Accessibility is about provide equal access to online experiences regardless of ability. Like universal design in buildings where wheel chair ramps are also great for people with prams or temporary disabilities using crutches, thinking about making content accessible to the most people possible opens a lot of doors.
LLN (Language, Literacy and Numeracy) pre-testing allows educators to look at students’ scores across 5 Core skills – Learning, Reading Writing, Oral Communications and Numeracy – and compare those to the level at which the formal qualification is written or they’ve decided their non-qualification course needed to be written. Educators can then identify any gaps between the students’ core skills and those required to succeed in the course. From there, if the qualification is formal, the educator can recommend or provide interventions to help the student skill up. If the course was written in response to a training need at an organisation or for a target group of people and the majority of the learners fall short of the LLN requirements, the training needs to be reviewed and adjusted.
Flipped classrooms (and apologies to friends who dislike this term), are about getting students to prepare before they come to class, then spending class time on great interactive learning and identifying and intervening in any comprehension gaps that come to the fore. “Yeah right! Learners are really gonna prepare before they come to class!” a lot of educators are wont to say. Yet we expect them to be able to complete homework in their spare time or prepare for assessments, why not tell them the class is part of their assessment and they need to prepare for it?
Personalised learning – or differentiation – is a concept I’ve heard of but kept relating back to what they did in my school days. They tested us early and filtered us into groups where we knew what they thought of us early on. Level 1 people knew we were going to uni. Level 2 people were probably going to go into vocational training. Level 3 people were probably going straight into work or marriage or both. Looking back, I can see what a horrible class system it set up. I remember asking my maths teacher to be moved to level 2 maths as I struggled with spatial concepts and word problems about bloody trains. He told me I wasn’t trying hard enough and that I tested well. Guess what? I STILL hate most maths.
However, an article from the December 2013 edition of Educational Leadership really made the practice of differentiation come into focus for me. A short, targeted pre-assessment is given at the start of a lesson, then students are assigned to one of three different activity groups based on their answers. No levels or stigmas –just groups. And the kids who showed the least comprehension are set the task of creating flash cards to share with the rest of the class for reinforcement for others. Learning through preparing to teach: something I do quite a lot.
In the Moodle, course creators can create groups and provide access to content based on group membership. In face to face classes, group work is part of the norm. Would pre-assessment and then differentiation it really be that hard to do for blended learning? Could we make a skilling up intervention mandatory for certain groups within the course? Or should skilling up be something apart?
Finally, from what I understand of adult learning, the perception of self-efficacy is key to success. In other words, if you think you can’t, you can’t.
So should educators ask this final question on any pre-assessment: How confident are you that you understand this material? This would allow any learner who scored well but wasn’t confident to learn at the level at which they were most comfortable, with guidance from the educator’s pre-assessment.
Image: Taylor’s lavalamp at work CC by nc sa Brederous on Flickr