Tasks, activities and student learning

Talk at ITaLI, University of Queensland, 7th November 2019

The following references are cited in the slides/talk. Slides themselves are here: Goodyear UQ 2019-Nov-07 condensed.

Bearman, M., & Ajjawi, R. (2019). Can a rubric do more than be transparent? Invitation as a new metaphor for assessment criteria. Studies in Higher Education, 1-10.

Beckman, K., Apps, T., Bennett, S., Dalgarno, B., Kennedy, G., & Lockyer, L. (2019). Self-regulation in open-ended online assignment tasks: the importance of initial task interpretation and goal setting. Studies in Higher Education, 1-15.

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does (3rd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.

Carvalho, L., & Goodyear, P. (Eds.). (2014). The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.

Ellis, R., & Goodyear, P. (2010). Students’ experiences of e-learning in higher education: the ecology of sustainable innovation. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Forbes, D., & Gedera, D. (2019). From confounded to common ground: Misunderstandings between tertiary teachers and students in online discussions. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 35(4). doi:10.14742/ajet.3595

Goodyear, P. (2015). Teaching as design. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 2, 27-50. Retrieved from http://www.herdsa.org.au/system/files/HERDSARHE2015v02p27.pdf

Hadwin, Allyson, and Philip Winne. 2012. “Promoting Learning Skills in Undergraduate Students.” In Enhancing the Quality of Learning, edited by John R. Kirby and Michael J. Lawson, 201–27. New York: Cambridge University Press

Krippendorff, K. (2006). The semantic turn: a new foundation for design. Boca Raton FL: CRC Press.

Laurillard, D., Kennedy, E., Charlton, P., Wild, J., & Dimakopoulos, D. (2018). Using technology to develop teachers as designers of TEL: Evaluating the learning designer. British Journal of Educational technology, 49(6), 1044-1058. doi:10.1111/bjet.12697

Shuell, T. (1986). Cognitive conceptions of learning. Review of Educational Research, 56(4), 411-436.

Suchman, L. (1987). Plans and situated actions: the problem of human-machine communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sun, S. Y. H., & Goodyear, P. (2019). Social co-configuration in online language learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 13-26. doi:https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.5102

Wisner, A. (1995a). Understanding problem building: ergonomic work analysis. Ergonomics, 38(3), 595-605.

Wisner, A. (1995b). Situated cognition and action: implications for ergonomic work analysis and anthropotechnology. Ergonomics, 38(8), 1542-1557.

The Sydney Business School ACAD video (3 mins) is here: https://player.vimeo.com/video/302378219

Impact and engagement

A few notes to accompany a panel session at Deakin, organised by CRADLE 14th October 2019.

Although my publications are reasonably well-cited and I can say that some of my work is taken up by other academics, my impact on policy and practice is quite marginal. There are claims I could make about specific areas of change in curricula or in how teams approach the design of learning environments. But these claims feel patchy to me: important in a specific program or university, but nothing that would count as credible evidence of impact at scale.

However – and this is an example of shiftily switching a practical into an academic problem – I am very interested in the pathways from research to policy and practice change. So, for example, I’ve been carrying out research on:

  • how university leaders construe the challenges of integrating educational, IT and physical infrastructure planning,
  • how to make educational design experience and design ideas easier to share and re-use,
  • how teams of academics and educational developers collaboratively design for students’ learning, and
  • what counts as ‘actionable knowledge’ in/for the design of programs of professional education.

I’ve also worked with AARE and other organisations, in Australia and elsewhere, on aspects of research policy: including approaches to the evaluation of research quality and impact and strategies for research capacity-building and engagement with ‘non-academic’ users of research.

At the panel session today, I summarised three ways that researchers in (higher) education tackle the challenges of ‘impact and engagement’. These descriptions are very broad brush, and not meant to offend. I’m calling them ‘thoughts and prayers’, ‘branding innovations’ and ‘research-practice partnerships’.

‘Thoughts and prayers’ is the default. A researcher writes up a study, an educational innovation or whatever, publishes a paper in a higher education journal and hopes that someone will read it, and be inspired to change what they do.

Much more noisy and visible is the work that goes on when a person or team coins a persuasive term and markets it hard. I will try not to be too cynical about this. Education is prone to fads and fashions and a set of research-based ideas can be taken up quite readily if they are presented as a discrete and coherent whole. I’m sure we can all think of some examples where a pithy phrase transforms into something that can be trade-marked, branded and/or sold as a commodity. Epistemic fluency,  teaching-as-design, design thinking, evaluative judgement, feedback literacy, visible learning, productive failure, flipped classrooms; even such large and hairy mammoths as PBL.

