(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me


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#rhizo14 Sustenance for a Compulsive Writer with Impostor Syndrome

I’ve been wanting to write about my compulsive writing (I know, compulsive, right?) and impostor syndrome (the latter mentioned on facebook recently) and then Sandra commented on Sarah’s MOOCaholic blog post saying she was “sustained by the people” she met here… and I was just… oh my God. That is such a good word to describe how I feel… how I’ve been feeling…

(Funny enough, I just gave a workshop today on authentic and sustainable assessment, but that’s a different issue)

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But back to the original blogpost that was going to be written before I read Sandra’s comment (her comment inspired it to GET written; beforehand it was written in my head, as David Wheeler has said)

Let me start by being totally honest. I don’t have “impostor syndrome” in the sense explained here

The author and impostor-syndrome expert Valerie Young says the condition “refers to people who have a persistent belief in their lack of intelligence, skills, or competence.” She continues: “They are convinced that other people’s praise and recognition of their accomplishments is undeserved, chalking up their achievements to chance, charm, connections, and other external factors.”

I mean, I am a pretty confident person. It’s not an act, or anything. But I think there are some factors that make me feel like… I appear to be more than I really am, or something? For example, doing a PhD remotely meant I did not “get” all the experience as other people did (though I tried to approximate it). I did not get the experience of interacting with other students, more academics beyond my supervisor. I was lucky to be working at a university but there was no school of Education for most of the time I was working on my thesis. Of course, doing a PhD just helps you realize how little you know – it is a case of the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know and I had complete writer’s block until I finally wrote my conclusion chapter where I critique everything in my thesis and say how I would have done it differently, what I would do in future, etc. THEN I could go back and edit my thesis. Whew.

And since I finished my thesis, I’ve lost my writer’s block. I just re-blogged a piece on writer’s block but really I have had writer’s diarrhea or whatever since I submitted my thesis. It started out innocently enough as I was trying to write some peer-reviewed pieces to keep my mind and writing muscle alive, waiting for my supervisor to give me feedback on my almost-final-dissertation… and while doing them I read a lot of blogs and chronicle articles (because one of the articles was about MOOCs and there was not much peer-reviewed stuff on that) – and I felt like I had opinions and things to say that were not scholarly but worth being said… first piece sent to the Chronicle got rejected… but after that, my writing got accepted in other places (the chronicle continue to reject my stuff for some reason, but it does well elsewhere). Anyway… at some point I felt that I’ve got sooooo much writing inside me that I don’t think any online magazine or journal have the time for (no matter how much they like me or how kind they are – it’s not a newspaper column). So I started the blog, and I did so for myself. It was OK if no one ever read it, but that’s not been the case. It’s not entirely coincidental that I started my blog in December and joined rhizo14 in January. I met Dave through my blog, actually! I was writing a post about rhizomatic learning after having just heard of the term, and I tweeted to tell him something, and then (because he’s such a nice guy) we had an extended twitter exchange where I asked if he’s teaching any MOOCs anytime soon and he said “well, since you ask…” and that’s how I joined rhizo14! And my blogging has helped me a lot in terms of learning and interacting in rhizo14 (I was not blogging while in edcmooc and I now regret that).

But anyway… I still feel like I write too much. I don’t always post my new blogs on rhizo14 facebook (not immediately anyway), and it’s amazing because there was one post I did not put on facebook that Clarissa did on my behalf and it got SO popular. I write some things and think they might not interest people so I don’t overly publicize them (as opposed to the latest Hybrid Pedagogy piece which I’ve been spamming ppl with hehe). I do still feel like I’m imposing, even though people could always ignore me and not read stuff, right?

For example, the recent article Shyam and I published on Hybrid Pedagogy. I think it’s a great article with great ideas, I think we’re onto something big here. I think it was written in the most collaborative way and worked out so beautifully… and then when it came out and the Hybird Pedagogy people used quotes from it as they promoted it on social media, I told Sean Michael Morris how great they were at finding good quotes and he replied:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-partner=”tweetdeck”><p>Bonds of Difference: Illusions of Inclusion <a href=”https://twitter.com/Bali_Maha”>@bali_maha</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/sharmashyam”>@sharmashyam</a&gt; <a href=”http://t.co/ACcXZjiOby”>http://t.co/ACcXZjiOby</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/HybridPed”>@hybridped</a></p>&mdash; Sean Michael Morris (@slamteacher) <a href=”https://twitter.com/slamteacher/statuses/452093600508039169″>April 4, 2014</a></blockquote>

See, I read that, and I think, how can one of my favorite writers ever (Sean) who is a writing teacher say that about my writing? My next thought was, well, I’ll write all my new articles co-authored with Shyam since he’s a great writer so it must be helping raise my level 🙂

Uhhh, yeah. Me, who blogs like almost every day, and gets something published on Al-Fanar around every month, and somehow sees almost every interesting idea we discuss on #rhizo14 facebook as an opportunity to publish 😉

So I’m not really sure how to reconcile my “impostor syndrome” thing with my “compulsive writer” thing – and for some reason, I’m always now compelled to write for a public audience. Email? Why confine ideas to a few people I know? Why not open it up for the world, including people I do not know, and meet new people (love it when someone I don’t know tweets, comments, reads, likes my stuff) – but also love it when someone I do know (like Clarissa, Simon and Scott just did) comment on my peer-reviewed work or whatever is published outside my blog.

