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Reading Reflection-Constantly Learning

There wasn’t class last week so I didn’t have a class reflection. Instead I participated in a couple more webinars and found them all fascinating. This project really brought out the best in all of the groups.

For this last reading reflection, I’ll be reading three articles and then after class tomorrow, my final reflection will be on the class as a whole.

The first article is called The C’s of Our Sea Change: Plans for Training Staff, from Core Competencies to Learning 2.0 by Blowers and Reed. This article looks at how the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County trains their staff and keeps them constantly learning which seems so key. As librarians if we’re not learning all the time, how are we going to encourage our patrons to be more curious about the world. I like that this article starts off with the basic challenges of knowing how to deal with technology and making sure that the staff understand what they’re doing so they can help the patrons. In my own reference work, I know I sometimes am unsure what things I should fix and what I should call for help with since I know how to fix some printer problems but not all. And sometimes the computers do things that I have no idea how to approach.

The author’s discovery that classroom teaching didn’t fit the Web 2.0 tools makes a lot of sense and I find the fact that they worked to get their staff discovering on their own hopeful. It seems such an intelligent way to get people involved in technology and help it become part of their life so its not a strange thing to talk about with someone else. I’m not surprised to read about how a community was created, blogging amongst a circle of people is so powerful and how I’ve found many of my best friends and connections online. This article brings together some wonderful ideas for using free tools to help staff stay connected and learning.

Next I’ll be reading an article by my professor Kristin Fonticharo called Planning an Online Professional Development Module from 2008. The first thing I’m struck by the when needed approach sounds like it makes sense when you’re in a small environment where there is time to train and help. Sadly with budget cuts that time doesn’t exist as much so other solutions need to be found. By using the 23 things created by Blowers and Reed above as inspiration but shifting them to fit a school, a good one was found. Its so inspirational how quickly ideas are passed around in the world of libraries. We maybe a small world in comparison to other professions but we talk to each other. The fact that the teachers asked for chances to do the module when they have more time speaks to just how effective it is that it can be revisited.

The last article for this week is by Semadini and is from last year called When Teachers Drive Their Learning, which seems like the natural place to go after the prior articles. Those looked at how to help get librarians and teachers learning on their own through a module. This program from Wyoming is called Fusion and is built around the idea that teachers will be more active in their professional development if they have control of when and what they learn. A number of options are created and then teacher facilitators work with small groups of teachers to help them learn what they want. The idea of small group learning makes a lot of sense and seems as if it would provide a lot of flexibility to get the teachers together. It seems like this plan is built around creating a comfortable environment for teachers to learn from each other, which seems like the best outcome. As it gets rid of the problem of teachers only focusing and worrying about what happens behind the closed doors of their classroom. The addition of a money incentive makes sense to help get the program moving as it creates extra work for the teachers but its hopeful to hear the teachers note how they enjoyed the program for its own sake.

Professional Development is a constant challenge in any workforce and I think as librarians, we need to be constantly pushing ourselves. If we don’t then we won’t be able to provide ways for our patrons to discover things they might not consider. I like the idea of sharing learning and having constant education going on through online modules that helps librarians connect with teach other.

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Reading Reflection-Webinars

I watched an archived Webinar on a campaign created by OCLC and the Gates Foundation called Geek the Library, which was fascinating. I was really struck by how difficult it is to make a webinar more than just a recording of a powerpoint presentation. The webinar was actually made up of two different presentations that were working together and in the archived format, I had to read the chat separately from watching the audio and slides. It seems as if how the webinar presents itself reflects in the chat conversation, this webinar patterned itself like a traditional presentation and so there was less talk in the chat. I came away from it glad to know of the program and curious to learn more but with little sense of the people presenting.

This week the reading is a mixture of articles and chapter 7 of How People Learn which is titled “Effective Teaching: Examples in History, Mathematics and Science.” I’m going to start with the chapter and then move on to the other readings and I’m curious about advice about how to make an effective webinar. They seem to present a combination of challenges from other formats in one place. The chapter starts by presenting an example of a teacher who knows how to combine their teaching experience with content knowledge to design a curriculum around what her students wish to learn. It seems like something that would be incredibly hard to do, use students questions to craft a course but if it worked would change how students think about learning. The two history examples look at teachers who try to get their students examining what is history and why and how do we study it. This is something that’s so important but most students don’t seem to encounter that idea until college as that type of learning requires more time. I appreciate how these teachers found ways to make these questions into the day to day teaching of their courses and that helped them make it work within the structure they were working in.

