Feed-forward Your Feedback

Feedforward Your FeedbackAssessment in education gets a lot of attention in research and at conferences but, in practice, many of us are still missing the mark in providing students with what they need to learn effectively. Recent research in the UK showed that students are more dissatisfied with assessment and feedback than any other aspect of their learning experience. The response of UK educators and several of the leading universities has been to develop a “feedforward” approach to assessment and feedback and to encourage and assist teachers to develop better skills in implementing formative assessment practices that focus on a developmental approach to student learning.

Assessment Pyramid

Reconfigured Pyramid

In Canada, educational leaders in Canada talk about  “flipping” the traditional Assessment Pyramid, which illustrated the appropriate proportions of different kinds of assessment:  assessment AS learning, assessment FOR learning and assessment OF learning.  Assessment of learning refers to summative assessment, used to make decisions or to provide grades or accreditation. This type of assessment usually forms the largest section of the pyramid. Assessment for learning refers to the kinds of assessment a teacher uses to keep track of student learning; it provides information that helps teachers plan what to do next. Assessment AS learning generally forms the smallest part of the assessment that takes place in a classroom (or online) and refers to formative assessment.  Dr. Lorna Earle was one of the first researchers/ practitioners (2003) to propose flipping the pyramid and making assessment AS learning the largest part of the pyramid and a base for student success. In her new book, “Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximize Student Learning” Earle proposes that student learning will improve if both teacher and student know where they are going and how to get there (a “feedforward” perspective).

So, how can you improve feedback and assessment in your online classroom? Most of the suggestions and techniques from the UK and North America can be adapted to different learning environments. The most important thing is to evaluate your current mix of assessment and feedback strategies and to identify ways you might integrate a stronger focus on learning as a process and providing timely, constructive feedback that includes a “future development” focus for students.

Suggestions for reflective questions about your assessment/feedback practice:

  • What proportion of time do I spend on providing feedback about each student’s progress along the learning continuum I anticipate in my course?
  • How often do I provide feedback… to individual students or to the class?
  • Do I provide opportunities for students to share their ideas about improving assessment processes or the feedback I provide?
  • Are my messages clear and concise – both in explaining how to complete assessable activities and in the feedback I share?
  • How meaningful is the feedback I provide? Do I clearly identify the learning achievements (in terms of course objectives or future course activities), identify gaps and indicate how a student can improve in the near future?
  • Does my feedback help students to develop metacognitive skills? Do I provide opportunities for students to reflect and assess their own learning?

If you’re interested in improving your skills and your approaches to assessment and feedback, check out the “Feedforward Assignments” or the “New Ways of Giving Feedback” from University of Edinburgh.

Improving your assessment and feedback practices will help to keep students engaged in learning and to persist in online and face-to-face classroom environments. If you want to read and explore these ideas in more detail over your summer holidays, browse the resources and readings from the Center for Transformative Practice in Learning and Teaching at Birkbeck University of London “Giving Feedback and Encouraging Feed-forward


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Open ProD at UBC’s CTLT – ISW and Flexible Learning

ISW Pro-D event - UBCCan the ISW integrate flexible learning options without becoming less than it can be? That was the primary question I hoped we’d explore when I accepted the invitation to participate in the ISW ProD session at UBC’s CTLT on January 13, 2015. The invitation posed these questions for us to focus on:

  • How can flexible/blended/online learning be incorporated into the ISW?
  • What elements of the ISW are effective online

Thanks to Jason McAlister, Lucas Wright and Isabeau Iqbal for taking the initiative to plan and facilitate this event. And for bringing in off-campus attendees through their videoconferencing system – talk about keeping the session accessible!

I’ve spoken to many ISW facilitators over the past couple of years and tried to document the different ways people were “flexing” the ISW model (see ISW Models). But I’ve never had a chance to explore the impact of “flexing” with so many facilitators in one place at one time – it was very informative and thought-provoking.

discussion flipchartsWe spent some time in small groups, exploring four questions drawn from the questions participants had submitted in a pre-workshop survey. I don’t have good pics of all the flipcharts to share the answers that were gathered, but I believe that Jason may be compiling them. The questions were:

  1.  How do we motivate participants to participate (in online activities)?
  2.  What do we do if participants don’t participate?
  3. What technology? for Facilitators? for Participants?
  4.  How can we use f2f time linking to online?

Continue reading

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Sharing the Show – JIBC Demofest 2014

JIBC Atrium

JIBC Atrium

I had the pleasure of spending part of the day last week at the JIBC Demofest in New Westminster – an event I first heard about way back in 2010 (here’s the link I found in my Diigo collection – video recordings from 2011 – http://onlinecourseshowcase.wordpress.com/) I was working in the Yukon then and looking around for Canadian examples of good online education – course design, learning activities, sims, videos, whatever. I was impressed with the idea of educational institutions getting together for a “show-and-tell” . I was so grateful to be able to access some of the examples afterwards and many of our instructors took the time to review them and be inspired.

