It feels like I’ve been banging on about this subject forever now but with assessments now finalised, it seems like a good time for a final wrap up.
In broad terms, I was a little disappointed with my students. It might have been a bad time of year to run this subject, with its demanding workload, but the majority of them seem to have only put in the absolute barest effort needed to pass. Assessment instructions which I thought were pretty clear weren’t followed and most of the reflections lacked any great insight. I had to ask many of them to rework and resubmit their assessments just to meet the minimum requirements.
What this does make me ask is whether this is the fault of my students or me.
As I haven’t taught formal classes for more than a decade, there are a lot of things that I haven’t had to deal with in teaching an ongoing subject with rigorous formal assessment. I also have a tendency at times to over-complicate things because it just seems like it makes them better. This probably also extends to my communication with my students and my expectations of them.
Fortunately, I am still keen to try this again.
Even during the marking process, as I had to walk away from the computer and swear at the walls, I was constantly reshaping the course structure, the assessments and the class activities in my mind to help avoid some of the issues that were arising. The fact that a handful of the “good” students were able to understand and follow my instructions suggests that I’m on the right track at least and am not entirely to blame but the fact that more than a few got things quite wrong does tell me that there is more work to be done.
I need to make it clearer that when students are creating draft learning resources, they actually need to be resources – things, objects – rather than broad and loose activity plans for a class. I need to explain clearly that the final learning resources should be the same as the draft learning resources but improved based on testing and feedback. To be honest, these things seemed so self evident to me that I couldn’t conceive of anyone not getting it but there we are.
I tried to put into practice a number of ideas that I’ve encountered in the education design community about getting students more involved in designing parts of their own assessments but this really just confused more people than it helped. (Which was a shame as I do believe that it is a valid and valuable approach)
I tried to give my learners freedom to follow their particular learning needs and interests but for the most part this ended up just giving them the opportunity to follow the path of least resistance and allowed for some fairly lazy work. I also should’ve factored into my thinking that the first week of a class is often going to be plagued by technical (logins not working) and administrative hassles and try to make allowances for this in not expecting too much work to be achieved in the first week. (That said, we have a strong need to demonstrate engagement in class activities to receive funding for students that later drop out and I was certainly able to prove that)
I think next time around there will need to be a little less freedom, a bit more structure and lot more clarity and simplicity.
On the whole I am happy that I have managed to get these teachers doing things they haven’t done before and I think they have developed useful skills and knowledge. I’d just like to do more.