In this feature, pairs of students are responsible for teaching a topic about assessment to the rest of the class. Initially, each pair of students studies a topic chosen from a pre-assigned list of articles. Then, the pair leads an online discussion, poses introductory questions in a forum, and takes responsibility for facilitating the discussion. Finally, they present a summary of the online discussion during a face-to-face meeting, and, using additional references, they deepen the dialogue.
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
Pair tutoring can lead to enriched and deepened whole-group discussion. Preparatory dialogue and negotiation between the two tutors broadens their understanding of the issues to be addressed and can lead to a wider spectrum of ideas. In contrast to individual tutoring, this process can also lessen the pressure and anxiety of assuming responsibility for facilitation.
Context of Use:
This feature is part of a course in assessment of educational projects. The objective of the course is to provide graduate students with tools that will endow them with initial preparation as future assessment experts in science and technology education. The course includes face-to-face meetings and online forum discussions. The students read a diverse collection of articles on assessment and each week a team of two students is in charge of posing questions and leading the online discussion. Each student is assessed via multidimensional assessment based on her/his contribution to the online forum discussion both as leader and participant, presention of the summary in class, including a comparison with two other articles, and a final project. The students are involved in developing the assessment criteria and their implementation in the course.
To assess the impact of this feature on student learning, grades given by the instructors were examined specifically. Two rubrics were used to provide these scores. The criteria for leading the online discussion included: a) Posing questions that require higher order thinking skills b) Attentiveness to peers c) Processing and elaboration of the discussion by providing intermediate summaries d) Voice and tone that invite collaboration and foster a good atmosphere in the discussion. Criteria for leading the face-to-face discussion included: a) The quality of the online discussion summary b) Oral presentation of discussion and of further reading in an academic standard c) Clarity, flow, and originality in presentation
The population (N=35) was comprised of graduate students in three enactments of the course (no significant differences were found between student performances in the three enactments). The analysis indicates that grades for this specific feature were extremely high. The score for the online component was provided by the instructor (10% of the final score in the course) and the score for the face-to-face component was provided by peer assessment (10% of the final grade). Using the rubrics described above, the mean score for leading the online discussion was 98% (SD=3%) and 93% (SD=4.3%) for leading the face-to-face discussions. In order to attain such high performances, students had to gain deep understanding and knowledge in the area of assessment and acquire leadership skills that are highly important for their careers.
Retrospective interviews, conducted one to three years after the course with students from all 3 iterations, indicate that students perceived the fact that they were required to take the role of an instructor in the course was a highly enriching learning experience. Many interviewees mentioned issues of responsibility and motivation which were fostered by playing the instructor’s role. For instance one student said, “I knew that in the moment of truth I would need to instruct part of the course. It gave me great motivation… I felt that the challenge was greater than understanding. I also had to think how to make the contents interesting for others. Our responsibility for the success of the course was one that is higher than usually given in other graduate courses”. The high motivation and responsibility brought students to become more critical and thus deepen their understanding of the contents. For instance, other students said, “Serving as an instructor forced me to think deeper about the article, to ask myself questions, and to find unresolved issues” and “Playing the role of the instructor is the thing I remember most from the course. I remember very well all the nuances of the contents that I was responsible for teaching. This is knowledge that I can retrieve from my mind at any relevant time”. Another student noted that “the course provided me with inspiration and guidance about how to construct a new course for my high-school students in industry and management department”. It is also important to note that having students play the role of the instructor involved putting them in a certain degree of anxiety, but that students eventually saw this stress as positive. For instance, a student said, “This was a difficult period for me due to the high pressure I was in. I almost left the course, but was encouraged to stay, and today I am very thankful for that!”
Levin-Peled R., Kali, Y & Dori, Y.J. (in press). Promoting Collaborative Learning in Higher Education: Design Principles for Hybrid Courses. Proceedings of the Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL) International Conference, 2007, New Jersey, USA, July 16-21, 2007.