Monday, December 18, 2017

Overview of 2017

It has been another busy year with all aspects of my work, filled with activity. Many of these have been complex and required resolve to work through. I have learnt much across the year on how to support others in their journey as teachers. In particular, how to bring passion for teaching back into the practice for teachers, with huge teaching workloads and challenging pastoral care of students requiring care and attention.

On the programme development front, there has been three major pieces of work and several as support to other educational developers. The Bachelor of Construction required sustained work across the year. The panel approved this new degree with five recommendations – a good outcome from Ara’s point of view J Things have also been progressing well with the Bachelor of Midwifery and this reviewed degree should be on track for NZQA approval early in 2018. I am still working on the review of the Bachelor of Information and Computing Technology, which was to have been into NZQA in the fourth quarter of 2017. Now working at speed with the department to get it in by beginning of 2018.

My major staff capability and support project across 2017 has been to support Department staff moving into the new Architecture and Engineering teaching building – Kahukura. As with many construction projects, the building was behind schedule. The move into the building in the second semester had to be completed within tight timelines. The whole exercise did provide a very good reason for me to be the ‘meddler in the middle’ and I was able to build some good relationships with teams I had previously not worked intensively with.

 The Eassessment project has been a major focus as well. Each of the 7 sub-projects have made progress. Some requiring more support than others. ½ the teams have now submitted some form of written report. I will be unpacking the data and doing some initial data analysis over the summer.
Two journal articles published this year. And this month, I will submit an article, with another close to submission for early next year. All conference presentations have revolved around the eassessment project. There were two conference presentations overseas. Five eassessment team members also presented their sub-projects at three local conferences.

Overall, a very busy year. I will need to carve out some time in the first half of next year to complete the various reports required for the eassessment project and ensure the Bachelor of Information and Computing Technology makes it to NZQA in early 2018. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Google Scholar profile - using to extend own research

As a consequence of obtaining a gmail account, through the set up of this blog, I entered the Google eco-system over 15 years ago. Since then, I have gradually worked my way through the various Google tools availed.

Although I do not use Google docs etc. due to my institutions 'microsoft environment' policies, I will be starting to use the various tools on this platform as I ease my way into retirement.

At the moment, I use gmail as my personal email account. Chrome is my web browser of choice as my favourites etc. travel with me across the various devices I access. I have several albums on Picasa (now Google photos), which revolve around personal interests. In particular my continual learning on plants seen on tramps around the NZ South Island. Also maintain a list of books on Google books, use google+ to archive readings for the eassessment project, a play list on youtube of various tedtalks etc., rely on Google maps to get around, google translate and have just started using Google Keep.

The google platform I use the most at the moment, is Google Scholar. Not so much for searching for articles as the institutional databases yield relevant articles etc. but to keep an eye on publishing which is akin to my own.

Firstly, the recommended articles are always pertinent to check out. Then Google Scholar Alerts provide a range of articles 3 times a week to browse. Not all of the 100 articles or so each week will be relevant, but there will be at least a couple  which can be added to my research Endnotes database. The alerts help me to keep up with contemporary work on the topics I am interested in, including apprenticeship, workplace learning, vocational education, occupational identity and practical skills learning. The trick is to put in a key word that is not going to generate lists of 100s of articles every few days, but to narrow the search field down to provide a dozen or so articles in each of the fields each week.

The third important use is to keep track of citations to my work. This is not only a nice to have, as one is able to see the citations steadily mount up across the years, but also provides great connection to other researchers. So far, my Google scholar profile shows 38 articles, of which 28 have at least one citation. The 6 with only one citation are not through self-citation! The citations provide a good range of researchers to follow and an indication of where each topic may be heading.

My reflections on seeing the citations collected are:
- my decision to concentrate on studying apprenticeship and remain in the field of vocational education has been justified. A decade ago, I was also working in the area of mlearning, a largely emergent field. However, there are now a large number of researchers on mlearning. Plus mlearning is now mainstream with  research merging with elearning, making the field even larger. Trying to establish oneself as a researcher in a large field is always going to be challenging. So keeping to a field which is less 'popular' allows for greater visibility and the opportunity to gain a foothold in academia.
- Interest in apprenticeship as a system and as learning approach has and will increase over the next few years. Due in part to many countries grappling with high youth unemployment; the requirement to increase skills and training in specialist technical and vocational occupations; the aging workforce which includes the need to harness the 'wisdom'of an exiting workforce; the introduction of 'degree' apprenticeships in the UK and Ireland; and increase in apprenticeship systems in China and India.
- Selection of journals to publish in is important. Constructing a corpus of literature with some sort of overarching theme is also important. So mine has been a series of articles in Vocations and Learning on  'how apprentices learn'. I am now meeting other researchers at conferences, who are interested in this corpus of work and cite my articles.
- Indications for the future will be to keep working on pertinent scholarship in vocational education, but to avoid a 'scatter gun' approach to publication.
- there is still a great need for publication - not necessarily in text - of resources which will be accessible to practitioners. I will need to work on this aspect going forward.

