This week Martin Weller has been commenting on Brian Kelly’s statement that the OU is the most popular university on Facebook. One of the contributing factors to this success Martin believes is the tool set which he has developed with Liam, Tony and Stuart . These tools, such as the Courses Profile, My OUStory and Study Buddy help you check out other students on the course, find someone to work and share stories with. So there are some levers to assist with building relationships and finding other folk to “check out” with.
Creating opportunities for dialogue is an essential part of the learning process and is widely accepted as a suitable activity in the constructivist theory world. However formal assessment has consistently failed to follow through with this more recent thinking because it squares the desire for improved constructivist learning against the demand for institutional and external reliability and accountability. So the official “checking it out” procedures have not kept apace or have they?
I was very interested to discover this week the notion of the “peer exam” which was developed by Vera John-Steiner . With the “peer exam”, (which is more reminiscent of androgogy than pedagogy), the students choose a topic they wish to explore; which is meaningful to themselves and their colleagues. Two to four students can take part in this process. They work out the questions they will use and prepare for the exam by reading around the topic and talking to one another. The students tape the examination session and write up the process as well as the results of their deliberations. Although this type of examination feels uncomfortable to begin with, it has had a profound effect on the students, some of whom have adapted this process to their own teaching. John-Steiner based this “peer exam” on Vygotsky’s theory of learning which emphasises the social nature of knowledge acquisition. So what can we take from this? Perhaps it’s best to check it out together?
Checking it out together: preparing for a “peer exam”