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Posts Tagged ‘reflection

Trying to incorporate studio-like sessions into traditional structures is challenging, but the evaluative equivalent is worse.

I had to work with and against the expectation of essay-as-evidence. Outside of exam papers, the semestral take home essay is the most common form of assessment in higher education. Even exams have essays.

The next most common form of assessment might be projects, but this is not always possible because these are even more difficult to grade. The further one moves from paper-based assessments, the more difficult it might seem to quantify.

And that is what evidence of learning in most institutes of higher education looks like — graded assessments. Not evaluations, just grades.

I work against assessments and move towards evaluations by designing and implementing mixed experiences. I work within the system of essays but 1) make them challenging, and 2) embrace praxis.

Praxis is theory put into practice and theory-informed practice. So my evaluations of learning are based not just on what my learners claim to do, they are also based on what they can actually do. I get them to perform by sharing, teaching, critiquing, and reflecting.
 

 
Reflection is particularly important. In my latest design of one Masters level challenge, I asked learners to look back, look around, and look forward at theri writing and their practice. This was challenging not just because of the three prongs but because most students do not seem to reflect deeply and regularly.

But my students rise to such challenges and impress me with their writing and performance.

I am now near the end of providing feedback and grading a written component that incorporated the three prongs. This has been a challenge for me since each student’s work has required me to take between two to three hours to evaluate. This means I process no more than two students’ work each day.

I shall be working over the weekend to tie up loose ends. This means giving all their work a second look and completing an administrative checklist.

Why bother? Because I care about putting evaluation over assessment, measuring studio-based learning with praxis, and nurturing critical reflection.

Outside the humour, grossness, and gross humour, this Wong Fu extra on shower thoughts has a lesson for those of us in education.


Video source

What are shower thoughts? These are deep realisation, clear-mindedness, or being able to connect the dots. The story of Archimedes’ “eureka moment” while having a bath might be considered a shower thought, or in his case, a bath thought.

The lesson for educators is that learning does not always happen in the classroom. More often than not, learning happens outside of it and in unexpected ways. Sometimes the learning happens in context, while other times it happens when the mind is relaxed to so that it creates its own a-ha moments.

This is not an invitation to create more homework. Homework is often just busy and stressful work. It is not introspective or spontaneous or based on retreat. Instead, we might create “shower thought” moments in class by designing for play, relaxation, or reflection.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to play Pokémon Go (PoGo) in yet another country. This time I was in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

I realised that I could repeat much of my reflection on playing PoGo in Amsterdam last year. The similarities were the slow pace and gentle culture of play.

The best Torkoal I caught in Georgetown, Penang.

One obvious difference this time around was the regional exclusive, Torkoal, that was available here. I only encountered five or six of them, possibly because I travelled while the in-game Water Festival was on.

Wailmer breaching off Penang.

The event saw an increased spawning of water type Pokémon everywhere at the expense of all other types. This was an AR photo that I took of a Wailmer off the waters between mainland Malaysia and the island portion of Penang.

I can already hear someone point out that the more kiasu and frantic style of play in Singapore makes us sharp. But as we gain that, we also lose some things — fair and honourable play, courtesy, a live-and-let-live attitude.

Some might say that our speed, efficiency, and even brutality of play are hard skills honed by playing in a hard environment. But we are what we eat, we become who we are. The longer term soft skills that stem from an even temperament, looking at the long term, and working well with others are far more valuable.

I see a loose parallel between the way we play PoGo here and the hard, grade-based academic environment that is the Singapore schooling system. Ultimately, grades do not matter as much as influence, character, and impact. Currently, the policy and political rhetoric point towards developing students with the latter traits. Are we willing and able to change our style of play?

I participated in my seventh exclusive invitation raid of Mewtwo (Ex-Raid) in Pokémon Go (PoGo). I am still learning something about myself and the game.

Since my last invitation, I hit Level 40 (the current maximum limit) of the game. I took on the challenge of reviving my son’s languishing account and managed to score Ex-Raids for both our accounts.

As might be apparent from my previous reflections or from actual participation in Ex Raids, these special 45-minute events are social ones. Prior to the raid, I found out who else around me was invited. One person who was also invited suggested that I break my pattern and try a four or five-person Ex-Raid instead of the usual eight to ten person groupings. I was tempted because this would have been a new challenge.

