Last week, our PGCE/ Dip HE class considered and discussed the value of using differentiated objectives within an inclusive learning environment. We drew from Bloom’s taxonomy to adapt one commonly used objective. Please use the comments box to submit your examples and we can discuss these in class on Tuesday. Deborah
The Education and Training Foundation has identified to us as facilitators of learning three specific standards in terms of differentiation:
- Be creative and innovative in selecting and adapting strategies to help learners to learn
- Plan and deliver effective learning programmes for diverse groups or individuals in a safe and inclusive environment
- Enable learners to share responsibility for their own learning and assessment, setting goals that stretch and challenge
For starters, as a reflective tool, it is important to evaluate how well your teaching meets individual needs and how well your learners learn and make progress.
Let’s firstly consider how learners may be different. The theory of Andragogy has given us the insight that it is imperative to pay consideration whilst planning that learners have different prior knowledge, experience and skills. Learners work at different paces, have specific interests, may have barriers to education which affect motivation, learn in a specific way and could have specific learning and individual needs.
Differentiation by objective can be levelled at individual learners and can assist in the facilitation of an inclusive learning environment. Outcomes which draw on Bloom’s Taxonomy and the learning domains can assist with differentiating objectives to ensure inclusion. Differentiation by product and assessment could also be considered, along with including extension tasks for those who could be challenged further in terms of higher level learning.
How do you ensure that you fulfil the ETF expectations and what evidence could you provide to demonstrate this?
Some questions to ask whilst carrying out reflection on this area of inclusive practice are:
Do you plan session content to remove barriers and aid motivation?
Do you plan for using a variety of resources and are they planned to meet the individual needs of the learners?
Will the learner develop transferrable skills? How?
Do the objectives include all learners and are they SMART?
Could each learner achieve?
On reflection, did all learners engage?
So how is it possible to provide evidence that we are fulfilling this expectation of our role in inclusive education?
Please share your thoughts on how PCET teachers may provide evidence towards the ETF standards and develop their inclusive practice.
My research has led me to the core principles of assessment in general and, while I am focussing on formative assessment, it must be noted that summative assessment is equally important and valid. Assessment of learning, which draws from a behaviourist and cognitivist view point, is imperative within a higher education setting.
Due to the fact that academic qualifications carry with them both accountability and certification it is clear that one strategy cannot be substituted for the other and both must work alongside one another to provide a true picture of learning that has taken place.
“Summative assessments are essential in certifying learner’s achievements and establishing what is typical and reasonable.” Oosterhof et al (2008:82)
Although assessment of learning will undoubtedly remain part of the higher education landscape it is often described as a more of a surface approach to learning. Entwistle (2000:3) claims the intention of this kind of assessment is simply to allow a student to cope with the task, an exam for example, and sees a course as “unrelated bits of information”. Formative assessment, however, lends itself far more to a deep approach to learning whereby students “monitor the development of their own understanding.” Entwistle, McCune and Walker (2000:3)
For the purpose of this study, however, assessment for learning is the major area of focus. This approach draws upon the co-constructivist view point outlined by Biggs and Tang (1998) in Tiwari and Tang (no date) who believe that:
“ …true meaning cannot be imposed or transmitted through direct learning alone but is created by the learners through their learning activity. Therefore, if meaning is constructed, learners should be expected to give proof that the desired learning has occurred.” (Biggs and Tang as cited in Karsten, Dunbar-Krige and Muller 2012:28)
This view is also heavily supported by other research by Askew and Lodge (2000), Costa (1991), Watkins et al (1996) and Carnell and Lodge (2002) primarily in that they advocate the approach to evidence based learning which requires a shift from receptive transition models such as assessment of learning and summative assessment to a co-constructivist approach allowing for intrinsic learning and encouraging students to demonstrate their depth of knowledge. This kind of learning aims to create meaning and therefore is not just an assessment of their ability to perform well in examinations.
In order for this depth of learning to take place feedback has to be brought to the forefront of this method of assessment. Since this kind of assessment for learning is ongoing and should be developmental, the giving of timely and constructive feedback should constitute a key element of its successful implementation. Nichol and MacFarlane (2006) advocate a model of effective formative feedback. This model includes seven stages and, as part of my research, I wanted to ascertain whether or not the use of formative assessment tools suitably support this kind of self-regulated, student centred and inclusive learning. The seven stages are as follows:
- Helps clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards)
- Facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning
- Delivers high quality information to students about their learning
- Encourages teacher and peer dialog around learning
- Encourages positive motivational beliefs and self esteem
- Provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance
- Provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape teaching
(Nichol and MacFarlane 2006 : 205)
According to Brown and Knight (1994:1) assessment is at the heart of the student experience. This is evidently reinforced by the national student survey data which confirmed that, between 2009 and 2011, student’s experiences of assessment were the areas that they were most dissatisfied with.