Only a small proportion of these get a breakthrough into the mass market. However:

  • those that do make it big tend to be used to set the mould (or expectations, or standards) for what educational impact should look like and
  • educational practices and educational systems have shown they are capable of radically reinterpreting research-based interventions and actually realising something very different from what was tested in the original research, and
  • what is easy to pick up as a package is easy to drop as a package.

A recent article in the ‘Fairfax’ papers illustrates this, with Deanna Kuhn’s work on ‘growth mindset’ as the example. The original research was deep, painstaking and insightful. The educational take-up, around the world, has been widespread and enthusiastic. But implementations are many and varied and some have moved a long way from anything Kuhn would recognise.  In other words ‘implementation fidelity’ is far from guaranteed in educational systems, so the connections between research, practice and outcomes can be very tenuous.

This brings me to the third approach, which I’ll subsume under the heading of ‘research practice partnerships’. There’s an excellent book on this by Bill Penuel and Daniel Gallagher. Rob Ellis and I summarised some of the ideas, customised for higher education, in the second half of our most recent book. The organising theme here is engagement, with impact on practice as one of the benefits – accompanied by a stronger, reciprocal, role for practitioners to shape research. The RPP idea has shaped some of our work in setting up the Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation at Sydney University, though we have a long way to go yet.

Such partnerships have also influenced a strand in my own research – such that I’ve chosen to research educational practices in which there’s a reasonable chance that research-based knowledge will prove useful. For example, common sense and good evidence suggest that teachers are much better placed to consult research when they are designing for learning (‘upstream’ of a learning activity) than when they are in the middle of a live teaching-learning event. In addition, when the right materials, tools or spaces become available at the right time, they are likely to become part of prevailing practices and have beneficial and sustainable effects. Research-based ideas that take on a material form, such that they can become entangled in – and reshape – existing practices, live a different life from those that sit silently in the literature. Hence, I’ve researched the dynamics of design teams’ working practices and have experimented with rendering research-based insights in readily materializable forms (such as design patterns).

My final point: I’ve had a close involvement in setting up and/or running four research centres in the last 30 years. I’ve been drawn to this mode of working for a number of reasons. But one of them is a realisation that the intensification of pressures on academic researchers means it’s not sensible to try to be outstanding at all aspects/phases of the research lifecycle. For one person to be energetically forming new ideas for projects, securing funding, recruiting and guiding research teams, writing for academic and practitioner audiences, overseeing a suite of dissemination activities, liaising closely with practitioner communities and policy-makers, making cases for internal resources, etc etc – that’s a recipe for burnout and disaster. We can’t all be good at all these things all of the time. Also, some of them really benefit from specialist skills. Hence: if you want to engage in a sustainable way in processes that are likely to improve the impact of your research, you are best advised to work closely with kindred spirits.

See also:

Recent articles on the LSE Impact Blog by John Burgoyne and Toby Green.

The UK REF Impact case studies from Durham on Threshold Concepts and Lancaster on Evaluative research improving policy and practice.

The DETYA report on The Impact of Educational Research – published in 2000, but thorough and full of insights.

 

Deakin University, Learning and Teaching Conference

The slides and notes for my lecture at the Deakin University Learning and Teaching conference last week – Thriving in higher education: how does good design help? – can be found here.

On the day after the lecture, Lina Markauskaite and I led two workshops.

Morning: Assessment as boundary work: between the discipline and the profession

Summary: This workshop is for academics, learning designers and academic leaders who work with developing assessment tasks across the spectrum of work integrated learning initiatives. Participants are asked to come with an assessment task that they have used, or plan to use, for students preparing for, or reflecting on, a work placement, practicum or simulated work experience. The workshop will explore how these types of assessment tasks create a dialogue at the boundary between academic discipline knowledge and the reflexive knowledge of a skilled practitioner. Peter and Lina will draw on their recent work on epistemic fluency to introduce the workshop. They have analysed a range of assessment task designs in a variety of professional education contexts to try to identify the multiple forms of knowledge and ways of knowing with which students have to become fluent in preparing for professional practice. Many aspects of professional work involve the creation of new understandings – such as in inter-professional dialogues or client consultations. Often this epistemic work goes unnoticed, though sometimes it involves conscious problem-solving and innovation. The workshop will be a hands-on investigation of how these ideas about epistemic fluency, knowledge work and actionable knowledge can be applied in designing better assessment tasks.

