Projects

The Assess-As-You-Go Writing Assistant

In 2009, a team lead by Dr Bill Cope won a grant from the US Department of Education to create the Assess-As-You-Go Writing Assistant.  Now named ‘Scholar’ this a web-based working environment in which students can create written texts, as well as embed images, sound and video. Students are able work both individually and collaboratively, representing online various kinds of complex knowledge performance – such as scientific report writing or persuasive writing in language arts.

A repertoire of mechanisms of assessment accompany student work at all times: teacher-created and student-actioned rubric or schema based tagging; automated natural language processing; and ‘web 2.0’ style commenting and rating of student works by teachers, parents, experts, peers and self. Psychometric mechanisms measure individual student progress over time and individual student performance in relation to cohorts (the class, students of the same demographic profile etc.). These mechanisms provide students with continuous feedback (formative assessment), whilst also collecting enormous amounts of data on student learning activity, and synthesizing this into more valid and reliable summative assessment data than available in today’s end-of-activity or end-of-program tests.

In our more ambitious moments, we invite teachers and students to imagine a learning information environment which provides learners, parents, teachers and the public with all they need to know about student progress without having to have end-of-program tests. Our approach in this project is to think ambitiously about such a possibility, while working modestly and incrementally to build a web-based-learning environment which does just this.

This project involves a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Illinois: writing experts Dr Bill Cope, Dr Mary Kalantzis and Dr Sarah McCarthy; psychometrics expert Dr Hua-hua Chang; evaluation experts Dr Jennifer Greene and Dr Joseph Robinson; and computer scientists Dr Roxana Girju, Dr Dan Roth and Dr Marc Snir. The team has trialed the environment in Grade 8 Science and Language Arts classrooms in Urbana-Champaign and Rantoul.

The outcomes of this research have included the creation of the ‘checker’, ‘survey’ and ‘dashboard’ components of Scholar, now licensed by Common Ground Publishing by the rights owner, the University of Illinois.

This research has been supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A090394 to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

u-learn.net: An Anywhere/Anytime Formative Assessment and Learning Feedback Environment

Social networking technologies allow the social relationships of learning which have been initiated in the classroom, to continue beyond the walls of the classroom and the timeframes of the school timetable. This project has developed a ‘Web 2.0’ environment which provides feedback for learners and supports formative assessment. It supports the capture of text, image, table, diagram, video and audio, thus allowing the construction of a wide range of multimodal texts such as scientific reports, writing in language arts, history essays and social studies projects. It also supports collaborative work, maintaining an audit trail of co-authors’ varied contributions. Alongside the student work environment, there are three formative assessment processes and learner feedback mechanisms: 1) a commenting and editing module; 2) a review and rating module; and 3) a semantic tagging module. Classroom-based research and development has involved overlapping and iterative processes of feasibility analysis, technical specification, software development and beta testing.

The outcomes of this research have included the creation of the ‘semantic editor’, ‘publisher’, ‘review’ and ‘annotations’ and ‘project’ components of Scholar.

This research has been supported by the Small Business and Innovation Research Program (SBIR), Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant ED-IES-10-C-0018 to Common Ground Publishing LLC.

Assessing Complex Performance: A Postdoctoral Training Program Researching Students’ Writing and Assessment in Digital Workspaces, 2011-2013

This project brings together senior researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Educational Psychology, Curriculum and Instruction, and Computer Science at one of the top ranked research institutions in these fields in the United States. The College of Education at the University of Illinois has established itself as an international leader in education, with strategic initiatives such as the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities, the STEM Collaborative, and the Ubiquitous Learning Institute—a center for research and inquiry into the changing conditions and possibilities of learning, pedagogical redesign and innovation. The Department of Computer Science has been a pivotal site in the invention of the digital world—from the world’s first computers, to PLATO (the first computerized learning system). These faculty, programs and resources provide the backdrop to this Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.

The postdoctoral fellows program provides a variety of projects which involve an array of research designs and methods, from large scale analysis of state-wide test data, to research for the National Writing Project to improve the teaching of writing literacy, to the development of new educational tools that provide ongoing formative and summative assessment. The fellows in this program design his or her own program with a faculty mentor. These plans include: individual goals and a timeline; regular fellow/mentor meeting times; at least one research focus; one project for deep involvement and at least one other project for partial involvement; supplemental readings and courses to audit; specific goals related to research activities, such as the development of grant proposals, and the writing, presentation and submission of papers for peer review and publication; plans for a job search following the postdoctoral program; and the development of a curricula vitae which reflects the fellow’s growth and achievements in the program.

This research has been supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305B110008 to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


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