The mathematics section starts with a teacher who talks about teaching through sense-making so that students understand why something is reasonable on their way to understanding how to do multiplication. By connecting to their prior knowledge, the teacher was able to lead the students to a place where they felt comfortable with the work. While the second teacher, Ball, focused on a model to help with a lesson on negative numbers and found that while it was helpful for some aspects it didn’t cover everything. Again she was building on what the students already knew to better help them grasp the new information and not be overwhelmed by it. Both teachers use models and the book speaks about how models can help so much in learning math since when children are younger abstract concepts can be more difficult.

The science section is not as clearly written or explained as it talks about physics and the idea of teaching students how to think about problems. It seems as if the authors chose a tricky topic to teach but their examples end up rather abstract as opposed to the other ones. There are examples presented of innovative ways of teaching but there isn’t the clear narrative structure of the other sections which was a difference from the other sections. This made this part not seem to fit and a little harder to integrate with the other ideas. Though there are a variety of examples in the science section, they don’t seem to connect in the same way the other sections do and it makes it harder to come out with a clear sense of what works. I found this chapter helpful but it seemed to veer between too specific and too broad, I’m not sure how easy I would find it to work these things into my own teaching.

The next reading is Online Webinars! Interactive Learning Where Our Users Are: The Future of Embedded Librarianship by Susan Montgomery from the August 2010 Public Services Quarterly. Montgomery begins by stating statistics about how online college students are at this point in time and how academic librarians must find ways to connect with them where they are. Then looks at some programs that work by integrating intelligent use of online tools in and out of the classroom and creating embedded librarians that students see as part of the learning team. Webinars are then presented as the next step in this type of reaching out to students since they allow for more levels of interaction between students and teachers. Montgomery makes a good point by showing that librarians are used to webinars in their professional education so its something that they know what good and bad ones feel like. This article presents many options for how to interact more online with students and places that are making changes but doesn’t seem to lead anywhere other than online stuff is useful and we should do more.

The last reading is from the same publication and is by Matos et al and is titled The Embedded Librarian or Face-to-Face: American University’s Experience. This article examines how two types of embedded librarians worked at American University, the first was what they termed traditional, which is a librarian that is connected to a specific unit. These librarians tend to be specialists within that subject area, which I wasn’t completely aware of. The second type of librarian is a combination of a reference/instruction and collection manager that seems more like the type of librarian I’m aware of at the University of Michigan with the subject specialist librarians who organize book and online resources and field questions. One of the challenges seems to be how to make sure that the library and the department are both getting what they need and providing the most for students without losing anything. The music librarian’s examples of learning to mesh with the community show how just being there isn’t always enough. She had to show the students that she understood what they did and could be an ally for them instead of what they perceived a librarian as. The business librarian on the other hand does most of the connecting in a more formalized way through online communication and speaking in classes so his interaction with the community has a different feel. The key in both of these seems to be figuring out what the communities wish for from the librarians and being able to provide that in the best way possible. As always communication is what makes things work and a librarian who doesn’t know their community won’t be able to truly help.

What I get from all of these readings is how key it is to know what the community you’re teaching in needs and wants to find out the best way to teach them. This seems to be one of the trickiest parts if you’re a new person in the community as there are things that someone who’s been there a long time will pick up that aren’t obvious. All of these readings have good suggestions of what to do when you know what works best and ideas on how to use new technology to create new avenues for instruction.

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Readings-Ethics

The readings for this week are the ALA Code of Ethics, an article by Mosley and then three posts from the discussion about HarperCollins and the Overdrive issue of how many times can e-books be taken out.

One thing that I always think about in terms of the ALA code of ethics is how key protecting user’s privacy is, because this is something those outside the library world don’t completely understand. The idea that when you take a book out, we won’t keep a record of what you’ve read once you’ve returned it. There will be a mark that it has gone out but that’s all. I think it this idea highlights just how important it is to make the library a safe space for everyone, where the librarian will not judge what you read or what you ask. Its difficult to make it completely true in the real world, because we each carry with us so many prejudices and biases but as librarians we do what we can to overcome them. I appreciate too that the idea of constantly striving and learning is a key part of this code since it seems like something all future librarians share is this desire to learn as much as possible and share that knowledge. Whether its helping someone to find the right resource for a paper or figure out how best to share something amazing in an archive, its all about sharing knowledge.

