One way to think about providing a sample of a person’s work or learning is to consider the enhancement of teacher and student motivation. Documenting an approach to learning with evidence of learning that spans a period of time can include written products, visual media, and self-assessments that together can contribute to a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the teaching and learning process (Ginsberg, 2011).
Although the contents of a teaching and learning portfolio may differ from online to face-to-face courses, and disciplinary considerations impact the content and distribution of learning opportunities the following research based givens provide a context for ongoing reflection, goal setting, action, and data collection:
1) There is a significant connection between reflective practice and student learning (Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998).
2) To improve schools, instruction needs to be the central focus of professional learning (Elmore & Burney, 1997).
3) Creativity and critical thinking are essential to adult and student learning (Gardner, 2006).
4) Effective change requires applied research that allows for novely and nuance (Pink, 2009).
With these considerations in mind I thought it might be beneficial to open up the concept of portfolios and adult learning with students. Beginning with a short three hour group of learners we developed a set of course goals and an assessment rubric using a structured learning opportunity involving academic research of a constitutional amendment. These insights and observations were then considered in the course design process for three courses each with a different medium: 1) face to face; 2) hybrid; and 3) online.
The following is an adaptation of a professional portfolio table of contents outline found in Transformative Professional Learning. As a community based participatory action researcher, a certified online and writing across curriculum instructor, and with a humanities meets science inspired curricula I wondered how we could apply the course Constitutional Law to ongoing social justice and teaching and learning projects but also with a dedicated eye on documenting learning in fair and useful ways.
Students from the first cohort suggested the following learning outcomes. These learning outcomes will serve as the first draft of a course constitution, otherwise known as a syllabus, where the instructor (myself) holds arbitrary power over the learners not unlike the circumstances of the colonists. Under a theory of the rule of law and examining the gap between law as ideal and law as real I believe it is imperative to develop a sense of political identity and civic agency throughout the course work and content selected for study. To ensure a democratic approach to the teaching and learning process with a focus on developing materials for public education, students are co-researchers in the pursuit of academic knowledge and understanding regarding what is arguably one of the most important civic institutions. Because the so-called traditional mode of higher education (at least public) is not working for all students the candid documentation of what we are learning provides a critical view of the traditional approach while also producing scenes and vignettes of pedagogy to be scrutinized under varying standards and diverse points of view.
At all times my goal is not to disappear from the classroom but instead to remove the farce of domination through grading and re-emerge as a co-partner in the learning process. Although student resistance is common, particularly in new and challenging environments, the underlying thread that holds the study together is the belief that all learners are motivated to develop their own life long learning path.
As an often described bedrock course for active participation as a citizen there is also a broader understanding that the U.S. Constitution is but one of many constitutions scattered throughout space and time. For learners to critically analyze the significance of the constitution to their own life while learning new vocabulary, histories, and a legal way of thought mastery of content is likely to be stifled by circumstances outside of the learning environment. In the traditional course environment feedback is often non-specific and not particularly relevant to the circumstances of most learners. Throughout this project the goal of improving the documentation and the public learning around teaching and learning for civic action is penultimate. The change required for learning, the choice to apply one’s knowledge, can be measured and documented, especially through self reflection, but one’s motivation to engage in particular civic or social arrangements is a complex and not well understood phenomena of humanity. As such our ultimate goal is to improve our own understanding of humanity in all its facets. This assumes individuality and differentiation as givens. As we move forward in the course study it is imperative that individual well-being be safe guarded and that the learning process be flexible enough to provide imagination and innovation but arranged in a way that provides predictability and transparency to the learner and assessment systems.
In the autumn of 2012 I began the journey, along with an English Professor colleague and friend, to document how we might assess civic learning and democratic engagement from multiple points of view. It was important to me to first and foremost record the process from a student’s point of view but I also wanted to be sure to capture the style of diverse educators as they work with undergraduate learners in a global, often digital, 21st century.
Over the course of the 3 year study I resolved to the following framework to apply to what we sometimes to loosely refer to as the syllabus. I followed our department guidelines and outcomes as well as the CUNY common core outcomes. I also relied heavily on Diversity & Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching in College (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2009). I had the great fortune to work with Dr. Ginsberg to apply the framework for engendering competence among struggling, underserved students as a Washington Reading Corps and America Vista volunteer. I also was inspired by the well-balanced individual learner approach provided by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. Many of my efforts have been guided by the open-ended rubric and template approach to creating structured learning opportunities with consistency. Finally, as an artist and life-long learner, I wanted to make sure there was room for the arts in the assessment process. I believe it is important to measure what the individual learned over the course of the semester and document it, not simply measure whether they learned what I had hoped or intended. Students come from a wide-variety of expectations, adaptabilities, and knowledge bases that can be neutralized through careful assessment design.
