CCK11 Connectivism and Assessment

Thanks Jaapsoft2 for your reference what’s the evidence post and comments to my post.  Pass-fail sounds interesting to me.
I have composed a few posts on assessment. Here and here.
The challenge with assessment based on a connectivist learning approach is to come up with an assessment method which is catering for the learners’ needs, but also satisfying the criteria set by the educator and educational institution, as that is often needed to fulfill the accreditation requirement. This may sound complicated as most assessment used are based on learning contracts or mass assessment rubrics, which are standardized to a certain extent, though there are some leeway towards personalization. However, under a connectivist learning, the learning that emerges may not be measured easily by the assessment method (and the relevant rubrics), as there might be tacit knowledge and learning based on serendipity that are not accounted for.

So pass or fail in assessment may be useful for making judgment on the learners from an educational perspective, but what is more important is for the learners to reflect on what they have actually learnt through the practice, even if there are failures encountered in the learning process, and thus provide a valuable feedback to the learners on areas they could further develop and improve.

Learning based on a connectivist approach does carry lots of risks, experimentation, and so successes and failures are just part of the learning process. Feedback which focuses on the strengths of the learners, rather than the mere weaknesses of learners would help the learners in boosting up their confidence in their learning. To this end, it may be more appropriate to emphasize the importance of learning through goal setting, strategic planning and connectivist learning using various tools, media, and networks. In this connection, failures would be viewed as part of the complexity of learning in the learning process and journey, rather than the labeling of failure as totally undesirable in learning.

Failure is the mother of success. So, may be instead of giving a pass/fail as a grade, I think the use of capable and not yet capable might be a better alternative to describe the outcome of the learning, though the meaning behind what it means need to be clearly understood by the educators and learners under a connectivist environment.

We all have failed, in one way or the other in our learning, though we seldom labelled ourselves as failures. So far if we have learned through our failures (by reflection and corrective action), then we could claim success

The product of learning is the learner, and so there is no failed learner IMHO, only that the learner may not yet be capable of performing a task or understood the concepts or theory as yet.

We are all successful learners, as we are all capable of doing certain tasks. So that is our option in learning – choose something that make us a success, though we all could encounter failures in the process.

How does it sound?



10 thoughts on “CCK11 Connectivism and Assessment

  1. Hi John. If I think of assessment as the attempt to tell the story of learning, i.e. assessment tries to demonstrate that learning has occurred, then the following questions are interesting:

    Is the capacity to construct a coherent narrative about what we have learned the same as learning? Is the story of learning the same as learning?

  2. Hi Ken,
    If assessment is the attempt to tell the story of learning, i.e. assessment tries to demonstrate that learning has occurred, then “Is the capacity to construct a coherent narrative about what we have learned the same as learning? Is the story of learning the same as learning?”

    How about checking on what assessment means first? Assessment is typically defined as a process of collection of evidences, and the evidences collected must satisfy the conditions of validity, reliability, authenticity, currency and sufficiency. Such notion of assessment is based principally on the behavioral approach, where assessment is based on objective evidence collected, though there is still some interpretation required in the assessment process of what constitutes sufficient, current and authentic evidences, as these depend on the context of learning and assessment conditions.

    There are, however, challenges in defining what all these mean if it is about story of learning, as we have to know if the story itself is merely a “representation”, analogy or metaphor of the learning, or an accurate account of the learning experience. Even then, there are questions like: What sort of performance have been demonstrated under such assessment? What level of performance criteria has been met with the story telling etc.

    So, I think the capacity to construct a coherent narrative may demonstrate some part of the learning from the “cognitive” and “constructive” perspective, but then it may be difficult to equate such performance when measuring against validity, reliability, authenticity, currency and sufficiency, mainly because stories are events of the past, and could hardly be repeated due to difficulties in re-constructing the stories. So it could be part of the evidences collected for assessment.

    I would argue that story of learning could be part of the assessment evidence to demonstrate that part of learning occurred. Is that the same as learning? We may have to define learning first. Is learning based on a behavioral change, a cognition process, a constructivist process, or a connectivist process (i.e. forming connections, or the construction and navigation of distributed networks etc.)?

    If we are to relate knowledge as the cognitive process – thinking and reflection, then such story of learning may be a representation of the concepts learnt through a re-collection of experiences, and reflection.

    If we are to relate knowledge as the construction of meaning (under constructivism, social constructivism), then story of learning would make sense if such stories are shared and meaning interpreted out of the story by the story teller.

    So, if we are to relate “forming connections” as learning, then story of learning may be a representational of learning (under a representation or “pattern recognition” metaphor).

