What we’d like to suggest is an approach that great instructors already know to be true: when a student gives feedback or support to another student, that process deepens their own understanding. In the case of learning to program, students with expertise actually learn more when they work with students who have less expertise. In writing courses, the research suggests that the act of critiquing another’s work measurably improves the quality of your own. We can associate peer feedback with dozens of other skills, including communication, conflict resolution, negotiation, and empathy.
It’s a bit edu-speak, but bear with us: what we mean to suggest is that you can learn through assessing someone else. That statement has massive implications, good ones, for learning communities on the web. Not only will communities come up with their own notions of quality (the software development community GitHub has “core contributors” as an example) but communities can also scale to meet the needs of many learners in a personal way.
Let that resonate for a second. Scale to meet the needs of learners--in a personal way.
If we recognize that problems might have several answers, and feedback on your project extends your own learning, then every path is unique and personal. This is the promise of assessment on the web.
At P2PU, we’ve experimented quite a bit with peer feedback and collaborative work. We’ve made several prototypes for alternative assessment, and experimented with different kinds of cohorts for learning.
As part of the open & online education community, we’ve come across scores of platforms and learning networks. A few of the ones we admire put in place several of the assessment principles we outlined previously.
Accreditation is the main roadblock to innovation in assessment and the wider educational landscape. Credentials are often the gatekeepers to opportunity, recognition, success. Unfortunately, accreditation systems are extremely slow to change, often deeply hierarchical, and transcripts don’t tell us much about interpersonal skills or mastery. But the web can.
On the web, communities come up with their own way to recognize accomplishment. Sometimes they are in line with traditional accreditation and sometimes they are not. These mechanisms are transparent and evolve over time in step with the way communities work and learn. Not surprisingly software developers were the first professional community to do this. They have developed standards of accomplishment and recognition that are built on the web. Other communities are following.
We’ve proposed a number of “opportunities” for how assessment can evolve on the web. The tension between new ways to recognize learning, and the old mechanisms of accrediting learning will increase. And however accreditation shakes out, the web will be an important aspect of how we showcase to others what we have done, the things we have learned, and who we are.