Is there a connection between assessment and motivation?

I think the first thing that anyone in the Higher Education master’s program thinks of when they hear the term “assessment” is probably not a positive experience from two classes we had to take during our first year.  This is not because of anything that our professor did, but more of the material and the assignments/projects we had for the courses. However, assessment is meant to be positive when we are thinking about how we can go about improving a process or learn more information about a process.

On a different not, after watching The surprising truth about what motivates us video for a second time, a lot of what is introduced was very interesting and provided a different take on several myths or assumptions many of us have about motivation and success. Even seeing the video before, I was still surprised that the large incentives did not lead to the most success. When thinking about why this would be the case, I am assuming the stress of wanting to get the large incentive adds pressure resulting in lesser performance. Whereas, a normal incentive of wanting to achieve some result, removes the increased pressure while doing the task. Along the same lines, Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning made a comment that “something like 90 percent of a typical university degree depends on unseen, time-constrained written examinations, and [instructor]-marked essays and/or reports.” I’m not surprised by the large percentage, but it is more interesting when combining that statistic with the results from the video. This could mean that students are not performing as well as they should be or expected to perform since they are under pressure and the stress of performing at a high level. I don’t know how this could ultimately change or how we would go about assessing the success in the class without using the examinations or an equivalent measure.

Also from the video I mentioned above, was how much autonomy in the workplace can result in success or an increase in production. The example used in the video shows how much even one day of autonomy can lead to success. It would be interesting to see if academics were able to mirror something similar to possibly find an increase in success or motivation.

Mindful Learning

Before entering grad school, I hadn’t thought too deeply about the current education system and the various flaws it might have. During the first month of grad school I saw a Youtube video by Prince Ea, arguing against the current structure of education in the United States. He includes comments related to how the advancement of technology and how the rest of the world seems to have adapted/changed, except for the education system. After hearing some of the comments Prince Ea included in the video made me want to talk to my sister as she is a 4th grade teacher. It was intriguing talking to her about some of the ways she is required to teach as it has changed drastically from when I was in 4th grade, but almost seem to make it more complicated and more difficult to learn. I asked my sister why this was the case, and she was unable to really give me a reason except for that’s the new direction teaching was moving.

Langer introduced the concept of “what we teach” compared to “how we teach it” as we currently do one, but should focus on the other. Currently we are so focused on the content or “what we teach” (teaching to a test) that we can get distracted by how students are receiving the information and if they are actually learning from it. We have gotten so focused on how we have taught information the last 20 plus years, that we don’t always actively think about new ways to approach teaching. However, we need to focus on “how we teach” the material to students as the new generation is very different and has access to significantly more compared even my generation. I don’t have the answers to how this needs to change exactly, but something has to happen for the next generation of students to be able to fully succeed and reach their potential.

Additionally, in Sir Ken Robinson’s video, he includes information on how it’s not necessarily that we don’t have qualified teachers in schools currently, it’s mainly that the system is the overall issue/problem. He had numerous additional great comments and provided important information that would be beneficial for the education system to listen to and adjust.

Are lectures beneficial to student learning?

The idea of a lecture-oriented classroom was the only type of classroom that most students know prior to starting college and made up about 90 percent of my undergraduate classes with only a few being discussion-based. So, starting graduate school, not having really any lecture-oriented classes was a unique experience that I wasn’t completely ready for or fully expecting. I typically don’t choose to share much during class during discussions as I like to think over my thoughts more thoroughly before sharing.

Talbert started his post originally stating he typically extremely dislikes lecture-oriented, yet did think there were some positives including: modeling thought processes, sharing cognitive structures, giving context, and telling stories. I would definitely agree that all four of these are positives related to this type of class style, but I don’t think they are the only positives that can come from lectures.

While, he does present those four positive components, I appreciated how he acknowledges that he doesn’t believe that information transfer is a positive, but in fact it is more effective at “covering material.” Talbert also introduced an interesting shift of thinking for me, in that a lecture can be inspiring, yet still may not actually learn anything so it ultimately isn’t effective. I would challenge Talbert’s comment on this as I know several people who are able to retain information, most of the time myself, and are able to truly learn from some of these experiences in lecture-oriented classrooms. Many people gather the incorrect or incomplete information as there are many terrible lecture experiences, but there are some instructors who can make lectures interesting enough or can present the material in a way that allows for easier/better cognition and understanding of the material. I say all of this identifying that I might be slightly biased because of my positive experiences and great professors. My opinion has been changing slightly recently since I have been in more discussion-based classes recently, but I believe there are still pros/cons to both types of classroom styles as certain classes/majors require different things from their classes.

With all of that said, I do think something that Carnes mentioned in his article is important to acknowledge as there are many students that just go “through the motions” which could cause some of the negativity surrounding lectures. In order to improve globally, something in U.S. education needs to change, but I don’t know if it is necessary lectures that are causing this problem.

Networked Learning

The concept of ‘learning’ is talked about extremely often in the college environment, but Dr. Wesch stated well in his Ted Talk in how we have looked at learning as just dumping information into peoples’ heads. He continues to talk about students sneaking right passed the education just trying to get through the class with the needed grade to move on to the next one. At times during both my undergraduate/graduate experiences, I have felt like that student just trying to go through the motions to get the grade and move on to the next class as quickly as possible. However, my experiences outside of the classroom was ultimately where I found the ‘real learning’ he discussed. I wrestled with the questions of ‘who am I, what am I going to do, am I going to make it’ and didn’t really ever talk with someone about those until the start of my senior year, almost too late to adjust anything about my experience. I had to make the decision to stop being ‘comfortable’ in the position I was in, and take a chance on a new/different career and type of work. In undergraduate I was definitely with lots of other students focusing “more on careers and ‘competencies’ and less about inquiry, meaning-making, and broadly humane view of human capacity” (Networked Learning as Experimental Learning). That quote from Campbell outlines the change of focus I had to make entering graduate school or else I was not going to be able to get anything out of the program.

The idea of ‘networked learning’ I first think about social media and how the world is utilizing that to network with each other, but the learning part is usually not there. Godin talks about the humility needed for blogging and how you are having to explain yourself with the post. Humility is something usually lost in most posts in social media, and blogging has the edge when it comes to most of the posts being impactful on others based on someone opening up and sharing their organized (or sometimes not) thoughts. Social media is a beast and I could rant about its negative impact on college students in relation to ‘networked learning,’ but I will focus on how as college administrators, we are responsible for helping in students finding that transformation needed to learn from their experiences. As Dr. Wesch talked about all of the stories, all it took was reaching out to the student and finding what they needed to succeed or at least listen to their unique story. Some students need a lot of help and support, while others just need someone to listen to kick start their learning. We need to work to (or continue to) focus on helping students learn how to build a life worth living, and not just how to make a living.