One of the bonuses of living on Vancouver Island now is that I can hop the ferry to come to an event like last week’s Demofest. Apparently other educational institutions do their own showcase type events (?)  so it was solely JIBC projects (although many of those are partnerships with other agencies – nice to see the cross-pollination of ideas and learning)

I loved the enthusiasm of JIBC’s Billie Byers as she explained her use of iPads encased in protective shells, Adobe PDF Expert and well-designed forms to make the instructor tasks of assessment during outside motorcycle testing much faster, and more effective for students. (Pacific Traffic Education Centre – Motorcycle Training Program)  All kinds of benefits ensue from using mobile technologies and good design; students receive feedback faster (videos of their performance and data collected in assessment forms), it’s easier for instructors to gather and share data, and the certification body is happy.

I enjoyed speaking with many of the presenters, although I don’t think I got to everyone (the handout said there were 15 projects!) Some highlights for me were the simulations, particularly the Multi-Agency Simulation Day. I got a chance to speak with Kathy Harms about the challenges of scheduling this event and watched some of the amazing video footage they collected. They were able to collect invaluable information about the transfer points in an emergency event, between different professions involved. I’m told they will be publishing the research and sharing it with their project partners. If you’re involved in inter-professional practice issues or teaching, it might be good to get in touch with Kathy and her team. A complex interweaving of people, professions, institutions, technologies and time – amazing event. A quieter but equally impressive project was right next to Kathy’s table; Bob Walker was demonstrating the UBC/JIBC Interprofessional Health Simulation (Praxis) project. The combination of various learning needs within one learning platform was inspiring. I can see all kinds of areas where this simulation tool could be useful.

Classroom of the Future


And I enjoyed the “Classroom of the Future” as Naz Maghsoudi, Student and Faculty Development Coordinator demonstrated the potential of two new tools she’s been testing to facilitate more effective classroom teaching and learning – wePresent, a wireless presentation tool and  Swivl, a lecture capture tool. Apparently, JIBC is looking for cost-effective ways to provide multimedia capacity “…for classrooms that currently do not have screens, projectors and computers connected to a network or the Internet.” (from Dec. 4th post in JIBC News & Events) The wePresent tool establishes a local network that is secure and doesn’t need to be connected to the local campus network. When the presenter (instructor) logs in with a device (laptop, phone, tablet) and can display up to four local devices at one time on a projection screen in a classroom. The range is fairly impressive as Naz demonstrated but hooking up her phone and walking out of the room, down the hall and showing us live video of the events taking place on the ground floor atrium area. I liked the fact that the presenter can control which student devices are displayed (a problem with using Apple TV in the classroom) and apparently all types of devices can be used. Sweet!

Swivl lecture capture tool

The second tool she demonstrated,  Swivl, used your tablet or iPhone to record your session, also seemed to have potential to support some easy media capture for building online learning resources for students. Seems a bit fussy to cable up but maybe its just cuz it was fairly new.

I made sure to visit the videoconferencing site to ask questions of the project leader Simon Chau. I’d been curious when I read that JIBC had chosen a full-room model (Polycom) as other institutions seemed to be going for the cheaper web-based options using HD webcams and web services like Webex, Adobe Connect, Gotomeeting, etc. I was a bit disappointed to hear that they didn’t have plans to expand the use of the 3 linked videoconferencing rooms (New Westminster, Victoria and Kelowna) beyond the Advanced Care Paramedic and Law Enforcement Studies Diploma (LESD) programs, although he said they were thinking about it. Beyond using the system for meetings, they haven’t tested links with outside educational or research agencies. That’s something we did in the Yukon and it was really exciting and engaging. Plus we found students who wanted to use it to complete a thesis defense or a job interview in another part of the world. Really interesting connections are possible.

All in all, the Demofest was short but rich – thanks to the TELT staff for their welcome and all their hard work to make this event a success. And thank you to all the participants from a a long-time observer; it was a really energizing and thought-provoking experience. I hope to do it again next year!


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Serendipity by design – the ETUG Unconference


BCIT Downtown – Thurs, Nov 13

Welcome to organized chaos! Have you heard of the Unconference (see video) model? An exercise in emergent learning and collaborative organization, this year’s ETUG Fall Workshop was a deliberate deep-dive into a new way of learning together. My first ETUG was exactly what I’d hoped; a day full of new ideas, debate and discussion (check out the list of pitches). And a chance to finally meet some of the people whose blogs I’d read or tweets I’d followed for years.

