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Some strategies for evaluating teaching practice and student learning outcomes

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 achievement of 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).

For a detailed guide (including some really clear examples, and possible wording of, for example, questions) you would be well-served by "A tertiary practitioner's guide to collecting evidence of learner b...". Although designed specifically for tertiary practitioners, many of the suggestions and examples could be adapted to any education sector, as well as to training organisations and industry.

Self-reflection, evaluation, feedback, research, assessment: What are the differences?

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Evaluating student outcomes...how?

 

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

 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. 

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 professional development 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 

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. (Hint - Google forms, Survey Monkey, or Kwik surveys are useful online tools for administering surveys online).

Reflective practice - some tips and examples

Why reflect? A good question, and it's well worth accessing this resource to find out 'why'. You might also ask, "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 resource from the Open University "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 'What is reflective writing?' with a framework and example question structures for you to use.

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 useful 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.

  • This resource - Self-reflection on teaching - offers some simple consistent strategies for creating a teaching portfolio.
  • 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 in a coordinator and/or leadership position you may well want to create more detailed reflections...that could also be developed into a report when needs be. For an example from an NZ context, have a read of Reflections from a first-time principal.

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Example of teachers giving feedback about a specific project

Classrooms for the Future Teacher Reflections from Dianne Krause on Vimeo.

 

Using reflection with students

For those of you who 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. 

This resource also has a range of links and ideas - click HERE to access.

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