However, I rejected that idea because I take the lead in organising groups. I like meeting new people and subtly imparting values to those I meet.

For example, I remind those with me that we battle together, and should someone’s game hang or device malfunction, all of us agree to step out of the gym into the lobby to wait for that person.

It does not occur to some people that this needs to be said and done. I make a value system concrete by articulating it and enforcing it.

While this might seem unnecessary — and we do not often have to do this — I find that the people in my group appreciate the gesture as well as the encouragement we give to one another. I know because of the thanks I receive after we are done battling and catching Mewtwo.

I rejected the idea of trying a new challenge that might benefit me without all this going through my mind before I said no. I relied on instinct then and have the benefit of hindsight now. This is the importance of being reflective, be it game-play or teaching.

Comparing first Mewtwo CPs: Mine on the left, my son's on the right.
A side note: My seventh Ex-Raid was also the first on my son’s account. Coincidentally, the CP of my son’s first Mewtwo was almost the same as my first one in January.

The CPs of the Mewtwos I have caught seem to drop over time after the initial high. I wonder if this will happen with my son’s account. Here is hoping that the trend bucks and that we get higher CP Mewtwos on both accounts!

 
Three years ago, I reflected on how I learnt to unbundle my work — I offer very specific and limited educational services to people and organisations even though I can do much more.

Such a practice has required me to be adaptable and to keep learning. That is how I have had to change.

However, I find one thing that has not changed since I was a university professor — I still work work a lot on weekends. I do this out of necessity.

For example, I might be given classes that submit assignments on Thursday or Friday, and they need the feedback by the following week. Instead of losing two days over the weekend, I make use of them.

I might also have to do this because some people I work with only understand administrative requirements and do not operate on human ones. When they do so, they operate at their convenience or pace, push deadlines back, and leave me to compress preparation to a small window.

That said, I do not always mind working on weekends given that 1) I used to do it before, 2) I can go out on weekdays, and 3) I am exceptionally productive when time is tight.

This semester I had to resort to something I might have done as a classroom teacher 21 years ago. I had to manage expectations with a warning prior to a cooperative learning activity.

Some context: I model and teach assorted pedagogical strategies to future faculty. One of these strategies is a variant of the jigsaw method. This is a cooperative learning activity that replaces a long and boring lecture on even more pedagogical strategies and theories.
 

 
I have done this for many semesters, but I something changed last year. During the jigsaw, a few individuals would resort to selfish behaviours. I vividly recall three individuals at separate sessions: One shopped online, another used social media to chat with people outside class, and another played a mobile game.

An outsider might baulk at the actions of these three. They are Ph.D. students who are privileged to attend a well-respected university. Most students at this level are also sponsored for their studies, so this raises the privilege ante further.

I confronted these individuals to let them know they had responsibilities to their group — in a jigsaw cooperation, they were individually accountable and yet dependent on one another.

I realised I was reacting to this instead of preventing it. So this semester I set expectations like I used to as a classroom teacher. I told my learners that I would give them a verbal warning if they engaged in selfish behaviour, and if they persisted, I would ask them to leave the class.

No one crossed that line this semester even though a few were tempted. But I do not think that it was the threat of being confronted that led to positive behaviours. I also emphasised the rationales managing one’s self for the good of a group. The social pressure to conform and cooperate did the rest.

 
In Singapore, we have a saying: No money, no talk. This means that if someone approached you to work for free, you were entitled to not entertain them.

Now if only that was true. Some people work pro bono out of choice or are tricked into working for free. If they do the latter, they were out-negotiated by someone else. So I advise saying no to work-for-free unless you want to become a permanent volunteer.

Some things should not be negotiable. One of those things is personal well-being. I say: No health, no work, no money (the exceptions might be being paid to be a convincing corpse or patient in hospital).

Another thing I do NOT negotiate with is a lack of empathy or basic courtesy. Over the last few years of being a consultant in the fields of education and educational technology, I have met my share socially inept people.

Here are some clear signs of poor negotiators or representatives. They are:

  • rude and/or slow to respond
  • quick to speak and slow to listen
  • full of themselves or like to name drop
  • likely to make promises that they do not keep
  • self-proclaimed experts instead of relying on reputation

I say: No manners, no talk.


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