01 SES 07 A, Technology and Professional Development
In this paper, the authors reflect on potential tensions between peer learning among adult students and current forms of assessment in two professional learning contexts: one in Finland, and one in Australia. The two groups participated separately in online and face to face learning that required them to gather data, reflect, communicate and try out new strategies in their workplaces. Formal learning outcomes and assessment were expected.
In Finland, universities of applied sciences focus on advanced work-oriented teaching and applied research and development that especially supports small and medium-sized enterprises and the service sector. Masters degrees aim to provide students with comprehensive and deep knowledge of a specific field needed for developing the market, as well as the necessary theoretical knowledge for completing demanding specialist and management tasks. Applicants are required to have at least a bachelor-level degree as well as a minimum of three years’ work experience in the same field.
The Australian Council for Educational Research offers courses based on its strengths, particularly in assessment, literacy, numeracy and educational measurement. Participants are practising teachers in schools who seek post-graduate level professional development which can gain university credit. Professional learning is also framed by the Professional Standards for Teachers (AITSL, 2012) which place expectations on the outcomes of courses.
The research question underpinning this paper considers how progress towards individual goals and organisational goals can be assessed both authentically and legitimately in a context of collaboration and within formal frameworks. The purpose of the reported work in both countries was explicitly to build professional knowledge, prepare students to take on leadership roles and to achieve organisational change. Using online tools to support learning, participants in each country were expected to work together to achieve shared goals. The tasks were also formally assessed for credit.
Peer learning suggests a shift from a transmission model to a horizontal approach (Mazur, 1997; Tuomi-Gröhn, Engeström & Young, 2003).Topping and Ehly (2001) define peer assisted learning as ‘group strategies that involve the active and interactive mediation of learning through other learners who are not professional teachers’ (p. 113). it generally aims at ‘…the development of knowledge and skills through explicit active helping and supporting among status equals or matched companions, with the deliberate intent to help others with their learning goals’ (Topping & Ehly, 2001, p. 114). Peers learn themselves by teaching. In the professional learning context, this reflects a way of working that is common in the workplace but not yet so familiar in formal learning (Leppisaari, Vainio & Herrington, 2009).
Echoing this approach, Harasim (2012) argues that the learning theories developed in the past focus more on individual learning, while today collaboration is much more common both in work and learning. She suggests a new theory: online collaborative learning. Collaboration in a common purpose can lead to communities of practice emerging (Wenger, 1998). In describing communities of practice, Hartnell-Young (2009) identified the purpose of learning as knowledge building, in relation to teachers connecting and collaborating online while dispersed across a huge continent.
Authentic assessment is a term used to describe forms of assessment that are performances of actual tasks required in real life (Wiggins, 1998), or that simulate conditions where competence can be demonstrated. The course designs took into account Herrington's (2006) design principles for authentic e-learning, including seamless integration of assessment with work tasks over time, allowing for multiple solutions rather than one correct response and inherent opportunities for collaboration and reflection.
ACER (2013a). Graduate Program in the Assessment of Student Learning Unit 3: Estimating Student Progress. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research ACER (2013b). Graduate Program in the Assessment of Student Learning Unit 4: Using assessment evidence to inform the teaching and learning cycle. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (2012). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. http://www.teacherstandards.aitsl.edu.au/ Harasim, L. (2012). Learning Theory and Online Technologies: How New Technologies are Transforming Learning Opportunities. New York: Routledge. Hartnell-Young, E. (2009). Learning for Teaching: Building Professional Knowledge on a National Scale. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology. 35, 1. Herrington, J. (2006). Design principles for authentic e-learning. Paper presented at the World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education, Chesapeake, Va. Leppisaari, I., Vainio, L. & Herrington, J. (2009). Virtual benchmarking as professional development: Peer learning in authentic learning environments. In Same places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/leppisaari.pdf Mazur, E. (1997). Peer instruction: A User's Manual Series in Educational Innovation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Radloff, A. & de la Harpe, B. (2003). In Naidu, S. (Ed.) Learning and teaching with technology: principles and practices. London: Kogan Page. pp 209-219. Topping, K., & Ehly, S. (2001). Peer assisted learning: A framework for consultation.Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 12(2), 113-132. Tuomi-Gröhn, T., Engeström, Y. & Young, M. (2003). From transfer to boundary-crossing between school and work as a tool for developing vocational education: An introduction. In T. Tuomi-Gröhn & Y. Engeström (Eds.) Between school and work: New perspectives on transfer and boundary-crossing (pp. 1-15). Amsterdam: Pergamon. Vainio, L. (2012). Adult students as peer learners. Invited presentation at ALT-C, Nottingham. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Wiggins, G. P. (1998). Educative assessment: Designing assessments to inform and improve student performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
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