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Judith Mc Namara And Catherine Brown 2008


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Session A - H6-03

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Judith Mc Namara And Catherine Brown 2008

  1. 1. ATN Assessment Conference 2008 Assessment of collaborative learning in online discussions Judith McNamara, Catherine Brown Faculty of Law
  2. 2. In this paper we … <ul><li>Consider the assessment of online discussion forums in a legal work placement unit </li></ul><ul><li>In particular we: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider the importance of collaborative learning and reflection in workplace learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discuss the benefits of using an online discussion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider principles relevant to the design of an online discussion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discuss the assessment of online discussions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Propose a number of principles for the design of assessable online discussions in workplace learning </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. LWB421 Learning in Professional Practice <ul><li>Work placement subject in the undergraduate law course </li></ul><ul><li>Students complete placements in private legal offices </li></ul><ul><li>Face to face classes are not feasible </li></ul><ul><li>Online discussion forum used to facilitate the collaborative learning that would otherwise take place in face to face classes </li></ul>
  4. 4. The importance of collaborative learning and reflection in workplace learning <ul><li>Reflection enables students to examine insights gained through professional practice </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborative learning: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Enables students to demonstrate to their peers what they have learned </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make connections between their own experiences and others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Share experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gain an overall picture of the various roles undertaken by professionals </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Benefits of using an online discussion <ul><li>Facilitates collaborative learning where face to face contact is not possible </li></ul><ul><li>Encourages deeper reflection – “rewind” the conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Build a sense of scholarly community – can lead to engaging vibrant and active discussions </li></ul>
  6. 6. Design of an online discussion forum <ul><li>Organisation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion topics with pre-established threads </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Motivation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Goals and purpose clearly stated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feedback provided and input rewarded </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Negative feedback avoided </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Forum monitored by important people </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ability to participate (next slide) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Design of an online discussion forum <ul><li>Ability to participate – scaffolded approach to participation (Salmon 2002) </li></ul><ul><li>Access and motivation </li></ul><ul><li>Online socialisation </li></ul><ul><li>Information exchange </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge construction </li></ul><ul><li>Development </li></ul>Collaborative learning and critical reflection is possible Introductory forums Active thinking and online interaction – moderator weaves together key points, provides summaries, suggest new topics and acknowledges student contributions
  8. 8. Assessment of online discussions <ul><li>Assessment is a fundamental driver of what and how students learn (Ross & Seigenthaler 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Use of varied assessment techniques </li></ul><ul><li>Peer rating system </li></ul><ul><li>Fair and reliable? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Assessment of online discussions <ul><li>Criteria referenced assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of reflections </li></ul><ul><li>Extent of collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>Links to professional practice </li></ul><ul><li>Written expression </li></ul><ul><li>Suggested CRA </li></ul>
  10. 10. Principles for assessment of discussion forums in work place learning <ul><li>The purpose of the online discussion forum should be made explicit to students. </li></ul><ul><li>The value of the collaborative learning should be explained to students. </li></ul><ul><li>The forum must be appropriately planned and organised. </li></ul><ul><li>Online topics should include a spark in the form of an activity or reading together with positive reflective questions that are to be addressed in the discussion. </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitation of the forum should be scaffolded. </li></ul><ul><li>The discussion should be appropriately moderated. </li></ul><ul><li>Clear criteria for assessment should be established. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Conclusion – what did work <ul><li>Sense of scholarly community </li></ul><ul><li>Good level of reflection </li></ul><ul><li>Students were able to take time to think </li></ul><ul><li>Good participation (884 posts by the 36 students, an average of 25 posts per student). </li></ul><ul><li>Students consider the forum to be a way to talk about problems in their placement, make friends and develop a support network. </li></ul><ul><li>They have also demonstrated that they have taken away valuable strategies to apply in the workplace, both as a result of the online activities and of the ensuing discussion. