Quality and Quantity, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In today’s post we’ll develop some preliminary answers to an important question I asked on Friday. After describing some of the ways in which I’ve moved away from numeric grades to constructive feedback on certain assignments, I asked:

How do you suppose these qualitative measures could be adapted to the quantitative, number- and data-driven format of an online environment?

In other words, even though computers are so good at numbers, how might we get away from a number focus for assessments in the Tres Columnae Project?

If you’ve looked at the sample assignments in the Instructure Demo Course for Lectiō Prīma, you’ve probably noticed that they’re all set up as “practice quizzes” rather than “graded quizzes.” There are a couple of good reasons for that:

First, if we set them up as “graded quizzes” in the Instructure system, only enrolled students would be able to see them … which certainly makes sense when you stop and think about it. But the whole purpose of the demo course is to demonstrate some of the assessments that our subscribers will be able to use (and create for each other) when Version Beta is available. Since we wanted everyone to be able to see them, the only viable solution was to create “practice quiz” versions.

Once I had made the “practice quizzes,” though, I realized that I liked the idea of a low-stress, low-stakes assessment, especially for newer or more difficult material. You may have seen this New York Times article, which I’ve mentioned a couple of times in previous posts, or you may have even read the underlying study about the positive effects of practice quizzes and practice tests on learning and retention. I’ve noticed with my face-to-face Latin students that they really benefit from low-stress, low-stakes assessments … even if those assessments are just a reconfigured version of an ungraded practice activity I might have used in the past.

Somehow the idea that someone will be looking at the assignments – or, in the case of an online exercise, that you’ll get some form of instantaneous feedback from the assignment itself – helps you, as a learner, focus on what you’re doing. In my own life, I find that I do a better job of lesson planning when I know that someone besides me will actually look at the plans … and I’m certainly more consistent at writing for you lectōrēs fidēlissimī than I’ve ever been when I maintained a private, “just for me” journal. Apparently the idea of an audience is a big help … and of course we’re probably all aware of the research about the positive effects on student writing when there’s an authentic audience, not just an “audience of one” armed with a red pen! 🙂

As you know, one of the driving forces behind the Tres Columnae Project is the idea of providing a “real” audience for our learners’ Latin writings, illustrations, audio clips, video clips, and other creative efforts. I just heard from the teacher at one of our piloting schools; her students are very excited at the idea of creating additional characters (more animals, for example, and grandparents for familia Valeria), and I’m eager to see what they develop. They’ve truly taken Ownership of the stories and characters, just as I hoped they would! She also mentions that they love to take and retake the practice quizzes until they have perfect scores … then proudly share their perfect scores with her. I wonder if they’d be equally engaged if they had to take “real” quizzes and have a “permanently” recorded score?

So one way to make a quantitative, computer-based learning system more qualitative is to de-emphasize the importance and permanence of the numbers, and another is to to emphasize the virtual community over the individual numbers. But what else can we do to encourage our learners, especially the ones who may struggle with reading, or with grammatical concepts, or (as one of my favorite former students used to say) “with everything – but I love Latin anyway?”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

This is a difficult and extremely full week in my face-to-face world … a lengthy faculty meeting tonight followed by an evening function; a possible rushed trip out of town Tuesday afternoon for dealer service on one of the family cars; my daughter’s track meet Wednesday; Parent-Teacher Conferences at school on Thursday; and the wedding of dear friends Friday evening. And of course I’m also busy with “normal” face-to-face teaching responsibilities, as well as with the beginning of that online professional-development class I teach. I hope to maintain a somewhat normal schedule of posts, but I hope you’ll forgive me if they’re a bit short … or a bit infrequent, for that matter! Next time, if all goes well, we’ll continue to look at ways to encourage more qualitative learning in a quantitative online environment. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on October 4, 2010 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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