This was the first time ETUG had tried the Unconference model so the morning began with a review of what we were getting into. With just a rolling whiteboard, coloured markers and large post-it notes, the planning of our day began. People with ideas for sessions (most had registered their ideas on an open Googledoc before the conference) wrote the name of their session on a post-it and stood up to explain the topic. They got to select the time and the room by putting their post-its on the whiteboard. What I really appreciated was a chance to hear the idea explained and to ask for sessions to be moved around.

I’m sure that the ETUG committee members (or is it all Leva Lee?) will be posting some form of summary of the sessions but here’s my highlights and takeaways:

1.  DIY Media – thanks to Cindy Underhill, Mallory McMahon and Saeed Dyanatkar of UBC for sharing their initiative to help staff and students learn to create (and improve on their creation of) media. We had some great discusDIYMediasion on the range of support (or lack thereof) for media creation in other educational institutions. And Cindy shared the link to their wiki site and encouraged us to review and comment. I love their participatory approach and the website has already provided me with some ideas to improve or vary my own media production.   http://diy.open.ubc.ca

2. Changing the Practice of Education with Open Pedagogy – thanks to Amanda Coolidge for an ambitious approach to helping us recognize and apply the principles of open education. I don’t feel I achieved her intended outcomes but it sure stimulated some good questions and examples from others in the session. The concern I felt during this session is the embrace of David Wiley’s interpretation of “open”. I’m with Stephen Downes in being against allowing commercial use.

Aside:  I believe this is the session that Rich McCue rolled his pitch “New Edtech and Old Pedagogy: No Significant Difference“into? I’m not sure that was a good idea afterwards as I read his blog post I think some of the important points he makes, about the loss of impact if we use new tools but stick with old teaching approaches, were lost.

3. Transmedia In Education: Building the story of your course across multiple mediaSocialSamba-logo-RGB  platforms – thanks to John Born, Ken Jeffery for a fast, fun, personal sharing of storytelling with different media. I really liked John’s perspective on building a story across different kinds of media. Participants shared some interesting experiences with “transmedia” (although we were told that that term is out-of-date already), some names of leaders in the field (from Henpopplet_logory Jenkins to ?) and some tools to check out (e.g., Poplet and SocialSamba) I wish they had recorded this session cuz I wasn’t fast enough to catch all the references I wanted to follow up. Did some Googling afterwards and found some great resources like the Transmedia Storytelling wiki by  ETEC510 student, Amber Dumouchel (2014)

4. Teaching Visual – thanks to Jason Toal and Tracy Kelly (Roberts) for an informative, ACTIVE session that introduced people to basic drawing vocabulary, the concept of templating, the value of visuals and gave them a chance to draw on walls (big sheets of paper didn’t seem so intimidating after their introduction and support during the session). Only suggestion for next time – more markers!

So many ideas I’m still digesting, ruminating on, researching…can’t mention them all in one blog post but it was a rich and stimulating day. I’d love to do it again.





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Social media in B.C. higher education

I’ve been exploring the issues around using social media in education and, there are days, like today, when I wonder if the benefits really outweigh the risks.

I’ve began exploring the use of social media in education when I was working at a small northern college with innovative teachers and a limited edtech budget. At first we were like kids in a candy store; we loved the options for collaborative document construction (like Writely which later got swallowed and regurgitated as GoogleDocs), for social photo sharing on Flickr, for online drawing and mindmapping options. But then 9/11 happened and the Patriot Act and we started to become a lot more cautious. Then the college embraced federal privacy laws to protect student privacy and the issues became increasingly complex.

As I’ve begun to teach online in B.C., I’ve talked to B.C. educators who have concerns about the B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy regulations (which some call the most stringent in Canada). Many of the teachers I’ve spoken to believe that social media is part of reality for their students and that it is an important tool they want to use. So preventing them from using cloud-based tools can seem as though it’s putting hobbles on teaching that limit their ability to engage their students and improve the learning that takes place within institutions.

Provincially, BCCampus has been working with educational institutions to explore their legal obligations and the possibilities for addressing the push towards using these powerful web-based or app-based tools, recognizing that these free or low-cost services are commercial ventures that exist to harvest the online proclivities of their users. A thorough consideration of the issues was released in 2011  Background-Paper-Privacy-and-Ed-Tech T. Klassen (you can review the conference proceedings here – http://fippa.bccampus.ca/) Various workshops and in-depth discussions have taken place with the most recent being a workshop session during the ETUG Fall Unconference. I haven’t heard the outcome of that one yet but hopefully we’ll see some further ideas to help teachers work within the boundaries but still be free to explore new ways of teaching and learning.