I will walk you through my assessment process below:
Let’s get serious about understanding learning outcomes:
In the Fall of 2013 the City University of New York began the Pathways Initiative which lays out various learning outcomes for student assessment. While many people have just as many or more opinions about the process or outcomes themselves I find this is a sufficient place to start the conversation about what it means to teach and to learn. CUNY believes that all students enrolled in flexible common core courses should be able to:
- Gather, interpret, and assess information from a variety of sources and points of view.
- Evaluate evidence and arguments critically or analytically.
- Produce well-reasoned written or oral arguments using evidence to support conclusions.
The first outcome involves my choice of required materials.
Assessment for Curriculum Redesign & Student Development
Education for What?:
2. Redesign Process Visual
3. Action Research Model
4. Enhancing Motivation & Learning
5. Analyzing Student Work
6. Looking at your Syllabus to enhance motivation
The requirements for a syllabus may vary from institution to institution but at KCC we are asked to provide the following:
Measuring Reflection through dialogue and feedback (Shadowing students):
Over the last few months, working with The Bridge cultures to Form a Nation Program has been the most productive and electrifying experience. Embracing the position of Global Leadership in Environmental Advocacy while discovering knowledge in ecological and environmental issues over these months has led me to distinguish that as an individual I have become more aware of my leadership qualities and in doing so I have recognized that we: as a nation, as communities, as families and as individuals, collectively we have all neglected the most simplistic and important part of our being, and to preserve the “ATMOSPHERE” for ourselves and future generation.
The other day I read a quote, and in my opinion it’s perfect for this occasion, it stated: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde. Thinking of this quote is just like discussing our environment and how hard it really is to get points across with so much skepticism in many science communities along with the thousands of people who have no clue that global warming is taking place, climate changes has increased and that pollution seems to be rising and creating more and more health risks. I have focused a great deal on pollution, and in my reflection I feel it is imperative to share what I have come across. Pollution has a very detrimental effect on humans and some causes of this pollution are “The Plastic Problem” in the environment. As well as the burning of plastic, this is known to emit dioxins-dangerous chemicals- into the atmosphere.
As I have stated before in my research, Plastic trash is polluting our oceans and washing up on our beaches all around the world. Our Pacific ocean is filled with tons of plastic floating in the US and Japan, killing mammals and birds. We’re all aware that plastic has many faults, including the way its production and disposal raises resource issues and lets off extremely negative environmental impacts. From my research, it is estimated that 7% of the world’s annual oil production is used to produce and manufacture plastic. Plastic that is typically made from petroleum. This oil consumption is way more than the oil consumed by the entire African continent. Plastics carbon footprint includes landfilling and incineration, and recycling rate is dismally low around the globe. The burning of plastic is another cause for the release of emit dioxide. Even when incineration plants are legally required to filter emissions, pollution control equipment can remove some but not all the toxic ashes. The two chemicals, phthalates and bisphenol A, have been scrutinized as recent possible environment toxins, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
However, the first knowledgeable solution I’ve researched is Akinori Ito who has proposed a solution or alternative with his inventing of the converting plastic to oil machine. He is a common believer that plastic has a higher energy value than anything else. Akinori is a part of a Japanese company called Blest, and also who created a small, very safe machine that can convert several types of plastic back into oil. Even though Japan has improved its “effective utilization” rate was 72% in 2006 which leaves 28% of plastic to still be buried in land filling and burning. From my research and according to Plastic Waste Management Institute data, that utilization rate includes not just 20% that is actually being recycled but also 52% that is being incinerated for energy recovery purpose: such as generating heat and electric power. Summing up the evitable that not enough recycling is going on to save our environment. Our environment that is significant to our survival and future.
Akinori conversion machine is very safe because it used a temperature controlling electric heater rather than flame. These machines are able to process polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene but not PET bottles. The results are a crude gas that can fuel things like generators or stoves and once broken down can be pumped into cars, boats or a motorbike. One kilogram of plastic produce almost one liter of oil. “If we burn the plastic, we generate toxins and a large amount of CO2. If we convert it into oil, we save CO2 and at the same time increase people’s awareness about the value of plastic garbage.” Say’s Akinori. Akinori was very passionate about his machine and its educational process. He has taking it on planes and to school to help inform others like students, teachers and so on about the importance of plastic, recycling, and this machine. Spreading the Japanese idea of mottainai, the idea that waste is sad and regrettable.
As a final point, emboding Global Leadership in Environmental Advocacy has helped me to contribute to the knowledge of all those whom I come across. One thing I have realized in my time of observing however is that people in general have to change their way of thinking. Starting with recycling plastic, cans and glass. If we change or alter the way we think about our environment and those toxic things that impact the atmosphere, then I hope it can help us transition to a life that is more in tune with the planet and the realities ahead.