Blog Post

What We're Learning Today: Response to Chronicle Higher Ed "Profs Say Tech Only Helps Logistics"

In an article in today's CHE, "Professors Say Technology Helps in Logistics, Not Learning," there's a report on a study of how using a ton of technology in the classroom helps logistics but doesn't promote learning.  Who are these people?  Don't they understand it is never "about" technology but how in learning together towards a better future.  Since we live in one of the great information ages in all society, where informal learning happens everywhere, where we are giving students and adults alike the responsibility and opportunity to contribute their ideas simply by uploading to the Internet, we sure better be thinking of better, wiser, more generous, smarter ways to think around, with, through, and about the technology that shapes our life.  If we think technology itself does all that, we should not be teachers!  

Instead of going on about that point, I've tipped in our agenda for today's class, "Surprise Endings:  Social Science and Literature," taught by myself and behavioral economist Dan Ariely.   Today is the first day that the first two project groups will be showing us a "rought cut" or draft of the final learning project they are designing.  The students run this class, they give assignments, they blog about them and respond to one another's posts before class, and then they interview me and Dan in class and we film and upload it.   Then the fun begins . . . as they spend the term working in teams to create creative, meaningful, interactive public open course ware that we will reassemble into a MOOC at the end of the course.   Technology?  Everywhere!   But the real issue is learning.  Here's our website:   and below is what we'll do in class today.   We spent the last week talking about assessment, the students will give feedback on the first drafts of two projects, and then they will work in groups to create, on a Google Doc, a course evaluation for their course (the one they are taking and the one they are creating):


Agenda for February 25
This week’s Topic:  FEEDBACK

Make Sure You Value Is What You Count

*   *  * 

Overview:  We have now been doing a week of work on assessment:  first you made a video or audio tape evaluating and describing your own learning experience in the course, then you all watched one another’s presentation, then you blogged on the same topic, armed with lots of other evaluations as you summarized your own. 

Today you will give constructive feedback on the first-draft or rough cut of the final project by two of the groups in the class.  Your feedback should be as engaged, thoughtful, constructive, realistic, and purposive as possible.  

Finally, in your Group, you'll be collaboratively creating a course evaluation, where you decide what counts.  



1)  Roll   (Amanda)

2)  Checking in with Group 5, "Race, Prejudice, and Political Correctness"  to make sure you have a guest speaker.  Reminder to post assignments

3)  Announcement for Group 7, "Gender and Success,"  April 1: I have a WH event that day and will have to miss our class.  Dan has asked Erin to fill in for me in the literature interviewee role; Amanda is invited too.

4)  Peter and Talena will make some comments to the class about film shooting and editing, how to match expectations and ambitions to your skills, etc.

5)  A little bit about my trip to Seattle and funny moment when several of Microsoft’s top executives in charge of education all huddled around a laptop looking at our course website.  I am so sorry I didn't have a photo of that.

6) Next week, after the interview by Group 5 and the break, we'll start thinking about how we redesign our inward looking course website as an outward facing public website.   Ross has taken an incredible leadership role here and will have us look at some alternative Word Press formats.  

Surprise visitor for March 4:  We will be joined by a very special guest, Ann Pendleton-Jullian, architect, MIT and formerly Dean of Ohio State University School of Architecture, who is now working each year with a different university president to redesign the university for the future, thinking through basic interactive design principles.  She will be here at 4:30 next week to talk to us about redesigning our Surprise Endings website for a larger public:  "Design is the capacity to shape contexts as frames for things to happen, framing contexts writ larger on the level of multiple, time-based ecologies--social, economic, political, environmental, and cultural--from material contexts to institutions to systems of action/change and even the contexts surrounding some of our most intractable problems." ---Ann Pendleton-Jullian.

Amanda, who is certified in online course development, can guide us on this too.   It is possible I will make a Courser course called “History and Future of Higher Education” in which case the Surprise Endings course material will be the “textbook” for the “Future of Higher Education” Coursera course.   We’d also like to make a stand-alone course either for Coursera or Udacity, and PhD Lab students next year will work on the assessment piece.

