Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts on RPL

Well, Ive listened to Willies input on CAPL and RPL. The history was fascinating! I have worked with CAPL to RPL three students in the National Certificate in Mental Health. It was a fantastic process. I did think in some ways they ended up doing more work than the students enroled in my course, gathering evidence can be a huge task and I don't think it is always the easiest option.

I think there is a lot more scope for portfolio based assessment in my course where students gather their own evidence but I do think it is important that this does not become too big and too much about students proving endless bits of paper evidence otherwise how does it differ from them just doing course assessments? I do think in the RPL process the onus is on students to provide evidence but Like Willie explained in her example the facilitator has a responsibility to match the evidence provided with course outcomes and I think this definatley requires some flexibility and the capacity to see links or the big picture where others might not.

In our face to face session the other day Bronwyn was talkng about courses that start with a quizz where students can test their knowledge against course outcomes, If they pass the quizz they can move on to the next bit. If they don't, they do some activities then try again. I think this concept has huge potential as an evidence based portfolio made easy.

In my course I have endless unit standard performance criteria which the students have to provide evidence of meeting. The result is tedious workbook tasks which I give little weight to. The online self directed quizz approach would be an excellent way of managing this stuff efficiently for me and students - definatly something to work towards in my flexible delivery plan.

One thing Willie mentioned which I found particularly interesting was the idea that "we learn at our points of need...we learn when we need to learn". That is absolutely true of me. I have no room in my busy little head for learning things which aren't immediately applicable. If I can't apply learning immediately it doesn't tend to go in or if it makes it in, it gets lost in the wilderness and refuses to find its way back out!

I'm not sure though that this is true of everyone. I have a high tactile element in my learning style and I think the need to apply information in order to retain it is part of that learning style. Somehow the process of application activates my internal filing system and I can store the information such that it can be successfully retrieved (some might call this deep learning).

My husband is one of those walking encyclopedia types. He scores very low on tactile qualities but very high on visual (I have practically no visual). He has the capacity to retain and recall endless bits of random knowledge picked up from beer lids, tobacco pamphlets and matchbox lids. Actually he reads a lot of science and natural history journals too but the point is that he just kind of learns all the time and it's not on a need to know basis and he doesn't need to apply it in order to retain it.

Following my CAPL experience I made my students learning journal a much more significant aspect of their work. It is an ongoing year long assessment including some structured tasks given each term and other reflective exercises or personal journalling that the students can choose to do. There is one submission date per term and students can choose to submit or not. I set significant time and space aside for reading these assessments and providing formative feedback but there are no rights or wrongs. There is a final submission date at the end of the year and students know in advance that they have to be finished by then. The flexibility around submission for this assessment has been a very successful and entirely appropriate innovation given the nature and content of the task. It allows students to explore self at thier own pace . students

Colleagues have talked about using blogs for Journal assessments but blogs absolutely would not be appropriate for human service students doing this task. Students are not journalling about their flexible learning Journey, they are journalling their life story. In human service journals the focus is on self awareness - what makes them tick and learning about what to share, how to share it, what not to share, clarifying and establishing personal boundaries, figuring out why and how they respond or react the way they do, how life experiences have imacted on their values, attitudes and behaviours, acknowledging their values, strengths, risk area's, predjudices and so on. This level of self exploration is essential in human service work to prevent workers from imposing their values and cultural expectations on vulnerable clients but it can make some students feel very exposed and vulnerable and there are frequently times when students share highly personal, intimate or traumatic life events. I myself shared some very personal life experiences during my own social work training and I'm very glad I didn't do this online.

I have been thinking that an unpublished google doc shared between student and facilitator would be a good online journal tool as this would allow ongoing formative feedback to ecourage deeper reflection while protecting the student's privacy rights.

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