Evaluation, Evaluation, Evaluation!

I thought this was an interesting topic to pick up on this week. The title of my blog posting was partly inspired by Tony Blairs speech/moto- Education, Education, Education!

This week we have just finished and are evaluating the first two student led seminars. Both of them really interesting and thought provoking in their approaches to the key themes.

During the process of evaluation, I was struck by the importance of it both as a reflective practice but also as a tool to inform future development. As with everything, there is always more that you could do. Once again my professional life and studies overlapped as last week, I started to review some evaluations that we had recieved as part of a pilot of an course that myself and a colleague had been working on. It struck me as I was reading some replies to the evaluation survey that one result said that the sections were about the right length, one suggested that they were about right and one felt it some were a little short. Which led me to thinking how best to use evaluation data for course developments- do you just assume that these three evaluations cancel each other out and make no change. Or do you take one particular viewpoint that agrees with your own- to trust your own instincts.

With this topic in mind I started to read the last chapter in Palloff and Pratt to see what their lessons learnt are- I was interested in their tips for creating successful courses (2013 p.202). But as I started reading earlier parts of the chapter some of their lessons learned from the virtual classooms interestingly chimed in with some of the themes from this unit.

The  first is that both instructors and students  need training (Palloff and Pratt 2013 p.191). This for me was about not assuing digital literacies are a skill everyone is born with, we are all still learning and a continually open disposition to learning new skills is the underlying skill which underpins all literacies. Training needs to be a continual process and as Palloff and Pratt suggest it ‘Should not be a one-size-fits all’ approach.

The second from this chapter that made me think about the evaluation process that I was taking part in this week. During the evaluation we were asked to think about the level of interactivity and facilitation. This is something that I have definitely taken note of during this evaluation process. That it is not necessarily about the content of the course, very often more successful types of online classes/learning are reliant on the fact that they have a skilled facilitator behind the scenes (Palloff and Pratt 2013 p. 190). Sometimes it can be a bit daunting to open yourself up and allow students/learners to interact and create content. In our case these with both of these seminar units we saw two different styles of faciliation. Both with merits and as a learner on these units, I hope I have had the vantage of being able to pick elements of both practices and see how I can adopt them into my practice.

Really I guess I do not really to make a case for the importance of evaluation, but it is a bit of a luxury being able to sit and write about what I am taking away from the process. It is easy to have evaluation methods set up, what I think is not always so easy and is a skill, is to take the time to reflect and look to make meaningful changes based on evaluatation.

Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (2013) Lessons from the virtual classroom. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass



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