7)  Pass out feedback sheets for the two presentations today:

·      Presentation by Group 1, Self Control, Stephanie, Ross, Dylan, and Jed     We will both discuss and fill out feedback sheets for the group

·      Presentation by Group 3, Relativity and Defaults,  : Nicole, Sophia, Billy, and Dan  We will both discuss and fill out feedback sheets for the group


After the break:

8)   In your groups, create a course evaluation on a Google Doc:

After the break, each group will meet together to come up with a question that you think is important in a class.   What question do you wish was asked on course evaluations?   Write out one question and answer it (indicate authorship by Group #).   Read all the other questions and add responses to those.
Please note that up to 50 people can work on a Google Doc at once.  You will constantly need to see if another group has already added your question.  If so, come up with a different question to add.   
Hint:  You can decide ahead of time who will write a question on which kind of topic.

Keep in mind:  this will be the course evaluation for "Surprise Endings" (the course you are taking) and "Surprise Endings" (the MOOC you are making)!


9)  Re-Assemble at 5:10 to look over Course Evaluation document and do a final edit



Summative Assessment  and Formative Assessment (from Wikipedia)

Summative assessment(or summative evaluation) refers to the assessment of the learning and summarizes the development of learners at a particular time. After a period of work, e.g. a unit for two weeks, the learner sits for a test and then the teacher marks the test and assigns a score. The test aims to summarize learning up to that point. The test may also be used for diagnostic assessment to identify any weaknesses and then build on that using formative assessment.

1.It is the procedure to assess or grade educators' level of learning in certain period of time.

2.It tends to use well defined evaluation designs (i.e. fixed time and content).

3.It provides descriptive analysis (i.e. in order to give a grade, all the activities done throughout the year are taken into account).

4.It tends to stress local effects.

5.It is unoppressive and not reactive as far as possible.

6.It is positive, tending to stress what students can do rather than what they cannot.

Formative assessment or diagnostic testing is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures employed by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.[1] It typically involves qualitative feedback (rather than scores) for both student and teacher that focuses on the details of content and performance.[2] It is commonly contrasted with summative assessment, which seeks to monitor educational outcomes, often for purposes of external accountability.[3]

There are several purposes to formative assessment:

•    to provide feedback for teachers to modify subsequent learning activities and experiences;[2]

•    to identify and remediate group or individual deficiencies;[2]

•    to move focus away from achieving grades and onto learning processes, in order to increase self efficacy and reduce the negative impact of extrinsic motivation;[3]

•    to improve students' metacognitive awareness of how they learn.[3]

•    "frequent, ongoing assessment allows both for fine-tuning of instruction and student focus on progress."[14]

Feedback is the central function of formative assessment. It typically involves a focus on the detailed content of what is being learnt,[2] rather than simply a test score or other measurement of how far a student is falling short of the expected standard.[6] Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, synthesising from the literature, list seven principles of good feedback practice:

1.It clarifies what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards);

2.It facilitates the development of self-assessment in learning;

3.It provides high quality information to students about their learning;

4.It encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning;

5.It encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem;

6.It provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance;

7.It provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape teaching.[6][15]

The time between formative assessment and adjustments to learning can be a matter of seconds or a matter of months.[8] Some examples of formative assessment are:

◦                     A language teacher asks students to choose the best thesis statement from a selection; if all choose correctly she moves on; if only some do she may initiate a class discussion; if most answer incorrectly then she may review the work on thesis statements.[8]

◦                     A teacher asks her students to write down, in a brainstorm activity, all they know about how hot-air balloons work so that she can discover what students already know about the area of science she is intending to teach.[5]

◦                     A science supervisor looks at the previous year's student test results to help plan teacher workshops during the summer vacation, to address areas of weakness in student performance.[8]

Meta-analysis of studies into formative assessment have indicated significant learning gains where formative assessment is used, across all content areas, knowledge and skill types, and levels of education.[4] Marzano states:

"Recall the finding from Black and Wiliam’s (1998) synthesis of more than 250 studies that formative assessments, as opposed to summative ones, produce the more powerful effect on student learning. In his review of the research, Terrance Crooks (1988) reports that effects sizes for summative assessments are consistently lower than effect sizes for formative assessments. In short, it is formative assessment that has a strong research base supporting its impact on learning." (Marzano, 2006, p. 9).[16]


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