Posts Tagged pedagogy

A transformative digital literacies pedagogy: Thomas (2011)

Thanks to @malynmawby @benpaddlejones and @Vormamim for engaging in tweety-chat today about play-based learning and transformational play.

There was an article that I wanted to post the full reference to – this one by Angela Thomas (@anyaixchel)

Thomas, A. (2011) Towards a transformational digital literacies pedagogy. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy. Vol. 6 pp. 89-101

You can see the abstract for the paper with my own annotations, above.

In it she argues that there are:

a number of significant characteristics of digital literacy that are imperative to include in a pedagogy of digital literacy in order to make it a transformational pedagogy.  These include: explicit understandings of multimodality, opportunities for play and experimentation, participating within communities of practice, and critical engagement with text.

I had picked this article up to read Angela’s findings about digital pedagogy, but it was a timely read.  I am a big fan of the work of Paulo Freire, and of his work to empower communities through literacy.  By bringing in Freire’s notion of ‘transformative pedagogies’ this article reaffirmed the need for critical, participatory and dialogic practices to be woven into the digital learning landscape.

I’d love to hear of other readings and resources along these lines, if you know of any…?

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Pedagogy or assessment – what comes first in PBL?

So many things to blog about at the moment…transmedia and transliteracy, the Gonski review of school funding…but in the thick of Semester 2 teaching I find myself inexorably drawn back to curriculum studies.

And goddess, please bless Bianca for coming through with a new blog post about Project Based Learning (PBL) to stimulate my thinking this week!

I have been trying to work out how to formally incorporate PBL into the structure of my unit English Curriculum Studies 1This week I think I have a solution, which I’ll outline below.  But first, to answer Bianca’s question: when I proposed this structure in a comment on her blog she asked:

Did you design the assessments or the pedagogy first?

And that question, RIGHT THERE, is our chicken and egg, am I right?

Because, as Bianca rightly points out, school teachers find it very challenging to engage in “inherent ‘assessment for learning’ within the rigid ‘assessment of learning’ framework already in place”.  So, while it might seem logical that your pedagogy will determine your assessment, the ‘reality’ of teaching and learning puts this possibility beyond reach for most. 

For some schools their ‘rigid assessment of learning framework’ is tied to NAPLAN exams, for others it is focussed more on Year 12 exit credentials.  And in schools that claim not to be driven by external assessments, rigid assessment frameworks can still be constructed by Heads of Department (or others) who seek to place multiple additional constraints on teachers’ planning (e.g. “you MUST have a half yearly exam!”, “every Year 9 class must write an essay in term 1”)

The curriculum places constraints on assessment and pedagogy too, and I could start talking about the Australian Curriculum here.  Instead I’ll show you what I built for the university semester context, and try to answer Bianca’s question from there.

Here is the draft outline for my unit in 2012:

  • Weeks 1-4 focus: Inquiry based learning (assessment = critical/reflective essay) assessment as learning
  • Weeks 5-7 focus: Project based learning (assessment = project + review of pedagogy used in class project) assessment for learning
  • Weeks 8-9 focus: Challenge based learning (assessment = make lesson plans for English) assessment of learning

I can safely say that for this unit, I started with the assessment.  Literally, I have adopted an existing unit with existing assessment pieces that take at least 6 months to get formally changed.  So, while I have been tweaking each assessment piece each semester, I’ve been teaching it for 18 months now and a full overhaul of the structure is now needed to fully incorporate PBL and other constructivist approaches.

Beyond that initial point of departure though, I have oscillated between a pedagogy focus and an assessment focus each time I plan and change something in the unit.

I would say my major points of development around pedagogy and assessment were:

  1. Reviewing the balance of assessment FOR learning and OF learning in the existing unit.  In the university context it is only possible to mandate summative assessment…so I had to reconsider my approach to build a learning environment where the learning process was valued.
  2. Reviewing the first summative assessment, which was a critical essay, gave me the idea to make the relevance or ‘connectedness’ of the opening weeks of the unit more apparent.  Students now do a range of inquiry-based activities to help them engage in the scholarly material, motivated by the need to interrogate their own perspective.
  3. Activities planned for the first few weeks of the unit were redesigned around a new assessment that focussed on the students personal teaching philosophy.  This increased the potential of the assessment to be FOR learning, I thought.
  4. Teaching the new opening to the unit was really affirming, but showed up the weaknesses in the pedagogy of weeks 5-7.  A PBL approach was therefore introduced to ‘liven up’ this part of the unit.  This coincides with the time in semester when students begin having heaps of assignments due, and I felt they needed a pedagogical experience that was less ‘intense’, and enjoyable enough to get them through the ‘hump weeks’!
  5. The PBL appraoch worked really well, but the students put a lot of work in that wasn’t rewarded in assignment grades.  So I am now redesigning assignment 2 to include ‘project participation’ criteria so students can get their work on this counted in their final grade.
  6. aaand…MOST recently: because the final assessment of creating alesson plans really has proven a ‘challenge’, I’m going to use this to explore Challenge based learning.  I see this as being the same as Project based learning, but where the outcome does not have to be presentation to an audience.  Instead, the project outcome must ‘meet the challenge’.  Think Mythbusters 🙂

You can see how thinking about assessment and pedagogy are totally bound together – thinking about one always raises questions for the other.  Or, it should!