The Mosley article focuses on creating a library assignment workshop for university faculty. This topic feels quite familiar to me in my work as a reference librarian on campus, sometimes an email will come to all of us reference librarians as a heads up about an assignment that requires our help. Its rare that this emails are sent before the assignments going, usually they appear after a few people have asked and we have to find out the requirements. The description of how the workshop begins sounds very effective with those running it presenting humorous examples of library misconceptions, which is a good way to do it. That way if a faculty member sees themselves, they don’t feel ashamed but instead go, oh I’m not alone. Now I need to figure how do I fix what I was doing. Its so key to be aware of how librarians are perceived outside of our circle of the world especially on a university campus where we’re just one of many resources available to researchers and not the one they might think to turn to first. I find the detailed explanation of the types of assignments and phrasing of assignments incredibly helpful, if I were a teacher, I’d want these lists close by to help me improve and think about what I’m telling students to do. The article seems to describe a successful workshop thought its interesting that faculty commented on how it would be useful for beginning teachers, I wonder if perhaps the librarians might have gone too far in suggesting how assignments might be flawed. Its a hard balance between not assuming too much of your audience and also not talking down to them, which seems to be one of the major challenges of teaching.

The next readings are three posts about the Harper Collins/Overdrive issue. The first thing I’m reading is The HarperCollins Open Letter to Librarians, which I found a very diplomatic piece of writing. Its clear that they are trying to not anger librarians and don’t see that 26 circulations is too few as they speak about how twenty-six circulations isn’t that few. I find it fascinating how they speak about consulting with everyone from librarians to publishers but I think I would have appreciated it more if they had included quotes and information about what helped. This feels far too much like a blanket statement that’s not really explaining but instead saying, we did our research, get off our backs, it won’t be that bad.

I next read the Library Journal article Library Consortia Begins to Vote Against HarperCollins EBook Checkout Policy as I wanted to read another official take on the issue. The focus in this article is about the consortiums that are choosing to not purchase more for HarperCollins and I find it interesting how they focus on money. The idea that HarperCollins is working with a profit motive as libraries need to stretch every dollar. I find the quote about lack of transparency quite relevant since it seems like HarperCollins felt like they did their research but they haven’t shared it. I’ve noticed that in discussions of ebooks, there are many sides of the picture and since things are constantly evolving, there really aren’t any rules set. So publishers and libraries are trying to make choices that work for them, but these discussions are happening in various corners with overlap when everyone disagrees. I look forward to seeing what happens next because ebooks aren’t easy to predict.

For the third piece I read Book Pixie and I found her blog post incredibly helpful as she draws together the Ebook User’s Bill of Rights and her own thoughts on what is important for readers. I appreciate her wariness in terms of the boycott because boycotts are a major step and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Also they have a way of closing off the dialogue which in this case needs to be open so there can be change. The idea especially that the boycott will limit patron’s access, which is never the right choice for any library.

This to me encapsulates this issue, which is about who gets to decide access to ebooks. As librarians our job is to promote access in as many ways and formats as possible so I hope that a middle ground can be found between HarperCollins’ 26 circulations and a complete boycott of them.

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Book Club Prep

The reading this week is rather unusual because instead of reading articles, we’re reading what the various groups chose or the book clubs we’ll be doing in class. I’m in the selection of groups called Hearts and my first thought as I look at what I have to read is that its a really wonderful selection of things. I’m going to go through the readings from how they’re listed in the wiki since I think that’s the simplest way. This will be a slightly shorter reflective work because I’m trying to save most of my thoughts for class and seeing where the book groups take the discussions but all of these works are fascinating.

The first group of Brett, Karmen and Joanna chose two poems from a poetry site that I wasn’t familiar with poemhunter.com but its one I’ll probably use again. They chose William Blake’s The Tiger and Robert Frost’s Design. I’m quite familiar with the first poem and its beautiful imagery. I’m curious to see what we’ll talk about with it since its a poem that gets studied a lot. Frost’s poem is one that I don’t know about and as with all of Frost’s work, I’m struck by the simplicity of the words and the power of the images. He’s one of those authors who does such a good job of saying a lot in a little space. I last talked about poetry in English courses in college so approaching it in a new venue makes me excited.

