Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Challenge of Change Management: Students As Agents of Change-Part II

In the last post I suggested that perhaps we need to change the focus on how and why we assess students if students are going to be able to take on their new role as change agents. In order to accomplish this I suggested that if we intend to design courses that nurture students as creators of new knowledge and skills that are in synch with a developing culture of innovation, we need to go all the way and design assessment that reflects this new reality.

One of the weaknesses of our present assessment of students is that it focuses on how well students can replicate knowledge and concepts based upon what they have taken in their courses. For students who know how to "do school well", it demonstrates that they know what we want to hear and can reproduce it on demand but does it demonstrate thoughtful engagement with the subject area or is it simply a mental "cut and paste"?

Students need to be engaged in learning activities that focus on real world issue and problems. The focus is not what they know but whether or not they know how to use what they know when it comes to the need to solve real world issues. Can they evaluate information they find on the Internet and determine what is relevant to the problem or issue and what is not? Can they collaborate with another student or students and pool their talents and skills to solve an issue and then apply what they have learned from the experience to a novel and unfamiliar issue or problem?

Last post I posed this question:

 " Is it wrong for students to collaborate in a testing situation?"

Under the old model in which areas of study were compartmentalized into specific subjects, separate testing was done on a regular basis in each subject area. In a new model where subjects are grouped and the focus is on solving real world issues or problems collaboratively, the way we assess students will change. The following example will illustrate what I mean:

Question: " Is today a good day for a team of climbers to climb Mt. Everest?"

Credit: Manish Kumar

 In order for students to answer such a question, what skills are required from what disciplines to come up with a solution? For example in what ways would we need Mathematics, Physics, Geography, Biology, Meteorology, Linguistics to come up with an accurate and complete picture of the problem? Would any single discipline be enough to make a decision?

Assessment Targets:  If students were paired up in a testing situation and were required to work collaboratively to come up with a solution, what would we assess? I think the following might be given consideration and these are not in the formal language of assessment but can be taken as ideas and put in the lexicon of assessment.
  • collection and synthesis of information as it applies to the problem
  • analysis of the problem
  • ability to identify and coordinate skills of team members to reveal a clearer picture of the problem
  • ability to modify proposed solutions to meet the introduction of new variables (ie: real time weather telemetry)
  • ability to work under pressure involving time constraints.
  • ability to apply what is learned to a novel problem introduced on completion of the primary problem.
Testing Student Solutions: Student solutions could be tested and feedback given to the students by inserting the information into a graphically enhanced computer simulation on the problem and running the simulation. The feed back would then be given back to the students. If the solution resulted in the climbing team members being killed, then students would be required to go back and come up with a new solution.

You are probably asking how would such a testing situation be set up so as to be effective? How would you set up collaborative teams? What technology would they be able to use during the test? Who would be involved in the assessment of the students work on the test? What would be the criteria?

In my next post I will suggest how to set this up and how different scenarios focusing on real world issues could be substituted for this very simple example dealing with Mt. Everest......

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