Sunday, June 18, 2006

Reflection of Middle of the Module Feedback

Results form the feedback in certain way place pressure upon me to step away form my own pedagogical principles which I abide and which I developed for last 15 yeas as a classroom practitioner. On the same evening and the day following the feedback, after examining the results I was ready to cancel the last task on the “Rain Drop” as a number of students indicated that there is too much work in this module. Someone asked me “Do you think that there is too much work for MSc students in this module?” Two days later, I asked my self “What are all these tasks that I am setting up for students and how do these contribute to their learning?”

My major objective is to provide students opportunity to develop understand of theory through application (not application through theory) and also to develop certain skills in line with their own capacity, that will be useful in context of their own work and further independent or formal studies. The initial tasks in the module were designed to take students form developing understanding and some skills in designing visuals with user-friendly tools, and then to progress into making these visuals a bit interactive. I understand the last task to be critical as “mind teaser” to get students to deeply consider and appreciate importance of their own knowledge when designing, as well as to deeply think about interactive elements that might bring static images into dynamic and manipulative tools of communication and learning. If I cancel this last task, I would deny my student the final step on this learning progression. In this context, my decision is to keep this task, even though some student might be further annoyed by perceived “heavy” workload. I examined digital portfolios of students (blogs) and I noticed that most students are progressing well. Form a perspective of a teacher, I am pleased with this progress.

Just some remarks about work load. In the MSc programmed I believe that in general students are expected to carry out module work outside class to the equivalent of a further 6 hours of study per week. I wander if this is practiced in other modules?

I would like to hear more from students about their thinking in relation to workload. In particular, focus should be in the workload is useful and leads to learning, in the thinking contribute to more useful understanding and if the workload results in useful skills development or is it just unnecessary. I would also like students to examine results of the survey and to describe any other pattern that they can see in this data. The survey results are given in THIS PDF file. Please contribute.


At 12:28 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Daniel, thanks for your message in the blog and the interim evaluation. This is good as both the teacher and students can get feedback from one another. So far it was the first time I was invited to do the course evaluation to provide suggestion for the class. This course is really practising "interactive learning". Appreciate that!

About the workload:
I know that the coursework is carefully designed to support the curriculum and the learning of students. As a native American proverb says,
"Tell me and I'll forget.
Show me, and I may not remember.
Involve me, and I'll understand."

The best way to learn and understand something is to practice it and get some hands-on experience.

But the challenge for us is that we have loooong working hours here in Hong Kong. Working overtime is common for students from the educational and commercial fields. For students who are not highly proficient in the ICT skills, the preparation time may be longer than expected.

Possible solution:
A grace period is allowed for students to submit the weekly tasks.

An alternative is that students may form a larger group, say 4~5 persons for each group and the weekly task is to be submitted on group basis, not on individual basis. But for the blog, each student can submit his/her weekly contribution on individual basis.

As shown in the survey results, the mode of the technical skills (Q3) in this class is "Average" while 35% of us are "Basic". A larger group allows us to have a better division of labour and we can do the design, drawing and interactive programming more efficiently. In technical term, by deploying clustering, the risk of task breakdown can be lowered. Right? ;-)

Besides, 40% of us want to develop more of their technical skills (Q12). A larger group can enable students to learn the technical skills from their peers in a pace that matches their current ICT proficiency.

That's my two cents. Thank you!

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Thanks Chris, this is very useful. Certainly, the issue of groups is interesting and it can help students to manage workload in a more productive way. I agree that working culture of Hong Kong is as you describe it and I understand how sacrificing it can be to study and work. I have completed my Bachelor, Masters and PhD while working and there is high degree of responsibility when this decision is taken, what mean, one must be realistic and ask the question he or she is able to manage and wiling to sacrifice. Very interestingly, I worked in a number of countries and different educational institutions; however, this problem is very characteristic of students here. I will have to take these things in consideration when I plan future modules. Now, in this module we are approaching phase where you will be working on your independent projects.

I also want to add one more point about workload. I find that HK students are in general resistant to workload, and I was curious why this pattern is recurring. One possible explanations might be that this is something developed through culture of schooling here. I believe that a lot of schools are pretty tough in setting homework and for example some primary schools have rule to set P1 and P2 about one hour homework per day and for P3 to P6 about two hours per day with double amount of homework for weekend. I assume that secondary schools are more demanding. Do you think that there might be some pattern in here that leads to development of general resistance to workload and eventually result in spending more time worrying than actually doing?

About group work, yes, larger groups will lower it, but usually, someone will do most of the work for most and that is what concerns me. To manage this, I would need everyone to keep individual journals of their contributions, and also some very organized approach to group work. If done properly, this would again result in a work load. Any idea from anyone how to more effectively manage large groups of students?

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Christina MLIM said...

I agree with Chris that if allowing a little bit delay of the weekly tasks. I am not a teacher, I don't know the real situation of them. However, I heard from them that they are really busy because June is the examinaton season.

But I think we should try to enjoy the tasks. For example, if you enjoy watching World Cup games, you are willing to spend overnight.

And also, I think we should focus on the process, not the output of the products. There is no perfect exist. However, we are able to learn something during the process although the output is not really complete and "beautiful". That's why we appreciate some of our classmates to post his thinking process in their blogs.

About the group issue, I think some of us like forming work group and some of us don't like. I think we are mature students, it is better if forming the study group to do discussion even the tasks are submitted individually. I think it is a little similar to the concept of blog contributon here.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Mr. Chan CB said...

I agree with Chris, especially with his American proverb that active participation is the way to learn.

Most of us were probably brought up under passive learning which may explain why some of us are resistant to workload. But then again, there are other factors to consider to jump into this conclusion such as Chris has rightfully mentioned, "we have loooong working hours here in Hong Kong. Working overtime is common for students from the educational and commercial fields."

