Archive for the ‘*Learn’ Category

New research to bring assessment into digital age

However, the challenge of designing quality assessment in a digital age can result in uncertainty around processes, practices, quality assurance, and initial and ongoing training for assessors and auditors….

…The research is based on the premise that quality online assessment requires practical information and guidelines around:

  • creating better methods to ensure e-assessment yields evidence that is relevant, valid and authentic
  • expanding learning and assessment options to include self assessment, peer assessment and group/collaborative assessment
  • monitoring and measuring online interactions and contributions between learners and between learners and teachers
  • supporting learners in gathering evidence that demonstrates authentic learner performance on tasks.
New research to bring assessment into digital age | Australian Flexible Learning Framework


It’s great that research like this at a national level is being undertaken. It will not only promote quality assured assessment methods, but will also acknowledge the great work already undertaken by teachers and institutes.

To me, the biggest growth areas in online assessment is Skills Recognition, workplace assessment and assessment supported by handheld and ‘bodily’ devices. The research premise outlined in the dot points above seem common sense. Authentic assessment may best be determined by the record of the learner ‘being present’ – one scenario would be that of wearable recording devices to demonstrate the skill being assessed and the learner performing a task in situ.

Extending this scenario whereby such recordings are uploaded or streamed to an e-portfolio make validation and evidence-building a more fluid process. In addition, such recording become reusable resources, adding media elements to online courses, for example.

The second dot point is perhaps the real crux; it is in the approach and design of the assessment that best validates the learning and ensures a transformation has occurred (if you follow Mezirow’s theory of transformative learning (1998), for example). Learning occurs when there is a fundamental change in the learner’s thinking, theoretical standpoint, value-judgement or commitment to a way of acting, living, or working. What is central to Mezirow’s theory is experience, critical reflection and rational discourse [1998, online, para 3].

At a practical level, Mezirow’s theory might look like this:

Learners, first off, aren’t sure what they need to do, so they look at what others do and then practice. They get things wrong, get frustrated (Mezirow’s “disorienting dilemma”), find out a bit, then practice again. As their confidence grows along with their understanding, they become more skilled in their practice, enough then to confidently demonstrate their skills to one who is seen as an ‘expert’ in that field. They validate the learner’s skill by observing, asking questions to enable the learner to voice their understanding, and finally (all gone well) give the learner a positive review.

Framework logo and e-learning innovations ACT logo

CIT, through its 2009 Innovation Projects has done some work on online assessment for Recognition. The plan is to extend these into mainstream CIT as well as build the processes further in the Events Management and Sports Management and volunteering areas.

Stay tuned as these projects are rolled out in 2010!

Imel, S. 1998, Transformative Learning in Adulthood. ERIC Digest No. 200.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Political rebelliousness: what we can learn

I’ve finished my Masters this semester. Done. Full stop. Phew. I had one subject to complete this semester and I followed on from last semester and did Education for Social Change 2. The key text for the subject was Michael Newman’s Teaching Defiance (2006). Michael’s inspiration for writing the book was the need to do something about the state of the world, in particular, the Iraq War and the so-called “coalition of the willing” – remember that catch cry? How can we forget!

Now I’m inspired to write about a current event, the asylum seekers onboard the Oceanic Viking. This event is a prime example of the subject’s content.

Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers Launch Hunger Strike

Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers Launch Hunger Strike. October 15, 2009 - Photo by Oscar Siagian/Getty Images AsiaPac

In the flavour of Newman’s book, a text for the activist teacher, the story of the asylum seekers and refugees onboard the Oceanic Viking are a clear and poetic case of resistance. Amongst the rhetoric of the Rudd government, the fear mongering of the Opposition, and the general malaise of the media circling once more like vultures around yet another sensational account of boat people, there’s some definitive action. Action taken by the asylum seekers themselves. A global show of resistance, rebelling against what seems for so many a hopeless, desperate and uncontrollable situation. We extend our sympathy, our pity, our dismay, but beyond that we really don’t know how these people feel, but can only imagine.

