Tuesday, 7 October 2014

MOOC: What Future for Education? Unit 2 Reflection

The second unit reflection for the Coursera MOOC What Future for Education? To follow the thread, click on - or search for - the label FutEd.

During your own education, how has your "intelligence" been assessed?
Through formal examinations, including oral exams for foreign language. I also sat the '11 Plus' exam in Northern Ireland back in the 80s, meaning I had access to grammar - rather than 'high' - school. Then I sat the national exams, GCSEs followed by A-Levels for entrance to university. At university, coursework was introduced as an additional assessment method and that pattern has pretty much continued until today. The exceptions are when I undertook teacher training: that put me through my paces! Not only was my written work (planning and reflection) under scrutiny, but also my 'performance' in the classroom was under close scrutiny. Apart from the actual critique of my teaching in the classroom, I had what every teacher has; the outcomes achieved (or not) by my students and this was the greatest measure of my success, beyond grades, praise or criticism.
With regards to the 'traditional' mode of testing, I saw a rather curious post on the Coursera forum where one teacher said she herself suffered terrible exam anxiety and therefore allowed her students to take notes in to their exams. I imagine the reason for sticking with the exam format to test learning was an institutional requirement, but there are many alternative ways of assessing, especially with - but not necessarily because of - the availability of technology.

How has this affected the educational opportunities you have been given? 
I do not find traditional 'cram-and-regurgitate' tests particularly difficult and so have had the advantage of having had lots of opportunities such as further and higher education. Although I realise how fortunate I have been in this, I also see the injustice of denying others the same opportunities. I know many a mature student who had a better study ethic than I at university and beyond, because they had real-life experience of the benefits and disadvantages a solid, or lack of, education entails.

What judgments have people made about you that have been affected by an assessment of your "intelligence"?
People have judged that because I am a teacher I must have a high level of intelligence. In truth, I was just lucky to find a system that I could manipulate up to a certain point with last minute cramming.
Having additional qualifications beyond my undergraduate degree as lead employers to believe I am a competent applicant for their positions, even when the position has nothing to do with my formal education e.g. working in a nursing home or a health food shop.
Our culture is set up to count achievements in education as proof of performance, even though they are usually divorced due to the essential features of each.

Do you consider yourself to be a "learner"? why?
I am a learning addict - absolutely! I did not enjoy school that much in terms of learning as much of it seemed irrelevant (although I loved the social aspect), but now I have the opportunity to shape my own learning, I love it. A great video I found illustrating this desire to take responsibility for one's own learning is from Born to Learn and was highlighted by Hamish Clark on the Coursera forum.

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