Thursday, June 13, 2019

Self grading

Faculty sometimes talk about wanting their students to take ownership of their own learning. But from the students' perspective it often feels like they figure out what they need to do in a course (maybe), then they do it, and then they are GIVEN a grade by the instructor. Hardly surprising that they feel like their learning exists only to satisfy some criteria established by someone else.

With this in mind I will be trying out a new approach to assigning grades in all my classes: self grading. This is somewhat inspired by the ungrading perspective, although of course the end result is a submitted grade (as required by my institution). Here's my current draft of the description of this odd grading policy I will give my (online) students:
Like in every class, your midterm and final grades will depend on your performance in this class. However, perhaps unlike your other classes, YOU will tell ME what your midterm and final grades will be. WUT?!?
My perception is that, even though instructors try to tell students exactly how their grade will be calculated, many students think their grade is bestowed on them through some magic process. The important point is that students often think that their grade is given to them by instructors, while instructors think that students earn their grades. So to make my perception and your perception line up better, you will tell me what grade you deserve (and why).
Here's how it will work: I have to submit midterm grades for the class on Sept. 16 and final grades on Oct. 14. So before those dates you will submit to me a document that tells me what grade you deserve with a rationale or justification for that grade. The justification should be based on your engagement in the course, your learning of the material, and how this course has affected you. You will have lots of information about your engagement and performance in the course by looking at your scores in the grade book and the Learning Journals, and you can use any other information you think is relevant. You need to use all that information to make the case for the grade you think you deserve.
Here's the promise I make to you: I will accept and enter into the official EKU system whatever grade you propose as long as the justification is reasonable and includes at least some data from the grade book. If you can justify an A, that's that you'll get. If you think you can only justify a B or C, that's what you'll get. The exception is if your justification is not reasonable or based on any data. Simply saying "I think I deserve an A because I tried hard" will not get you an A. But if you said "I think I deserve and A because I tried hard, as you can see by looking at my quiz scores, engagement with the readings, etc...." then you will likely justify an A, and that's what I'll enter into the system.
The kicker is that if you do NOT submit a grade and justification then I will submit your grade as an F.
 Here's the more detailed instructions for the midterm grade:
How to write your justification: remember all those times that you’ve learned that psychology is a science? That’s a super-important idea for us instructors and I bet you’re a little tired of hearing. However, one thing being a science means is that we are obsessed with data. Without data any description of the world is just opinion. So data transform mere opinion into a statement that can be tested or evaluated based on the strength of the evidence (data).
In addition, data constrains or limit what scientists can say. As scientists we like to let the data speak, and we cannot say things that are not supported by our data.
I want you to think of your grade proposal like a scientist. You have certain data, and you must analyze and summarize those data to propose your midterm grade.
Types of data to consider when justifying your midterm grade proposal:
  • Average quiz score. Where: column in the grade book
  • Average Group Discussion Board scores. Where: column in the grade book
  • Average score on the Perusall readings. Where: column in the grade book
  • Evolution of your learning process. Where: Learning Journal
  • Information about your engagement with the texts. Where: email from instructor
  • Information about your engagement with the Blackboard course. Where: email from instructor
  • Professionalism. Have you completed all assignments/activities, and on time? Where: email from instructor
  • Indications that this class has affected you and your life. Where: from you
  • Other information that you believe is relevant to your performance. Where: from you
Format: the format you use is up to you. You could write a paragraph, use bullet points, figures, tables, whatever you think communicates your data and summary and grade proposal most effectively. This does not need to be a long document. I can envision your proposal being one paragraph, or less than a page if in some other format. You don’t have to include all the types of data listed above. But your goal is clear: you need to propose a grade that is clearly based on/consistent with evidence that you describe. In general you can think about this proposal in this way: “I deserve a(n) ___ for the midterm grade in this course because…”
I realize that this is likely a new kind of task for you. Fortunately your first attempt at this is the midterm grade, which is not as permanent as the final grade. We’ll give you feedback on your midterm grade proposal so you know what we’re looking for in the final grade proposal.
A note on the other information item (above): I understand that factors outside of this course like illness, family obligations, work obligations, etc. sometimes affect student performance in the course. If you believe these factors affected your performance in our course then you can include them in your justification. However, remember that my goal for the class is to change the way you understand the world, and that is not really about earning points or completing assignments.
The instructions for the final grade will be similar. 

