Student Learning Activities

What students 'do' in a unit which they are studying is a tricky domain to describe.

In a general sense, all that students do contributes to learning. We can therefore generalise student action as 'learning activities'.

However, there is clearly a difference between reading an article, discussing it with fellow students, and using it in an essay. There is a difference between a conversation between students, and students writing and submitting essays.

These differences come to the fore when we attempt to determine which activities we will assess directly (activities for direct assessment), which activities we assess through the capacity of those activities to make students better at doing assessed activities (activities for indirect assessment), and which activities are simply part of studying, without assessment (except insofar as the contribute to ability to do assessments, but with so tenuous a connection they are not even indirectly assessed).

This project is based on the idea that this latter group can be assessed, via portfolio assessment.

One of the challenges in designing the activities to be done within this last grouping is to understand that some of them involve 'discussion' - the explication and exploration of ideas in concert with others within a classic constructivist paradigm; and others involve 'tasks' - a specific, bounded activity normally done alone, though sometimes as a group standing in for the individuals involved. BOTH involve cognitive processing: they move students from passive recipients of ideas and knowledge, to a place where they are working with knowledge. However they are different in that one is dialogic (can't done alone), and the other is deliberately individuated (must be done alone).

Fundamentally, in an online setting, the forms and processes for these tasks often look the same: a discussion board, or forum; a website where people write things singly or together. But, this similarity of form can create confusion, conflating the two, when in fact they are very different in the modality of engagement between individuals and knowledge.

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