was team teaching; now FACTS?

John Hoddinott jhoddino at GPU.SRV.UALBERTA.CA
Tue Jul 13 17:28:48 EST 1999

I am sure we have all faced the issue of concept vs. content in our 
teaching.  It is, of course, obvious that learners must have some content in 
order to be able to demonstrate their use of concepts.  The key question is 
really "with what degree of sophistication does a learner use a concept 
given a certain level of content?"  Do we value most the level of 
sophistication of use of a concept or the volume of content included?  I 
suspect the former.

John Biggs in Australia has been writing on the topic of 'Constructive 
Alignment' where learning objectives are aligned with teaching and learning 
activities and assessment practices.  His assessment model has the 
objectives embedded in the assesment tasks so there is little chance of 
learners focussing on assessment and missing the obectives.  I assume we all 
share the idea that objectives are best stated at higher cognitive levels, 
as that expresses what we aspire to have our learners be able to do.  That 
would probably mean objectives based on the use of concepts.

By clearly stating the criteria by which the assessment is to be carried 
out, the learners are in a position to reflect on their own work and modify 
it according to their abilities.  When the assessment is based on the 
learners ability to evaluate the significance of a concept (a highly valued 
process objective), it might be appropriate for a learner to add to the 
content by citing an additional example which amplifies a point in the 
evaluation.  Citing many extra examples would be overkill and it would not 
make the learner's mastery of  the concept any more obvious.

Concepts and content are important but it is the use of content to 
demonstrate high level mastery of concepts that is key.

For a digest of John Biggs' writing, try:

Biggs,J. 1999. What the Student Does: Teaching for Enhanced Learning.  
Higher Education Research and Development 18(1):57-75.
John Hoddinott,
Professor, Biological Sciences,
University of Alberta,
Edmonton, Alberta,
T6G 2E9, Canada.
Tel: (780) 492-4587,
Fax: (780) 492-9234,
e-mail: jhoddino at gpu.srv.ualberta.ca

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