The next group is Emily F. and Jill and they chose a version of Hansel and Gretel posted on a site called sulalunefairytales.com. I think this is a good choice as there’s always a lot to find in these traditional tales. This version is from the Brothers Grimm and has many details that I’d forgotten since its been so long since I read it such as that Hansel first used pebbles before bread to find their way back. Also in this one the house is bread as opposed to fully candy and that the mother dies before they return home. There’s so much going on in this story in terms of what is warning for and what is it talking about. I think it too will create a really good discussion.

Kayla and I chose one of Ovid’s Heroides, which is a letter from Penelope to Ulysses. Picking this was a real pleasure for me since my work in the Classics’ has mainly been with Greek literature and this work is a Roman author creating a different viewpoint on a well known Greek text. I’m looking forward to discussing it and seeing what other readers see in this poem.

The last group of Sarah and Emily S. has chosen poems from something called The Card Catalog Poetry Project, which I also want to go and explore more. It seems as if all the poetry is written on old card catalog cards and inspired by what’s printed on them. We’re reading the poetry of someone named Robin Harris and there are four poems. I find it amazing how the poet has really written their poetry around and amidst the printed words on the cards and each poem truly stands alone. I have no idea what we may talk about with this one, which makes it exciting.

This is a wonderful project and I love thinking about what’s the best short work for people to discuss and how do you get a good discussion going. All of these works reminds me why I spent so much of my college career studying literature, because there’s always something to find and see a new angle at.

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Books Clubs and Socratic Seminars

All of the reading this week is about how to run book clubs and Socratic seminars. I’m curious to see what these articles say because one of the things that’s helped my parents get socially active in the community they retired to was book and movie clubs. Currently they’re members of a large one where not everyone reads the book but it sets off fascinating discussions and feels like a Sunday brunch with talk of books. My mother is a member of a small woman’s book club that reads a real variety of books and two librarians are active in it. Then my parents are also part of a small movie club, which is low key and they talk over dinner and enjoy each other’s company. one idea that I found wonderful is doing a thematic book club so that everyone’s reading connected works but not the same ones since it creates new approaches and at the end of the club, each person will have a list of what they want to read next.

I started out by reading the Hoffert article from Library Journal about book clubs and the various methods that public libraries use to pull the local community in and keep them active. This article is full of thoughts about book kits and videoconferencing and helping readers move beyond the book. It makes me rather excited and curious to go out and get involved with book clubs.

One the other hand the Metzger article about using something called a Socratic seminar to help students feel more comfortable reading bothers me. The reason it does is because I studied Classics as an undergraduate and from the description of two circles inner and outer which would go back and forth between discussion. This sounds like a useful way to help students take control of their reading and learning but not Socratic. Socrates focused on the use of questions that he would use to push the discussion in specific ways so maybe this is like that but from the description it seems more like a book group. From Metzger’s description, it seems like it can be a powerful tool to teach students how to know their own opinions, think about reading and think about how they interact with each other. It seems like some lessons from this would be useful in Hoffert article which focuses on the good parts of book clubs and doesn’t mention how tricky group dynamics can be.

Then I read an article by Tredway about Socratic Seminars which is from three years before the Metzger article so hopefully it will answer some of my questions. According to Tredway the seminar is based around the reading of a common text and a pointed question asked by a teacher. There’s a mention of voting which seems strange to me, because I could see Socrates feeling confused that people are voting in a seminar. Though the voting is used to start discussion and get students defending their opinions which makes more sense. My reading of Socrates was always that it wasn’t about being right or wrong, but if you felt one way about something, be able to say clearly why. One aspect I find interesting of these Socratic seminars is the idea of there being a group who observes the discussion and then comments on it. That type of feedback is a tricky thing to give but quite important since it can be hard to see group dynamics when you’re inside of a group. These types of seminars seem tricky to begin because they require a lot of trust from the teacher to the students that they will focus on the text and from the students with each other to be polite and also truthful.

