Take5 – Post7: It’s March – coming in like a lion: designing new assessments and classes!

What do you do when designing a new course or developing a new assessment or assignment?
How do you check that you are working with your own education philosophy rather than against it?
How do you prevent yourself from trotting down the same old path, not challenging either yourself or your students?
How do you offer students assessment choice?
As Howard Rheingold said on #ccourses (http://connectedcourses.net/) – if we aren’t falling off – then we’re not dancing on the edge! So, for this post I am mostly re-posting a blog from Jesse Stommel – on Twelve Steps for Creating a Digital Assignment – or a Hybrid Class. The whole post can be found here: http://www.jessestommel.com/blog/files/12-step-digital-assignment-hybrid-class.html – and it is well worth going straight to Jesse’s post itself – where you will find a useful PPT illuminating all the issues – and a video discussion on this topic – which is a whole 54 minutes long!

In the meantime, here’s what Jesse says:
Digital Pedagogy is a recursive process, a constant interplay between building and analyzing what we’ve built – between teaching and meta-level reflection on our own process. While step number 6 below explicitly suggests bringing students into the process, I would advocate bringing students into the conversation as early as possible, even from the outset – helping to build the syllabus, outline the objectives of the course, design activities and assessments, etc. I always start my planning for the semester or quarter at the end of the previous one by asking current students to help reconsider and redesign the course for the next term.
Questions I ask myself when creating a digital assignment or hybrid course:
1. What is my primary goal for students with this course / assignment?
2. What is my digital pedagogy? How does my goal for this assignment intersect with my broader teaching philosophy?
3. What tools that I already use (analog or digital) could help me achieve these goals? (It is often best to use the tools with which we are already familiar, rather than turning to the shiny and newfangled.)
4. In order for this activity / class to work, what gaps do I need to fill with other tools / strategies?
5. Is my idea simple enough? What can I do to streamline the activity?
6. What is my goal beyond this assignment / course? How will the activity (and my pedagogy) evolve? (In other words, don’t feel like you have to meet all your goals during the first attempt — think of the process, from the start, as iterative). Think also about how you can bring students (their feedback and the fruits of their work during the first iteration) into the continuing evolution of the activity / course.
7. Go back to step 1 and work through these steps (and likely several times).
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The next steps are pointedly “below the fold” and outside the first recursive loop, because assessment should never drive our pedagogies. Rather, good assessment is driven by good pedagogy. Thus, I continue by asking myself:
8. Does this activity need to be assessed? Or does the activity have intrinsic value? We should never assess merely for the sake of assessing. As I’ve said before, teachers often grade in many more situations than grading is actually required, but we should avoid with a gusto any impulse that turns students into mere columns in a spreadsheet.
9. Is there a way to build the assessment into the assignment? For example, can I have students reflecting on their process inside the activity itself? Can my assessment arise organically from within, and as part of, the learning activity?
10. What additional assessment strategies should I use? (These might include peer-assessment, self-assessment, narrative feedback, peer review, points, a rubric, letter grade, or some combination.) External summative assessment should be a last resort, a necessary evil (in some cases). I firmly believe the goal of education should always be better learning and not better assessments.
11. What is my goal in assessing student work?
12. Go back to step 8.

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