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).

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.

Take5_Post6: Are you frustrated with education only for employment?

In our last post we suggested that you had a look at Hybrid Pedagogy’s #moocmooc on Critical Pedagogy. This week they are discussing the limitations of an education system totally geared to employment – and ask whether it is possible to create educational alternatives. This is what they say:
MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy is a six-week exploration of critical pedagogy. During this fourth week of MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy (MMCP), we will be discussing Jeffery Shantz’s essay, “Spaces of Learning: The Anarchist Free Skool” (chapter 7) in Anarchist Pedagogies and considering the impulse to dissent as seen in Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience.” Feel free to read as much or as little of these selections as you are able. We promise there will be no reading quizzes.
Schedule of Events:
• Wednesday, February 11 at 5:00 pm EST – #MOOCMOOC Twitter chat
• Friday, February 13 at 8:00 pm EST – live, digital roundtable featuring the author of this week’s reading, Jeff Shantz.
• Ongoing – Participant blog posts, casual conversation, and questions shared on the community hashtag #moocmooc.

Critical pedagogy asserts that learning is an act of freedom, the practice of becoming free. And, yet, the education system, of which we are all products (and which many of us continue to participate in), is a highly regulated and structured environment. Students, teachers, support staff, and administrators all lack the personal autonomy they deserve and are therefore often limited in their actions. Anarchist educators, working both within and beyond the formal education system, resist these limitations, seeking to maximize personal freedom and autonomy.
This is no easy task.
The current shift in education toward an emphasis on job training and employable skills interferes with the practice of critical analysis. It perpetuates the myth of an American meritocracy based off formal credentials. Young people are told that a college degree, not critical faculties and autonomy, is the key to success; and this “success” is defined in terms of capital, the value one’s life contributes to GDP. Popular discourse and reform efforts dismiss the effects of race, class, and gender on one’s future prospects. Without the crucial space to practice critical analysis, many students are left without the skills necessary to challenge and disrupt the oppressive reality. Free Skools and other counter-cultural institutions that engage in anarchist practices often try to reskill participants in these often forgotten areas of study.
While contemporary schools prepare students to productively contribute to the current social structure, anarchist learning promotes critical engagement with society. The former builds social stability while the latter encourages dissent, critique coupled with direct action. Many anarchists contend that to comply with a broken system — one founded largely on race, class, and gender disparity — is to strengthen it. We must act in defiance to the systems which oppress us, and in doing so, establish radically different ways of structuring (or unstructuring) society.
This is possible through anarchist educational practices. According to cultural critic and radical educatorJeffery Shantz, anarchist pedagogies work toward building “infrastructures of resistance” where participants may “learn and practice skills which are undeveloped in authoritarian social relations” (125). An anarchist pedagogy, then, “aims toward developing and encouraging new forms of socialization, social interaction, and the sharing of ideas in ways that might initiate and sustain non-authoritarian practices and ways of relating” (126).
Social structures embody a particular sort of character or ethos that emphasize and reinforce certain beliefs and behaviors. Chain charter schools are in the habit of directly announcing these core beliefs. Other schools may promote certain characteristic more subtly, or even unconsciously. Regardless of the type of education, however, contemporary American schools regularly reflect and encourage the values strengthening global capitalism by reinforcing beliefs and behaviors that would benefit an individual participating in this economic superstructure.
But the primary aim of education, especially an anarchist education, isn’t economic.
The values learned in schools shape our social behaviors. Thus education holds a deeply civic purpose. Education teaches us how to act. Yet, today, many graduate feeling a lack of agency, an object to be traded on the global marketplace. And this feeling is anything but new.
Henry David Thoreau critiqued American’s passivity and compliance in his 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience,” suggesting that “those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.” And when the government proved itself to be an unjust machine, as Thoreau often believed, he encouraged citizens to “let [their lives] be a counter-friction to stop the machine.”
Anarchist pedagogies promote the critical skills necessary to be that counter-friction.
So let us come together and discuss how to build alternative education structures, both within and beyond traditional learning spaces, that challenge and subvert the dominant education paradigm here-and-now. Let us discuss education as a site of resistance, a space of unlearning and reskilling. On Wednesday, February 11 at 5:00 pm EST, students, teachers, parents, activists, and concerned citizens are encouraged to participant in a #moocmooc chat on how to shift educational values towards social justice. Check outworldtimebuddy.com to see when to join us in your time zone. In this conversation, we will consider questions such as:
• What are the aims of education? Ideally? In reality? Now, speaking from your position and experience within and beyond the education system, what is your role in defining these aims? What social structures and institutional systems limit our ability achieve these aims?
• How would you describe the character or ethos of your school or institution? What values do they promote and how does the institution describe these values? What does the institutional narrative hide?
• In your local community, where would you go to learn skills not taught by formal education institutions? If you have participated at these countersites, consider your experience learning in this alternative environment. Was it effective? What worked, and what didn’t? Thinking beyond what you’ve experience: what do you imagine these infrastructures of resistance could look like?
• How can you act as a counter-friction to oppression structures? In what ways can you meaningfully dissent, defy, and resist harmful educative forces? Where are there opportunities to build countersites in learning? What are the risks of doing so?
Secondly, a live, digital roundtable using Google Hangouts on Air featuring the author of this week’sAnarchist Pedagogies chapter, Jeff Shantz, will occur on Friday, February 13 at 8:00 pm EST. Joining Jeff in this conversation about countersites in learning will be three educators dedicated to idea that education is a means of social justice. While all four speakers share a commitment to the values described in this article, each participant works within a different educational context.
If you cannot join us for our synchronous chat or viewing the roundtable live, feel free to post your thoughts throughout the week on the #MOOCMOOC hashtag or in the comments below. The video will be archived for future viewing. We’ll also be curating highlights from the community’s blog responses on the MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy homepage, where you can also find the schedule for the rest of the MOOC.
Their post can be accessed here: http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/announcements/mmcp-countersites-learning-constructing-anarchist-educational-alternatives/
AND – there are online discussions Wednesday and Friday in which to participate.