In particular, students commented on the quality of the feedback they were given and at which points throughout their study they received it Price et al (2011:36). Following this data, The Burgess Report (2007) made way for a shift from using solely summative assessment within higher education, claiming that simply ‘signing off’ a person’s education with assignments or module exams does not fit with the ideology of lifelong learning. And if, as Ramsden (1992:187) implies, students feel that the ‘assessment defines the curriculum’ then we should be thinking far more critically with regard to how we monitor achievement. Are our current strategies fit for purpose and do they meet learner needs?
Although the co-constructivist approach is applied within a HE setting, does the format we currently employ really encourage a less passive and more active approach to their learning journey?
Portfolio based assessment in higher education
There is evidence to indicate that, while portfolios have been used within the HE system in the UK, they have mainly been used to demonstrate learner progress for summative purposes Baume & Yorke (2002), Brown (2003) and Nystrand et al (1993) and less often as a developmental, formative working document. However, a report commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills outlines the need to not only apply portfolio systems as a summative assessment tool but that using this to support ongoing assessment allows for
“increasing emphasis on the development of skills such as communication, scholarship and critical analysis.”
(DfES The future of Higher Education 2003 as cited in Klenowski, Askew and Carnell 2007:278)
Technologically enhancing the portfolio approach
The integration of multimedia seems like a sensible and current way to develop this type of portfolio based assessment technique but there needed to be considerations made in order to make such a large, albeit, timely change. This is supported by Price (2011) who would argue that altering how we assess and which method we use, requires significant movement in other areas of our programmes to facilitate such a transition. In order to make the leap from the traditional to the technological there was a need to gather examples of current practice and research to judge technology as a way of enhancing our current methods.
Vonderwell et al, (2007) Mackey (2009) Lin (2008) and Wang (2009) all seem to share the opinion that online or e-learning supports engagement, offers opportunities for collaborative learning and assessment and can make students take responsibility for their own learning. These findings indicate that there are most certainly additional benefits to taking the collaborative e-learning route.
Pachler et al (2010:716) defined formative e-assessment as ‘the use of ICT to support the relation to prior achievement and attainment of intended as well as unintended learning outcomes’.
Agenda for Technology
Technology has entered the forefront of HE with the aim of the academic and the technologic working far more in partnership than ever before. This is so much so that even some of the theories that underpin education in general and the training of teachers have evolved to show the advances in methods of teaching, learning and assessment. Church (2011:31) speaks of a Digital Taxonomy, using the skills and attributes from the well theorised Bloom’s Taxonomy (1948) to incorporate technology enhanced learning into the education system. Edwards (2011) makes an interesting and, in my opinion, valid point that
‘if it was deemed necessary to create this version of such an iconic tool then this indicates that the digital word and education are now deeply interconnected’ Edwards (2011:72)
This idea of digital literacy brings with it the need for a shift from tutor to student for some who may not be comfortable with this new skill set. This signifies to me that there could be a training need for some academics. The Higher Education Academy report, Transforming Assessment in Higher Education (2012), discusses the need for a whole departmental approach to the integration of such technologies into an existing curriculum. The report also sustains my suggestion that training and continuing professional development for staff would need to be a core instrument supporting change
“Institutions will need a planned and sustained staff development strategy to support the implementation of such a change, underpinned by dedicated substantial resource for staff development.” Higher Education Academy (2012:15)
Risk of exclusion?
Inclusive practice is another consideration to be made when examining both existing practice and opportunities for new ways of assessing learning. Katseva (2004) as cited in Seale (2006) reflects that technology can disable a student further
“when it is developed without considering accessibility because it marginalizes segments of the population” Katseva (2004) as cited in Seale (2006:25)
While this can, of course, be true, more recent documents such as the Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme report entitled What’s Next for Digital Inclusion (2011:1) makes a very clear statement that “technology can help everyone learn” by offering assistive technologies and accessibility options that traditional modes of study can not offer.
It is arguably the responsibility of those developing and facilitating the technology to ensure that these options are clear, utilized correctly and thus foster empowerment rather than confinement.
In reality, from student opinion, what the literature advocates and how education is moving towards a digital era, there seems little reason not to adopt a forward thinking and progressive approach to assessment using e-portfolios and multimedia.
With evidence to suggest that e-learning and assessment for learning offers so many opportunities to students, paradoxically, it is still so underused and I find it difficult to justify why. There are so many intrinsic benefits to support the use of technology. It lends itself to inclusive practice, collaborative working, autonomous learning, collegiality, real time reflections and immediate feedback amongst others. Although, as with all new strategies, there are limitations it is the people who develop and use the tools that have the ability to minimise them if they embrace the idea of technology wholeheartedly.