I actually enjoy what I'm doing on this course because the weekly tasks does help me to build up my knowledge and skills progressively. However, I do agree that at times, I feel the work is difficult which would require more time to prepare and complete the task at hand than the previous task. I believe many of us have encountered this problem when doing the tasks, especially the 34.78% who feel their technical skills are basic.

Although Daniel has repeatedly stressed this course is about creativity and not technical skills, but the reality is, those who aren't confident with their technical skills find it hard to keep up with the course. Even the classmate who drew his atmosphere picture by pencil had some advanced technical skills to make his work interactive on screen.

Perhaps more time can be allocated to develop technical skills on specific software. This can provide the confidence for those who feel they find themselves difficult to do the weekly assignments.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Keith Ma said...

Dear Daniel,

Personally, I like this module very much because your pedagogical approach makes the lesson joyful and makes the tasks interesting.

Different point of view on workload is because of diffierent working methods among people. For example, in this module, skillful students pay time on design and implement the task. However, general students not only pay time on design and implement the task, but also need to catch up with the technical skill.

From the survey, 2 outstanding items are "Technical Skill" and "Workload". There may be a relationship between them. When students implement their task, they sometimes find the limitation of their technical skills makes their ideas cannot be realized. To avoid others' misunderstanding that they are weak in ideas, they tends to pay a plenty of time to catch up with technical skills in order to show their understandings well, even if Daniel has repeatedly stressed this course is about creativity and not technical skills. Thus, this may be the source of heavy workload.

Below is a sugguestion:


- less individual burden of learning technical skills
- students' progress can be ensured

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Thanks Keith,
Having an idea is one thing but being able to implement it is another. My experience in working with people who design representations is that lack of idea always create problem more than technical skills. If one has an idea and know what he or she want to design, then this second part of the problem can be solved in several ways:
(1) try it out your self,
(2) ask me to help you, or
(3) look in blogs and identify someone who might give you some help
(4) look ar other resources and in particular internet an dcommunities that discuss particular tools
I also noted one interesting thing in data form survey in relation to question 11. 60% of people believe that other class members are supportive and help in learning and catching up with things. This is good indication that our class is collaborative and willing to support teach other. Of course, some people might thing about degree of competition for grade, but remember in this course, the grades are not really important. Learning is what should be important.

At 12:42 AM, Blogger Keith Ma said...

I totally agree that "no idea" is more painful than "no technical skill". The 4 solutions provided are also valuable for us to follow.

About "collaborative and willing to support teach other" and "Group work", I think they are different from each other. "collaborative and willing to support teach other" can be easily achieved by blogging and informal discussion whereas "Group work" is difficult to be successfully achieved and managed.

From the previous ugly experience of group work, some issues should be concerned:

- more workload to get a common consensus
- more workload to coordinate
- uneven workload among members
- unfair and lower grade to outstanding individuals
- more different ideas, more conflicts
- to less conflicts, less different ideas contributed
- the effectiveness of learning is difficult to be measured and managed

Personally, I think students can take a little bit advantages from group work if there are maximum 2 people in group and more time to cooperate.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Chan Kit Fun said...

Dear Daniel,
I agree that you may give us a grace period to submit the weekly task if we can't make it. Besides, the workload is OK as you allow us to submit the task either in group or individual.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Keith, great points about group work. These also my concerns and from my experience distribution of learning is very uneven when large groups work together. As a teacher one must be accountable for learning of each and every student in the class. I know a lot of people emphasize social constructivism but to organize it properly everyone will have to do more work.

At 1:41 AM, Blogger Maximilian Wat said...

Although I'm will to learn, I have to take care personal, family and teaching work on top of studies. I learned from you that to treat pressure is a drive to try make work smarter. I don't hate pressure, but I hate I can't work to my maximum potential.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Kelvin Leung said...

I like how Daniel challenged us to think and work in this class. I personally like doing all the assignments, and looking forward to seeing others' contributions, as well as the peers' comments.

While I could see how a busy person might have a tough time finishing the weekly assignments, I think ultimately it really depends on how much effort we want to put into these assignments. Come to think of it, we don't necessarily have to make something very fancy for each week (nobody asked us to). Even the photostory could be done in matter of minutes if we decide to do a quick job of it. So, let's be realistic to ourselves, stick to the basics (just a tad over our "usual standards" just to make it challenging to the mind) , and don't go wild with our ideas.

I don't really think asking Daniel to "give us a break" on the deadline is really all that important. Think about it: Daniel has not really pushed us nor penalize us for submitting our assignments or updating our blog late. (Even his reminder is rather gentle). However, if we postpone the submission of this week's assignment, it almost always translate into postponement of next week's.

So, may I suggest all of us to start our weekly assignment early (like on Saturday or Sunday rather than the weekdays), and ask for help if and when we need it?

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Thanks Kevin for doing this for me. I think that you brought up one major thing into focus. I was checking though blogs and I noticed that majority would post their work on Friday. This is the indicator that a lot of people doing the work in a hurry, last minute before the class on Friday. If you hurry and place yourself under pressure to deliver anything by the class in evening, for sure you might feel negative about tasks. Your approach is excellent: start doing it early over weekend and if you need feedback, ask facilitator or other class members. This would also give an opportunity for other students to learn from each other work before the next class which will move on another topic.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Kelvin Leung said...

I personally am always late in coming to class. (Usually by then many have already shown up for class). I also can tell you that I get out of work earliest on Fridays (since I need to go to class). Furthermore, I need to put my son to bed at 9pm-10pm almost every night.

So... while I might not be as busy as some of my classmates, I honest believe that if I could hand in my homework in/on time, most people could.

Anyway, let's voice out and ask for help (instead of a mere extension) if we need any.

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