#Change11 Assessment, Active Learning and Project-based Learning

Is assessment part of learning and instruction?

If we assume that assessment forms an important part of learning, then assessment itself could also be considered a good pedagogy, in formal education and learning environment.  This is evidenced in most formal online courses, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning ML offered by Stanford University.  Here assessment determines the quality of the courses offered.  This stems from the notion that assessment should align with the learning outcomes, which the course is also based upon.  Accreditation of courses and award of qualification are normally based on the achievement of learning outcomes by the students or learners in formal education.

If assessment is so important in formal education, why do people still prefer to adopt the instrumental teaching based principally on mass lecture, tests and examination rather than assessment as an effective pedagogy?  Take a test or examination, and if you could pass it, you are qualified for a pass of the unit.  Isn’t it simple?

Some of us might have watched this video.

So, a lot of students would ask a basic question: Are the lecture materials delivered by the teacher during the lesson to be tested in the tests and  examinations? If not, could we focus just on what is to be tested or examined, and leave the rest to be “learnt” outside the classroom?  This is exactly the type of questions most students are asking in each semester, in a traditional lecture type of education and learning. Is that what the educators are most concerned too?  Teaching the content of examination or test to the students, so students could achieve high marks in the assessments. So, why not teaching to the test?

A test and or examination is a typical assessment tool used in education for decades. That’s where students could demonstrate their competency, and that is how assessment is conducted in most schools.  And if students are learning in online distance education, then they would be expected to submit the standard assignments (say completing a 2,000 words essay or answering a series of questions as required in the problem or project set), attend the examination, and if they pass in both assessment, congratulations!

Doing assessment requires more than the mere completion of the written assignments.  An excellent example of assignments as shown here requires the preparation and collection of evidences, and through an exploration and research process in the assessment, the learners would be able to demonstrate the competency required.  Also learners could identify their own learning needs and gaps in the learning process, when working through the assignments.  With the feedback from peers and or facilitators, the learner could also identify what would need to do to improve his or her learning.  These will all involve sensemaking (giving meaning to experience) and metacognition (cognition about cognition or knowing about knowing).

Is this active learning familiar to you?

I think such active learning have been adopted by experienced educators (especially in vocational education and training) for years.  May be this form of Active Learning is still new to those who are new to the teaching profession or that in the online learning.

We have learnt that lectures are still the predominant methods of transferring knowledge in Higher Education though there have been some changes as  reported here, with the use of small study groups of students discussing the questions posted by the professor.  Such study mode in classes was used as a driver to learning, with peer instruction as a means of active learning.

In this active learning in the classroom, everyone is engaged.

For those educators who have undergone formal education and training, active learning has always been part of the training.  I would assume that it is already part of any lessons for most experienced educators.

How about the reality?  Is it the case in Community College and Higher Education Classroom learning?

What are the challenges, when active learning is “transferred” and migrated to an online or virtual learning environment? What sort of pedagogical approaches would be more relevant and effective in such online courses?  I reckon that these have been explored in our past MOOCs here and here.

There are some assessment challenges that are still inherent in MOOCs, as past researches indicated that not all participants would undertake the assessment as designed for the course.  The learning also takes on different forms, with some active learning, whilst others would prefer to lurk in the course.

Learners need to have more control over their assessments in an online course, as remarked by Jenny.  But where does this leave ‘the expert’ and will students have the skills to take control of their assessment?

Here Jim Groom has adopted digital media projects as the main assignment for the MOOC.  I reckon these projects are highly relevant for students learning in formal online courses.   How would these project-based learning be used in MOOCs? Would these projects be adopted by life-long learners in MOOCs?


Kop, R., Fournier, H., Mak, S.F. J. (2011). A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online CoursesThe International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Vol 12, No. 7 (2011).

Kop, R., Carroll, F. (2011). Cloud Computing and Creativity: Learning on a Massive Open Online Course.  European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. (2011).


I reckon one of the slides in the video relating to hearing, seeing and doing is not correct.  In my previous post, I commented on the use of visuals in lesson presentation.  I also cited George’s comments: ” Will Thalheimer debunks/questions the validity of this claim. This automatically calls into question related statements in the article (not cited properly) about the prominence of visuals in learning and retention.”

Also refer to this post where the author says:

“Not only is it easier to communicate something using a picture, but it’s also much easier for people to remember things that have been communicated to them visually. Psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University has studied the art of communication, and his studies have shown that:

  • People remember 10% of what they hear;
  • 20% of what they read; and
  • 80% of what they see and do.

Most people are visual learners; a recent study by the U.S. Federal Government suggested that up to 83% of human learning occurs visually. The study also indicated that information which is communicated visually is retained up to six times greater than information which is communicated by spoken word alone.”

There are still lots of assumptions about the percentage of people remembering what they hear, read, see and do in human learning, and further research is required to validate those claims.

Postscript: A relevant post here by Stephen – on experimentation with new forms of higher education.

A useful video on problem based learning.

10 thoughts on “#Change11 Assessment, Active Learning and Project-based Learning

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