Some strategies for evaluating teaching practice and student learning outcomes

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Achieving higher learning through the use of computers: Image via Wikipedia

When asked if ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) enhances a student’s learning experience, the answer would probably be, from many teachers, a reasonably confident ‘yes’. However, if asked if ICTELT enhances student learning outcomes, a lot of teachers would either be neutral or undecided, for several reasons including the reasonably small amount of robust research in this area. (Please see Terry Freedman’s post “Does ICT improve learning” for a more detailed discussion about this subject, including definitions of ‘ICT’, learning contexts, use and application, roles, and beliefs about how people learn).

 

Evaluating student outcomes…how?

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There are a several ways that you can evaluate student learning outcomes, some of which include large-scale, formal research studies. If you are a busy teacher, though, and would like to measure student learning outcomes in a way that informs the design, facilitation, evaluation, and assessment in the programme you teach, you may want to consider action research (click HERE for a link to a guide for teachers wanting to do action research) or some form of evaluation around your students’ learning outcomes. The following sections are designed to give some suggestions and considerations, as well as links to tools to help you.

Context

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Context is a fundamental factor to consider when looking at student learning outcomes. The problem is that notion of context is incredibly broad and includes the inter-connected aspects of the class, school / institution, parents, and wider community, as well as virtual spaces and global communities. Context also includes tangible and intangible factors such as students’ backgrounds, experiences, skills, digital literacy, interests, likes and dislikes, access to ICTELT, hopes, boredoms, learning style, family troubles, previous school experiences (Jardine, 2009, p.1). These sit alongside a teacher’s / facilitator’s own experience, their comfort levels with ICTELT, their digital literacy, how they facilitate sessions, and whether sharing, creativity, discussion and discovery are encouraged. With the latter, these are approaches in their own right and have been shown to be effective when used as part of the learning process; therefore, if they are introduced at the same time other changes are made within the learning environment the validity of an evaluation can be called into question.

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So, when sketching the picture of student learning outcomes in your context, it is essential to describe your context as vividly as possible, while also asking yourself the questions:

  • Is the evaluation I am conducting actually measuring my own ability to facilitate an ICT enhanced learning session? Or,
  • Is the evaluation I am conducting actually measuring the effectiveness of VPD for me? Or,
  • Is the evaluation I am conducting actually measuring interlinking factors such as ‘influence of parents’ rather than the effect of ICTELT on my students’ outcomes?

That is not to say you should avoid collecting feedback and information from as many angles and stakeholders as you can. This could be done in conversation for more informal input, or could be collected in surveys, discussion forums or focus groups. The description of your context might be included in your own reflective blog.

Surveys

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You may decide that you would like to survey your students about some of their attitudes towards ICTELT. The following are some example surveys that you could adapt for use with your students. They will probably not be totally relevant to your context, so you will need to change some questions, but they may give you some ideas. (HintGoogle forms, Survey Monkey, or Kwik surveys are useful online tools for administering surveys online).

Reflective practice – some tips and examples

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What is critical reflective practice? Critical reflective practice has been theorised and written about, and a lot of research has been done around it (if you are interested to know more you can start by accessing this online article “Reflection in Education“). For a briefer multimedia-rich introduction you can access the following resources the first one of which is a general introduction, and the second one a more practical ‘how to write reflective posts‘ with a quiz for you to measure your own preferences around Kolb’s (adapted by Pedler) Learning Cycle. You may already be a fully-fledged reflective practitioner, but it’s always worth brushing up on skills. On the other hand, you may not really have done much written self-reflection as part of your professional development. In either case the two following tools are likely to be of interest.

Introduction to critical reflection

(Click here to see diagram / concept creators)


How to write a critical reflection

(Click here to see the source of the diagram)

There are a couple of really good blogs out there by educators that provide good examples of reflective practice, and which you may want to use as part of your own professional development, as well as for helping to evaluate what is happening in the sessions you facilitate…and others that you engage in.

  • In this reflective post Jamin Lietze reflects on an approach he tried with ePortfolios and 3-way interviews with parents, as well as around prioritising time for ePortfolios. Notice the way he describes what has happened, has collected data around it in the case of ‘Priorities’, and has also made comparisons, and a plan around what he will do differently next time. What is also great is that he has asked for feedback from global peers, and has received some great suggestions, sharing and comments.
  • Another post that is well worth looking at is “The Online Professor Takes a Course”, where Cindy Emmans reflects on her experiences of studying online, what she learned, and has done since doing the course (including some research into what makes an effective online student. She concludes with a great discussion around design, facilitation, assessment and evaluation of online courses. A recommended read, as well as something that gives a solid example of what a reflective post can be developed into.

If you are interested in using reflection with students (which of could also be a form of evaluation of your teaching practice), Chrissy Hellyer has put together this guide for her own students to help them get started with reflective writing.

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About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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