So, some strategic thinking required over the summer to put together a plan :)

Monday, December 04, 2017

Reflection - a week of conferencing

Two conferences last week provided some time away from the usual busy work routine. Importantly, the week allowed for time to catch up with others practitioners, passionate about helping learners. Always energised after a week away by presentations on applying precepts of good learning, to various approaches and strategies to assist learners.

Things that would be helpful for my own practice as an educational developer and researcher include:

- need to understand the exigencies of teaching from the experiences of teachers and students. For teachers, is to be empathetic with time-pressured and resource lean situations. To build good relationships with teachers and to provide possible solutions which are doable. Thinking through, together (teacher and ed.developer) to agree on a goal and to work towards the objective in small achievable steps. The 'inquiry cycle' as small interventions, each informing another cycle, has been a major plus for the e-assessment project.
For students, it is important to 'make the learning visible'. Too often, students do not know WHY they are having to engage in a learning activity or assessment. Learning outcomes require iteration throughout a course, not just at the start when the course outline or equivalent is waved in from of them, or they are told that the course outline is to be found on the institution's learning management system! Students are time jealous and will only do what is required to 'pass', but many do not actually learn, let alone change behaviours, attitudes or perceptions.

- There is still limited understanding across the ITP and ITO sectors, of the implications of NZ qualifications being graduate profile based. To some, the graduate profiles just add another layer to a complex schedule of atomised and siloed assessments! Moderation, in particular post - moderation of assessments, is still seen to be the checking of content covered :( Hence 'consistency arrangements' whereby qualification deliverers have to rationalise how their graduates meet the graduate profiles, are seen to be another assessment moderation process (aargh).

- Still confusion as to WHAT are assessments FOR learning. Calling them formative may not always be correct. Requirements to have summative assessments for courses, makes it difficult, in time poor courses, which are filled with content, to 'fit in' assessments for learning. There needs to be more work done, to help teachers understand how to 'design' and develop assessments for learning which provide benefit to learners. Exemplars across various discipline areas may be helpful.

So, much work still to be done. However, above provides a tighter framework to report on the e-assessments for learning project. the project 'guidelines' will need to provide:
- connection between assessments for learning and qualification graduate profiles
- examples of assessments for learning across several discipline areas
- comparison of assessments for and of learning for these discipline areas
- approaches to learning appropriate to required knowledge, skills and attitude learning
- links the above to constructivist (intra-psychological) and socio- cultural / socio -material (inter-psychological) learning
- templates for decision making  / design of assessments for learning as connected to approaches to learning
- Learning 'activities' suited to meeting holistic attainment of graduate profiles i.e. problem/inquiry- based, projects, portfolios etc.
- how to match these with appropriate technology to enhance student learning

Above provides a way forward for thinking through over the summer :)

Friday, December 01, 2017

Assessing Learning Conference, DAY 3

Day 3 dawns fine and warm. The weather across the entire week has been very summery. Hopefully a prelude to a good summer.

Begins with supporting colleagues Maaike Jongerius, John Delany and Lyn Williams from the Academic Division at Ara Institute of Canterbury, presenting the ‘assessment health check tool’. This is a moodle resource to support Ara tutors with ensuring their assessments are constructively aligned. Rationalised the pedagogical frame for undertaking the development for the moodle resource. If assessment drives learning then improvement of assessments will be a core objective. The resource had to cover the principles of assessment but not be too basic for staff who have completed teaching qualifications recently. The integrated activities in the health check can be completed online or as part of a facilitated workshop. The moodle site was brought up and examples of various worksheets / exemplars and the reasons and background on how they are used. Evaluations of the resource, the likes and dislikes, also shared. Presented on what Ara is committed to progress work on assessment practices.

Then Dr. Salome Meyer and Nancy Groh, educational advisors in the education development centre from Eastern Institute of Technology / Napier on ‘the changing conversation about early diagnostic assessment’. Outlined background, original premise / benefits and evolution of LNAAT. The tool is one of several developed to support the NZ government strategy to raise the capability of the workforce. Rationalised the need to change the approach to using diagnostic assessments. Matched literacy and numeracy demands in various occupations – what reading or calculation is required everyday at work? Provided a guide to tutors to better integrate literacy and numeracy within situated learning off-job. Addressed the issue of international students and their distinct needs. Developed academic inquiry course(non-credit bearing) to assist international students to orientate to the NZ educational demands. Developed a revised view of literacy diagram to summarise the different concepts.

Last session is a panel with Geoff Scott, Shaima Al Ansari and Tracey Bretag on ‘What will you do on Monday?’ Panel presented their takes on – what is the single key message you will take away? What single thing will you do, or do differently? What would you tell your boss they need to do? A question and answer session followed.

All in a good opportunity to achieve several things. One was the affirmation of my own understanding and application of the principles of learning -centred assessments. The various attended, all provided some templates, exemplars, concepts and tools useful in both my educational developer and researcher roles. Thankfully, many of the sessions I selected, focused on assessment FOR learning, although there was still a thread running through on summative assessments, prevention of plagiarism etc. Many presentations were on problem / inquiry / project based learning but not many examples from the vocational education / trades learning context. Therefore, as always, there is still a need for more ‘structured’ inquiry and study to build an evidence base of how to assist trades learning.