C.13 “Toward Authentic Student Learning Assessment in General Education: Encouraging Metacognition through Faculty Development, Quantitative Reasoning, and E-Portfolios”
Reviewed by Dahliani Reynolds, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: Paul Hanstedt, Roanoke College, Lexington, VA
Dominic DelliCarpini, York College of Pennsylvania, PA, “Re- covering the ‘Teaching’ in Teaching and Learning: Enhancing Faculty Metacognition through General Education Assessment and Reform”
Patrick Bahls, University of North Carolina, Asheville, “Toward Authentic Assessment of Authentic Learning: Measuring Quantitative Literacy through Reflective Writing”
Paul Hanstedt, Roanoke College, Lexington, VA, “E-Portfolios, Metacognitive Writing, and the ‘Whole Student’”
I saw two of the members of this panel present on general education and the teaching of writing at the 2013 CCCC, and eagerly anticipated this year’s panel. I was not disappointed. The threads weaving this panel together are general education, as one might guess from the title, but also—and perhaps more surprisingly—the teaching of disciplinary methodologies in general education. More specifically, the notion that general education is best imagined as working to help students understand and accept the notion that disciplinary methods are valid ways of thinking, and that those ways of thinking serve different kinds of work.
Dominic DelliCarpini summed up the purpose of general education as fostering metacognitive processes to help students understand that they are doing more in their general education courses than fulfilling credits. The threshold concepts we want students to learn are troublesome, transformative, integrative, bounded and discursive, and irreversible. Sketching out the general education reform at York College, DelliCarpini outlined the college’s work to develop Disciplinary Perspective courses (to launch in 2015) that shift the focus of general education from content to method. In other words, to introduce students to the way people in those fields think. Making this shift in general education requires an almost equal shift in faculty development. To address this need for faculty development, York College has facilitated a number of workshops asking faculty to reflect on the following questions: Why do we think the way we do? Why do we use the processes we do? Why do we see the world the way we do? In articulating their responses for colleagues, the faculty are practicing how they will articulate these answers for students.
Patrick Bahls began his presentation on transformative assignments in the STEM classroom with a confession: he is not a writing teacher; he is a mathematics professor with a commitment to literacy practices. Bahls spoke about needing assessments that are not singular in nature (like the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)), but are authentic, embedded, site-specific, discipline-specific, and multidimensional. Moving from this assessment framework to pedagogical development, Bahls highlighted three assignments that have been used in Physics, Math, and an Honors course that was a hybrid between math and creative writing. These assignments ask students to embed themselves in disciplinary ways of thinking, and to develop multidimensional—and multimodal—texts that are meta-cognitively rich. For example, the physics assignment asked students to craft multimedia texts analyzing real world applications of physical principles.
The final speaker, Paul Hanstedt, ostensibly was focused on e-portfolios, though his talk seemed to be more concerned with helping students develop a writerly self-efficacy. To be a good writer, Hanstedt argued, one needs to have content knowledge of the topic, the skills, genre, and discourse knowledge of the field, and a sense of your right to write—of full agency, authority, and self-authorship. If you don’t have all three “keys to the kingdom,” you will always struggle to write. High impact practices that can help students gain these keys include first-year seminars, study abroad programs, and undergraduate research. E-portfolios, then, are a crucial component in connecting high-impact experiences and writing processes.