Learning, Reflections, Rhizo15, Teaching

Measure This, #Rhizo15!

If you are teaching a course or conducting a training, those providing and taking ALWAYS want to know how you will measure success, learning, and performance. ALWAYS. What’s the bottom line? What’s the ROI? What’s the learning outcome? How will we know our learners have learned or our training participants “get it”? GRADES. SCORES. NUMBERS. STATISTICS.

This week Dave reminds #Rhizo15: “Learning is a not a counting noun.”

I am tardy in this post for a number of reasons (#et4online and #Fiachra40Fest, I’m looking at you). Without even knowing it, we actually had a late night discussion post-fire pit sing-song at the #et4online conference. {How did you get in our heads, Dave? Well done, sir.} Let me share a bit of that post-ukulele, harmonizing chat for you here.


If you think about it, our learners are programmed to believe a grade informs their knowledge but is this actually the case? Grades evaluate an outcome; however it might not really mean learning. Do you know if your learners make meaning, identify value, or apply their knowledge beyond the assignment or specific course requirement? Grades have been there to offer benchmarks, set standards of evaluation, and help instructors measure FOREVER.

“You actually believe in grades?” asked Pete (a.k.a. @allistelling)

Great question. I thought about it. My response: Not really. As a faculty member, I have to provide an outcome or a grade for my students – but that is the university requirement and standard for our department. Our academic institutions require a numbered measurement to move forward in degree programs; however it is really the process of development, fine-tuning, and involvement where I see my students “learn” the most. For our students, a number is easy. It places them in a particular level or understanding of “how am I doing in the course?” Often they look at their learning in comparison to one another, and to figure out if they are “measuring” up to the learning standards. We could do better to “show you know” in other ways beyond a numbered evaluation. Really.

I am thinking more about the grades or non-grades in a couple of my courses. Two of my online courses are very much project/portfolio based, where the final product is built throughout the whole semester. My presentation class #LTEC4121 has a “TED” talk and short demonstration video, and my instructional design/facilitation #LTEC4440 class is building a 5-week online training proposal. Both of these assignments are very applied and relevant for my students; however a number of my learners are being pushed outside the comfort zone for their projects. Although most of the course evaluation (the numbers) are weighted towards the final projects, a few students will leave this course or give up based on early grade assignments. They are concerned about their GPA in this course, their cumulative GPA, etc. Those who stick past the first few weeks actually stop asking me about the numbers. Which is great! They want to know more about shooting film and editing, or considerations for putting media into their training course program. At the end of the course, I am impressed by their projects and final videos they deliver, here are a few examples of technical demonstration created last Fall 2014 :

In our fireside conversation, we talked about the value of developing artifacts, engaging in the peer-review process, how collaborative input matters, and working through revisions leads to understanding. With grades or marks (I’ll be inclusive to my Canadian & US colleagues), educators (myself included) often forget to model learning as a process. Learning should be developmental. As instructors, we need to remember to have our learners build upon previous knowledge and apply their learning beyond our course. There should be an opportunity for our learners to take risks, make mistakes, and pick up the pieces for the course and beyond. Making learning as not a number is not easy – for both the instructor and the students. There will be confusion and possibly frustration; however you have to be willing to work through the learning process with your students. I am thinking of just grading early items as complete or not, and providing feedback for their final projects. I am also considering what really needs to be accounted for in a letter or percentage grade, with regards to their final project developments. Finally, I do want to give credit for my students who have collaborated and learned on a local level. I have witnessed a number of connections thrive beyond a semester or course, as they support one another in work, life, and then some. Perhaps it is time to get rid of a few numbers to meaure what matters for learning for my next term… it would help with all the grading that I am now going to work on now.

p.s. If you are into learning about learning, it’s not too late to join the #Rhizo15 conversation… better late than never.

8 thoughts on “Measure This, #Rhizo15!”

  1. Oh, I really wish I had been at that conference: I keep hearing so many good things from so many people. Re: the post itself, SUCH AN IMPORTANT TOPIC. I obsess about learning outcomes (esp. student productions) but I loathe grades. They are a total obstacle to real learning, IMO. The system I use tries to get away from that as much as possible. I don’t grade anything; students record their work completed using checklists (not rubrics, just simple checklists)… it works for me, although it still allows my students to go on thinking that the grade matters, which is really a shame, because the LEARNING should be what matters, not the grade. Anyway, you might find something of use here; it’s worked for me for over 10 years and I am very glad to say that I have not “graded” anything in all that time. All I do is give feedback! No numbers. Actual WORDS. And lots of them! 🙂
    Anatomy of an Online Course: Grading


    1. #et4online would have liked you there – maybe join in the fun next year at the OLC Innovate 2016 conference? I’m collecting ideas & friends to develop a good one: http://goo.gl/g6ytPl

      Anatomy of an Online Course: Grading IS BRILLIANT!! I wish I had this at the beginning of THIS semester – thanks for sharing your online course grading scheme. I am totally borrowing some ideas for this starting NOW (or summer semester). Thanks for your thoughts, Laura. Back to ALL THE GRADING I go. 😦


      1. Being grade-free is especially nice at the end of the semester! 🙂

        I’m not much of a conference goer, but I’m going to DML this summer, so I’m excited about that! Luckily, though, life online is a perpetual conference, with no hotels required ha ha.

        But lacking in actual ukuleles.


  2. Sigh. You’re living the instructor dream. 🙂 I just got a message from Mimi about DML… maybe I will see you there? Perhaps, I’ll bring the ukulele?


      1. See what happens when a you put a few chairs around a fire pit & harmonize? Great to connect with Adam – and we shall talk soon. As I told Pete – this conversation is not over – nor will it be. I am looking forward to digging in more and experimenting with measurement or non-grading for learning int he coming courses I teach.


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