The last article I read is The Three Jeremiads by Robert Darnton that I last read in my Digital Libraries class. Apparently a Jereemiad is a long literary lament on society and in this case, his is focused on the state of university libraries. Darnton begins with a Jeremiad about the price of journals and how they become harder for research libraries to buy especially in smaller topics. His plan to try and finance theses that pursue little known topics seems like a fine way to help students wish to write more by showing there will be a place that they can be read. His second Jeremiad is from when he led the Harvard University library and focuses on the exact costs of buying periodicals for that library and how their budget works. He points out how scientific journals especially put university libraries in a bind because they make great profits because scientists insist on access and need to be published to show that they’re relevant. There is a move towards open access journals but its not easy because the history and weight of the publishing world makes it difficult for them to be viable. His last Jeremiad is on the matter of Google and how they control so much information and require libraries to contribute. The idea of a national digital public library seems so much closer now thanks to Google Books but currently Google and publishers hold more power in terms of copyright. I find this article fascinating but also coming from a specific place from someone who has access to a lot of resources anyway so perhaps not the best at seeing an even larger picture.

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Transferring Knowledge-How do you do it?

The first reading for this week is from How People Learn and is chapter three: Learning and Transfer. I’m curious about the order we’re reading the chapters in because it seems as if transfer should be thought about before assessment. Transfer seems like a complicated idea, because its not always obvious what parts of lessons can be moved from one discipline to another and I think it can be unexpected too.

I like where the book begins by stating that unless there’s mastery of the initial learning, it can’t be transferred, because its a common sense idea but one I never thought about. The next step with the fact that you need to truly understand something before you can transfer the knowledge fits in with how people learn. I know in my experience that I tend to make connections to things I feel sure about. So I’m more willing to connect to my knowledge of literature or performance, because I have so many years of approaching them from numerous angles, which allows me to bring them into play with new subjects.

The numbers that the book cites for how long it takes to truly master something jump out at me, because at 50,000 hours and more, they’re much larger than was mentioned in the gaming video last week of 10,000 hours. The difference in time makes me wonder how these numbers have been calculated, because it seems a tricky thing. Recording how long you do something is difficult unless there’s a set format for it. I can say that I worked this many hours at my various jobs, because they have clear shifts, but in terms of studying, its much more fluid. I might not be sitting at my computer typing something but I could be discussing what I learned in class with someone and that adds to my understanding. I know this is a tangent but the amount of time you have to learn keeps arising so I want to know more. Time is such a precious commodity in schools and libraries, because there are so many things that have to be done so time for instruction must be used wisely.

I wasn’t aware that contrasting could help so much with learning but I can see how it makes sense. If you only know something in the abstract or in a very particular set of circumstances then it will be much harder to use that knowledge elsewhere or understand it on a deeper level. Though I find it compelling that it can also go the other way, sometimes its hard to actually know what you know if the types of learning are so different from each other. This is something I’ve come across in terms of presentations in my formal education. I’m incredibly comfortable with acting and storytelling so running a storytime doesn’t require a lot of changing of my knowledge, but a powerpoint presentation with a defined structure can be hard for me. That’s because learning how to transfer my skills to fit into a specific presentation model isn’t obvious for me. This is something I’m improving on, but my preferred presentation model is closer to my safer space of telling a story then interacting with a screen behind me and the audience in front of me.

I appreciate that the book lays out that how we learn in school is different from how we act in other places and that can hamper transfer as its not always obvious how to move things from one part of life to another. Though this can be complicated, authentic learning can be important and key to what someone takes away from school, but as the book points out abstract learning also has lessons. As with so many things in terms of teaching, there are no easy answers.

The second reading for this week is an article by Wiggins and McTighe called Teaching for Understanding from 2005. This article starts off strongly by showing how most students don’t see their education as something they can take and use in the real world and how important it is for them to learn how to do that. The three instructional techniques mentioned near the beginning; direct instruction, facilitation and coaching seem like powerful tools that have many different names. The author then uses transfer, meaning and acquisition to help think about how these styles of teaching can be brought into the classroom. Again its the combination of types of teaching that will help students understand the material and be able to take it outside the context of school.