Initial teacher education within both the compulsory and post compulsory sector is heavily reliant on the expertise, experience and subject specific knowledge that can be shared by experienced teachers, trainers and practitioners.
As teacher educators the value of support, advice and guidance of those already working in an ever changing learning landscape is invaluable to us when encouraging our trainees to become current, reflective and research focused professionals.
It has always been somewhat of an anomaly to me, however, that the support for mentors in the PCET sector appears lacking in comparison to that of early years, primary and secondary settings.
Increasingly, workloads of PCET colleagues continues to grow and, while some forms of CPD are given precedence, the benefits of mentoring a colleague or student are overlooked.
The potential to enhance your own practice by becoming a mentor is wide ranging, developmental and rewarding.
Often, however, mentors are ill supported by organisations to undertake such a worthwhile role, meaning that securing a mentor becomes more of an inconvenience than fostering a professional relationship.
Since the Education and Training Foundation introduced the Professional Standards (2014) and the Society for Education and Training was formed, there has been another call for professionals to join a community that focuses on up- skilling the post compulsory arena, including mentoring new or inexperienced teachers.
The idea of this kind of collaborative forum for our sector is, essentially, a sound one however, since deregulation, I ask the question whether there truly is a feeling amongst those working in the sector that these extra activities are simply a drain on their resources, time away from achieving targets and, indeed, more of a workplace headache than an opportunity.
For those training to teach in compulsory education there appears to be a far more rigid, supportive and formalised mentoring system. This seems to continue to be a luxury not afforded to post compulsory organisations.
Why? Our sector is, in my opinion, ever the poorer relation with less budgets, lower pay and equally high targets – especially since the Leitch Review (2006) and the ever growing workplace learning agenda under the current government, where vocational learning, apprenticeships and ‘on the job training’ are, arguably, a route to advancing the UK’s position in the global economy.
With PCET and FE continuing to be considered the ‘last chance saloon’ for those who feel they were failed by the compulsory system, a place for students of all ages to engage in education at all levels of teaching and learning, now spanning from functional skills to foundation degrees, are we not now in a position to invest in the future of the sector by investing in those who invest in their students?
What if it doesn’t work? What if it fails? What if I can’t figure it out? What if I just don’t like it? All questions I have heard recently while trying to develop a higher education programme and make it more current – oddly, that was not the students.
Why is higher education lagging behind both compulsory and further education when technology enhanced learning is, and in my opinion should be, at the forefront of any stage in our education system?
Changes to long standing programmes, in terms of technology, appear to strike fear into the heart of some seasoned academics who, for a range of reasons, are filled with dread at the prospect of, heaven forbid, using an iPad, smartphone or tablet to enhance assessment strategies or allow for a more flexible delivery of their lectures.
Cries of “switch off that mobile phone” can still be heard across campus.
Surely, in the current climate where a smart phone can support research, allow for collaboration and facilitate information sharing we should be encouraging this kind of forward thinking. This kind of instantaneous access to a wealth of information is an obvious benefit to the students of 2015 and yet they are still being discouraged from accessing it.
Many students, including the more mature, have already surfed the Web, blogged, tweeted, podcasted and Facebooked their way to higher education and, through consultation, have found some of the more traditional approaches to HE teaching lacklustre, draconian and, quite frankly, reminiscent of their school days – while their lecturers are simply wondering why the ‘blackboard’ has changed colour and if the overhead projector is broken.
I would have thought that there was a glaring opportunity to welcome, alongside more traditional approaches to teaching and learning, the integration of new and exciting digital teaching and learning experiences.
Particularly for those of us who are teacher educators, should we not make the commitment to our students to meet pedagogical challenges in a way that is accessible and flexible for them? Where is the modelling of best practice?
Have I been unrealistic?
For some, the use of technology is considered to dilute the ‘academic content’ and using a Kindle will never replace a real book in terms of academic prowess but I don’t understand this . Am I missing something?
I thought, perhaps naively, that the days when being an active participant in a higher education programme meant you were restricted to a classroom, lecture theatre or, indeed, the library building were long gone.
When the introduction of mixed media allows for real time ‘light-bulb moments’ to happen and, at the click of a mouse, opinions can be gathered, feedback sought or help accessed then I’m keen to be part of that revolution.
When a wifi hotspot is something you think you need to see the GP about and you feel the vocabulary associated with information technology would warrant a distance learning course in a foreign language there must be something amiss.
So, technology, an opportunity or a threat? Your strength or your weakness?
A question that may never be answered here if it is either of the latter…..I’ll let you get back to your OHP.
Times are changing and it is time to accept the new and enjoy a new era in technology enhanced teaching and learning.