Guest Interview Series by Dr. Danny Glick

Hear from the Experts on Reflective Teaching and Learning

By IGI Global on Jul 5, 2022
Dr. Danny Glick The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-forwarded global education thinking on how to reimagine and transform education in a changing world. In response to the ongoing shift to alternative teaching methods, I have been conducting a series of interviews with leading industry experts, research scientists, and university professors, where we discuss research-based principles, emerging trends and initiatives for driving student engagement and success in the post-COVID era.
It is our hope that this interview series will be an important step towards helping the education community navigate successfully the “new normal.”
Introduction from Dr. Glick
Today I am delighted to be speaking with Dr. Doron Zinger, Director of the CalTeach Science and Math Program at the University of California, Irvine’s School of Education. In his role as Director of the CalTeach program, Doron prepares science and math teachers to teach in schools serving large proportions of historically underserved students. He also works with faculty and in-service teachers to design, develop, and implement teacher professional development.
Early Warning Systems and Targeted Interventions for Student Success in Online Courses
Profs. Danny Glick (University of California, Irvine, USA) et al.
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The Interview Featuring Dr. Zinger
Dr. Doron Zinger

DR. GLICK: Good afternoon, Doron. Formative assessment is a process which involves the gathering and analysis of assessment-elicited evidence for the purpose of determining when and how to adjust instructional activities in order to achieve learning goals. In other words, assessment-elicited evidence is used by the teacher to adjust their teaching to answer the specific needs of the students.

I’d like to start by asking how might formative assessment, or Assessment-For-Learning, be effectively applied in order to enhance students’ learning?

DR. ZINGER: Good afternoon Danny, it’s great to be with you discussing these important ideas and issues. I think on a fundamental level, formative assessment, or Assessment-For-Learning is a central piece of an instructional approach that focuses on student learning, rather than simply sorting students. What I mean by that is that, how can we know what and how we should be teaching students if we do not in some way know what students know or do not know about what we are going to teach? To that end, I think it’s critical to recognize and frequently use multiple forms of formative assessment that can shape both in the moment instruction as well as instruction day-to-day for the same students, and year or term to term for other groups of students. For example, in my own classes, I try to have some form of assessment every 5-10 minutes of instruction. This can be something quick and anonymous like a survey question or a response to a prompt that is captured through a tool such as Jamboard or a shared Google doc. This provides me with opportunities to address any challenge, gaps in learning, or misunderstandings before we move on. I sometimes think of this as an instructor as a guide through the desert, and formative assessments as frequent checks to make sure the group is still together before reaching an oasis. Similarly, I think it’s important to have multiple assessments both connected to how students are feeling and doing generally, their perceptions, and what knowledge they are able to demonstrate at the end of each class. This provides me with an opportunity to refine and craft the following class to better support their learning.

DR. GLICK: Formative assessment is often used for the purpose of enabling students to use assessment evidence to monitor and reflect on their own progress. As we know, reflection is a process in which students actively review their own assessment data, identify areas of strengths and weakness, and make changes so that their efforts will yield more satisfactory results. In other words, the process of reflecting and making adjustments as a consequence of assessment also lies with the student. Students need to reflect on their actions and their work in order to increase their own knowledge and skills.

What are your thoughts on reflective teaching and learning? Specifically, how can teachers model and guide students toward a more reflective approach to their projects, grades, actions, and reactions?

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DR. ZINGER: I think there is a productive sequence of actions from instructors that can help promote student self-reflection, and self-regulation. I think it has to start with our own modeling as instructors, are we modeling this approach. For example, when I create assignments, I will collect feedback from students about them, and then adjust them to meet their needs. I do this explicitly with students to demonstrate that taking feedback, reflecting, and taking action are important and productive. Beyond modeling, as I mentioned above, most larger tasks in my classes are broken down, chunked, or scaffolded, so that students receive feedback and can make changes iteratively, more incrementally, through reflection. This gives students more opportunities to reflect and revise, and instructors more opportunities to facilitate reflection, which will come more easily to some students than others. This approach and modeling also can set the stage for productive peer-evaluation, which with some modeling and coaching can free my time for different types of feedback. I have found that this approach leaves students feeling better and more fulfilled about how far they come with a project, because they have had 3-4 opportunities to revise rather than one or none. This also helps normalize feedback and revision cycles that we know are productive to engage in.

DR. GLICK: You have thought and written a lot about un-grading.

Can you talk a little about this approach, and why it is so important?

DR. ZINGER: I am very excited to see more interest and implementation of ungrading. For me, ungrading on a basic level means that we, as instructors and students shift focus away from sorting and ranking students to learning in ways that are meaningful to them. As it relates to assessment, it means that I have to consider assessment more expansively and critically. It raises questions such as what counts as knowledge and how can students demonstrate what they know? It highlights our typical emphasis on written assessments and tasks and rote memorization. Ungrading challenges us to scrutinize what we ask students to do and ask if it is really helping them learn. For myself, I found that many of the tasks I assigned to students did not connect as well with our collective learning goals, which resulted in shifts and changes of tasks. This also results in the thinning out of assignments and making sure existing assignments were closely tied in with learning goals.

