Assessment -- What do faculty who are experimenting with interactive learning strategies (see constructivism) mean by "assessment"? In the simplest terms, assessment is a process for gathering and using data about student learning and performance. The LT2 web site distinguishes the following two types of assessment:
- Formative assessments -- activities that simultaneously (1) provide instructors with feedback about how and what students are learning, which the instructors can then immediately use to adjust and improve their teaching efforts; and (2) foster student learning directly because the students in the process of performing such activities. (For more information, see the FLAG website, which features classroom assessment techniques that have been show to improve learning.)
- Summative assessments -- formal examinations or tests, the results of which faculty use to demonstrate in a way that is definitive and visible to people outside the course the degree to which students have accomplished the course's learning goals.
Tom Angelo (1995) defines assessment as an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves:
- making our expectations explicit and public;
- setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality;
- systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches these expectations and standards; and
- using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance.
When it is embedded effectively within larger institutional systems, assessment can help us focus our collective attention, examine our assumptions, and create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education.
Bricoleur -- a French term for a person who is adept at finding, or simply recognizing in their environment, resources that can be used to build something she or he believes is important and then putting resources together in a combination to achieve her or his goals.
Constructivism -- According to Schwandt, constructivism is a "philosophical perspective interested in the ways in which human beings individually and collectively interpret or construct the social and psychological world in specific linguistic, social, and historical contexts" (1997, p.19). During the last 20 or so years, cognitive psychologists (James Wertsch, Barbara Rogoff, and Jean Lave, among many others) have found that constructivist theories of how people construct meaning are closely aligned with their observations of how people learn: knowledge is mediated by social interactions and many other features of cultural environments.
Learning activity -- As used in the LT2 case studies, learning activity refers to specific pursuits that faculty expect students to undertake in order to learn. Thus, "Computer-enabled hands-on experimentation is a useful way to get students to take responsibility for their own learning" is a statement of belief that a particular learning activity (experimentation) helps realize a particular teaching principle.
Learning environment -- According to Wilson, a learning environment is a place where learners may work together and support each other as they use a variety of tools and information resources in their pursuit of learning goals and problem-solving activities (1995). This definition of learning environments is informed by constructivist theories of learning.
Microcomputer-Based Laboratories (MBL) -- A set of laboratories that involve the use of (1) electronic probes or other electronic input devices, such as video cameras, to gather data that students then feed into computers, which convert the data to digital format and which students analyze using graphical visualization software; and (2) a learning cycle process, which includes written prediction of the results of an experiment, small group discussions, observation of the physical event in real time with the MBL tools, and comparison of observations with predictions.
Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education -- These principles, published in "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" by Zelda Gamson and Arthur Chickering, were synthesized from their research on undergraduate education (1991). According to their findings, good practice entails:
- Encouraging student-faculty contact.
- Encouraging cooperation among students.
- Encouraging active learning.
- Giving prompt feedback.
- Emphasizing time on task.
- Communicating high expectations.
- Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.
Teaching principles -- Teaching principles refer to a faculty member's more general beliefs about, or philosophy of, learning. For example, the idea that "students should take responsibility for their own learning" is a teaching principle. It is general and informed by a theory of learning. It does not refer to something specific that one might actually do in a course.