Can I walk the walk? Project-based design challenge in EDP4130

With interruptions it has taken longer than I’d hoped to revise the assessment package for the 2015 offer of EDP4130 Technologies Curriculum and Pedagogy. I do now have what I think is a complete draft sitting on my own site for testing and review. I still need to think about how to integrate that into the LMS and tie in other material that might be needed but I think the major work is done.

While I’ve been thinking about the course and working on the details of the assessment enrolments have crept up from 130 when I began the year to 154 (23, 15 & 30 on the campuses and 85 online). That should not affect the way the course is taught or assessed but will increase the volume of work to be managed.

I began the assignment design with the intent of preserving (and enhancing where possible) the focus on collaboration and sharing of resources that have been a feature of the course in the past while moving toward a project-based learning approach that would use methods we recommend to students for teaching technologies. That resulted in the outline I described previously. This post describes some of the work toward the more detailed description for students.

Students (and colleagues) seem to like the idea of rubrics for describing what we expect from students. In the past I think I have probably described a task and anticipated outputs and then developed a rubric. In this case I worked in the other direction. For the first (proposal) task and the major assignment I began by building the grid for a rubric. Because we tend to work with marks it is desirable for rubrics to have standards (columns) with mark values that, when multiplied by the number of criteria (rows), produce a value that matches the maximum marks available.

In revising the WebQuest I had constructed a rubric with 5 columns (Inadequate = 0 to Exemplary = 4) and 5 rows to make 20 marks. The first task also has 20 marks allocated so the same structure, with different criteria, would work. The assignment had been weighted at 45 marks so it made sense to adjust that to 44 marks and use 11 rows. As for the WebQuest report, allocating one criterion row fro ‘professional presentation’ made sense for both, leaving 4 and 10 rows to be filled.

To ensure that students would engage with both subjects from the Australian Curriculum: Technologies, Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies, I decided to require them to develop 2 resources, one for each. Thus description of two resources accounted for 2 rows in the rubric. The others became a development plan and a rationale for their choices and proposed design. Those choices acknowledged the importance of project management and design thinking as key ideas from the curriculum.

For the final project each of the resources warranted 2 rows (4 in all), for content and format/design. I added 2 more rows for the two peer reviews each student would be required to complete. For the report I then specified 4 more rows for explanations of design decisions about each of their resources and reflection on their own learning and on the effects of engagement with colleagues. With the final row for professional presentation that made the necessary 11 and gave reasonable coverage to key ideas such as design and professional learning.

Actual development of the rubric statements began with the middle column (Meets requirement = 2) on the basis that I should first describe an acceptable performance on each criterion. A student who could manage that ought to make a passing mark at 50%. That required some time and effort to arrive at descriptors that both captured essential features of an acceptable performance, offered scope for variation up and down, and were reasonably simple. Once those were in place I tackled the top level (Exemplary = 4) working back across the levels as needed to achieve an appropriate gradation and between the two tasks to ensure consistency between proposal and final product. The intermediate level followed and finally I moved to the less than acceptable levels which were characterised mostly by something required for acceptability being missed.

With the rubrics in place describing acceptable outcomes I turned to the specification of the task. I decided to present the project as a design brief using the context-challenge-parameters-evaluation format that is presented in the course. Context was a simple statement about the need that teachers have for resources and the potential of collaboration for sharing the load. The challenge was to develop the resources. Evaluation was already specified in the rubrics. Parameters were more challenging. My first attempt described the process of getting to the endpoint rather than the endpoint itself. That eventually found its way, with some adjustment, into a project support page as an outline of the assignment process but did give me some ideas for a second attempt at parameters that resulted in some short statements about the proposal, resources and report.

The support page was subsequently expanded to offer samples of work done by previous cohorts of students in the course, suggestions for other alternative formats, and ideas about sharing work with colleagues. The latter is supported by material about PLNs based on what I’ve used for that in previous years.

At this point I have an assessment package that I think makes sense and should be workable but time will tell what students make of that. It does offer students more flexibility than in previous years while promising to be simpler for markers to deal with. There are still some administrative details, including finding or building a mechanism to manage peer reviews, to be dealt with but I’m prepared to bet on being able to make that work somehow. On to the next tasks.