#PLENK2010 More thoughts about evaluation and assessment

I have to admit to being confused about exactly what the focus of this week of the PLENK course has been about. The title of the week has been – ‘Evaluating Learning in PLE/Ns’. But the language used has been very confusing, starting with the words assessment and evaluation being used interchangeably – which I was relieved to see from Heli’s comment – I am not alone in being concerned about. And then in today’s Elluminate session there was a lot of ‘talk’ about learning outcomes, when sometimes it seemed to me that what was being talked about was learning objectives.

I have also not been clear about whether the focus is on evaluating PLEs/PLNs and therefore this PLENK as a learning environment, or on individual participants’ learning within this environment, which are two different things and would require different processes despite being linked.

Then there is the confusion about whether we are talking about people assessing their own learning within the PLENK course or whether we are trying to decide whether it is possible to assess people in these environments – again two different processes.

The question was asked ‘How do I know that I am making progress/have learned something’? It would be interesting to collect people’s thoughts about that. My own quick response to this would be that I often don’t know until some time after the event and recognising that I made progress/learned something is very context dependent and therefore for me there is no one answer to this question.

Also for me an important question from this week is whether or not personal learning environments enhance learning – its interesting to consider how this might be measured.

Another interesting question (not related directly to the assessment issue) which was raised in today’s Elluminate session is ‘How do you get the balance right between providing course structure and allowing students the type of freedom that is characteristic of a MOOC.’ I loved the ‘Roots and Wings’ metaphor that someone posted – sorry not to have noted the name to be able to attribute this correctly.

And then Heli has thrown down the gauntlet in her comment in response to my last blog post

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

Now there’s an interesting question. My own feeling is that there does seem to be a tendency to move away from measurement (e.g. in the UK there has been resistance by teachers of young children to using standardised tests)  – mainly because it’s so difficult to get the measures correct. This was implicit in the You Tube video link that was posted in the Elluminate session tonight – RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms – but I don’t think this is because we are afraid – more because traditional modes of assessment just don’t seem to fit with learning that takes place in distributed personal learning networks – particularly if the learning is taking place in a MOOC.

Finally, my own thinking about assessment of learners in traditional settings has been influenced by Gibbs and Simpson’s article – Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004) ‘Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning’, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3- 31 http://resources.glos.ac.uk/shareddata/dms/2B70988BBCD42A03949CB4F3CB78A516.pdf

… but if learning is to take place in distributed networks and we want this learning to be accredited then how do we apply Gibbs and Simpson’s advice? Do we need to – or should we be trying to think outside the box and swim against the tide?

5 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 More thoughts about evaluation and assessment

  1. Heli Nurmi October 17, 2010 / 7:52 am

    Hi Jenny,
    I admire your ability to listen to others (me) and facilitate my learning. I have been thinking about this post after reading it yesterday. I have many points to share now:

    The animation about traditional vs. new – it is nicely done but very black-and-white, I could say simple. Of course you have to became conscious about the borders of institutional education but no that way. It is not for me.

    I have all the time been working with the question you set at the end: how to assess in a networked life – and I have no answers yet (self+peer assessment) but how exactly?

    When You mentioned my question about attitudes toward measurement in this course, I could continue my hutch. Actually I am thinking that if we had voluntary assessments every week, we could follow the process. Moodle has many tools and there are many open tools (some have tried but questions are impossible to find from forums later) …

    Research about us or with us? Chris Jobling called us labrats after last Wednesday Elluminate session. It is a paradox: Helene tried to build up interaction and – Dave did it in the first Ellumination, but … Who has a feeling that we are equal participants in this research? Somewhere are wikis..I should read..

    Perhaps my “test your blog please” – post was a message that you can have measurements or assessment for reflection, the methods need not to be perfect, they never are 🙂
    Thanks for hearing me, seeing me

  2. jennymackness October 18, 2010 / 6:51 pm

    Hi Heli – thanks for this great response – giving me so much to think about.

    I like your attitude to the traditional vs new scenario. I’m afraid that – even though I should know better – I often tend towards a black and white approach. It was one the first things that my husband criticised about me in the early days of our marriage. I can remember him quite clearly saying ‘The world is not black and white, Jenny – there are multiple shades of grey’ 🙂 Since then I have tried to bear this in mind and I have been struck by the work of Etienne Wenger who always seems to see two sides to every coin – to the extent where almost each and every sentence is qualified by a possible alternative point of view. So – thanks for reminding me about the shades of grey.

    I have also been thinking about assessment in MOOCs and have tried to ‘think aloud’ in my most recent post about assessment in distributed networks. I think the issue imay be purely a management one – how to manage the numbers. Self-assessment, peer-assessment, learners monitoring their own progress etc. – these are not new ideas. Even 4 years olds can fill in a tick box that says ‘I can tie my shoe laces’ and as teachers we asking 4 year olds to so this in schools nearly 20 years ago 🙂

    Thinking of the ‘test your blog please’ as a reflection exercise is very helpful and makes more sense – so thanks for that.

    Good to ‘talk’ to you – so hope you come back here.


  3. Heli Nurmi October 20, 2010 / 8:04 am

    Hi Jenny,

    I had some serious things in my private life in RL and that’s why I do not write anywhere in blogoshere, during next days. I wanted to tell this to you.

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