My idea is that students will ideally think about what they will need to do to justify the grade they want, and then do that work. Some students will likely look back at their work before the midterm and realize they don't have the evidence to justify their preferred grade, and adjust what they do after midterm. Isn't that what we'd like students to do with the midterm grade? 

I see this as another step on the path to creating student-centered courses (like Aaron Richmond's student-centered syllabus, and flipped learning). If we want students to own their learning then we should let them own the grade as well. I'm excited to see how it goes!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Accessibility as accommodation

Imagine you had a student whose accommodation needs made it impossible for her to access the textbook for your class. Never mind why, and leave aside your confidence that technology can make any textbook accessible to anyone with any accommodation need. Those fixes won’t work in this case. What would you do? Would you tell the student she simply cannot take your class? Would you try to find an alternative text that was accessible to her?

This might sound like an unlikely scenario, but most higher ed instructors have students like this is in our classes right now. This student's disability is commonly invisible and more often not addressed: she can't afford the text. This will prevent her from reading the course material just as surely as if she had a vision impairment and there was no accommodation for it. We are ethically and legally bound to provide accommodations for students with various disabilities. Why do we not see the affordability of our course materials as an accessibility barrier like we do it's physical or electronic format?

The good news is that it's never been easier to select free course materials instead of ones that come with the barrier of a price tag. Open Educational Resources (OER) now exist for many subjects and courses, especially general education courses. The quality of these OER texts have steadily improved, and many come with ancillaries equivalent to publisher offerings.

Even better, using OER can free up instructors and students to correctly recognize the overwhelming availability of information these days. Combining OER with other sources of information that our students might be more familiar with (and more likely to access after they leave our classes and campuses) like Wikipedia, YouTube, and even Google, can help develop our students' information literacy skills.

So accept the reality that you have or will have students in your courses that simply will not read the sources that come with a financial cost, and that this will selectively impact the students that are the most vulnerable. If the ethics of the situation do not motivate you sufficiently to switch to OER and other free resources when you can, realize that these same students stop out more often than other students, and often for financial reasons. So think of OER as retention strategies. And get off your butt and check out the OER in your discipline. You could try Googling it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Final celebration

If you had to hold a celebration during finals week, and the only requirement was that the theme of the celebration had to be about the students, what would it look like?

PBL everything

PBL in Capstone course

  • The writing assignments are really steps in a PBL cycle, culminating in group/class presentations of solutions to empathy problem

PBL in Introduction to Psychology
  • Jigsaw prompts are problems posed
  • Start with just problems that need answers
  • My synthesis in each class is for solutions
  • Eventually jigsaw prompts require solutions

Thinking of Others

Congratulations, you have found the PSY 300 Social Psychology syllabus Easter egg.

The theme of this class is thinking of others. If I have already mentioned this theme during class, now you have confirmation that this is indeed the theme for this class.
If I haven't mentioned this theme yet in class then you now have a hint about what is to come (and you could go back to the things we've already done in class and look for this theme). 

Everything in this class is either about 
how we think about others, 
how we think about ourselves, or
how others think about us.

Have a look around this blog, if you wish. And if you have any reactions or suggestions, I'd love to know of them.

Social Psychology 3.0 3/n

Thinking of others frame ToO
First day answer questions from rest of semester

Day 1 homework: Create google doc journal with answers

First topic
  • Why does group work suck so bad?
  • Look in these sources: Noba, Stangor, wikipedia, youtube with keywords social loafing, accountability, social facilitation, groupthink, Google "problems with group work"
  • Report problems with group work from sources
  • Next step: solutions
    Look in these sources: Google PBL
    Design how groups work in this class

Second topic

Must tell me what midterm and final grades you deserve and why. Or else F. 

ToO is reframe at conclusion of each topic

Make QR code for syllabus easter egg, takes to blog post about it, ToO theme

Social Psychology 3.0 2/n

Problem-based learning

Problem-Based Learning at Maastricht University