At the end or our previous session of The Non-Disposable Assignment: Enhancing Personalised Learning course redesign workshop, we asked participants to return with some ideas about what assignment they had identified for redesigning in their course.

Before we started I shared elements of our academic plan that I thought aligned well with more open pedagogical approaches. These included enhancing student learning and engagement, affirming our academic community, and engage with our community. Some of the specific goals from our academic plan which are supported by a more open pedagogical approach include:

Student learning, engagement and success:

  • Promote student leadership
  • Promote complex thinking
  • Enhance experiential learning opportunities
  • Support undergraduate and graduate scholarship, research and creative activity

Academic community:

  • Support a breadth of scholarship, research, and creative activity

Community Engagement:

  • Sustain collaborative relationships
  • Foster awareness of global cultures, issues and conditions, and the role played by VIU in the region nationally and internationally
  • Enhance opportunities as an open access university

Many of our participants had already reflected online about where they wanted to focus their energy, but we spent some time to discuss our ideas in more detail and get feedback from the group. Participants were paired off to share their projects with a colleague. Returning to the larger group each participant reflected on their partners plan, with the partner able to clarify, comment, or add additional detail in response. Our projects are at various stages of development, and that is completely normal at this stage. We reminded the group that the changes we make can be as discrete a changing a single assignment, or the way in which a traditional assignment is shared with peers in class, or to our broader community.

We briefly discussed constructive alignment to remind participants of considering how their project will be aligned with learning outcomes they may already have in their course, or those which need to be developed. This also gets us thinking early about how we will work with students to construct their projects and how we will asses evidence of their success. I offered a handout with some ideas which make up a Non-Disposable Assignment Design Checklist (I welcome comments on that document). I used appendix 5 from Beetham and Sharpe’s (2013) book ‘Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Century Learning‘ to guide the development of this. Specific questions and considerations were added to support open learning design.

Adapted from: Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (Eds.). (2013). Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Century Learning (Second edition). New York: Routledge.

As we come close to the end of our three-part course redesign, I mused over whether we have provided enough support for our faculty to implement these changes to practice. The issues of workload, learning how to use new technologies, student literacies with those technologies, and revamping rubrics to conduct assessment have all emerged throughout our discussion. These changes to our pedagogical practice take time and energy, and being new endeavours, we certainly can imagine all that could go wrong. However if are motivated by the design principles with which we started: supporting inquiry driven projects, various forms of representing knowledge, peer-access and review, and community engagement, and strive to build elements of these into our courses wherever possible, I think we are already on the road to designing enhanced learning experiences for out students. As well, I increasingly believe these also help us enact and actualise the goals of our academic plan.

Participants were asked to submit another reflection which addresses one of the follow reflection prompts:

  • If you have not done so already: Write a reflective post about an assignment you would like to redesign or create fueled by the principles of the non-disposable assignment. OR 
  • Write a post from the perspective of a student who is tasked with your non-disposable assignment. What is their impression of this, what are they nervous about, what are they excited about?

Reflections are still coming in, so do check out the participant reflections section of our site.

Slides from the second session are available below.

Featured photo by Paul on Unsplash

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