Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Bloom’s Taxonomy

So it’s week two in the class, Facilitating Online Learning, with Nellie Deutsch, Ludmilla Smirnova, Diethild Starkmeth and Judith Behrens. There’s almost 1100 learners in the course. I’ve come into contact with maybe 80 in the webinars, Week 1: Enabling Learning and Week 2: Setting Goals and Learning Outcomes, and probably 40 or so in the Moodle discussion groups. There’s also a discussion group on Mahara, and on the Connecting Online 2013 Ning.

This week our assessment was to mull over, reflect on and make an artifact that addresses the topic “Setting Goals and Learning Outcomes.” The number of questions asked on the Week 2 PowerPoint was considerable. Here is a selection:

  1. What are learning outcomes?
  2. Who sets learning outcomes, teachers or students?
  3. What are some of the challenges and benefits of setting learning outcomes?
  4. How is Bloom’s Taxonomy connected to learning outcomes?
  5. What are assessments?
  6. What are some of the challenges and benefits of assessing learning outcomes?
  7. How do you decide how to assess your students?
  8. What do you base assessment on?

At the end of the class, we were all running to the virtual winds to begin to work on our “artifacts,” the presentation, blog, website, wiki, webpage, Prezi etc., that would show how we were personally reflecting on the questions we pondered in class. I’ve learned a lot from other people’s “Scoop It” pages in the past so I thought this would be my opportunity to set up a Scoop It on a topic on which I needed to learn more. Another reason is that when I am busy and I engage in social learning like this course, I tend to bring myself to it, my worries, my interests. While I learn from the facilitators and the other learners, I don’t always dive into the background materials, I don’t always revisit the texts listed in the course that I may have studied at Northern Illinois University thirty-five years ago when I did my master’s in higher education, and I don’t always spend time on searching out new texts or forcing myself to engage in some new thinking. I’m already reading several books, all on higher education, some on retention and enrollment, one on online teaching, one on the future of universities. I normally read a little bit at a time every once in awhile given my schedule so I anticipate being “in” the books I’m currently reading for a lot of months to come. In that context then, I thought that because Scoop It demands “curating,” anything that I chose to answer my questions would also have to be something I’d read before posting, watched before posting.

Optimistically I set up the last Scoop It in the list below, read the first thing I posted, and then realized I couldn’t “curate” learning outcomes without learning more about Bloom’s taxonomy or without finding out more about Bloom. So I started the topic listed first on the list below. Then I was thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy, that list of verbs that guides program and course objective writers all over the world, and realized I didn’t know much about how other people were using it, whether they thought it was worth anything, how they revised it. So I started the second topic on the list below. And then finally when those two were filled in, I went back and finished the last topic on the list below.

It took me most of Saturday afternoon and evening–I woke up in the middle of a dream about the lists–and then most of Sunday morning. I watched probably five times as many videos as I posted, read through probably four times as many articles as I posted, and looked over probably three times as many websites as I posted. It was a really fascinating journey: I bookmarked a lot of resources to go back to, especially videos. Sigh … the downside of the upside …!

The first one is “So Who is Bloom and What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?”

The second one is: “How Many Ways Can We Describe and Revise Bloom’s Taxonomy?”

And the third one is: “Learning Outcomes and Assessment: Getting Bloomian in Higher Ed.”

Hope you enjoy them! If you sign up for Scoop.It you can suggest other items for all three.

Humility: Enabling Learning

Since the summer of 2009, I have been dabbling in, wandering around and sometimes taking and completing the courses on offer at Integrating-Technology.org, a unique resource for those who are interested in facilitating learning.

Recently I registered for “Facilitating Online Learning” which is being offered by Dr. Nellie Deutsch (the primary engine behind Integrating-Technology.org), and her colleagues Dr. Ludmilla Smirnova, Diethild Starkmeth, and Judith Behrens. Diethild and Judith started out like me, as a learner at IT4ALL (Integrating Technology for Active Life-long Learners).

In the first week of our course, we are tasked with creating an artifact that focuses on the topic of the week, “Enabling Learning.” We all worked through a number of discussions about what the elements were that were necessary in motivating ourselves and in motivating the learners we lead. My colleagues in this course come from countries all over the world. They teach/facilitate learning in a variety of contexts, from companies that provide services to companies and their trainers or to schools, to grade school and high school teachers, university teachers, and folks who teach languages, primarily English as a foreign language. I started out pretty confident about what I know, what I’ve learned over the last three years of immersing myself in education again.

As I read through the posts of my colleagues, I grew more and more humble. Enabling learning is a significantly more nuanced and difficult task than “merely” teaching and “merely” teaching, especially teaching well, is really difficult too. The folks in my cohort in “Facilitating Online Learning” are really in the trenches, thinking about what attitudes need to be present in a learner to meet his or her goals in the class they are taking, how one motivates, what are the elements of interaction that are important.

And I felt less and less confident that I had a significant portion of the answers, and more and more in awe not just of the answers my colleagues in the class were pondering, but also in their commitment to reflect and rethink the process in which they were engaged in their own classrooms, and in their own learning. I started feeling humble in the face of all that expertise and all that reflection on what the limits of that expertise might be.

As I read along and chimed in now and then with my own two cents, I became more convinced that humility as a heartfelt attitude is really important in enabling one’s own and another’s learning. On the site, “Brainy Quote” the following is attributed to Gandhi:

“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”

This one is attributed to Thomas Merton:

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

There are a lot of other definitions on “Brainy Quote” but I think  these two are really important when it comes to enabling learning: that first it is necessary to have the willingness to admit wholeheartedly to errors, diving right into a good “rethink”; and that second it is important to have and hold the notion that wholehearted humility keeps it real.