ALT-C: A tale of two keynotes

(Keynotes viewable on Elluminate from the conference website.)

Enjoyed Peter Norvig’s keynote today. Questioned why lectures didn’t die out with the printing press (after all, students can read books can’t they?). Very strongly in favour of tuition instead of lecturing. Some interesting similarities and differences with Dylan Williams’ earlier keynote, although on the surface they were both very different keynotes coming from very different perspectives – Dylan looking at ways to improve traditional classroom teaching, Peter suggesting ways of replacing it.

Dylans’ focus was on the effectiveness of formative assessment with useful feedback. Classroom aggregation is the process of bringing together the knowledge and learning of students and then using aggregated view to modify the instruction to cater to the needs of the students. Without formative assessment, it isn’t possible to determine what the learning problems are.

The assessments need to be rich enough to allow the creation of multi-dimensional models of student understanding. For example a multiple choice with more than one correct answer can reveal more about student understanding than where only one answer is ever correct – at least when using a well constructed question. Dylan gave several examples and emphasised that these are not easy to construct. (About 28 or 29 minutes into presentation).

The stats bore out that effective use of formative assessment have a greater impact for much less cost than many other approaches that governments favour – governments favouring approaches that can be solved with a simple cash injection.

And the idea I took from all this was that with effective formative assessment, individual student’s issues and problems can be identified and effective aggregation of formative assessment allows lesson plans to be modified as required. The net effect of this is to be able to deliver teaching which addresses the personal issues of individuals – perhaps delivering teaching which comes closer to the effectiveness of one-to-one tutoring that Peter Norvig highlighted in his later keynote.

[A note on Elluminate: As I've found before, the quality of recordings can be quite good, but Elluminate is not at all responsive if you want to try to skip forward or back. Better to just leave it running than trying to fast-forward 5 minutes.]

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