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Making teaching and learning visible

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 8 months ago

I'm on sabbatical, writing from India, and have been interested in this emerging conversation since it began. As a member of the English department and American Studies program I have experimented with technology in my classroom in different ways: through discussion lists, blackboard, collaboratively written wiki pages, and wordpress blog/pages. Years ago, I also created a web page for the English department as well as my own professional web page. (i have redone my page in wordpress, and we are currently rethinking the English department page in wordpress.)

 

All of this work is based on my conviction that our professional commitments and passions, teaching, and student learning remain for the most part invisible. I really do believe this. Based on this belief, I'm convinced that we need to make visible our professional work (and, for me, the relationship between personal history and professional life) so that it can be understood. For until academic work is understood by the various constituencies that support the work of the college there is little potential for it to be valued. For instance, I recently recommended to the Tenure and Promotion Task Force that we consider electronic portfolios for DPEC and FEAC. The peer review process would be more effective (and interesting) if the process allowed for more than compiling student evaluations, course materials, and classroom observation letters. That is, candidates might build a teaching portfolio over the probationary years that would actually document not simply success in the classroom but a process of teaching that always involves more complexity than we can capture. My point, I think, is that we need to learn how to harness technological advances to capture the complexity of teaching. The high promises of outcomes assessment are simply not sufficient to this end, in my view.  

 

So as I was reading all the vision stuff you've been working on here I kept thinking about the need to make teaching and student learning visible. How can do this using technology? While Blackboard is functional, for example, and offers all sorts of clever ways to manage student work and the classroom, I will be honest and say that compared to other electronic platforms (is that the right word?) Blackboard is clunky. It's only able to do a limited number of things. It has simply got no style.

 

Similarly, student learning needs to be made visible. The current traditional means through this work is done (exams, essays, clasroom work, etc.) is merely functional. The wordpress (keene.org) project has me thinking across to another conversation about technology I've been following in one of my fields, the teaching of writing, where there is some really progressive work being done that gives students the flexibility to make their work visible by way of individualized sites that can then be potentially used for a number of purposes by students, professors, programs, and institutional research. There are bench mark portfiols and inquiry portfolios and other kinds of terms to describe the ways these electronic archives can work. I think we have an electronic portfolio pilot going, right? One of my thoughts for the English department is to have what I will call for lack of a better term a web site that would both archive and organize student work in the major. The site would facilitate understanding of the major as integrated rather than as a series of disconnnected courses. It would allow for both linear and spatial models of learning to emerge. And it would offer significant epistemic insight to students and factulty as well as facilitate a clearer sense of student learning. Why write an essay only once, for example, under duress as always, meeting an arbitrary deadline. Why not have the opportunity to go back and revise writing, when motivated, to improve it. Why not see student leanring developing across four years as a parallel to the summative end-of-the-course grade? Why not give students responibility for reflecting on their learning in courses and building through reflective practice an archive of work that represents the uneven and in no way linear process of actually coming to understand or do something?

 

The edema subsides.

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