22 SES 10 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
1. How can gains in knowledge, understood as the distance travelled between the initial and the final state of the students’ knowledge of a topic, be conceptualised, in the context of higher education?
2. What are the main components of the learning process that takes place as students enquire about a topic within a course?
3. Do students experience shifts in their beliefs about knowledge as they enquire about a topic? What is the nature of these shifts?
Assessment strategies in higher education concentrate on the learners’ achievement of intended learning outcomes. This can be assessed using capstone assignments at the end of a course or degree, e.g. a project or dissertation (Murray, Perez & Guimaraes, 2008) or, as is the case in the UK, through the proportion of ‘good degrees’ (total of upper second class and first class degrees awarded). However, they do not provide an indication of the students’ actual gains in knowledge, since this requires comparing the state of learners’ knowledge at the start and at the end of a course. The notion of ‘value added’, was proposed to address this gap, but it is assessed using simple quantitative measures, in primary and secondary education, seldom in higher education.
From a pedagogic point of view, lecturers, at present, know very little about their students’ knowledge before the start of a course. However, many authors (e.g. Resnick, 1983; Glaserfeld, 1984; Schwartz, Sears & Chang, 2007) have argued that learning is strongly influenced by prior knowledge. Therefore, it is important to devise practical strategies aimed at collecting information about the students’ prior knowledge on a topic or subject. This information could help shape the delivery of the course and make it more effective.
The prevalent forms of assessment in Higher Education pay little attention to actual learning process. Particularly, important are shifts toward greater complexity. Identifying when students get stuck or stop learning is equally valuable. These processes are made explicit in reflective pieces such as blogs, portfolios and patchwork text assessments, but these assessments are not very widely used and pose significant challenges in terms of feedback and marking.
Finally, when learners are encouraged to reflect on their learning process, they often make comments of an epistemological nature (Gaitán, Adonu & Jankowska, 2012). These comments can be interpreted in the light of recent models of how adult learners develop beliefs about knowledge (Perry, 1990, King & Kitchener, 2002, Baxter Magolda, 2004), as part of the process of construction of knowledge.
1. To describe and evaluate the gains in subject knowledge that can occur within a unit, in terms of a comparison between prior knowledge and the final stage of knowledge, through concept maps.
2. To document processes of construction of subject knowledge, by analysing reflective assessments (blogs) written by students on topics related to a course.
3. To identify the learner’s epistemological shifts during the process of construction of knowledge that occurs within a unit and is contained in reflective assessments such as blogs.
Baxter Magolda, M.B. (2004). Evolution of a constructivist conceptualisation of epistemological reflection. Educational Psychologist, 39(1), 31-42. DOI: 10.1207/s15326985ep3901_4 Gaitán, A., Adonu. J. & Jankowska, M. (2012).Tracking progress in construction of subject knowledge and epistemological beliefs using a Patchwork Text Assessment. 9th International ePorfolio and Identity Conference. London, July 9-11. Glaserfeld, E.V. (1984). An introduction to radical constructivism. In P. Watzlawick (Ed.), The invented reality. New York: W.W. Norton. Murray, M., Perez, J., & Guimaraes, M. (2008). A model for using a capstone experience as one method of assessment of an information systems degree program. Journal of Information Systems Education, 19(2), 197-208. King, P.M. & Kitchener, K.S. (2002). The reflective judgment model: tewnty years of research on epistemic cognition. In B. K. Hofer and P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Personal epistemology: The psychology of beliefs about knowledge and knowing. Mawah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum. Perry, (1990). Forms of intellectual and ethical development during the college years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (Originally published in 1970). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Resnick, L.B. (1983). Mathematics and science learning: A new conception. Science, 220, 477-478. Richardson, J. T. E., & Woodley, A. (2003). Another look at the role of age, gender and subject as predictors of academic attainment in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 28(4), 475-493. DOI: 10.1080/0307507032000122305 Schwartz, D.L., D, Sears, & J. Chang (2007). Reconsidering prior knowledge. In M.C. Lovett & P. Shah (Ed.) Thinking with data. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Earlbaum.
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