Who better to resist the unpalatable than those who directly face it? Newman (2006, pp. 21-23) describes political rebelliousness through the famous story of Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. It was this sole and simple act of rebelliousness that turned the civil rights movement around. Rosa’s story became the symbol of the movement, a powerful story through which to engage the common person enough to propel them into action.

Her action was premised on her personal story, her years as a quiet and determined activist, her informed beliefs, her friendships, and her experience at Highlander [where she attended a workshop on education for social change, some weeks prior to her action on the bus] (p. 23).

The asylum seekers have refused to disembark from the Oceanic Viking, not wanting to reside in an Indonesian detention centre (regardless of it being funded by Australia). This simple act of refusal has shown that asylum seekers need not be pawns in this political game of “border protection”, nor need they be slaves to the smugglers that bring them to our waters. They are humans. They are taking back control of their situation. They are saying enough is enough. They want to be listened to. They want change in these convoluted processes. They are tired of all of this, of their unfortunate circumstances that bring them here in the first place. They want a new life and they want it now.

What this act has done is expose the cracks in the armour of the Australian government’s border protection approach, particularly the time taken to process refugees and asylum seekers. It has uncovered the ludicrous bureaucracy that asylum seekers have to contend with and do so in little more than concrete blocks surrounded by barbed wire fencing. It exposes the fact that processing can be done in a timely manner – for all – not simply a select few (as in this case, where 20 odd refugees have since agreed to disembark in order to be processed). Surely this means the Australian govt can no longer hide behind rhetoric and must extend this approach to others still in detention on Australian soil and on neighbouring islands such as Christmas Is.

But it takes more than this one act of protest by the asylum seekers for this to happen. Newman believes that such an act can extend to an uprising especially if the coordinated effort is focused, and the momentum continues forward. How can we capitalise on this now to achieve better outcomes for asylum seekers now and into the future? In recounting Ghandi’s acts of rebellion-come-revolution, Newman says that what is “important above all else [is] to adopt a stance of dynamic, continuous, and generative rebelliousness” (2006, p. 37). Others now have a story to tell and retell about the Sri Lankan refugees and asylum seekers who refused detention. Perhaps the journey now begins here.

References and relevant links

ABC, 2009, Asylum seekers disembark Oceanic Viking, AM online, 14 Nov 2009, viewed 15 November 2009,

Allard, T. 2009, Sri Lankan asylum seekers ‘refuse to leave boat’, 28 October 2009, viewed 15 November 2009,

Newman, M. 2006, Teaching Defiance, Josey-Bass, San Francisco CA.

Zimbio, 2009, Sri Lankan Asylum seekers Launch Hunger Strike, Zimbio, viewed 15 November 2009,


Reflections on sustainability: where to from here?

I’ve been thinking about the notion of sustainability, based on a post by Leigh Blackall (and subsequent comments). I’ve been reading some texts and other stuff to get my head around the notion of sustainability and its origins in order to develop a better understanding of the idea of a sustainable curriculum. Some questions going around in my head right now:

  • Can we tie sustainability to flexibility (as in flexible learning)?
  • How can we measure sustainability in education where we remain critically reflective of the ideological frameworks in which we operate (e.g. economic-rationalist and corporatism)?
  • Might Lincoln and Guba (1985) offer some other frameworks that bring in an emergent design, via naturalistic inquiry?

The work of Derek Ownes (1998) and others asks more questions about a sustainable curriculum, but where has this work taken us so far?

Here are some links and texts that I’ve found useful in uncovering aspects of sustainability in education so far.

I’d also like to talk with our Curriculum services team and look at drawing together Sustainability and the Employability Skills Framework (ESF) (PDF is here), which embeds generic (work) attributes for learners within the competencies of a program, so that learners can demonstrate their ability to adapt to workplace forces and changes. It seems to me that the ESF needs to include aspects of sustainable practice for learners, regardless of what they are studying. More on this again soon.

I love Google Books!

