The only thing we know about the future where our students will use what they learn is that it will involve digital networks of user-generated content, and that we have no idea what that will look like.This means that the context in which concepts and skills have meaning is more important than the knowledge itself
All of these challenges are made salient in classroom assessments and external testsThe Network brings in current research from the Learning Sciences to create curricular modules using three principles of participatory assessment to appropriate levels of structure, support classroom accountability, and provide the evidence of achievement demanded by policy makers and funders, while fostering even more participatory learning.
We think that writing and particularly multimodal writing is THE 21st century skill. Our concern with “21st Century Skills,” however, is that it is so assessment driven and writing is difficult to assess.Students need practice writing about important things in different contexts in ways that are appropriate for those contexts. And they need to write about writing, because in user-generated knowledge contexts, the leaders are naturally the people who write about writing.
Our professional development network works to foster this type of writing through reflections. It grew out of a collaboration between Indiana University and Project NML in 2008-2009. Three core principles emerged from this collaboration, and are present in our modules.
Let contexts give meaning to concepts and skills. Foster increasingly sophisticated discourse around valued concepts and skills by considering how get their meaning from the contexts where they are used (e.g., activities, artifacts, domains, roles, etc). In the Romeo and Juliet module, this included informal activities like making a poster on glogster and role playing in class, semi formal activities like a mock trial, and a formal activity of an on-demand essay.IF TIME:Informal event reflections at the beginning of each context alerted students as to the disciplinary goal of the upcoming activity. Semi-formal activity reflections in during and after activities build on the shared experience of the different activity context to give meaning toThe Romeo and Juliet Module taught new media literacies (perfromance and transmedia naviation) and traditional literacies (character analysis and using evidence) and skills in four different activates.
Assess reflections rather than artifacts. Rather than assessing student-created artifacts directly, assess student reflection on the how the producing the artifact gave meaning to valued concepts and skills. IF TIME:These are not traditional reflections but rather they are just more formal reflections like the ones that took place during the activities. This allows us to set much higher standards for both the quality of the artifact as well as be confident that students are learning to use valued literacies appropriate in particular contexts.
Downplay assessments and isolate tests. Here, we use assessments to evaluate one’s effectiveness in fostering participatory learning and culture, Tests are used to evaluate long term impact rather than individual learning.IF TIME:Individual learning is assessed through reflections – the first principle.
We hope that lots of other teachers and innovators will join our network. Specifically we are hoping to find teachers who are interested in implementing and refining the modules. We have talked to Antero already, and have teachers in Simi Valley, Indiana, and at the University on board. IF TIME:Finally we will just mention that these same principles are spreading to other contexts of practice. Andi Strackeljahn and Dan are now building a similar network around high school algebra. And they are being used in college, in Dan’s teaching his graduate courses and now Tara Kelly teaching freshman comp and John Walsh teaching Telecom 206
PLanet General Overview
Participatory Learning and Assessment Network Indiana University Learning Sciences Program