I’m still searching for material that can explain the realtionship between Inquiry, Project and Challenge based learning.  I’ve tried to use them here in a complementary way, but tbh it’s been tough to find sources that relate the approaches to one another.  I started off this process thinking they were slightly interchangable.  Now I can see that each one is informed by a respect for ‘learning by doing’, but has its own unique flavour.  But are these three the only three?  Do they sit in a hierarchy of some kind?  Are there other ‘Something-B-Ls’ out there that I don’t know about??

Who knows.

If you do, please add a comment!  (I hope this helps someone out there!)

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Inquiry based learning

The more I delve into curriculum materials in Queensland, the more I find references to ‘inquiry based curriculum‘.

Does anyone have any materials that outline the relationship between (evolution from?) constructivism as a learning theory, inquiry based learning as a general pedagogic approach, and more specific approaches such as project based and games based learning?

Or did using the terms ‘learning theory’, ‘general pedagogy’ and ‘specific pedagogy’ just then pretty much do the job?

I desperately want to explain these ideas to students next semester, but am wary of leading them to believe that newer ideas are intended to replace the older ones, when my message is rather that they should be building a complex pedagogy.

Or is this wrong too…connectivism, anyone?

(This definitely needs some kind of graphic representation eh? Anyone up for a prezi collab?)

Inquiry based curriculum model: developing deep knowledge and understanding

Adopting an inquiry approach ensures that students have the opportunity to examine concepts, issues and information in a range of ways, and from various perspectives.

The inquiry approach values the skills of creative and critical thinking, informed decision-making, hypothesis building and problem-solving. As our society becomes increasingly complex and the role of the citizen becomes even more vital, these skills provide the foundation for discerning citizenship.

Students are encouraged to become active investigators by identifying a range of information, understanding the sources of information and looking for bias in it. They are thus better able to evaluate data and to draw meaningful conclusions which are supported by evidence. Rather than examining an issue from any one perspective, students are challenged to explore other possibilities by applying higher order thinking skills in their decision-making endeavours.

(QLD DET, 2008, ‘Implementing the QCAR: Curriculum‘ accessed today)

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Put your money where your mouth is

Stepping it up this week a bit in the ‘modelling-best-practice’ stakes…

It occured to me that as I am advocating the importance of studying texts and their traditions to…well basically, the development of human society as we know it, that I’m not doing enough of this in my own university classes.

Last week I got a real buzz relating the theoretical material in this unit to contemporary texts and practices, namely to the story of Terminator II and to the ‘Pirates vs Ninjas’ meme.  So this week I am using another text as a way to relate to theory, this time going into even more depth.

I have chosen the film Pleasantville.  I am going to use this film to explore ‘critical literacy’ and interrogate the resistance to critical reading of text in secondary English.

Yes I am.

Now, to construct the learning experiences.

In the lecture I am going to focus in on metalanguage, showing students how historical paradigms of English curriculum (skills, cultural heritage, personal growth, critical-cultural) have been revisioned in two more recent literacy frameworks that have had significant influence on contemporary English curriculum – Luke and Freebody’s ‘Four Resources’ model, and Green’s ‘Three Dimensions’ of literacy (which we have already been using at length).  I’m also going to rock their world by showing them how subject-specific pedagogy relates to more general theories of pedagogy, such as the ‘Productive Pedagogies’ that are used here in QLD, as well as to theories of learning such as Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.

The two hour tutorial though.  Hmmm.

My message in the coming weeks will be to embrace ‘workshops’ as well as individual and group ‘project based learning’ as alternative approaches to lesson organisation.  I want them to start thinking about how we traditionally do “class” and what learning experiences are encouraged there.  As I’m electing to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ this week I suppose I should give them a taste of this too…but what to do?

Perhaps I will split the two hours into a ‘workshop’ and a ‘project’.  Will I have time for both?  I’d like to also screen the first ~20 minutes of the film in class, giving me 30 minutes for the rest of the workshop.

That leaves ~50 minutes for students to complete a seperate project.  But what?

I’ve been watching Bianca do this – I know I need to start with a driving question or challenge

…and thus I am away to make coffee and have a think about this.

Ideas welcome x

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HSC blog runs red hot at assessment time

Well, perhaps ‘has more of a soft orange glow’ than ‘runs red hot’, but one thing is for sure and that is that over the long weekend, with an assessment task scheduled for Year 12 on Tuesday, the blog got a fair few hits, as well as a few comments. Woot! As well as this I had students emailing me their practice responses so I could give them feedback via email (using Track Changes in their actual Word document, and 2-3 point form points of feedback in the email body).

I know the students really appreciated having the feedback at point of need. I think I have fairly clear boundaries with them, and they always seem to be very mindful of sending me things at the last minute. One student emailing me an essay on Sunday afternoon wrote:

I’m SO sorry for the late e-mail. My nets been down. It’s totally alright if you don’t get a chance to mark it… Well, take care now.

My online experience with my senior classes has been so different to that of my Year 9 class. While the Year 9 students seem intrinsically motivated to contribute to a space that they feel a kind of ownership over (even though I moderate the blog), Year 12 these days will only blog if it is for Homework, or when they are panicking about an assessment.

I wonder if these different motivations are a reflection of their ages, or the context of their study (HSC is a very stressful year and there are great demands on the student’s time)? Or, I wonder if a class that was introduced to blog-based work in the junior school would be more receptive to blogging in senior school.

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