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Studio Teaching in Higher Education - Selected Design Cases
Date Reviewed: September 18, 2017
A conservatory of music in my hometown annually brings to campus a famous singer who leads a master class for its voice students. This is a ticketed event open to the public and regularly draws a large audience. It’s simply fascinating to watch the singer teach. One by one, students come on stage, they perform pieces they have practiced for the occasion, and she offers her critique. Occasionally she offers a mini-lecture on some aspect of singing but mostly she makes students work certain sections of their pieces over and over, all the while offering correction, advice, and support. The audience hears how their music – which sounded pretty good, to begin with – improves with her coaching.
While a master class is not the same thing as a studio, the two pedagogies share certain features. In my experience, teachers of religion and theology rarely make use of studio pedagogies; this book made me realize that we should.
Studio pedagogy is typically defined by the following elements: lengthy design sessions conducted in large spaces where materials are readily available and works-in-progress can be publicly and permanently displayed. Instructors roam the space, stopping at individual desks to offer feedback that gets intentionally overheard by nearby students. Lectures and discussions are rare; studio pedagogy relies instead on coaching, modeling, correcting, responding, affirming or questioning choices, and occasionally offering on-demand content instruction. It combines authentic learning theory, constructivism, socialization into a profession, and the theories behind flipped classrooms and communities of practice. It shares features of other student-centered pedagogical approaches such as problem-based learning and service learning, although it focuses more on the process of students taking iterative steps toward a final, deliverable product of their own choice and making.
This book is an edited volume presenting fifteen narratives by design instructors describing the studio courses they teach in fields like architecture, interior design, and instructional design. Contributors describe the joys, challenges, concerns, and vulnerabilities they have experienced through this sort of teaching. Overhearing their honest confessions and reactions is one pleasure of reading this book, and it gives the reader a taste of what being in a studio is like. This volume is also designed like a studio in that its editors explicitly eschew analysis and summary, preferring instead to “curate” the narratives and let readers draw their own conclusions.
Indeed, religion and theology teachers might have to work hard to relate this book to their contexts. It will be most directly applicable to those in field education and those teaching certain kinds of performance or design – preaching, worship, ritual, or religious architecture. Yet its implications are valuable to all who are intrigued by non-native pedagogies. As I read, I kept asking myself, “Why do we keep our critique of student work private?” As one contributor points out, it is often when budding academics begin to share our work publicly that we take it more seriously, find it more gratifying, and believe it has value. Why shouldn’t our students experience the same?
Empowering Learners With Mobile Open-Access Learning Initiatives
Date Reviewed: August 11, 2017
Empowering Learners with Mobile Open-Access Learning Initiatives is a well-designed book giving an overview and awareness to mobile activities as they can be provided in an educational setting. The anthology was compiled by Michael Mills and Donna Wake, both from the University of Central Arkansas. Most of the studies are North American, but there is ample diversity of circumstances in the populations studied and techniques showcased. The book is separated into four parts: practice, curriculum, assessment, and theory.
This book will likely become a historic piece of educational observation on today’s environment, but just as importantly, it is future-looking. So how is the future looking? The authors are clearly optimistic about the future of higher education. The evidence shows the effectiveness of mobile technologies to provide a more equal and motivated voice in society.
Considering the Wabash Center for Teaching in Learning in Theology and Religion’s audience, this book would be most effective for those in curriculum development and assessment. It is easy to read, but scientifically formatted. Each chapter constitutes a separate study contributing to the overall discussion, and new vocabulary is introduced and defined at the conclusion of each chapter. The publisher, IGI Global, is an established publisher of Information Science and this text could be useful even as a textbook for courses in Information Science and Technology.
The book could have been enhanced through a greater diversity of authorship and a wider distribution of geographical locations. Mobile technology is world-reaching, but much of this book’s arguments were grounded in a Western cultural understanding of the world. It would have been helpful for that to have been disclosed in the preface as a both a limitation of this volume and a signal for further study about student learning in online open-access models of education. There was some effort by the authors to attend to issues related to physical and learning disabilities and learning needs of underprivileged communities. However, the only examples the authors provide outside of the United States were Kenya and Portugal.
The real value of the book is its comprehensive structure of presentation and approach to mobile technology as a discipline. It does not make light of the common lay person’s experience with mobile technology. Rather, there is a sense of power behind today’s and the future’s possibilities for reducing social barriers in education. Empowering Learners with Mobile Open-Access Learning Initiatives would be an excellent contribution to a higher education library, and that is said without hesitancy even when the examples of technology in the book could be somewhat fleeting given the rapid changes in technology and online learning.
Demystifying Outcomes Assessment for International Educators: A Practical Approach
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Few words strike fear in the hearts of post-secondary teachers more than “assessment.” Most faculty in undergraduate and graduate-level education are better-versed in their own specializations than they are in the more administrative aspects of their schools. Assessment often feels like one of those top-down assignments that faculty must add to their workload in order to get ready for the next accreditation visit.
Darla K. Deardorff provides relief from this fear by removing the mystery from the process of assessment. She places it within the healthy context of enabling teachers to see if their work is actually accomplishing what they intend for it to accomplish, and, on a broader scale, if the overall mission of the institution is being achieved. Deardorff takes time to define all of the technical terms so that even those who feel like novices in this domain understand the issues, making it an easy read. The second half of the book is comprised entirely of appendices, full of succinct guidelines on how to create and implement an assessment plan along with examples of tools and processes used at various schools.
The book begins in an engaging manner by using several myths regarding assessment as a foil to make a case for the importance of doing assessment well. The second chapter then looks at thirty frequently asked questions about assessment. Once the reader finishes the first two chapters, he or she is prepared to find out more about the distinctive aspects of international education and learn what goes into creating an effective assessment program – from start, through implementation, and finally to evaluation and revision.
