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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

first principles of instruction

I found this reading to be interesting and salient. I haven't seen learning broken down in steps or principles quite like this, but it made sense and there were a few pieces that I really liked.

One note to make right at the start is that I don't necessarily disagree with problem solving being motivating, but I think there is more to it than just that else why is math not everyone's favorite subject, instead of one of their least?

I really like that reflection is highlighted, personally I think this is one of the most regularly overlooked principles of learning. Being able to reflect on and have to discuss and defend a new skill is key to mastery.

I also felt that the creation piece is important and underutilized. Being able to invent and explore helps the learner fully develop skills in ways that the traditional lecture model never allows for.

I am curious with the activation phase about misconceptions with previous understandings. I believe that this can be detrimental to learning in that if misconceptions are not dealt with, learners will go back to prior knowledge and won't accept the new information. What happens to a learner when new information directly conflicts with what they believe? How is this dealt with? There isn't any information in the text about how to handle this.

The demonstration phase is a great opportunity for learners to gain experience. This phase really can't be overstated, this is where skills are developed and mistakes are made. This needs to be a safe arena where learners feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them. The reading stated that
feedback has long been recognized as the most important form of learner guidance.
and that making errors is a natural consequence of problem solving and that most learners learn from their mistakes. Key to this is helping them recognize, recover, and avoid the error in the future.

Lots of great applicable stuff from this reading.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


So of all the reading so far I feel this should be required reading for all teachers. I don't really want to rant but I will say that there is no blueprint anywhere when you are in teacher education programs to help with assessment and how to design a test. This chapter had a lot of great information and would be a nice place for teachers to start designing a test and determining what is included. One of the most valuable nuggets of wisdom was how to determine what mastery looks like and how to properly measure if mastery has been met. I don't think most teachers consider just how important it is to be able to answer this question. I do think that assessments would be much improved if teachers took time to take these things into consideration when they are creating a test.

One thing I thought was interesting was that 'trick' questions are not desirable. Man, I wish some of my former teachers would have read and heeded this advice. I understand the idea that in reality things aren't usually cut and dry, real life is messy. Determining if a student can transfer the knowledge is important in assessing learning, but if you are giving misinformation and compound questions are you really checking to see how well the learner performs the skill or are you doing something else entirely.

After every test is administered it should be evaluated, especially items that were missed by most of the learners. There are many reasons why a majority of students might miss a particular question, so it is imperative to find out what the reason(s) was to make necessary changes.

Overall making sure your assessment accurately assess how well a learner can perform a skill is the key to designing a good assessment. There are a lot of factors, its a process, and items can't be skipped or overlooked in order to be truly effective. Even the best planned assessments may have unforeseen consequences that need to be changed.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Just when you think things won't get more complicated...

Performance Objectives are actually quite near to what I did as a teacher. It is basically spelling out what students, or in this case the learner, should be able to do when they finish the unit or lesson or module. These are related to outcomes, not processes. Because it is impossible to see into someone else's brain and know if they understand the material, the objectives must be observable. There are three components to objectives: action and concept, conditions that exist while they carry out the task, and the criteria to evaluate learner performance. In this book the three areas are summed up as behaviors, conditions, and criteria. Here are my thoughts on each of these.

One thing to consider when writing out objectives is to ask "Could I observe a learner doing this" If answered in the negative then you need to reevaluate the objective. Also this is where terms like know and understand wouldn't work because they aren't observable behaviors. Psychomotor skills are usually easily observable, intellectual skills are more difficult. In the case of intellectual skills one needs to demonstrate they understand/know the skill. Using terms such as identify, classify, demonstrate, or generate are much better than know or understand.

This refers to the circumstances and resources that will be available to the learner while performing the objective. There are four parts: 1 learning cue to search information in memory, 2 characteristics of resource materials, 3 scope and complexity of the task, 4 relevant or authentic contexts. One thing I think is key is the 4th function because ultimately the main point is transferring of the skills from the learning setting to a performance setting.

Judging acceptable performance of the skill. Here is what is tricky, determining what mastery is? I think in some cases its easy because they can either do it or not, in other cases do you decide that 75% is mastery or should it be 80%. I think this could be much harder in written form such as an essay. Rubrics and checklists can be used but its still difficult to define complex criteria and acceptable responses.