I’m always feeling like maybe I shouldn’t be sending so many articles to Al-Fanar or Hybrid Pedagogy or all those nice people who seem to like my writing. I was just talking to my boss today and she asked when I was going to get around to writing an article for our department’s newsletter and I laughed. I was like “you can use any of them” – because actually, sometimes I want to write something and it is not yet “time” for our bi-weekly newsletter, or someone else is writing it that week, so I can’t wait. I just blog it. One such post eventually caught the attention of Al-Fanar so has already been re-posted and I don’t think it can tolerate a third re-post… or can it? 🙂

Well, I’m a writeaholic and so I could just write a new one, can’t I?

P.S. while writing this blogpost I was chatting with Clarissa and I told her something I wanted to share with rhizo14: I love how we bring our parenting into the course. I hate how academics or professionals in general can be discouraged from doing that (though I have to say it is not the case in my workplace). But it’s such an important part of my identity and I am glad we all “bring it” with us openly.

[apologies for abrupt ending to post, but Clarissa has told me about interesting thread on fb that I must read before I sleep and it’s midnight already! Why publish it incoherent? Because I’m sure I’ll have a totally new thing to say tomorrow anyway… inshallah]

 

UPDATE: I read through the facebook thread and one of the articles posted by Ronald on that thread  brought on an interesting idea relevant to this post!!! That in Brookfield’s research, he found that people starting to become liberated and empowered through critical pedagogy (not the parts in bold I emphasized):

in the course of his phenomenographic study, it emerged that they also experienced powerful feelings of alienation both within their learning community and outside it. Brookfield identified five themes that exemplify what he terms the ‘dark side’ of critical reflection: impostorship (feeling unworthy to participate in critical
thinking), roadrunning (incremental struggles with new modes of thought), community (support for those
engaged in the critical process); and also ‘cultural suicide’ and a sense of ‘lost innocence’ resulting from
the multiplicity of new ideas that replaces old certainties, and the resulting sense of isolation and
exclusion within existing communities whose value systems remain untroubled by critical thought.

More on all that later, then!


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Authentic & Sustainable Assessment: openly brainstorming workshop ideas

I’ll be co-facilitating a workshop with a colleague on “alternative assessment” and I have chosen to make my part of it about authentic and sustainable assessment. I plan to ask participants to brainstorm ways to modify their current assessments to make them more authentic/sustainable. (My colleague will then discuss pedagogical strategies for implementing these abstract ideas that I will discuss).

Thought I’d write this post to share my thoughts so far and see if anyone out here has good examples they’ve done in their courses that I could share. Also any ideas you have for making the workshop activities more interesting. I could then, in sharing these ideas, show by example why a sustainable, authentic piece of writing (like this blog post) can help develop ideas (and share with a wider audience) beyond doing the research all on my own and not sharing it. Does that make sense? Would this be considered crowdsourcing my workshop? (I already have books and of course google full of ideas I could use, but I have discovered I can sometimes get much more valuable stuff from people directly, like here or on twitter).

I just saw this wonderful statement by Dave Cormier where he is encouraging “blind sharing” because

It is next to impossible for you to know before you’ve shared whether it’s going to be useful to someone else.

So true. Now, moving on so I can “blind share” and encourage you to share.

So how do i define my terms?

Authentic assessment is one where learners try “real-world” applications of what they are learning. Two definitions mentioned in the Authentic Assessment Toolbox are:

A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills — Jon Mueller

“…Engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field.” — Grant Wiggins — (Wiggins, 1993, p. 229).

One way to look at it is to consider important skills/tasks/values a “professional” in the field does, and design an assessment close to that.
An example pf a very bad assessment was my First Aid training with the Red Cross many years ago – it was a multiple choice exam. This in no way tests anyone’s ability to perform CPR under stress. A more authentic assessment would be to simulate an emergency situation and have volunteers react. The simulation, of course, would not test the volunteer’s courage and confidence to act under real conditions (quite difficult to test in an artificial environment) but at least it tests their CPR skills directly! A truly authentic alternative to this would be difficult to do in practice (e.g. Leave them on lifeguard duty and watch them from afar! ) but I have to assume that real professional life-savers (e.g. Medical people, firefighters, etc.) get more rigorous and authentic assessments than volunteers at the Red Cross.

A good continuum used in the Authentic Assessment Toolbox is this below:

Traditional ——————————————— Authentic

Selecting a Response ———————————— Performing a Task

Contrived ————————————————————— Real-life

Recall/Recognition ——————————- Construction/Application

Teacher-structured ————————————- Student-structured

Indirect Evidence ——————————————– Direct Evidence

(Note: the word “performance” can be tricky to use because it sometimes has behaviorist connotations and neoliberal ones: i.e. The emphasis is on showing a measurable skill rather than learning it deeply; however, in this context, i think the emphasis means ability to do something rather than theoretically select an appropriate response on a test).