Afternoon: Working in the third space: how do we explain and strengthen what we do?

Summary: ‘Design for learning’ is still not a widely or deeply understood concept in universities, even though most universities employ a variety of people with titles like “Learning designer”.
The capabilities that underpin good design work are rarely articulated and have little institutional visibility. This workshop is for learning designers, academics and academic leaders who need to explain the role of design in learning and teaching. The workshop will explore the following questions: How do we articulate what we have to offer in and through design? How can we further strengthen the university’s design capabilities – given what we can see about the future of learning and teaching and new insights emerging from research across the learning sciences?

Some of these issues are being pursued, at a national level, in the ascilite TELedvisors SIG.

Discussion, collaborative knowledge work and epistemic fluency

G&Z2007

I received a request for this paper earlier today. It started life as a keynote at the Networked Learning conference in Lancaster in 2006. Maria Zenios visited us in Sydney later that year, and we were able to work together and develop a more extensive treatment of the issues. We used a recent paper in BJES by Effie MacLellan as a springboard. We combined ideas from Stellan Ohlsson, Allan Collins, Dave Perkins and Carl Bereiter to introduce epistemic tasks, forms, games and fluency. Then we linked this with research on learning through discussion by Helen Askell-Williams and Michael Lawson and by Rob Ellis and myself, to distinguish between weaker and stronger forms of collaborative knowledge building. If you’re serious about helping students prepare for work in complex knowledge creating jobs, then you need the stronger form.

I hadn’t reread this paper for a while, and I think it still stands up quite well. As of today, it’s had 87 citations, not all of them by me. I’m also glad to see that research on learning through discussion in higher education has been growing in the last 10 years. The literature was quite thin in 2006/7.

In 2008, Lina Markauskaite and I wrote a grant proposal that allowed us to do some of the ‘cognitive anthropology’ hinted at in this paper. The outcomes, and a much richer understanding of matters that were only sketched in the BJES paper, can be found in our ‘magnum opus’ – Markauskaite, L., & Goodyear, P. (2017). Epistemic fluency and professional education: innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. Dordrecht: Springer.

 

Slides from my invited lecture at ascilite

ascilite title slide

This may not be the final version, but will have most of the references, ideas etc.

goodyear-ascilite-2016-v7-ppt

Analysis and design for complex learning …

Over the last year or so, there has been a good deal of online soul-searching about the field or discipline of educational technology: about its nature, foundations, scope and purpose – including whether and how it can make a difference to policy and practice in higher education, which is ascilite’s home ground. In this talk, I want to focus on the production of educational design knowledge: knowledge that is useful to people who design for other people’s learning. I will use, as an illustrative example, the ACAD framework – an Activity-Centred approach to Analysis and Design – to make some points about the creation of useful design knowledge. In so doing, I hope to (a) draw attention to a family of approaches to research and development that are particularly well-suited to understanding and improving complex learning systems through local action, and (b) explain why analysis and design processes involve epistemic fluency (an ability to work with different kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing). The talk should be of interest to anyone who is concerned about connecting inquiry and action in educational technology.

Epistemic resourcefulness and evaluative judgement

Epistemic games

In October 2016, David Boud and colleagues at Deakin University (Melbourne) held a symposium on evaluative judgement in higher education. I gave a brief presentation connecting some of the ideas that Lina and I have been developing on epistemic games and epistemic resourcefulness to evaluative judgement. We’ve written a chapter for the “book of the symposium” which Routledge should be publishing in 2017. Here’s the abstract for that chapter:

This chapter examines the development of evaluative judgement from the perspective of professional education, with a focus on the abilities needed to deal with problems that are both complex and novel. Professional work regularly entails engaging in knowledgeable action in previously unencountered situations and formulating methods, on the fly, for making judgements about the adequacy of one’s actions. On this view, evaluative judgement is an epistemic (knowledge creating) activity. We show how developing evaluative judgement can be understood as learning to play a range of epistemic games, and how epistemic resourcefulness enables one to frame complex judgements in principled ways.

Understanding the nature and impact of wicked problems and unpredictable futures on employability

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September 2016 – a brief presentation at Joy Higgs’s EPEN seminar (Education, Practice and Employability Network). Videos here.

The Kilpi quote is from

Kilpi, Esko. (2016). Perspectives on new work: exploring emerging conceptualizations. Retrieved from: http://www.sitra.fi/en/julkaisu/2016/perspectives-new-work-1