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Posts Tagged ‘studio

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.

 
I have grabbed every opportunity to run courses or workshop series like studio sessions.

If you need to know what studio teaching and studio-based learning are, I recommend these resources:

My most recent ventures with this approach were a series of academic writing workshops for teachers and a postgraduate course on educational technology.

Both groups enjoyed a small number of participants: Six teachers and seven Masters/Ph.D. students. In terms of content, both were roughly even on theory (knowledge), practice (skills), and praxis (theory informed and authentic practice).

One way to imagine studio-based learning is to picture novice painters. Learners armed with prior knowledge and previous experiences bring those to the studio to learn from a master and their peers. They learn in. They learn information and skills just-in-time and level up by working in groups and individually.

While in groups, they share (peer teach) and provide feedback to one another (critique). Their processes and products are made as open and available to others as much as possible.

A studio also affords individual alone time to be with their thoughts. This allows students to practice or reflect on their own, or to consult the facilitator.

Like a painter, a student in a studio must have choice in a project for evaluation of learning. The project must meet standards established early on and agreed upon. Like a painter, such a student needs to showcase their thinking (processes) and work (products) during studio sessions.

I have found it easy to conduct studio sessions when the circumstances align — class size, course coordinators who are hands-off or trusting, nature of topic, etc. I can do these even in the most traditional of institutions. However, it is the assessment that is challenging. I will reflect on one or two pragmatic issues next.

Turnitin’s Feedback Studio (FS) is a useful tool, but it is not perfect. In fact, far from perfect. The developers attitude to feedback is far from desirable.

For two semesters I have experienced error messages while providing feedback and grading online assignments with FS. I use the latest versions of MacOS and the Chrome browser.

Last semester, the errors would start with this popup overlaying the assignment I am grading.

Turnitin Feedback Studio error message 1.

I have to close the window with the assignment to return to the LMS interface from which FS was launched. I cannot get back to the comment I am writing to attempt to salvage it.

The LMS frame which used to contain a list of student names and assignments contains this error message instead.

Turnitin Feedback Studio error message 2.

This happens consistently and almost predictably every 30 minutes. Even though I set a timer for 29min 45sec to try to refresh the LMS windows and reopen the assignment, I sometimes still get caught by this error.

This semester I have also come across a more elaborate error message.

Turnitin Feedback Studio error message 3.

I do not cancel anything or make any request. The FS system creates this popup and the effect is the same — I lose whatever I am working on and need to refresh the LMS window

The usability is poor not just because these errors disrupt the flow of providing feedback by way of comments in each assignment.

FS is also a pain to use because I cannot mouse scroll in an assignment. I have to use the up and down arrows or a scrollbar. Providing feedback and grading requires me to rapidly look at different parts of an assignment. It is not like reading a news article from start to end. The lack of non-mouse scroll slows me down and frustrates me every minute of using it.

If you think that my mouse or track pad are faulty, they are not. I can scroll just fine in the original LMS window. The fault lies with the FS window.

FS is useful because it leverages on Turnitin’s vast database to match for similar content. However, that feature is an anti-plagiarism measure. FS is, as its name implies, for feedback. While I can provide feedback on assignments, I have to put up with lousy usability and constant time-out and error messages.

How is Turnitin going to respond to my feedback? With a non-user-friendly error message perhaps?


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