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Pedagogy of trust

Posted on: October 15, 2020

The age of COVID-19 has pushed us to rely on technologies for remote teaching and learning. But how far have we pushed ourselves pedagogically? How have we actually changed the way we assess learning?

This Times Higher Education (THE) article started with the premise that the assessment of learning in higher education is often an afterthought that still takes the form of pen and paper examinations.

Traditional mainstays of assessment have failed in the age of COVID-19. This was evidenced by remote proctoring debacles and the abandoning of IB and GCE/GCSE exams.

According to the article, such dated assessment design is down to bureaucracy, i.e., administrative needs prioritised over student and learning needs. Students and faculty have little power (if any) to question the status quo.

A professor, Dr Jesse Stommel, who was interviewed for the article declared:

He and other interviewees were effectively suggesting what I like to call the pedagogy of trust (PoT). PoT is built on a foundation that students have varied life experiences, diverse needs, and a broad spectrum of goals.

Part of the PoT in assessment design might include more authentic assessments that are based on real-world issues, perhaps shaped by students themselves, and require meaningful opportunities for cooperation.

The article did not suggest how we might implement PoT in detail. To do so, faculty need to answer this question: Is trust mostly earned or created?

If educators think that students need to show that they are trustworthy first, nothing will change. There will always be some students who will cheat and take shortcuts. Ironically, they might do so because of university rules and procedures that assume that they are not trustworthy in the first place.

For example, students typically need to take an anti-plagiarism/cheating module and quiz that are both online because the university prefers an efficient and hands-off mode. Students soon discover that they can use more than one device and/or cooperate with one another to clear this administrative hurdle.

PoT starts with the educator: Opportunities for trust need to be created. This could mean taking the time and effort to be assessment literate, explaining the design and purpose of assessments to students, and counselling students who make mistakes.

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