Open Thinkering


Category: Education

Reimagining assessment practices using AI tools

Last week, I replied to someone who was concerned that AI tools such as ChatGPT meant students might not learn to ‘think for themselves’. When I responded that, as a parent and former teacher, I would hope that this means reimagining assessment practices, they asked what I meant. I explained, and they said they hadn’t thought about it like that.

So I thought I’d quickly capture the points I made in that thread so I can easily refer to them again in future.

If we zoom out and think about what we’re doing when we’re trying to help people learn things, then we need to know:

  1. Where learners are currently at in terms of their current knowledge and skills
  2. Where we want them to be at in terms of those knowledge and skills
  3. What they’re interested in learning and how they’re interested in doing so

The third of these is usually sacrificed for the sake of efficiency (think: large classrooms). However, the crux of learning is feedback, and the more personalised the better. I’ve been using ChatGPT with my son for revision purposes, and it can be used as an excellent tutor, giving precise feedback.

So when we’re talking about reimagining assessment practices, we’re really talking about personalising learning in a way that allows individuals to achieve their own goals, as well as those that society wants them to achieve.

The SAMR model by Ruben Puentadura

Right now, we’re augmenting an existing system using new tools. Hence the worry about exams and essays. But once we go back to what we’re trying to achieve here, we’ll realise that AI and other new technologies allow us to personalise learning and provide tighter feedback loops. Which was the point all along! 😄

Introducing ‘Empowered Networked Learning’ (ENL)

AI-created image of a diverse group of people collaborating while sitting around a table

As educators, we are constantly challenged to adapt to a changing digital landscape and meet the evolving needs of today’s learners. Traditional pedagogies don’t always help, as they can struggle to address the impact of rapid technological advancements on education.

So, to help navigate this complex environment, let’s explore the concept of Empowered Networked Learning (ENL), an educational approach I’ve coined that combines Pragmatism, Constructivism, Critical Pedagogy, and Connectivism. In this introductory post, I want to briefly describe what ENL entails and how taking a holistic approach can help educational practices in the digital age.

🧠 Understanding ENL

As digital technologies continue to transform our lives, work, and learning, it’s important for educators to not only embrace them, but to do so with a critical stance and philosophical underpinnings. ENL strategies recognise the power of digital tools and resources to foster creativity, innovation, and critical thinking. This helps educators create learning experiences that better prepare learners to become active agents of change in an increasingly interconnected digital society.

ENL is a holistic approach designed to create dynamic, inclusive, and democratic learning environments. The aim is to empower learners by equipping them with the skills and knowledge required to navigate, engage with, and transform the digital world. By integrating the diverse philosophical perspectives mentioned above, ENL promotes active participation, critical thinking, and collaboration in digital spaces. It fosters a learning experience that is both relevant and transformative.

🏛️ The Four Pillars

As I’ve already said, ENL is built upon four main philosophical foundations:

  1. Pragmatism — a focus on practical solutions and real-world applications, encouraging learners to experiment and solve problems in authentic contexts.
  2. Constructivism — an emphasis on learners actively constructing their own understanding and knowledge through their experiences and interactions with others.
  3. Critical Pedagogy — a commitment to education as a tool for questioning and challenging dominant ideologies, power structures, and social injustices, and fostering critical consciousness.
  4. Connectivism — a recognition of the importance of networks, technology, and social connections in the learning process, highlighting the role of learners as active participants in creating and sharing knowledge.

Surrounding this is a culture of Open Recognition, which I’ve discussed at length in recent posts.

🚀 Implementing ENL

To effectively incorporate ENL into your educational practice, consider the following strategies:

  • Promote active learning through problem-solving, inquiry, and project-based activities that encourage learners to apply their knowledge in real-world situations.
  • Create learner-centred environments that encourage autonomy, self-directed learning, and collaboration among peers.
  • Encourage critical reflection and dialogue around societal issues, power dynamics, and diverse perspectives.
  • Exploit the power of digital tools and resources to facilitate connections and collaborations, both within and beyond the classroom.

I’m hoping that Empowered Networked Learning will offer a fresh and transformative approach to education in the digital age, and I may offer courses on it in future. However, you can start right now by embracing the principles of ENL and integrating them into your educational practice. Read up on the four pillars, as well as Open Recognition, and think about how they would apply in your context!

Open Recognition + Critical Pedagogy = empowerment, dialogue, and inclusion

Midjourney prompt: "Paolo Freire in conversation | illustration | charcoal on white paper | balding | grey bushy beard | serious face | large retro spectacles --aspect 3:2"

At the crossroads of education, social justice, and personal development stands critical pedagogy, a concept associated with the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paolo Freire. His conviction was that education should be egalitarian, democratic, and transformative; his work has had an outsize impact on my educational philosophy. Critical pedagogy emphasises the significance of dialogue, critical thinking, and active participation. The further I delve into the world of of Open Recognition, the clearer the links with Freire, both in essence and practice.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire states that:

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

Open Recognition, like critical pedagogy, is about empowering individuals to take ownership of their personal and professional development. The approach not only foregrounds knowledge, skills, and understanding, but also behaviours, relationships, and experiences.

Freire believed that through open and honest conversations, individuals could challenge existing power structures, question assumptions, and engage in transformative learning experiences. Similarly, Open Recognition offers a way for individuals to engage in meaningful conversations about their skills, experiences, and aspirations — using language and approaches that make sense to them.

In facilitating dialogue over power dynamics, Open Recognition nurtures a sense of community and belonging. It empowers individuals to share their stories and learn from one another, and this exchange of ideas and experiences not only contributes to personal growth but also fosters a sense of collective responsibility and solidarity

Critical pedagogy is grounded in the belief that education should be a vehicle for social change and empowerment. Open Recognition aligns with this vision by providing ways for individuals make meaningful contributions to their communities, challenge the status quo, and actively participate in shaping their own futures.

So it’s fair to say that Open Recognition and critical pedagogy share a common goal: the empowerment and transformation of individuals through dialogue, inclusion, and active participation. By explicitly embracing the principles of critical pedagogy, it’s my belief that Open Recognition can help create a more inclusive and equitable world.

If you’re interested in Open Recognition, critical pedagogy, and doing something different than the status quo, I’d highly suggest joining!