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Conclusion – what didn’t work <ul><li>Students need instruction on using the forum </li></ul><ul><li>36 is too many in one group </li></ul><ul><li>Burn out after first 4 weeks </li></ul><ul><li>Students contributed late in the semester – need to be explicit about date when discussion closes </li></ul><ul><li>Moderation takes time and practice </li></ul><ul><li>Did students get to the knowledge construction/ development stage? </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>“ I think this discussion forum is a great way for anyone with problems to talk it out and hopefully make friends so that when we are working in a law firm we have a support system around us.  ” </li></ul>
  14. 14. The 'capacity' scenario was a good example of how nothing is as simple as it seems.  People are complex and their problems are usually multifaceted (such as with Maude/Gwen).  Getting to a solution is a bit like peeling an onion.   What this scenario highlighted to me is the importance of operating within your area of expertise.  Simon had two options: research or refer - which he failed to do in his initial response.  (I note that he appeared to be acting with 'good intentions' - which I will come back to below). IMPLICATIONS: 1. Know the law - operate within the bounds of your knowledge and experience. 2. Know the rules governing the profession - be vigilant in applying them. 3. Know who to contact if you are in doubt - eg. internal ethics consultant, QLS or LSC. ETHICS (& the complaint against Simon): I have experience investigating allegations of ethical breaches by professionals.  My most significant learning experience from this role was that it is not only &quot;bad people&quot; who do &quot;bad things&quot; (refer back to my comments about Simon).  Often breaches occur with the best of intentions, or from ignorance, or error (easy to happen if you are time poor and under pressure), or impairment (health, substance abuse, depression etc) - as depicted in Simon's case in the last scenario.  My second most significant learning experience is that even a little deviation or slip can lead down a very slippery slope - there is no room for supplementing your own views or ethics when it comes to the rules of the profession.  IMPLICATIONS: We can all make mistakes.  My (repetitive) view is that the best way to minimise the risk is: 1. Know the law. 2. Know the rules - be vigilant applying them. 3. Know who to contact if you are in doubt. And last, because I said I would be brief, Lawyers are part of a profession and there are not many legitimate short cuts to mastering a profession - be prepared for the long haul!
  15. 15. I agree with your comments regarding Scenario 1 in that people are multifaceted and dealing with them is like peeling back the layers of an onion.   Having also completed this scenario, it occurs to me that as far as ethics are concerned, as future solicitors we cannot act only on the legal problems placed before us - we have a positive obligation to assess the situation and a positive duty to ask questions and identify any other challenges to the client's situation.  If presented with instructions to prepare an enduring power of attorney or even just in taking instructions from a client generally, we really need to read between the lines, make assumptions, identify any challenges, assess capacity etc. We cannot just carry out our instructions blindly. Really enjoyed reading your post. 
  16. 16. “ rewind” the conversation <ul><li>I have to say that when I completed this ethics activity I found that the personal v role ethics also posed a conundrum to me. I've taken a few days to try and form some sort opinion one way or the other on this matter and think I can briefly come off the fence. </li></ul><ul><li>I listened to the series of podcasts about a week ago, and thought I would think about it for a day then reply, but work caught up with me… Having had plenty of time to reflect , I was actually surprised at how helpful this entire series of podcasts was. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Sharing concerns <ul><li>Wow. N****, that last paragraph you wrote about your fears of not living up to the expectations of your boss is exactly how I feel. Reading yours and other people's posts has made me realise I share a lot of concerns with others out there.  At least I'm not alone. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Moderation at stage 2 Thank you for your contributions for activity 2. Many of you share similar concerns about your changing role as you approach graduate employment. I hope that this subject will help you in making that transition. One of the biggest challenges is overcoming the fear of not being able to live up to your own and your supervisor’s expectations. Hopefully your confidence will develop as you successfully complete more challenging and complex tasks. As M pointed out, you can take some comfort from the fact that at this stage in your career you are not on your own but have your supervisor to assist you to avoid the pitfalls. MS raised the difficulty in proofreading documents when we are all so used to skim reading wherever we can get away with it! You might like to go the M's post and add any tips you have for proofreading. Another issue many of you raised was how you will obtain and use feedback from your supervisor. This leads to the third activity which I have posted in a separate thread. Bye for now (I’m off to read placement plans!)