Today I’m going to cover ideas for a programmatic portfolio system that integrates field experiences in the real-world, the attainment of specific badges that highlight a student’s mastery, and reflection on process and product.
Driving my talk today will be a high-level overview of some of the characteristics and dimensions to have in mind when discussing adult learners. I will then move into a presentation of a portfolio system that includes badges, an instructional problems database tied to the real-world, and reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action using web-based communication tools most are already familiar with.
So how can we think about the characteristics and needs of adult learners? Here, I have four interrelated broad concepts that may help. First, adult learners are incredibly diverse. We do know that adults who choose to continue their education tend to be better educated and have higher incomes. They are varied in terms of race and ethnicity. In 2001, the majority of adult learners were employed full time. Since the economy tanked a few years ago, that number may be less. Two things seem to unify the idea of adult learners – they have at least one major life responsibility. They are responsible for themselves and/or others financially. Though the idea of boomerang kids is around now, we might think of those situations as temporary with the final goal being independence. Which moves into context, direction, and motivation. Adults choose to participate in learning environments for a lot of different reasons, but again, there is one unifying theme – they are motivated by employment-related reasons. Some are required to continue their education, some may have been downsized and want to explore other career options. Though adults are generally determined to be self-directed, we can see how these primary employment-related reasons also lead us to see that adults are also motivated by external forces. Those in the adult-learning field have argued that adults are also problem-centered rather than subject-centered in that they want to learn skills that will be applied immediately and they need to know why they are learning something.
The desires of adult learners having employment related motivations is directly tied to what employers want. Prospective employers want to have a clear picture of the real-world experience and mastery level of a prospective employee’s skills. Basically, they want to know if the prospective employee can do the job. “ The need to enhance assessment within online learning environments is also being driven by the increased demand on the part of business and industry that their employees possess higher order outcomes such as problem-solving skills and a capacity for lifelong learning as well as discrete knowledge and skills,” (Reeves, 2000).
Badges for learning is a newer concept recently covered in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It arose out of the open education movement and is seen as one alternative to formal higher education or vocational training. Instead of attending and paying for a degree, a student works through some online courses, tutorials, etc. and receives a badge indicating the skill learned and at what level of mastery. An example is an open course I’m currently participating in on “Openness in Education.” Instead of assignments, I am completing “challenges” at different levels. I find this to be a motivating way to continue my education. Formal institutions are finding ways to include the badge concept in their various programs. For example, the University of Southern California received one of the many grants awarded by the MacArthur Foundation grant program to develop badges in learning. They will be awarding badges in service-learning programs. The rationale is that a badge for “mentorship” and other skill areas will be more inviting to employers than listing volunteer experience on a resume. So what are the major features of badges as a form of assessment over grades. As mentioned, you can think of badges as responding to a challenge rather than a typical assessment. Badges are more tied to the real-world, and provide a clear indication of a skill learned than a grade does.
Badge systems can be conceived of in different ways. Here is one proposed way to think about them in terms of mastery level. I’m currently working on my “novice” badge in the openness in education course, but I tend to not like the term “novice” too much. I also think the term “expert” is thrown around a little too much. We know that it generally takes ten years of dedicated practice to become an expert. Two labels that seem to work for me are “Apprentice” and “Practitioner.” Let’s say a student is earning an apprentice-level multimedia badge. This could be a class-based project that has lots of scaffolding from the instructor. Then, perhaps this student wants to specialize more in multimedia and goes for a practioner-level badge by connecting with someone in the community to design and develop a multimedia learning program. The student will be more self-directed and would use the faculty in the program as more of a coach or mentor, a person to receive guidance and resources when needed.
So how do we facilitate badge attainment? I see the need for a database of instructional problems. These can be cases and scenarios written up by faculty and others in the community, or they can be real-world problems. I’m going to cover a specific example a little later of what that real-world, field-based instructional problem might look like.