    I would think the above ideas could be viewed and interpreted differently from the lenses of cognitivism, constructivism or social constructivism, and connectivism, and so this is far from “perfect” in coming to a conclusion.

    Please refer to the post here:
    Here the learning and assessment could be built around the knowledge of how people learn and so I would argue that learning and assessment are juxtaposed, and shouldn’t be separated from each other in a formal course of study.

    Would you think it the same or different? And why?

    Thanks again for your stimulating question.


  3. >Such notion of assessment is based principally on the behavioral approach
    I’m thinking that maybe the behavioral approach is a narrative itself.

    >if the story itself is merely a “representation”, analogy or metaphor of the learning,
    Again, the behavior narrative is a representation, analogy or metaphor

    However, just because the behavior narrative attempts to represent learning, doesn’t mean it is successful. My question then becomes: “Can we really accurately represent when learning occurs”? I wonder if the behavior/assessment narrative forecloses our ability to contemplate this very question?

  4. This validity of narrative research discusses the validity of narrative research in social science research. The author concludes: “The social science reformists, including narrative researchers, held that social science needed to explore and develop knowledge about areas of the human realm that fell outside the limits of what had conventionally been thought to be accessible to validation. These areas included people’s experienced meanings of their life events and activities. Exploration in these new areas required the development of new approaches for the validation of findings about these areas. The creation of these new approaches required returning to the basic idea of validation that underlay the particular validity producing rules and formats employed by conventional researchers. This basic idea of validation placed the judgment of the worthiness of a research knowledge claim in readers of the research. It is the readers who make the judgment about the plausibility of a knowledge claim based on the evidence and argument for the claim reported by the researcher.” The confidence a reader grants to a narrative knowledge claim is a function of the cogency and soundness of the evidence-based arguments presented by the narrative researcher.

    “Can we really accurately represent when learning occurs”? It is very difficult to do so, even with narrative research.

    This paper on Narrative Methods in Quality Improvement Research sounds interesting too.

  5. Hi John. Thanks, those are both interesting articles. The Polkinghorne articles is especially useful for grasping the concept of validity as it applies in narrative inquiry.

    As I understand Connectivism, learning is ‘in the connections’, achieved through ‘connecting’. Siemens and Downes believe that the connections occur at the neural level, and point to neuroscience as proof of their theory. Is the theory of Connectivism an accurate representation then of learning? What do you think?

  6. Is the theory of Connectivism an accurate representation of learning? This relates to the “validity” of its claims based on evidence and argument for the claim by George Siemens and Stephen Downes (as the main proponents of the theory). Have we (they) got valid, reliable, sufficient, current and authentic evidences to back up the theory?
    This begs the question of: how far a metaphor “describes” the learning under a human interacting with a social world of networks? Learning is in the connections is a metaphor of learning, and so is the connection occurring at the neural level. The firing of neurons with synapses, and thus results in the “passing of the signals” from one neuron to another (based on firing and wiring of neurons), and the recognition of pattern based on such network formation perceived as knowledge representation sounds useful in the explanation of how knowledge is created or formed. The challenges to these learning metaphor is that they have been related to the “atomic” bonding level – with neural connections, and macroscopic level with – “participation” and “social interaction” as the
    basis of learning, which all seems to be difficult to be proven as “cause and effect” under a scientific lens, as there are always uncontrollable factors such as emotions, environment which all impact on the learning. My conclusion is that there are certain “truths” in Connectivism as a learning theory and that is based on certain network environment (internet and web) whereas the connections are “positively” related to learning (that is effective and successful), and that such learning can be explained based on related theory on Chaos and Complexity, Self-organizing Theory and Neuroscience.
    Back to you.
    Thanks again for sharing your views and question.

  7. Hi John. I think the old statement ‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ might be applicable here.

    Connectivism, as a theory of learning, appeals to some people no doubt. And other theories of learning appeal to others. I guess that might be the benefit of having so many theories: there is something for everyone, and if someone is not satisfied with existing theoretical offerings, then they can create a new theory to make themselves happy. As far as one theory being better than another, or explaining learning better than another, it seems that that becomes a matter of ‘taste’ (as in my original statement about beauty).

    Quality, or beauty, seems to be subjective, I think.

  8. Hi Ken,
    I fully agree, and love what you have beautifully said. Theories are of value to the theorists, scholars, educators, practitioners, learners and stakeholders if they could sense better or “quality” learning, or becoming more educated, a more “beautiful and valued” person in networks, community and society.

    I greatly appreciate your valuable comments.

  9. Pingback: Connectivism and assessment « connectiv

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