Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Technologies: EDUC 8845 Blog Post #5

Two years ago I was attempting to introduce an additional assessment method to the institution where I work. The assessment method is known as a proctored essay. It represents the online equivalent of a bluebook examination frequently administered by classroom instructors in higher education. I believed that the current battery of assessment methods we relied on was too limited, preventing us from assessing specific skills and abilities considered important in some courses. For example, in a U.S. History course, a multiple choice exam might allow you to assess a learner’s grasp of basic facts and knowledge, but there was no reliable method of assessing whether students could explain detailed events or articulate cause and effect in a more complex manner. While a project-based assignment could go beyond this cognitive assessment, it didn’t always fit perfectly either.

Needless to say, the response to the proposal was not favorable. The executive team reacted poorly to a pilot we conducted where students voiced considerable resistance to the method. Many of them voiced a preference for multiple choice examinations, which frankly did not surprise me given that the multiple choice exams required less of the students than the proctored essay.

Looking back on the situation, I could have more effectively applied some of the principles in Keller’s (Driscoll, 2005) ARCS model to improve acceptance of the new assessment method by both students and the executive team. First, I would have included more detailed information to both parties in the form of introductory materials that would hopefully activate their attention. For students, this would have raised their curiosity and better prepared them for the proctored essay format. For the executives, it might have raised the issue as a problem (lack of a reliable assessment method) rather than something simply being adopted. I would also have included more information regarding the usefulness and importance of the method to students and executives. For students, I would have better explained how this method actually assesses something relevant to their program and eventual careers. Many of the students were in an initial teacher licensure program, so the assessment method would better prepare them for the types of discussions and teaching experiences they themselves would be engaged with. Finally, I would have provided more opportunities for students and the executives to gain confidence. Perhaps I could have supplied the executives with data on the use of the assessment method in other institutions and demonstrated the advantages this method provided when dealing with accreditors who are always interested in the assessment of higher order thinking skills.

Rajagopal Rajesh published a useful blog post on ARCS found here.While the application of ARCS in my above example doesn't necessarily apply to instructional design, the principles are still relevant to motivation in general and thus, to any situation in which you are attempting to garner support, acceptance, and the success of a change, be it in the classroom or the boardroom.

Driscoll, M. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction (3rd ed.) Boston: Pearson.

I commented on the following blogs for this assignment:

Brandi Renfro
Toni Toney


  1. Randall,
    You have gained new insight or knowledge from this situation. Every experience will not always be positive however learning from the experience is where learning takes place. When the proctored essay is looked at again, you will be prepared and help them understand the concpet and the benefits from this method, good luck.

  2. Randall, I agree you really looked at what worked in contrast to the strategies that could have provided greater benefits.
    Although, as educators or facilitators we have learned to be self reflective it is sometimes helpful to have a set of guidelines to review our plan.
    Thanks DF

  3. Any change in assessment is subject to resistance from both faculty and students unless painstakingly planned. Both are afraid of change that might affect their performance. For both, multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions are easy and safe.

    Have you considered use a collaborative approach to break down student resistance. Working in small groups will give them confidence. Later you can introduce solo essays.