I’ve been pretty tied up with my two Masters subjects this semester and on reflection one would have been more than enough! However, the end is in sight and I’ve learned a greaat deal along the way – mostly about myself (as seems to be the case) as well as having lots of support in many forms, online and physically speaking.

Google Books

One such help has been access to Google Books. What a fabulous service! I’ve always dipped into Google Books on occassions and then have used either my institute’s library or online databases to grab the actual book or journal article if available. However, as I’ve been studying my Masters by distance (supplemented with online resources and interactions), I’ve had less than ideal access to key texts in many cases. Google books has come to my rescue! I have built up a library of books I’ve been reading over the last few months and have added labels/tags for quick searching when I’ve needed to return to a book or theme, such as ‘critical pedagogy’. The extension tools also look worthwhile; adding your booklist or library to your blog or sharing via an RSS feed, or even posting a review if you feel the urge.

In addition to Google Books, I’ve also been keeping a collection of sites, videos and articles via my delicious account. Here’s an example for my subject, Education for Social Change. Both services have been invaluable not only in collecting information, but in organising and collating information in meaningful ways, through tagging, adding notes (often I include an abstract from the site or article) and combining tags to drill down into the information I’ve collected over time. I use keyword tags together with time/date type of tags to help narrow down information (very helpful as I’ve managed to stretch my Masters out over 3 years!).

Erich Fromm (Wikipedia)
My next and final essay is for the subject, Education for Social Change. I’d like to explore the idea that the rise of social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and other sites has inadvertantly served to further embed us as ‘automaton conformists’ (Erich Fromm). I could look at Chomsky and the role of mass media, as sites like these are often owned by large corporations in many cases, but I’m more curious to explore Fromm’s notion of ‘fear of freedom’ and a phrase my lecturer, Rick, mentioned on a recent discussion thread, that is, ‘group think’. It also calls for a rethink in education about digital literacy and developing the digital citizen for a connected future.

This is close to my heart, with regards to my work, where we often promote social networking tools like blogs and wikis to ‘open up’ a teacher’s approach to teaching, but often we see there is limited uptake, especially by students, and various colleagues around the country seem to be seeing similar results – there are not many exceptions to the rule, highlighting the challenges in seeing Web2.0 as a ‘freeing’ view of the Web, for the people and by the people, and as a legitimate learning medium.

More soon…

bell hooks: politics of difference through popular culture

bells hooks: cultural criticism and transformation

6-minute talk by hooks on the accessibility of popular culture items such as films, to engage people in critical thinking about society and difference.

I’ve been reading a bit of hooks’s work, particularly ‘Teaching to Transgress‘ (1994), as part of my MEd studies this semester, as we undertake an exercise in defining, describing, critiquing and writing about our own educational philosophical stance.

hooks didn’t see herself as a teacher, more a writer – but ended up a teacher writing about her teaching experiences and the (dis)engagement with learning along the way. She refers to Freire as an influence as well as feminist theorists, as well as her own learning experiences, as driving the development of her educational philosophy.

Paulo Freire

Image: Freire on Infed

She writes so that her thoughts are accessible to a continuum of readers or audiences. And, she sees learning as an expression of excitement and engagement for its sheer pleasure! A refreshing view these days. It draws suspicion when one shows an eagerness to learn – I’d add that it also exposes the teacher/facilitator to also rise to the challenge in (enthusiastically) supporting that eager learning (–you expect me to develop curricula on a shrinking resource base and low salary AND you want me to enjoy it too?)! “To enter classroom settings in colleges and universities with the will to share the desire to encourage excitement, was to transgress” (hooks 1994: 7, my emphasis).

hooks also notes the learning ‘struggle’ as a real and necessary part of learning, yet in the context of minority groups, means a highly stressful learning setting – and yet can still be exciting, if the will to learn is strong. As with Freire, hooks sees education as the practice of freedom.

To ask the ‘why’ questions can be confronting and at times show-stopping. How do you encourage your students to ask why?