How to assess learning?

Yesterday’s misunderstanding in the opinion change with Downes got me to think further. It is good to be embarrassed sometimes – or is that word too negative, is confused better, I do not know those nuances. To be confused is a beginning of making sense in an obscure domain. I am sure that learning can be assessed, I have done it and taught others to do it. In this blog I have gathered information about European systems: tag Edinet gives posts of a project. For instance my post Quality of eLearning has many links which reminded me that answering why to assess leads to the choice of objectives: management and resources if needed.

I found also the discussion about pedagogical scripts concerning online courses. I had written two blog posts and  made some questions about CCK08 and some friends commented my posts (Jenny M, Keith and John). It was nice to re-read my thoughts in April 2009. I did not like direct pedagogical scripts in open courses for adults. But anyway: we need ways to assess learning. Now I can leave away resources (time, computer, internet connections) and management (thanks to National Research Council of Canada’s PLE research) and I do not want to assess the course CritLit2010 – I have the freedom to ponder only students’ learning.

Students’ feelings at the beginning of their first open online course must be something like traveling to a new country. Stephen Downes described that very well in his comment to my former post. It is not possible to tell accurately what influences and what are the results. This is the beginning we – everybody-  have lived through.

Next time (in the new place) we know better what to wait and we make choices. I gave a simple picture of the situation of different course beginners in my post 16.6. -it depends on our former expertise what is challenging. I am not a nerd and I have always a lot to learn about computer skills. Every individual builds her/his path – we can describe possibilities and skills needed in order to help way finding. I have used ten years to reach this learning readiness and I could tell about it accurately, but it is not very interesting.

We could plan checking lists for CritLit in order to follow our development. For instance Ruth Howard gives an lecture in her post about critical thinking and memes: pseudo scientific habits live inside us (appeal of authority, ancient wisdom, confirmation bias, causation-correlation conflict, irrationality, mystical energy, all natural, ideological support and many others). And again: we come from different points of view, scientific or religion, everybody has his/her path. We could compare our deficiencies in our discussions. Perhaps we did. I remember that I mentioned some of my favorite mistakes (shy, slow, lazy thinker). Thinking habits and mind habits (defence mechanisms) could be the objectives of assessment: how do I change my thinking habits and why, some hypotheses).

We could assess -not only skills – but the learning culture during the studies. This side I tried to illustrate in my post about Hacker ethic. (Hacker is the positive guy who helps and develops and cracker the negative, destructive one.) Participants’ enthusiasm can be seen and it can be supported. Continual intrinsic motivation is worth of saving and supporting. Something positive must happen between co-learners. I have never earlier been so creative – said one of my students and this sentence came to my mind just now.

The highest level of expertise is the other theme of Stephen Downes is very eager to teach me. I know that it is again something that is not easy to describe, this time from opposite reasons: so much, so many complicated actions have become automatized and are not conscious any more. It is tacit knowledge and it is can be recognized by another expert but it is impossible to verbalize. Expertise can be learned in working together, side by side. We need apprentice practices and every open online course can be seen as plenty of possibilities to learn.

I am not sure if anyone can be an expert of web life – it is changing so rapidly. When I listen to Howard Rheingold I can recognize something about his ways to live in web and tell others about it. He can say shortly the most important skills needed now: attention, critical thinking, participation, collaborating, networking … all these are very complicated and hard to describe but he gives examples. I can see that Howard is eager to learn and never cynical – and he has lived in internet from the very beginning. I can recognize his humble attitude, for instance when he interviewed a girl 12 yrs old and he was eager to learn from her.

There are many ways to use web. Dave White’s presentation about residents and visitors opened my eyes. It helps me to assess my own actions. I know when I live in net and when I use it, both are possible. How about courses? Open online courses are made for residents who can participate as visitors one or two month and build new connections. Do we agree with this?

Worth of mentioning is still one important aspect of assessment: how we learn? Maria Fernanda mentioned that I told about my meta cognition and she could learn from it. Blog or learning diary is a way to become conscious about one’s learning habits. Discussions often help, something touches your mind and changes become possible. These can be said moments of learning, I like this concept. I learned it when listening some CCK09 European participants’ audio after the course. It was my first time to really learn about learning in CCK courses. Another great moment was to answer interview questions in Jenny-Roy-John research. – Wendy Drexler presents answers to How in her Networked Student. Here is the link and some discussion in January 2009. Is this still the best answer to how to learn?

Did I became wiser by writing this post? I am not sure at all. Some integration to my former posts were needed but the picture is open and obscure, the picture of my digital literacy. I am not the only one who writes about culture and thinking habits. I enjoy to read blog posts from John, Maria and Ruth (the link above).

The hottest day of summer is going on: Thursday (Jyväskylä) Finland 34,2 C, Friday only 24 C – so came to check my writings. Perhaps I’ll write still one – I agree with Stephen Downes that atomistic simple stupid assessments are not needed. But what is needed and useful?

3 thoughts on “How to assess learning?

  1. Hi Heli,
    Another great post that inspires. I love the way you articulates the past posts and those learning reflections. It keeps me thinking: what have I learnt throughout the CCK08, CCK09, CritLit2010 courses? Your questions about expertise are also my areas of interests. I think many of us are experts in our own areas or domains, only that we seldom have to have opportunity to share and exchange skills and experience, due to rare opportunities available before the Web 2.0. But how to “assess” and reach experts who would meet “our needs”? That may be a challenge, as technology may just be an enabler in the learning process, which means that the more techie or geeky or nerdy we are, doesn’t mean that we would be more like an “expert” in teaching and learning. I am wondering if becoming an “expert” is helping us or not in this sort of networked learning environment. How would people view experts? Have I understood your reflection deep enough? You are already the expert in the field….

  2. Thanks John,
    excellent questions to ponder in future, you have understood me very well I feel. Challenging questions about learning and expertise in this changing world. We have to continue our travel..
    there is a TV program about Cities of the World in Finnish TV and
    yesterday I saw Sidney: very big, beautiful and 15. expensive in the world.

  3. Thanks Heli,
    Yes. We have to continue our travel. I recently posted one video about education in Finland. Wonderful. I think we have a lot to learn and share. Hope to visit your country sometime, may be when I get a bit older, and richer…
    We are all so close to each other here, in our “community”, like the neighbours. Have been thinking about having our “course”. See facebook for details. Just see if there are enough interests to get it started.