Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

As usual, I have devised a learning process that is rather elaborate, and perhaps more than a normal, or mere mortal, would attempt. *Sigh*

I am in the final stages of a formative grading process to wrap up teaching my summer course on Media and Technology in School Library Programs. This course was an iteration of the research theory and methodology I am writing up in my dissertation. It was the best example to date of how the theory works and how the methodology puts the theory into practice. I am very happy with the results, and I hope to write more about the process of teaching the course in the coming days, but first I have to finish this grading.

Once I realize I have gotten myself in over my head (once again!) I will chastise myself for setting myself on a course of very hard work for which no one will appreciate the effort because I have conceived of the entire process myself and the final result does not show up on a highly publicized billboard proclaiming my brilliance. But, because I am an artist, and I made a commitment to the process, I persevere and as I continue through the process, more thoughts, ideas, and understandings come to light, simply because I am staying involved in the process and learning from it. There is a tedium that sets in when I am doing a complicated, detail oriented process that no one can possibly appreciate. And then, through the tedium, insights emerge.

I will write about the actual process of formative assessment that I devised for this course in another blog post. The main point I want to make here is that we can never predict the quality or quantity of learning that is going to take place when we embark on an educational inquiry. I have been working for some years now on bringing inquiry-based learning into formal post-secondary education. With each course that I teach I continue to revise and refine the structure, the language, and the systems of management that formalize the inquiry processes to fit institutional assessment criteria while meeting leaerners’ needs.

What I am learning today, as I devote my Sunday morning to wrapping up the grading and getting marks posted, is that assessment for learning, rather than assessment for achievement, gives life to institutionalized learning processes. It might seem that institutional requirements for standardized criteria for learning are antithetical to the organic processes of inquiry and learning. It is actually possible to turn formative assessment into an extension of the learning processes, to continue to sustain learning through the formative assessment beyond the confines of the classroom or the course schedule. In this way, connections to learning and connections to life outside the institution are fostered and sustained. Learning is no longer a hoop-jumping activity to secure accreditation. The relevance of the institution is significant, both in terms of providing formal learning settings to invest time and energy into broadening perspectives and deepening understanding, but also in practicing applying this new knowledge and practices into day to day life.

So I will congratulate myself on making learning last, on making learning in the institution mean something beyond the walls or confines of the university. This kind of formative assessment for continuous learning relevance is only possible through the affordances of digital technology. More on that later, as well. Now I must get back to my grading.

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