(And in case you’re asking why I didn’t just get examples from that same website – many of the links I followed are not working).

Sustainable Assessment is an idea I got from #flsustain, Nottingham’s Sustainability, Society and You MOOC. According to Speight the author of “Learning for Sustainability” (free, open book, downloadable from here)

assessment strategies should be carefully planned to ensure that what is assessed is the development of the individual rather than their performance. … to focus upon a journey rather than a moment. A sustainable method of assessment is one that can do ‘double or triple-duty’ – it is appropriate and valid for the learning involved, takes the long view (thus making a contribution to society), and also meets the academic requirements of the university.

As part of the MOOC, I wrote the following:

Sustainability has connotations of continuity and of doing things in a holistic manner. Because my interest is in education, I am particularly interested in sustainable learning: how to design our learning environment and community and activities in ways that use sustainable methods and materials, and also promote sustainable/ongoing learning that continues seamlessly beyond any course-constrained time and space. I am just now learning how ideas of open education fit within this framework.

My personal approach to sustainable assessment has been to have all or most of my students’ work on their blogs so others outside the course can benefit. Because the content is on blogs, I am more intentional about making it useful for others beyond the course, and have invited my international networks (aka my online friends) to interact with my students via their blogs and Twitter, to everyone’s delight 🙂

Community-based learning, when done well can be both an authentic and sustainable form of assessment: learners work with real communities in their real problems, and hopefully create something that will have benefit beyond just the course, hopefully something that could endure beyond that time and space.

And just one closing quote inspired by Sean Michael Morris’ latest post on Keep Learning:

as teachers we can never be certain that our students will choose the same walls we choose for them…the space of learning is more fluid and adaptable than we might have planned on

(Disclaimer: i am quoting him slightly out of context, but it still fits brilliantly here).

This blog post, and the workshop it prepares for, is an invitation to expand our teaching beyond the walls… And I am inviting you to post suggestions in the comments! Thanks in advance!

Update: some resources from Twitter (thanks to Andrew M and Sarah S):
I was reminded of Herrington’s work (strange I did not think of it even though I cite her often in my thesis!) and pointed to this website on authentic learning, which has an authentic assessment and also points to this other good resource from UW-Stout
Another resource was HE Academy, which apparently has good projects with sustainability at their core (have not checked them out yet; hoping they are sustainable approaches to assessing learning, rather than approaches to assessing sustainability)
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Sustainability to me

This post is for the Sustainability MOOC #flsustain

I actually wrote this paragraph a while ago when i was reading Sarah Speight’s book “learning for sustainability”, so i am now posting it publicly:

Sustainability has connotations of continuity and of doing things in a holistic manner. Because my interest is in education, I am particularly interested in sustainable learning: how to design our learning environment and community and activities in ways that use sustainable methods and materials, and also promote sustainable/ongoing learning that continues seamlessly beyond any course-constrained time and space. I am just now learning how ideas of open education fit within this framework.

On another note, more recent thoughts:

i think sustainability is also a frame of mind and approach to life, a philosophy. I say this and see that it sounds elitist, because i think historically, people may have approached sustainability from a pragmatic standpoint.

I think much current talk of sustainability comes from elites (many of whom would have created the problems we all now face), and some of the solutions they come up with now may no be the best or easiest for the less privileged… I want to think of concrete examples of this as the course goes forward and to look at sustainability critically, even though emotionally, i want to embrace it.

I have written two previous posts on sustainability, one on sustainable assessment
And one that has a video connecting empathy with sustainability

I hope to have more to reflect on as i understand sustainability more and interact with other participants


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Learning for Sustainability: on sustainable assessment #flsustain

I use this post to note my favorite quotes/ideas on “sustainable assessment” from the book “Learning for Sustainability”, which is one of the texts for the FutureLearn MOOC offered by U of Nottingham.

Whole paragraph quoted:

assessment strategies should be carefully planned to ensure that what is assessed is the development of the individual rather than their performance. Assessment might span several modules, again to focus upon a journey rather than a moment. A sustainable method of assessment is one that can do ‘double or triple-duty’ – it is appropriate and valid for the learning involved, takes the long view (thus making a contribution to society), and also meets the academic requirements of the university.

(emphasis mine)

And just reading the views in this book about sustainability as a frame of mind for thinking about pedagogy made me realize it coincides with a lot of what my own teaching philosophy involves (and as it evolves): ideas of authentic assessment, focus on the learning process rather than measurable outcomes, and ideas related to open education.

I was initially taking the MOOC on sustainability because I am teaching a module within a course where students will be developing educational games about sustainability. Now, I am thinking the MOOC will also help in another teacher education course I teach related to ethical, legal, social and human issues in the use of educational technology.

If you’re interested in the book, it is available to view/download here

The MOOC itself is available here