htm in the chat room and which I think is really helpful in making the distinctions between measurement, assessment and evaluation – and the further link within this link – http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/intro/sciknow.html – is also helpful.

In my job as an Education Consultant – I don’t use measurement (according to the definitions in these links), but I do assess – in that I assess students’ work against given learning objectives and criteria – and even though I do this I am very aware of how very difficult this is and the many associated contradictions. For example – as a tutor – what do you do when you know that the students’ work is better/ more creative and innovative than the learning objectives set by the course?   A dilemma for the tutor!

I also evaluate – but usually I don’t do this myself but ask students to – for example – evaluate the course, or my teaching – or I evaluate someone else’s course/teaching.  This usually takes the form of a questionnaire or interviews. The questionnaire is more likely to tie me down to specific criteria but the interviews less likely. For evaluations I am not judging individual responses but looking at responses as a whole. For assessment I am thinking about individuals. I am also aware of the problems of evaluation. How do you know that the right questions have been asked or that the respondents have interpreted your questions as you intended? Not at all straightforward.

I am still not sure that I have these distinctions or my understanding of these terms completely clear in my head, but like the author of the first link – Dr. Bob Kizlik – I think they are important. I was not even clear about exactly what it was that people are trying to assess/evaluate in a MOOC/PLENK.  According to Dave Cormier in a MOOC we don’t know what the learning is supposed to be. If this is the case, then what are we supposed to be assessing? Is assessment even relevant in a MOOC, PLE/PLN?

Stephen ‘said’ in the chat room –

everybody wants me to be focused (and especially focused on outcomes). But I am the antithesis of focus

If this is what MOOCs are about – and one or two people in the chat room said that they thrive on chaos – then is it worth thinking about assessment at all in these circumstances?

A fascinating subject and I am still thinking/pondering/questioning 🙂

6 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 Evaluation and assessment

  1. Heli Nurmi October 15, 2010 / 8:22 am

    Thanks again Jenny,

    I come here to test what I have understood from our sessions. The recording of last Wednesday is there and I listened to it once. Helene spoke so quickly ..or I had problems to concentrate – so I had the same feeling to listen it again.
    I noticed that chat comment of Downes and it helped me to understand him. He has been one of the subjects I had explored since our “discussion” in August. He may be antithesis, don’t bother myself any more.

    I use assessment and evaluation in British way and was astonished that Helene used those as synonyms. But Alan Cooper described in chat the difference correctly 🙂 – and he is Canadian,too.

    Almost all questions are open .. are we afraid of measuring because we want to be up-to-date and postmodern or ..?

  2. Ken October 18, 2010 / 11:51 am

    On the Assessment vs. evaluation, I’m afraid that many people use these terms based on the conventions in the institutions to which they’ve been exposed.

    For instance, where I was, ‘assessment’ was only for stuff like exams, assignments, projects, etc. that counted for marks (grades). Formative assessment was also part of that. Evaluation was for course and students evaluations.

    But, apart a broadish and general from difference across the Atlantic, there is no set agreed-upon and universal definition, I’m afraid, and some people use the term interchangeably.

    And this is only in the education field. Introduce another field, like psychology, into the discussion (psychometric assessment or psychometric evaluation?) – and it just gets worse. 🙂


  3. jennymackness October 18, 2010 / 6:57 pm

    Hi Ken – thank you for visiting my blog.

    I think my experience of the way in which the terms assessment and evaluation are used is exactly the same as yours. The difference is maybe that I am less tolerant of them being used interchangeably. My background is teacher training, where if we the tutors didn’t know the difference between assessment and evaluation, then the students certainly wouldn’t, and trainee teacher students who are not clear about what assessment means, will probably not do a good job of assessing their pupils – and we all know that assessment can have very positive or alternatively devastating effects on learners.

    So in the institution that I worked in – it was an absolute ‘no no’ to mix these words up 🙂

    Hope that helps to explain where I am coming from. Thanks for your comment – much appreciated.


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