Before getting into a specific example, I want to talk a little bit about reflection. Portfolios generally include a lot of reflection from the student in terms of what worked and what didn’t, what needs to be improved, what she might do differently next time, etc. There can be two ways of thinking about reflection in student badge projects. One way is reflection-in-action. During the project itself, how are things going? What did you try today that didn’t work? What problems did you solve today? In terms of the actual portfolio system, this could be implemented as a micro-blogging feature much like status updates in Facebook or Twitter. These micro-blogging posts could be a good way to discuss the issues of working on projects with fellow students and a good way to get mentoring and coaching from faculty. Next is reflection-on-action. In the system, this could be a blogging platform whereby students reflect on the project after implementation or completion of the project. A more formal reflection than status updates, the reflection-on-action would help students work through their espoused theories or beliefs with what happens in the real-world. For example, a student may have planned on using Gagne’s nine events of instruction to develop a module, but found the framework hard to put into practice. They will have a chance to reflect on the concepts they have learned and connect theory to practice.
Let’s put it all together. You have a student that searches for an instructional problem in a given area in the database. Let’s say this student is interested in working on a practitioner-level badge in analysis. He finds a problem posted by someone in the community who states that her employees are not conducting the suggested weekly backups of files and that they may need training. The student contacts the community connection to work on a learner and context analysis project. To solve the problem, the student gives a survey to employees, holds a focus group, etc. all while adding status updates in the microblogging platform and receiving pointers from fellow students and faculty. The student finds that an automated reminder system is really what the employees need. It’s not that they do not have the technical skill to perform a backup, they are having trouble changing their work habits. The student then completes a final reflection, feedback from his mentor and perhaps peers, and receives his analysis badge.
Here’s a mockup of what an employer could see when accessing the portfolio system. A picture of the student, microblogging updates, final reflections, etc. can be included. In addition, an area with the different badges awarded to the student will provide clear information about what knowledge, skills, and specializations the student possesses.
Here is a proposed plan of action for re-working an academic program integrating a portfolio system like the one described here.
Questions? Thank you!
Portfolios and Badge Systems
Portfolios and Badge Systems Motivating Adult Learners with Authentic Learning Environments Betzi Bateman March 1, 2012
Focus Questions <ul><li>What motivates adult learners? </li></ul><ul><li>What are portfolios? </li></ul><ul><li>What are badge systems? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the steps to implementing a reflective, field-based portfolio system? </li></ul>
What is the goal? <ul><li>Prospective employers will have clear picture of students’: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Real-world experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mastery level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to do the job </li></ul></ul>
One way to reach the goal <ul><li>Portfolio System </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Badges indicating level of mastery </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Database of real-world instructional problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reflection-in-action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reflection-on-action </li></ul></ul>
Badges to show mastery level <ul><li>Apprentice </li></ul><ul><li>Practitioner </li></ul>
<ul><li>Class-based </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scenarios </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Community-based </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Real-world </li></ul></ul>Database of instructional problems
<ul><li>Reflection-in-action </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection-on-action </li></ul>Reflection in the portfolio system “ microblogging” by flckr user cristinacosta http://www.flickr.com/photos/cristinacosta/3224699599/ “ Amazon blog” by flckr user Dan Taylor http://www.flickr.com/photos/dantaylor/2103836363/
Putting it all together Student Database Community Connection Solution Reflects Badge
Reaching the goal Badge Name: Learner Analysis Mastery Level: Practitioner Community Connection: AAA Services Instructional Problem: Employees do not backup their work Solution: Automated Reminder System Read more Badge Name: Mastery Level: Community Connection: Instructional Problem: Solution:
Proposed Plan of Action <ul><li>Set timeline </li></ul><ul><li>Review program outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Determine badge mastery levels </li></ul><ul><li>Determine types of badges </li></ul><ul><li>Connect badges to courses/program requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Develop community connections database </li></ul><ul><li>Design and develop portfolio system </li></ul>
For More Information <ul><li>Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, (2007). Learning in Adulthood , Chapter 7: Experience and Learning. (Portfolios, reflection, cognitive apprenticeships) </li></ul><ul><li>Reeves, (2000). Alternative assessment approaches for online learning environments in higher education. J. Educational Computing Research, 23 (1), 101-111. </li></ul><ul><li>Chronicle of Higher Education , “’Badges’ Earned Online Pose Challenge to Traditional College Diplomas,” Jan. 8, 2012, http://chronicle.com/article/Badges-Earned-Online-Pose/130241/ </li></ul><ul><li>Digital Media Learning Competition 4 , “Badges for Lifelong Learning,” http://www.dmlcompetition.net/ </li></ul>