dB-SERC workshop 10/16

Date: Friday, October 16, 2015
Time: 12-2 pm
Place: 321 Allen Hall

Topic: The challenges and possibilities of meaningful assessment in introductory STEM

During the workshop, Dr. David Hammer will discuss the challenges and possibilities of meaningful assessment in introductory STEM.

Much of the difficulty in assessing student learning, especially in introductory courses, is that assessment itself is part of what students should be learning. The practices of the STEM discipline are substantially about assessing the quality of ideas, at the level of the community (e.g., in physics, “can we now conclude there is a Higgs boson?”) and at the level of individual (e.g., “do I understand that derivation?”).
Unfortunately, for a variety of practical and societal reasons, assessment in STEM courses typically happens by authority. Most STEM instruction holds students accountable to correctness, fidelity to the canon of community knowledge, in ways that are antithetical to the practices of the discipline.
In this workshop, I’ll discuss the challenges and possibilities of assessment more closely aligned with the discipline. I will first present my own attempts, in introductory physics, with video examples from lecture and written examples from exams and problem sets. These will illustrate and motivate the claim that meaningful assessment demands close attention and responsiveness to students’ thinking and engagement, not only to how they understand concepts but also to how they approach learning. I will then invite participants to examine student thinking as evident in their own courses, using data they bring in the form of student written work, video if it is available.

And a request, in preparation:
Please bring examples of work, from any STEM class, that provides evidence of what and how students are thinking. The examples might be of problem sets or lab reports, of journals or online discussion forums, anything that shows students' expressing reasoning, ideas, questions, and uncertainties concerning the substance of the course. They could also be of face-to-face interactions, from lecture, section or office hours. There the idea is to have the interaction on video, but it can also work to have a carefully written account, with as much as you can remember of what the student(s) said and did.
For our purposes here, quantitative data isn't helpful (e.g. results of a multiple choice survey). The idea is to look at rich evidence of students' thinking as it arises within the course. So please bring two or three examples of students' written work, or up to 10 minutes of video or a page or two of written account, showing or describing face-to-face interaction. We don't need everyone to bring examples, but it will help to have some.

David Hammer has studied the learning and teaching of science (mostly physics) from elementary school through university, with particular emphases on students’ intuitive epistemologies, how instructors interpret and respond to student thinking, and resource-based models of knowledge and reasoning. From 1998-2010 he was a professor of Physics and Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Maryland, College Park. In 2010 he moved to Tufts University, where he is a professor of Education and Physics, current chair of Education, and part of the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach.

Note that the workshop is two hours long. We would be happy to have you join us even if you can only attend the first hour.
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