Thursday, March 18, 2010

creating class learning communities

As a summer reading treat, I brought myself a book on adult learning (Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice), with particular reference to university teaching. The book argues that the point of education is not teaching but learning, and then explores the implications for

  • power
  • content
  • the teacher
  • the student
  • evaluation

While studies show the only 5% of university class time actually does involve student participation,

Learner-centred teachers connect students and resources. They design activities and assignments that engage learners. They facilitate learning in individual and collective contexts. Their vast experience models for novice learners how difficult material can be accessed, explored and understood. (Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, 76)

Based on the book, I’m trying some new things with my classes. One involves inviting the class to work in groups, including designing their own assessment.  Here’s what I suggested for one assessment:

Course outline: The mark will be allocated based on the overall group project and each person’s individual contribution. With regard to individual contribution, each person will also be asked to assess both themselves and their group members. During the second week the class will design the assessment which will then be used with regard both to lecturer and peer-assessment. For those who wonder why, it seems an appropriate ethical response to the theological notion of the church as the body on Christ, in which each member is unique and has a unique contribution.

In order to facilitate this, I conducted the following process:

  1. Class invited to list 5 things they would expect of themselves or others in doing a group project
  2. Share in pairs to gain confidence
  3. Share with class. If people felt their criteria was already on the whiteboard, then people could feel free to fold.
  4. I then wrote up the outcomes, grouping them under similar headings and checking for “assessibility” ie could a student use this as a grading criteria.
  5. This was take back to the class. If we agree, I will provide this as a grading sheet.

So here is what the class suggested as their criteria for assessing each other in relation to their group work.

As individuals

  • Regular meetings
  • Participate equally, willing and consistently in research phase
  • Willing to fold for the group
  • Contribute not hog the discussion
  • Openness to listen
  • Affirm and encourage – including body language positive and respectful
  • Work toward group cohesiveness
  • Presentation is clear, enthusiasm and kept to time, as planned
  • Participate equally and consistently in presentation

As a whole group, a desire to be

  • fun, spontaneous
  • creative
  • develop clear communication roles in both group and in presentation
  • develop a group that worked toward a participation around unique abilities

It’s a fascinating list. I commented to them, first, that if they managed to achieve half the list, it would be a great group. And second, that if they took those attitudes into their future, I’d love to work with them in ministry.  The class is called “Church, Ministry, Sacraments” and my sense is that in inviting them to design their own assessment, they have in turn invited each other into some ways of being that actually put flesh on the images of church as a body of Christ. In other words, the class has shifted from information to formation.

Posted by steve at 04:23 PM