As always with these articles, I’m struck by just how much research and thought has been put into how people learn and what helps students and how difficult it is to make this work across curricula. One of the trickiest parts of the world of education is just how big and diverse it is and in the world of libraries, some of the same problems appear. What might work and be enjoyed in one library might fall flat in another and so it can be tricky to create successful nationwide programs.

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Learning Environments and Assessment

This week’s reading is chapter 6 of How People Learn called The Design of Learning Environments, which begins with a brief history of how education has changed in the United States from rote copying to critical thinking. I’ve always found this topic fascinating and it was my favorite part of the Education class I took my first year as an undergraduate, because the ideas of what needs to be taught and how can really change so much. Also I’ve always been struck by how American education is moved so much by trends and new information, it seems faster than other parts of the world.

Learner-centered environments seem like they would be the most effective for early in education, because they make the educational place safe for students that might be wary of it. It could be a way for students without much experience of a student environment to feel as if their knowledge is important and help them have ownership of what’s going on in the classroom.

Knowledge-centered environments on the other hand focus more on making sure the students truly understand the information on multiple levels and can manipulate it on their own. The examples presented in the book focus on math and science because the distance because understanding in these disciplines is trickier than just knowing. This part of the book made me think a lot about how the AP exam in science is transforming so that the focus is on students being scientists as opposed to just memorizing information. I really like the phrase “Learning the landscape” to describe this type of teaching because it shows how important it is to have the students be oriented and be able to explore the discipline on their own terms.

Assessment-centered environments have two types of assessment-formative which is what I think of as feedback and happens throughout the process of learning and then summative assessment that occurs at the end to see what the student has learned. The current public education system seems built on summative assessment versus formative because it is usually the easier thing to assess, do you know this versus how well do you know this? It seems like there needs to be a place in between which balances both types of assessment and mixes them in with all the other types of learning environments so that students can know what they’ve learned. Formative assessment is something that I feel rather personally connected to because I know that one of the ways I learn best is by constantly talking about or writing about what I’m doing. This helps me see where I went wrong with one thing and how I can best fix it. I feel like a good way to work formative assessment into a program is to at the beginning ask students how they learn and what helps them and then this can be worked into things. The only thing is that this requires more time than most teachers have to dedicate to assessment, which is a shame.

Community-centered environments make so much sense, because they acknowledge what’s always been true, school is a huge community and each classroom has its own feeling. For four summers, I was part of a summer camp that worked as an intentional community with group meetings four nights a week and a everyone working together to make things work. Each summer was incredibly different depending on the attitudes that the campers brought in and how they interacted with the set norms and constantly changing norms of the community. This experience taught me how difficult it is to create a safe and happy community for everyone, but that it is so important and I carry those lessons with me. In a classroom, the idea of creating a community must tie back into the learner-centered environment because the norms of communities can vary so much and a teacher needs to be aware of what is expected of their students outside the classroom.

I like the use of the word Alignment to talk about how all of these environments and assessments need to be brought together in a classroom and a school. This seems like it would be the toughest part of being an administrator, getting inside each classroom and making sure that every teacher is working along the same lines and every student is having their best experience.

The second reading for this week is by D. Royce Sadler and called Formative Assessment and the Design of Instructional Systems from 1989.

I like how Sadler lays out the idea that the power of formative assessment is that is can help students get the same idea of quality as the teacher, this is an effective way of putting across that students need to understand why they’re learning and how. Sadler divides this into three distinct parts the student has a concept of a the goal or standard needed, compare the actual performance with the standard and then closing the gap between the two so the student can reach the goal. This is a good way to describe the process of learning, you figure out what you need to know, try and learn it and then figure out where you’re wrong and correct it.

I’m struck by the idea of how teachers carry around standards in their head which can work for or against students along with this idea of unconscious ranking, because it points out how teachers think as they grade. The balance to this is providing examples along with descriptions for students so that there’s an objective standard for a student to work towards. The rest of the article talks about the challenges of bringing these ideas into the classroom since evaluation and assessment can vary depending on the subject and the teacher. It seems as if the take away from this article is that teachers need to be aware of what they’re really trying to teach and how to clearly get that across to their students.

Both these readings really point out how difficult assessment is, because so much of it relies on what is being taught and what the end goal for the learner is. A teacher needs to be aware of so many factors as they construct assignments and how they assess them and how they relay the the criteria for success to their students.

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