In the previous post about reflection, I was reminded about a trick we used when we couldn’t auto-evaluate learner responses. The topic was Media Skills, and after some earlier simpler tasks like identifying a well-formed statement, ordering elements, and choosing an appropriate response, we needed to get the learners to respond on their own.
We continued this careful scaffolding (ala Cognitive Apprenticeship), where first they wrote into a text box, but then we needed more immediacy. We rigged up an automated phone system that you dialed in and navigated to questions that you would answer. First, you knew the questions that were coming (the website gave them to you before giving you the number to call), and then you wouldn’t. Not quite as rigorous as facing an interviewer, but plenty challenging regardless. There was a cover story about choosing the different news agency, print, radio, or TV, and a particular reporter, so that you had a reason to navigate the system to where you needed to go.
While I still think this was extraordinarily clever (it was a team effort, not just me :), the important thing was how to evaluate it. We couldn’t evaluate their written prose (at the time, and even now Latent Semantic Analysis would be overkill), let alone their verbal responses. What could we do? We gave them model answers, and asked them to compare their responses to our model ones.
I would (I frankly can’t recall, now, whether we did this) add in a set of heuristics about how to evaluate your responses: what to look for, to note whether you did or not. If you knew common mistakes, and you would, you could prompt for those, too.
The reason this is so important, beyond being pragmatic, is that asking learners to self-evaluate leads them another step along the way towards internalizing the concept and self-monitoring, becoming self-improving learners. So go for grander tasks, ask learners to self-evaluate (with support, which you might gradually remove), and really accelerate your learners towards self-sufficiency. Now, to go practice what I preach…