Friday, August 22, 2008


"Gives prompt feedback" (Chickering and Gamson, 1987, p. 3).

Providing feedback to students. Receiving feedback from students. Providing corrective feedback. What is the instructional purpose of feedback? Does feedback have more than one purpose? These questions and more often surface when talking about assignments. It's easy to envision feedback on assignments as a grade. We will grade things and return them to students. Is the grade considered feedback? Some students will want MORE than a grade. They will want to know HOW their work could be improved, WHAT was wrong (or incorrect), WHY a particular grade was assigned.

People, students, faculty and others, want to know how they are progressing. Are they "measuring up" to the standard? If they are meeting or exceeding the standard, they are TYPICALLY content with their performance. If, however, they are NOT meeting the standard or not doing as well as they believe/perceive they are, then feedback is critical. Detailed, comprehensive feedback.

The timing of feedback can also impact the effect of the feedback. Feedback provided "in situ" can be used to correct the performance as it occurs. 'Ex post facto' feedback, after the event, can provide an evaluation of past performance, and depending on the depth and breadth of the feedback, may prove useful for subsequent assessments.

Without feedback, assessments loose their power to shape learning. With feedback, the potential to improve learning, and teaching, is strengthened.

See Angelo and Cross (1993) for suggestions on assessment activities and feedback related to the activities.

Angelo, T.A. & Cross, P.K. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey–Bass.

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987, March). “Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education.” American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, 39(7), 3-6.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Team-Based, Collaborative Learning

Is learning an individual effort? A group effort? A team effort? Or should learning be individualized or collaborative? We know that Chickering and Gamson (1987) stated that learning “is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated” (p. 4). Are we, as educators, supportive of collaborative, social learning? The art, or practice, or vocation of learning, if it is truly representative of the “real” world, focuses on developing the group skills, the team-based approach to problem solving rather than the lone worker.

We do “feel” better when we have the opportunity to share our learning efforts with others. Imagine the perspectives that we can experience when we work (or learn) with others. “Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race” (Chickering and Gamson, 1987, p. 4).

The globalization mentioned by Friedman (2006) may be the reason that education needs to focus on collaborative learning. The world is changing, right before our eyes. People are working on a problem from multiple perspectives, various locations, and with different resources. This “team” is tasked with solving a problem. The team is assembled. Members with different skills, backgrounds, perspectives, and expectations are selected based on the task, or problem. The team then sets their rules … who does what, coordinates activities.

Isn’t this paradigm similar to a learning community? Isn’t this an example of collaboration? Of team-based learning?

Chickering, A., & Gamson, Z. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin 39(7), 3-7.

Friedman, T. (2006). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Friday, August 01, 2008

More on learning communities

A learning community can be formed either formally, or informally. Formal learning communities may have a specific focus, direction, objectives and goals. There is some finite or discrete answer to a problem that the members seek. The members may find "the answer" or may only find "an answer" to their focus. Does this mean the community has failed? Have they grown to understand things from different or differing perspectives? Do they now approach things in a more reflective, circumspect manner? If these questions are asked and answered, and the answer is in the affirmative, then the community has grown as a COMMUNITY. They have achieved something ... they are a community of scholars, of learners.

Informal learning communities are more difficult, I believe, to understand (in comparison to formal learning communities). If a community can be made up of a small number of members, and they are brought about by common interests, shared vision, shared goals, shared teaching philosophies, then a community can be formed. Informal communities can focus on immediate, or perceived immediate, issues and concerns. These groups are short-term, normally, and the roles of members may shift, evolve, and reform as time goes on. Is an informal community less impactful than a formal community? If they can communicate, coordinate, and collaborate to help each other, then they have been succcessful
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