Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Excited about Earning my Assessment Practices Badge!

by Christine Chow

In this post, I describe my experiences as a student in the Big Open Online Course on Educational Assessment at Indiana University.  The twelve-week course is halfway finished, and I just earned a digital badge for completing the first section on Assessment Practices.  The instructor, Dan Hickey, asked me to write a firsthand account of my experience in the course so far.

 I registered for IU’s Big Open Online Course on Educational Assessment, because I am a consultant/researcher for the Indiana University Design Principles Documentation project.  This project is not directly related to the BOOC.  We are following the 30 Digital Media and Learning (DML) projects of the MacArthur/Gates Badges for Lifelong Learning initiative. Like the DML projects, the BOOC is also organized around digital badges.  Dr. Hickey asked me to share a bit about my experience in the course

So far I found the course to be fun and interesting. Every week, there is a different topic of focus. With eleven units total and three exams, the course is organized into three main parts delving into assessment practices, principles, and policies. It covers topics such as the construction of test items and the upcoming transition to the Common Core State Standards, providing relevant and practical learning opportunities for educators, administrators, and the broader professional community. What really stands out is the level of engagement and interactivity. The community often shared rich insights and discussions, and overall it was an enjoyable experience diving into each week’s topic.

When I first registered for the course, I was asked to draft a curricular aim, or a learning objective.  I was told that the aim and other information I provided would be used to assign me to a “networking group” and that I would revise my aim as the course progresses.  The first formal assignment then taught me more curricular aims and described how educators can design their instruction by starting with learning goals. This brought to mind the framework of Wiggins and McTighe’s ‘Backward-Design,’ which shares a similar rationale. We also described the context and role of either an educator, researcher, or administrator, and used this role as part of our lens for thinking about assessment. Each week I learned about assessment concepts relative to this curricular aim and respective context.  What seemed new and different about this approach is the way that I gradually built an understanding of my curricular aim and my career aims alongside my new knowledge of assessment concepts.  Somehow this seemed different than responding to the typical “application” question at the end of a chapter or reading about personal vignettes in the textbook. I greatly appreciated the way that assessment topics were interwoven with my role and context. 

The assignments in this course were different as well.  Rather than simply submitting assignments to a drop-box, each week I had to add a page to my ‘Wikifolios.’ Wikifolios usually comprise an overview of the topic as well as sections for users to discuss the topic, construct assessment items, describe main takeaways, and reflect on their engagement. Taken together, Wikifolios present a collection of my work exploring various issues and topics in assessment. I completed my Wikifolios asynchronously, but the course was not “self-paced.”  I had to complete each one by a weekly deadline.  Each week, we post our Wikifolio before the deadline. The assignment instructs us to post at least one question to our classmates and the instructor, and to comment on others’ Wikifolios.  All of the posting and commenting occurred publically, and we could read each other’s posts even while we were working on them. Another thing that was new to me was that we were asked to click a button on our classmate’s Wikifolios that appeared to be complete, and even to indicate whether our classmates had completed just the required parts or whether they had also completed all of the optional parts.  This was a strongly motivating experience. I promoted the work of many participants, including those in and outside my own group. The different contexts lent a fuller perspective and consideration of the concepts, and I could compare my Wikifolio with the work of users who shared a similar role. This allowed me to gain a broader comprehension of assessment. In addition, others also promoted my work, and I was encouraged to keep going, knowing that my Wikifolios would be seen and recognized by others. Besides the capability to promote Wikifolios, I also wanted to get a badge, which was a powerful motivator for my learning. What is cool about the badge is that it maps out all the Wikifolios, comments, and endorsements that I made in the course. With the badge, I have something to show for my work, and I also feel a sense of accomplishment for expanding my assessment knowledge. With such an involved community, the weekly units were highly interactive and enjoyable. 

We also did two other things: endorse completed work, and highlight exemplars. This was a great feature of the course, as the Wikifolios allowed me to aggregate my work and organize it in one central place. A thriving community emerged in the course from a diverse range of backgrounds. Some participants came from business, others medical, and many K-12 practitioners also brought rich and illuminating experiences to the table. It was exciting to delve into assessment with such a broad variety of viewpoints. I liked the interactivity of the course, and among the exchanges I had, one of the participants designed a curricular aim that was similar to mine. The Wikifolios provided different angles on ways to think about assessment concepts and boosted my understanding of assessment’s role and possibilities. After completing our Wikifolios, we asked questions to probe deeper into the topic, continuing the discussion in the comments section. The community was friendly and helpful, and it was great to learn from one another.

From my perspective, the course has a good structure and flow of topics. It transitions smoothly and logically from one unit to another. The time and work required can vary depending on the unit, but there is usually a fair amount of work involved. This is to be expected as users explore and wrestle with the concepts to develop a strong understanding. It was fun to explore the many sides of assessment. The course prompted me to think more deeply about assessment practices and principles, and it was interesting to consider my previous experiences with exams and develop a different viewpoint as I gain a better handle on writing test items. While the readings are largely based out of Popham’s Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know, the course incorporates additional references to provide further context. Ultimately, the BOOC provided a very rich experience filled with much to think about and diverse perspectives.

We just started the final section on assessment policies, and so far we covered the unit on standardized testing. To examine the topic more closely, I looked into the assessments in my state that were relevant to my curricular aim. I also found the test interpretation guides, so I could gain a better picture of the interpretative scheme. Especially with the transition to the new test in US schools, this unit offered a great opportunity to explore many sides of standardized tests. As the educational landscape is changing, I find it helpful to consider concepts in assessment policies more fully and explore its effects on teaching and learning. I am excited about moving onward in the course and developing a better grounding in assessment policies. The Educational Assessment BOOC has been a great learning experience and has expanded my view of the impact and applications of assessment.

1 comment:

  1. As a learning scientist in the summer 2014 BOOC, my experience echoes yours in expanding and deepening my understandings of assessment. I am excited about earning my first digital badge and exploring this participatory culture first hand! Thanks Dr. Hickey and IU TAs!