Ungrading also fundamentally changes the classroom dynamic. I have found that it reduced anxiety for students, creates a more productive and humanizing classroom environment. Students are more apt to ask for extensions so that they can turn in their best work rather than turn in something for the sake of completing it. In my classes we use an approach called contract grading, where students based on our course learning goals, their individual learning goals, and the tasks we engage set their own grade expectations at the beginning of the term. They set and write the goals, and then justify them based on their performance at the end of the term. Students as a whole feel more invested, because the learning is more connected to them and they have greater ownership and investment in it. The quality of work I receive has been excellent and most students use evidence of their work to justify their grades, and it becomes a celebration of their achievement, rather than an indictment of what they may not have learned.

DR. GLICK: An inclusive approach to education means that each individual’s needs are taken into account and that all learners participate and achieve together. It acknowledges that all children can learn and that every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs. Special focus is placed on learners who may be at risk of marginalization, exclusion or underachievement.

For inclusion to work well, schools and classrooms need to foster inclusive environments. How can instructors and instructional designers promote inclusion in their everyday teaching and design work?

DR. ZINGER: This is a great question, and I think it operates on two broad levels, the whole class environment which you have pointed out, as well as the one-on-one or small group interactions between students and instructor. Now I recognize that in large lecture classes, the one-on-one interactions are going to be limited, so I will concede that. But regardless, it all begins with the syllabus, classroom policies, and how instruction unfolds. I think the first part of that is to fundamentally trust and humanize students. I am often reminded that I teach students not standards or content. This means that I want to provide information through at least 2-3 modalities to students to support a wide range of learners. For example, assignments and task are listed on and linked on my syllabus, presented weekly through a narrated video, and built into a module on our course LMS space. Similarly, when I teach, students can respond to most questions and prompts either verbally or in writing, using a digital medium typically.

To your point about learners that are typically marginalized I often also think about how students can present learning. As I mentioned before, we tend to have a very heavy emphasis on formal writing, and it’s not to say that writing is not an important skill, but if I am concerned about student learning, why would I not allow students to show knowledge in expansive ways? So for many of my assignments and tasks, students can submit their learning in writing, using video, info graphics, slides, or other modality that they find most conducive to them. I have seen amazing and creative student work this way. The last piece of this is to connect with students early and often if they do not seem to be on track. Especially with the COVID pandemic, students have been stretched and worn out. It is critical to humanize them and approach challenges as collective and as are our goals. Struggles should be viewed as collective, and I have moved away from the “struggling student narrative.” My approach is about support and collective success. So when students are not meeting goals, it is first important to reach out, and see how they are doing, and then work together towards improvement. This approach has helped me become a much better instructor and recognize how my instruction undermined student success. This includes for example how I present information, using multiple modalities, and often using closed captioning when I talk. Similarly, I have reorganized how I present information and coursework so that students find it less confusing. Again, in my mind the key is to have a cooperative and collaborative atmosphere grounded in humanizing rather than a contentious and adversarial one. As you pointed out, every student can learn, and with that in mind we should be able to find ways to support every student.

DR. GLICK: This is all really very interesting Doron. Thank you!


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About Dr. Danny Glick

Dr. Danny Glick is a Research Affiliate at the University of California, Irvine’s Online Learning Research Center, where he develops methods to facilitate student success, retention, and graduation rate in online courses, using early warning systems and targeted interventions. He is a former visiting scholar at the University of California, Irvine’s School of Education where he examined the effects of technology-mediated instructional strategies on the academic achievement of historically underrepresented students. Dr. Glick is also the Academic Director of Edge - Center for EdTech Research and Innovation, where together with colleagues, grad students and interns, he works on a range of EdTech research projects related to AI-powered video-bots, actionable dashboards, and adaptive learning algorithms. He is currently designing holistic data-driven early warning systems, which incorporate four domains – cognitive, affective, behavioral and financial – to identify and support students who show dropout warning signs. Dr. Glick is also the Director of Pedagogical Implementation at Edusoft, a subsidiary of ETS, where he leads a team of EdTech implementation specialists, specializing in designing, implementing and evaluating technology-enhanced learning and assessment solutions, serving K-20 institutions in over 30 countries worldwide. Dr. Glick is author and editor of a wide range of publications, including, most recently, “Early Warning Systems and Targeted Interventions for Student Success in Online Courses”, “Predicting Success, Preventing Failure”, and “Supporting Self-Regulated Learning and Student Success in Online Courses” (forthcoming).


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.
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