So what are the educational institutions in B.C. doing to help their teachers? Some limit their support to ensuring that teachers know the risks of abrogating legal obligations under FIPPA, and under related copyright legislation. Some, like Royal Roads University on Vancouver Island, take a more pro-active approach and have set up a campus-wide policy on obtaining informed consent from students to enable rich resources to be integrated into the learning activities offered in various classes. They’ve organized a Cloud-based Learning Tools Notification site that explains the permissions students are asked to give and ensures that teachers provide learning options to any student who wants to opt out of using cloud-based learning tools.

But, I’m not sure it’s as simple as obtaining “informed” consent from students and ensuring that teachers learn to design alternative learning activities for students who opt out. Is is reasonable to assume that teachers (or any of us?) can keep up with the constantly morphing terms of use and privacy protections that are part of the cloud-based services? And, I’ve yet to see a detailed consideration of the negative impact of time wasted floundering through unexpected twists in learning each new tool (and how they work changes fairly often too). I’ve stopped using some of my favourite tools because I discovered they were trying to encourage (force?) me into paid services by limiting something I thought would be a no-brainer – such as being able to delete something I’d created.

But the final reason I have been feeling less enthusiastic about the benefits of free cloud-based services is because of a recent article in Wired magazine “The Laborers Who Keep Dicpics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed” – did you read it? Turns out our love of socializing on the internet has spawned an international distributed ghetto of workers who suffer hours and hours of watching porn or filtering hateful content and messages so that we’ll interact and collaborate in a positive online environment. Sigh! Talk about unintended consequences.


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What education can learn from business…

Caught a news piece about the new Gallup study on the impact of social media (Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype) and thought that a number of the “learnings” expressed by the companies that were included were worth thinking about in terms of education.

The article included excerpts from the Gallup study (released June 23, 2014) and examples of companies that have shifted their approach to using social media. Some of the findings reported in the Gallup study were that consumers didn’t welcome the “hard sell” approach and that they were “…highly adept at tuning out brand-related Facebook and Twitter content.” (Gallup, 2014). Companies discovered that many fans, followers or friends were false and that numbers could be inflated for pennies. Companies also found that they reached more fans on Facebook when friends shared content, thus showing that conversation was more important than simply posting.

Companies like Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. changed their approach to social media because they felt that the rapid increase in fans might actually result in a decreased engagement with their customers. Instead they analyzed social media interactions to try and determine what guests really liked or found annoying. Other companies find a large fan base allows them to analyze the data of clicks and comments to find out which products or shows are most popular and why.

What could this mean for social media in education?

While social media such as blogs and wikis are already incorporated into many courses, most teachers are cautious about integrating popular social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Privacy risks appear to be paramount but some teacher also view them as a distraction to learning.

But online learning could benefit from a judicious use of popular social media sites to generate more “buzz” around a course or to encourage students to respond to special events that are relevant to course topics or themes. If a teacher uses Facebook or Twitter to post timely reports or new research or current events, students might be more likely to “Like” or comment and share their views. It is a fairly straightforward task to harvest and share the “social chatter” and display results visually within a course site or by emailing to students?

We need to become more thoughtful and responsive to keep our students engaged. Social media is still an avenue of communication that’s worth exploring.


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Confluences and divergences at CNIE2014 May 13-16

The natural confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers at Kamloops, B.C. was

view from Thompson Rivers University

view from Thompson Rivers University

the inspiration for the theme and title of this year’s CNIE-RCIÉ 2014 conference hosted by Thompson Rivers University (TRU).  The organizers hoped that bringing together the varied presenters and attendees to “explore and discuss how the innovative learning can arise” would result in all of us exploring our own “confluences of spaces, places and cultures”. Personally, I came primarily for the keynotes and the pre-conference workshops.But I found other tributaries or estuaries to explore as I talked to attendees and browsed the many different sessions.

Pre-conference Workshops:  I have been waiting for an opportunity to take a visual facilitation workshop with Nancy White of Full Circle Associates for several years so I was excited when I saw it would be available (Drawing on Walls). Unfortunately it meant I couldn’t take the other options: Soundcamp, Videocamp, Online Mapping, Gamification, Geocaching or Interculturalization workshops. Too bad. Hope I’ll get another chance at those some day.

As I expected, Nancy’s workshop was inspiring, fun and educational. We explored different ways that visuals can help focus discussions, highlight important concepts or information, bring people together and free up our thinking. I learned so much that I think I’ll write a separate post about visual-graphic note-taking, recording, facilitation.

Keynotes: Audrey Watters, Nancy White, Brian Lamb , Richard Wagamese

What a line-up eh? The only major letdown of the conference was that Richard Wagamese cancelled. Too bad. But the rest were as thought-provoking as I had hoped. Continue reading

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