Week 2: Congruence in Education – Fall 2020

Introduction

Activities students are given to complete should be assessed in the evaluation of their work. The possible learning outcomes should be aligned with the activities and with the assessment.

This may seem like a profoundly simple idea, yet it is sometimes overlooked when education is planned. It is particularly easy to overlook when new technologies are explored. It can be tempting to try a technology just because it looks interesting or because it might be fun for students. A colleague may recommend software that works well for their class, but that same software may not be something that will help your students achieve what you hope they will achieve.

If you are an experienced educator, you are probably accustomed to planning courses and lessons that are congruent, those that maintain alignment between desired outcomes, activities, and assessment/evaluation. If you have less experience, it can be helpful to refer to some common resources to help you think about this fundamental level of organization. One place to start is with a taxonomy of learning.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the week, you will be able to:

  • Identify the connection between learning objectives, learning activities and assessment of learning
  • Define “congruence” as it applies to education

Learning Activities

Bloom’s Taxonomy: One Way to Plan for Congruence

A taxonomy is a classification system. Taxonomies of learning attempt to describe different kinds of learning and to arrange them from the simplest to the most complex.

Bloom’s Taxonomy, developed over fifty years ago, is still one of the most commonly used. Bloom, a psychologist, focused on learning in the cognitive domain, which is the domain of thinking and knowledge acquisition. He described different levels of learning, from simply being able to recognize something all the way up to being able to evaluate the quality of something.

Imagine this with something relevant to teachers, like a lesson plan. At the most basic level, someone would be able to recognize a lesson plan. A slightly more advanced student would be able to describe the purpose of a lesson plan. More advanced still would be someone who could apply their knowledge of a lesson plan to actually planning a lesson. What would be beyond that? According to Bloom, the ability to evaluate a lesson plan is a more advanced form of learning. The ability to develop a new way of planning lessons would also indicate more advanced learning.

Bloom’s Taxonomy has been updated since, most significantly in 2001 by Anderson and Krathwohl. To learn more about taxonomies and to see their revision, refer to Iowa State University’s handout A Model of Learning Objectives. The three-dimensional diagram on the third page is particularly useful.

How does a taxonomy help ensure congruence? Typically, the secret is in the verbs. Great stress is laid on using the appropriate verb to describe the action the student will complete to demonstrate the learning taking place. As we saw in the example above, “evaluating” is a more advanced form of learning than “applying,” and “applying” is more advanced than “remembering.” To create a congruent learning experience, make sure the objective, the activities that support the objective, and the assessment are all at the same level.

To use the example above, if you wanted to teach someone to use lesson plans—that is, to learn at the “apply” level—you would likely give them an example of a lesson plan and ask them to complete it for a lesson in their subject area. You would then review it to see if they had done the task successfully.

Let’s look at two examples to see how this can play out.

Steps to Inquiry: Elementary Science

Our first example comes from elementary science. British Columbia has recently implemented a new approach to curriculum, and as a result, a number of sample lessons are available online. These are a great way to explore congruence since they are intended as models.

The example is the Instant Snow lesson, and it is intended for students in Grades 3–6 Science class. In this lesson, students work together to observe an unknown substance and develop ways of determining what it is. Many learning goals are possible with this lesson. Here are some of the learning goals, which are reworded from the curricular competencies:

  • I am able to make detailed observations and measurements. (Planning and Conducting)
  • I am able to identify and explain patterns in the results. (Processing and Analyzing)
  • I am able to identify possible sources of error and analyze the impact on my experiment. (Evaluating)

For our purposes, what it is important to notice is that the learning goal is spelled out so explicitly that it is obvious what the student will be doing during the lesson. It is also clear what can be evaluated. The congruence in the lesson is obvious.

The curriculum document provided is long and detailed. If you would like to look at it in more depth, it is available for download on BC’s New Curriculum website here:

Continuing Education: Elementary Conversational Korean

Our second example involves a language course in elementary Korean. The goal of the course, a non-credit course intended for adults, is to prepare people to visit Korea and hold simple conversations. This goal is stated in the advertising for the course.

Lessons each week are organized in the same way. The instructor provides a list of vocabulary words, and she asks the students to repeat each word for correct pronunciation. The second part of the class is spent learning to write simple words using the Korean alphabet and say them correctly.

Since it is a non-credit class there is no final examination. However, there is a summative assessment component. During the last class, the instructor poses questions in Korean to course participants and anticipates that they will be able to respond correctly.

Just as there was clear congruence in the science example, here the lack of congruence is obvious. The goal of the course is being assessed—students are being challenged to communicate orally in Korean—but the practice selected will not help them to achieve this goal. The result for the instructor is probably disappointment, and for the students, frustration.

How does this connect to technology in education?

How are these examples relevant for us, as we think about the use of technology in education?

First, thinking about learning experience in this way represents a thoughtful and purposeful way of thinking about the educational experiences we plan for our students.

Second, this approach gives us one tool for evaluating the technology we are hoping to use. If our goal is to have learners apply something, and the technology is designed to help them recall it, we will know, for instance, that it is not a good fit.

We will think about this more as we use a systematic approach to evaluating technologies.

Assessment

Discussion 2: Taxonomies: Too restrictive or good guidance?

Some educators find Bloom’s Taxonomy, and other similar taxonomies, to be very restrictive. They feel that outlining anticipated learning outcomes beforehand restricts both them and their students, lessening possibilities for learning. Others feel that Bloom provides good guidance for course development, making it easier to design courses.

What do you think? Let’s have a conversation about this issue. Remember to tag your post with your name so the Open Learning Faculty Member can assess your contribution.

Go to the class discussion forum to make your post.

Blog Post #2: Experience of congruence: Description of a good or bad example

Write a blog post about one of your most memorable experiences with congruence in education. For this post, think about your experiences as a learner rather than as a teacher. Perhaps you took a course where things went together really well; you knew what you were going to learn, you learned it, and the assessment allowed you to demonstrate your knowledge. Perhaps you had the opposite experience. Talk about it in your blog post, and reflect on what could have been done to make the experience more congruent.

You might find it helpful to refer to the instructor’s blog post as an example, EDDL 5111 Developer’s blog post #2

 

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