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Emergent Outcomes 
12 Steps for Designing an Assignment 
Photo by Ray Smith
Jesse Stommel 
@Jessifer 
You can also follow Mary the Dog @MLAdog
“An unhealthy attachment to outcomes discourages experimentation.” ! 
! ~ Sean Michael Morris, Pete Rorabaugh, and Jesse S...
Don’t wield outcomes like a weapon. Learning and teaching 
are about inhabiting the present not the future, letting our 
p...
We haven’t been nearly imaginative enough with outcomes. I 
want outcomes like “for us to have an epiphany” or “for 
stude...
12 Questions I ask myself when 
creating an assignment 
1. What are my primary goals for students with this assignment?! 
...
What are my primary goals for students with this 
assignment? (1)
“Too often, faculty design pedagogy around the worst-case scenario and 
then apply that pedagogy to every student."! 
~ Ja...
How do my goals for this assignment intersect with my 
broader teaching philosophy? (2)
“Curriculum [...] is constructed and negotiated in real time by the 
contributions of those engaged in the learning proces...
What tools that I already use (analog or digital) could 
help me achieve these goals? (3)
It is often best to use the tools with which we are already 
familiar, rather than turning to the shiny and newfangled. 
P...
In order for this activity / class to work, what gaps do I 
need to fill with other tools / strategies? (4)
Bring students into the conversation as early as possible by 
having them collaborate on the syllabus, outline the objecti...
Is my idea simple enough? What can I do to streamline 
the activity? (5)
Don’t feel like you have to meet all the goals during the first 
attempt — think of the process, from the start, as iterat...
What is my goal beyond this assignment / course? How 
will the activity (and my pedagogy) evolve? (6)
Outcomes for an assignment emerge over time through the 
work of each group of students. If I articulate outcomes too 
cle...
Go back to step 1 and work through steps 1-6 again 
(and likely several times). (7)
Consider the next steps “below the fold”, because assessment 
should never drive our pedagogies. Rather, good assessment i...
Does this activity need to be assessed? Or does the 
activity have intrinsic value? (8)
Teachers often grade in many more situations than grading is 
actually required. We should avoid with a gusto any impulse ...
Is there a way to organically build the assessment into 
the assignment itself? (9)
"When students struggle for excellence only for the sake of a grade, what 
we see is not motivation but atrophy of motivat...
What additional assessment strategies should I use? 
External summative assessment should be a last resort. (10)
These might include self-assessment, peer-assessment, 
narrative feedback, points, a rubric, a letter grade, or some 
comb...
What is my goal in assessing student work? Is my 
assessment enhancing student learning? (11)
The goal of education should always be better learning and 
not better assessments. 
Photo by flickr user Johnny Worthingt...
Go back to step 8. Particularly, reconsider the question: 
Does this activity need to be assessed? (12)
“A class is … an independent organism with its own goal and dynamics. 
It is always something more than what even the most...
bit.ly/assignmentdesign! 
! 
! 
@Jessifer 
Photo by flickr user Taro Taylor
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12 steps for Designing an Assignment with Emergent Outcomes

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Pedagogy is a recursive process, a constant interplay between building and analyzing what we’ve built -- between teaching and meta-level reflection on our own process.

Published in: Education
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  • “Too often, faculty design pedagogy around the worst-case scenario and then apply that pedagogy to every student.'! ~ Janine DeBaise, “Best Practices: Thoughts on a Flash Mob Mentality”

    Yes, but I don't think that originates with faculty. Very often, administrators design requirements for faculty around the worst-case scenario; when you're an environment steeped with that attitude, it takes conscious resistance not to fall into such thinking yourself. Plus, an increasing focus on student retention and graduation rates often leads to a demand to focus on helping the 'worst-case scenario' student, since the others will presumably stumble their way through to graduation no matter what.

    The best way I have found to resist these kinds of pressures is to keep the broader goals of a liberal arts education in mind, and to think about my best-case scenario students (not necessarily the ones who start out with the strongest skills but the ones who do the most to improve) when designing all aspects of the courses I teach.
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  • For teachers, for mothers..I love every word used. Thanks for this presentation!! I'm looking for this the whole time...
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12 steps for Designing an Assignment with Emergent Outcomes

