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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Instructor Formative Assessment Practices in Virtual Learning Environments: A Posthumanist Sociomaterial Perspective
by Burcks, Shannon M., Ph.D., University of Missouri - Columbia, 2019, 193; 13879667
Abstract (Summary)

The importance of undergraduate science learning for the workforce and scientific literacy is consistently emphasized by prominent organizations and influential publications such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (1993, 2013), the National Research Council (NRC) (2010, 2011, 2012a, 2012b, 2013) and the Coalition for Reform of Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education (CRUSE) (2014). Moreover, important undergraduate and K-12 reform policy documents including the National Research Council (NRC) (2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Achieve Inc., 2013) set lofty goals aimed at improving science education. At the same time, science curricula content and assessment are shifting to virtual formats (Smetana & Bell, 2012), and enabling learning and assessment to be depicted in more dynamic and interactive ways. Furthermore, assessment scholarship offers opportunities to make instructional decisions with the aim to aid student learning (e.g. Bell, 2007; Black & Wiliam, 1998, NRC, 2012; Shepard, 2000). Nonetheless, harnessing the full potential of virtual formats to reach these goals for science learning and assessment has proven challenging. Therefore, in this research study, I explored how the technology in one online undergraduate biological science course can impact how an instructor can aid student learning.

Specifically, I focus on one asynchronous online Nutrition science course for undergraduate non-majors biological science course at a large research institution. My interest was on the role materials have on the instructor’s formative assessment practices in an online course. How student learning was assessed was examined from the instructor’s perspective. The instructor was an experienced online instructor that had experience working in a biological science lab as well as training as a science educator. The student purpose for taking this course was to meet a general education requirement toward undergraduate education. This study focuses on one course across two semesters and considers the features of the assignments from three different angles. First, is a case study that considers how the assessments are influenced by the instructor. In Chapter 2, I use the Assessment Literacy Framework’s (Abell & Siegel, 2011) section assessment interpretation and action taking to present evidence that suggests it is important to consider the role of the materials in virtual learning environments on instructor formative assessment. I suggest instructor formative assessment practices can be supported through communication and customization to aid student learning. I also introduce the concept of Stacked quizzes to scaffold instruction.

In the chapters that follow, I begin to consider how materials can act and move in a virtual environment to impact an instructor’s formative assessment practices. I use the agential realism framework (Barad, 2007) to “peek” inside and describe how the technology embedded assessments impact the instructor’s practice related to formative assessment. In Chapter 3, I explore the concept of assemblages considering how assessments embedded in technology can influence instructor formative assessment practices (Barad, 2007). In Chapter 4, I explore sociomaterial assemblages from a more global perspective regarding the instructional design of the course and instructor formative assessment practices (Barad, 2007).

This post-humanist framework enabled me to think beyond artificial boundaries, consider the actions of the assemblages, and how it can affect practice by focusing on identifying the differences and the effects those differences cause. I describe assemblages’ agency and how that agency can drive formative assessment discourse in the course. I describe the agency of assemblages created specific to formative assessment to aid student learning from a sociomateriality perspective. I suggest assessments can encourage or constrain an instructor s’ ability to support student learning in online classes. The agency can act on instructor’s ability to interpret student needs and take action on informed instructional decisions. Furthermore, I describe how the linear structure of a course could impact instructor formative assessment practices. Overall, these studies suggest that the assessment features in virtual environments can both aid and hinder instructor practices. Additionally, I suggest that assessments in virtual environments include: 1) the content (e.g. the science), 2) the style (e.g. worksheet, writing assignment, quiz etc.), and 3) the technology tools.

The findings have implications to consider for instruction and research and suggest that learning communities may want to consider that student centered learning theories and student-centered course design for online education could be incomplete. The primary implication includes ways to support formative assessment practices for science instructors in virtual environments by looping instructor formative assessment opportunities throughout a course. Finally, these findings can help others develop assessments that fully support student learning by including the instructor’s assessment needs and abilities. The conclusions are I present cannot be considered a solution to all courses. However, I encourage other researchers to consider alternative explanation(s) by thinking with theory.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Siegel, Marcelle A.
Commitee: Sadler, Troy D., Baker, Elizabeth A., Emerich, David W.
School: University of Missouri - Columbia
Department: Learning, Teaching and Curriculum
School Location: United States -- Missouri
Source: DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Science education, Educational technology
Keywords: Assessment, Educational technology, Materiality
Publication Number: 13879667
ISBN: 9781392681695
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