Most of this book would serve as a practical guide for anyone involved in educational assessment, but Deardorff relates the book most specifically to those engaged in international education, by which she means “efforts that address the integration of international, intercultural, or global dimensions into education” (29). This includes schools with study abroad programs, those with a strong international student or faculty presence on campus, or even those that are actively engaged in preparing students to work in other cultures or simply be better global citizens. This adds a level of complexity to the assessment process that traditional models of assessment have not addressed.
While many books on assessment are geared more toward institutional assessment in comparison with other institutions or benchmarks, Deardorff is focused on student learning outcomes and how one knows whether or not they are being achieved. Special attention is given to whether or not methods of measuring these outcomes are both valid and accurate. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this kind of assessment, but the processes outlined in the book should help any institution create an assessment plan that is both feasible and useful. While it is vital that faculty be heavily involved in this process, a good assessment plan will involve multiple stakeholders, will be integrated into the ongoing program of the school, will make use of both indirect and direct methods of feedback, and will make use of well-planned rubrics.
The Wiley Handbook of Cognition and Assessment: Frameworks, Methodologies, and Applications
Date Reviewed: June 23, 2017
This is a book for assessment professionals; it is the rare teacher in higher education who would be able or willing to get this deep into the weeds of higher education assessment design and deployment. Many of the fifty-two authors contributing to this volume are affiliated with the Educational Testing Service and most seem to be practitioners of assessment for corporations or academic institutions. As the foreword clearly states, the authors are a mix of psychometricians and cognitive psychologists “bringing measurement science into real-world practice” (xx). The book is geared to a multidisciplinary audience, including “educational measurement researchers,” “assessment development practitioners,” and graduate students interested in the measurement of cognition. It is not suitable for classroom teachers interested in exploring course or program assessment.
The greatest value of this volume for the average faculty member at any type of institution will be to provide a lens through which to view the many requests from higher administration to comply with particular types of assessment practices. The first part of the book, which comprises ten chapters, covers frameworks for assessment, and several of the earlier articles in this section are general enough to provide useful insight into assessment protocols. Most of the other two sections, focusing on Methodologies (six chapters) and Applications (seven chapters), are so detailed and technical as to be inaccessible to non-professionals in the field of assessment. A few articles stand apart from this: “Assessing and Supporting Hard-to-Measure Constructs in Video Games” by Valerie Shute and Lubin Wang, and “Conversation-Based Assessment” by G. Tanner Jackson and Diego Zapata-Rivera – both provide interesting alternative visions for approaching assessment and offer promising departures from the typical standardized written assessment.
This volume is full of cutting-edge research on cognition and assessment couched in language inaccessible to those outside the field. The brief “Final Words” section contains a plea that classroom faculty should note: “in order for the work in this Handbook to have the best chance of finding its way into practice, we need to be ambassadors of this research while understanding that it will require time, patience, and functional prototypes to persuade clients and users to believe the scientific and social evidence” (586). This is not the entry-level volume that will allow faculty to help as ambassadors of this sort. This anthology will be of interest primarily to those whose professional focus for research or practice is cognition and assessment in education.
Innovative Practices for Higher Education Assessment and Measurement
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Editors Cano and Ion offer a group of international voices in their contribution to the Advances in Higher Education and Professional Development Book Series (series editor, Jared Keengwe), with this volume focusing on innovative practices in assessment. The book’s organization structure involves general contents followed by a detailed table of contents with full abstracts for each chapter, then a thorough summary of each of the twenty authors’ works in the preface before turning to relevant chapters. Such a format facilitates pinpointing the reader’s interest in particular methodologies for assessment, measurement, and data-gathering. The volume itself is divided into three main sections: (I) Theoretical Approaches on Students’ Assessment, (II) Research-Based Evidences on Assessment, and (III) Innovative Practices in Students’ Assessment.
The editors claim that the purpose of their book is to attend to an international level of assessment innovation with a triple perspective (theoretical, practical, and research-based), that integrates theory and practice to enrich the field of assessment (xvii). Authors have created scenario-specific assessment innovations and practices in each of their chapters so readers have a variety of choices from which to draw ideas.
Section I focuses on engaging students in self-, peer-, and professor-based assessment loops. Self-regulated learning that is based on assessment, both in face-to-face and online environments, is addressed in the chapters one through three, and six. Competency-based assessment, where student competencies are measured against standards of performance, is illustrated in chapter four. “Brain-Based Learning” discusses the neuroscience of feedback and application to contexts in chapter five. “Comparative Judgement” is introduced in chapter seven as an alternative assessment domain to counter standardized tasks and test scoring.
Section II moves to research about assessment versus testing cultures, beginning in chapter eight with meaning-oriented learning rather than recall and recognition learning. Research in this chapter shows that students will make the effort to succeed when asked to do more complex thinking than is required for standardized testing. Feeding back and feeding forward are discussed as case studies and analyses in chapters nine and ten. Self-direction and student participation are also analyzed in case studies in chapters eleven and twelve, followed by online assessment projects conducted in Portugal and Spain in the remaining two chapters of this section.
Section III names innovative practices in student assessment. The remaining chapters in the book (fifteen through twenty) attend to pedagogical approaches to incorporate assessment into the learning endeavor. The chapters include case studies and strategies. Practical applications including project-based learning and formative assessment are outlined by each set of authors.
The book is a reference resource, best used by browsing topics and making choices about which innovative approaches to assessment best fit one’s own context. There is some overlap in authors’ experiences, reinforcing the validity of the international research and pedagogical approaches. This resource, filled with illustrations, should be available in libraries for institutions of higher education that are working on self-study and self-assessment. There is much here to aid teachers in honing their attention to assessment excellence as part of the pedagogical task.