Learning Community

What’s A Learning Subjective? #Rhizo15

In the first course week of #Rhizo15 Dave asked us to define our learning subjectives, specifically:

  • How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going?
  • How does that free us up?
  • What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?

After reading a the follow-up blog post & the list of #Rhizo15 Week 1 blog posts (Thanks, @Lenandlar) prompted me to respond. Learning is uncertain, and happens at the rarest moment.

As an educator, we get caught up with the standard Learning Objective slant for teaching and learning. Learning objectives (sometimes referred to as intended learning outcomes or course-specific goals) are clear statements to describe the competencies learners should possess upon completion of a course (Simon & Taylor, 2009; Harder, 2002; Kennedy, 2007). An effective learning objective identifies what a student would know and be able to demonstrate along with the depth of learning expected from the curriculum.

With #Rhizo15 the lack of learning objectives provides a lot of freedom to explore ideas, connect to meaning, and identify new ways of knowing. I think a learning subjective is when students are encouraged to make their own learning personal. I felt bad for a delayed blog post on this topic — but then I remembered — being subjective means individualizing and customizing my own way to learn. Subjective learning allows for more preference and flexibility, which provides dynamic ways to engage in uncertain patterns and developments from within a course. Learning objectives provide well-defined outcomes and intentions for learning. The openness of learning subjectives provides opportunities for students to drive the course agenda and direct their interests for topics. For some teachers and students, learning subjectives might place education out of its comfort zone to consider what a curriculum could be if defined by all those involved. I think

For many teachers and students, learning subjectives might place all outside of our educational comfort zones. Consider what your course and curriculum would be like if you showed up to class on the first day and asked everyone in the room to design & be a participant in your course? Bring on the blank stares. I suspect many students would walk out of the room or drop your online class. Not for the ability or empowerment of being part of the learning design process, but more out of the fear of the unknown. I think Tania‘s metaphor explained it best: a jigsaw puzzle. This daunting task of figure out where to put the pieces together for ambiguous learning is complicated and requires a lot of work. Are you ready to commit for this complicated and multi-layered task? Am I? Who knows? But I am willing to give it a try. [If I am overwhelmed by the #rhizo15 learning swarm – I always have Keith to ask. :)]

My learning subjective for #Rhizo15 will be en par with how I prefer to travel, e.g. backpacking across Europe. Travel light. Show up to the airport or train station. Select a random place to go. Identify a few things I might see or do. Be open to new adventures and experiences. Sure. I might get lost or not know the language – but I will figure it out or it will be an experience at least. The not knowing what is ahead is okay. I will find the way with others, as there are a number of locals and travelers I can have a chat with. Only memories (a few photos & blog posts) and connections will follow me home as souvenirs.

me & parliament#TBT from 2006 London – {Note To Self: I need to digitize my earlier travel photogs.}

I am looking forward to bumping into a few #Rhizo15 friends as I travel through this course. My learning pack is ready, and I want to explore. Some of you I will see soon (in person), others online, and then — who knows — I might even travel to a location near YOU soon (get your guest room or couch ready)! For now, I look forward to our learning travels online. Stay in touch!

References:

Harden, R. M. (2002). Learning outcomes and instructional objectives: Is there a difference?. Medical teacher, 24(2), 151-155.

Kennedy, D. (2007). Writing and using learning outcomes: a practical guide. Cork, Ireland: University College Cork.

Simon, B., & Taylor, J. (2009). What is the value of course-specific learning goals. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(2), 52-57.

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G*STEP

Using Verbs for Specific Learning Outcomes

Verb Wheel

Student learning outcomes is a very common term in education. For many of my k-12 colleagues we have used this term from graduate course work, to teaching practicum, and for curriculum planning. The challenge in writing student learning outcomes happens when you have to find actionable items and SPECIFIC methods for learning assessment.

Last week I attended “Writing student learning outcomes and the GSTEP teaching template:  How they inform your teachingfor the G*STEP program presented by Shana Cole & Nancy Fire from CLEAR.

We talked about components of a teaching strategy, which included:

A. Context for your teaching strategy
B. Selecting learning challenges to address with your teaching strategy
C. Objectives for this experience
D. Foundational knowledge necessary for students to participate in teaching strategy
E. Step by step planning
F. Ground rules (if needed for you strategy)
G. Assessment: How do you plan to assess the effectiveness of your learning strategy?
H. Anticipated Challenges: Indicate how you plan to deal with any of these challenges that may apply. Describe.
I. Journal Reflection

The three level model for student learning outcome development, which included the following levels:

  1. Goal
  2. General Learning Outcomes (GLOs)
  3. Specific Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

The last step – Specific Learning Outcomes (SLOs) – is where we focused our attention. Specific learning outcomes are highly measurable and possess detailed requirements. As an instructional designer who is often involved in program evaluation or course design, I appreciated the cross-disciplinary conversations on how to meet various subject matter content issues with the needs of the learner. A helpful resource to keep us on the same page and to guide our SLOs discussion was the Bloom’s Taxonomy verb wheel. This was a practical tool that helped to focus our planning and here were some of the key points I gleaned from the overall workshop:

  • be clear, specific & measurable
  • identify what the students should be able to do as a result of a learning experience
  • display evidence that learning has occurred at a specified competency level
  • focus shifts from what “I will teach” to “what students will learn”
  • define content, expectations, assessments & creates constructive data i.e. data, percentage, and understanding of student learning

For student learning outcomes to work they have to connect to the learning. A great way to assess your expectations of your SLOs is to share these with other educators,  both inside and outside your discipline or subject matter expertise. Student learning outcomes need to be written at a general level to ensure clear communication, and limit subjective language. By using SLOs you are able to modify course objectives, assess curriculum design, and measure how your instruction impacts learners. By creating 3-7 overall goals in your course, you will want to consider at least 3-5 specific learning outcomes to measure each goal. These goals will help address your teaching strategy and how you assess your learner’s progress.

How do your specific learning outcomes (SLOs) fit into your entire course planning and content delivery?