Take5 #5: on critical pedagogy, MOOCMOOC & 19/01/15

In UKHE a significant aspect of the work of central Educational and Learning Developers is to help university staff develop their pedagogy and their curriculum practice. We work with staff to help them become educationalists – to teach and assess more effectively – and to develop their practice to tackle emerging changes in society, in educational policy – and in the aptitudes and attitudes that they encounter in the students before them.

Our work involves change: in our practices – of our resources – to our ways of thinking about teaching and learning. Change can provoke disquiet, unease and even resistance. Comfortable with the role as subject expert or academic researcher; the role of teacher or facilitator of learning can leave us exposed, vulnerable and in dangerous academic space. Becoming a ‘teacher’ rather than a lecturer moves us from positions of power to positions of danger and risk. Embracing our agency with respect to the successful university experiences of our students can leave us exposed to criticism from management and students alike – no more evident than in the constant big stick of NSS!

So – if you want to think about your practice in an exciting and stimulating online collegiate course – why don’t you think about joining Hybrid Pedagogies MOOCMOOC on Critical Pedagogy? Check out their curriculum and sign up for the MOOCMOOC from here:

Texts that will be covered and that you can discuss with other online participants include:
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, chapter 2
Emily Dickinson, “From all the Jails the Boys and Girls”
bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress, chapter 1
Henry Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy
Anarchist Pedagogies, chapter 7 “Spaces of Learning: The Anarchist Free Skool”
Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Henry Giroux, “Rethinking Education as the Practice of Freedom: Paulo Freire and the Promise of Critical Pedagogy”
Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, Ch. 1: “Why We Must Disestablish School”
John Dewey, “Creative Democracy—The Task Before Us”
Ricky Lee Allen, “Whiteness and Critical Pedagogy”

I hope some of you join in with this MOOCMOOC – and Good luck!!