Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ten years after - Dialogic Learning Objects/Embedded Assessment

I still design interactive homework in Excel and have already produced a couple this semester.  This tutorial, which should be accessible to anyone with a recent copy of Excel, whether they know how to use it or not, is training not on Excel per se, but rather on how to do my homework in a way so as not to get stuck on silly matters.  (Getting stuck on the economics is not silly.  That's how one learns.  Getting stuck on the technology is silly.)  It also provides some rationale for why it is good to have homework of this sort.  (If you plug in something in the NetID field and chose an alias from the pull down menu, and then proceed to answer all the questions in the tutorial correctly, you will get a Key for submitting online.  Please don't do that as the online submission of the key is meant only for students in the class.)

This next exercise on efficiency, which I made a couple of years ago, begins to look like real homework done this way.  It is review of what students should have learned in Intermediate microeconomics, though it turns out that the second worksheet is actually new content for a significant chunk of the class. 

And this last one on a strategic view of the Efficiency Principle (which says that parties in a bargain tend to arrive at efficient outcomes for the parties involved) I just finished writing yesterday.  If you go through it you will note that there is quite a bit of discourse in it.  The assessment that is within is in response to that discourse.  It measures understanding of that.  It is not assessment to test understanding of things presented elsewhere, where the student was expected to read that content first.

The idea that students learn new stuff while they do homework seems natural to me, but it is alien to much practice, which views homework as drill on content previously developed elsewhere.  My sense is that this is a the predominant view.  But it archaic and really should be replaced by something better.  If the students are learning, they are motivated.  If they are not learning but are made to go through hoops like circus animals do, that may satisfy somebody else in terms of providing evidence that the student has learned, but it does nothing whatsoever to light a fire under the student. 

This view, of new content mixed with assessment in a kind of back and forth, I called Dialogic Learning Objects 10 years ago. Others have referred to a similar idea, using the expression Embedded Assessment.  The assessment is embedded in the presentation. Yet whatever you call it most disciplines have not moved perceptibly in this direction.

It is my contention that the Publishers are primary force for stasis and that is because they make their money by selling textbooks, which are primarily presentation only - assessment done elsewhere as an add on.  Textbooks typically do have end of chapter problems and middle of chapter demonstrations that might be like the end of chapter problems.  But for giving student credit, they tend to rely on still something else.

A few years back, perhaps it's now more than a decade, it became obvious that many students were not reading the textbooks, which suggests there should be less reliance on the textbook as part of the model for learning.  But it is still the way the publishers make their money.

It is my view therefore, that in this case sunk costs matter! (Contrary to the preaching of my discipline.)  Prior authored textbooks crowd out not yet authored dialogic learning objects, which are harder to produce and which name authors probably would be too impatient to develop.

Somebody should be asking - what can break this logjam?  That's the reason for this post.

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