  1. Emergent Outcomes 12 Steps for Designing an Assignment Photo by Ray Smith
  2. Jesse Stommel @Jessifer You can also follow Mary the Dog @MLAdog
  3. “An unhealthy attachment to outcomes discourages experimentation.” ! ! ~ Sean Michael Morris, Pete Rorabaugh, and Jesse Stommel, “Beyond Rigor”! Photo by Jeff Kubina
  4. Don’t wield outcomes like a weapon. Learning and teaching are about inhabiting the present not the future, letting our possible paths evolve as we do. Photo by flickr user 55Laney69
  5. We haven’t been nearly imaginative enough with outcomes. I want outcomes like “for us to have an epiphany” or “for students to do something I couldn’t anticipate.” Photo by flickr user Giovanni Arteaga
  6. 12 Questions I ask myself when creating an assignment 1. What are my primary goals for students with this assignment?! 2. How do my goals for this assignment intersect with my broader teaching philosophy?! 3. What tools that I already use (analog or digital) could help me achieve these goals?! 4. In order for this activity / class to work, what gaps do I need to fill with other tools / strategies?! 5. Is my idea simple enough? What can I do to streamline the activity? ! 6. What is my goal beyond this assignment / course? How will the activity (and my pedagogy) evolve?! Bring students into design as early as possible making the work about their goals and not just our own. ! 7. Go back to step 1 and work through steps 1-6 again (and likely several times).! Consider the next steps “below the fold”, because assessment should never drive our pedagogies.! 8. Does this activity need to be assessed? Or does the activity have intrinsic value?! 9. Is there a way to organically build the assessment into the assignment itself?! 10.What additional assessment strategies should I use? External summative assessment should be a last resort.! 11.What is my goal in assessing student work? Is my assessment enhancing student learning?! 12.Go back to step 8. Particularly, reconsider the question: Does this activity need to be assessed?
  7. What are my primary goals for students with this assignment? (1)
  8. “Too often, faculty design pedagogy around the worst-case scenario and then apply that pedagogy to every student."! ~ Janine DeBaise, “Best Practices: Thoughts on a Flash Mob Mentality”! Photo by sciencesque
  9. How do my goals for this assignment intersect with my broader teaching philosophy? (2)
  10. “Curriculum [...] is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process.”! ~ Dave Cormier, “Community as Curriculum”! Photo by Wetsun
  11. What tools that I already use (analog or digital) could help me achieve these goals? (3)
  12. It is often best to use the tools with which we are already familiar, rather than turning to the shiny and newfangled. Photo by flickr user Francesco Lodolo
  13. In order for this activity / class to work, what gaps do I need to fill with other tools / strategies? (4)
  14. Bring students into the conversation as early as possible by having them collaborate on the syllabus, outline the objectives of the course, design activities and assessments, etc. Photo by Jan Plogmann
  15. Is my idea simple enough? What can I do to streamline the activity? (5)
  16. Don’t feel like you have to meet all the goals during the first attempt — think of the process, from the start, as iterative with student goals ultimately supplanting our own. Photo by flickr user Matthias Rhomberg
  17. What is my goal beyond this assignment / course? How will the activity (and my pedagogy) evolve? (6)
  18. Outcomes for an assignment emerge over time through the work of each group of students. If I articulate outcomes too clearly at the start, students are less able to articulate them. Photo by luca savettiere
  19. Go back to step 1 and work through steps 1-6 again (and likely several times). (7)
  20. Consider the next steps “below the fold”, because assessment should never drive our pedagogies. Rather, good assessment is driven by good pedagogy. Thus, I continue by asking myself: Photo by flickr user Patrick Smith
  21. Does this activity need to be assessed? Or does the activity have intrinsic value? (8)
  22. Teachers often grade in many more situations than grading is actually required. We should avoid with a gusto any impulse that turns students into mere columns in a spreadsheet. Photo by flickr user twinkabauter
  23. Is there a way to organically build the assessment into the assignment itself? (9)
  24. "When students struggle for excellence only for the sake of a grade, what we see is not motivation but atrophy of motivation."! ~ Peter Elbow, “Grading Student Writing: Making It Simpler, Fairer, Clearer”! Photo by Kalexanderson
  25. What additional assessment strategies should I use? External summative assessment should be a last resort. (10)
  26. These might include self-assessment, peer-assessment, narrative feedback, points, a rubric, a letter grade, or some combination. Photo by flickr user Dmitry Krendelev
  27. What is my goal in assessing student work? Is my assessment enhancing student learning? (11)
  28. The goal of education should always be better learning and not better assessments. Photo by flickr user Johnny Worthington
  29. Go back to step 8. Particularly, reconsider the question: Does this activity need to be assessed? (12)
  30. “A class is … an independent organism with its own goal and dynamics. It is always something more than what even the most imaginative lesson plan can predict.”! ! ~ Thomas P. Kasulis, “Questioning” Photo by Praline3001
  31. bit.ly/assignmentdesign! ! ! @Jessifer Photo by flickr user Taro Taylor

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