Lessons, Rubrics, and Research Design

Two group projects were finished in the past few weeks with two individuals I have not worked with prior.  Each project was designed around the constructivist learning theory.  The projects required the groups to develop a single educational lesson utilizing a theory of choice, and the groups were preselected.  While the same instructions were provided for each lesson, only the first lesson included a rubric and the last lesson was assigned later in the evening, with instruction that it was to be finished in about an hour.  The original and first lesson also had a suggested time limit, but each group chose to ignore these “directions” and development of this lesson took over four times the recommended time. This will be discussed after the projects are described and reflection is provided.

The first step for each project was choosing the Topic, Audience, and Purpose.  The constructivist theory was chosen for each project because of the team agreement on an authentic project, the participants playing an active role in researching a topic for a presentation and the collaborative process for each step of the overall project.   Time was taken to research a constructivist learning theory, provide an argument for its use, and apply it to the learning activities.  While time consuming, this process prepared the teams to complete project two more efficiently.  Each lesson provided an overall goal, resources, activities, assessment, and evaluation.

Reflection on the projects:  The two factors that contributed to the time difference in development of these lessons were the use of a rubric and the due date/timeframe.  Rubrics are used to reduce uncertainty and provide clear expectations for students (Bolton, 2006).  These templates provide a “first step toward completing the assignment by identifying what the instructor feels is important” (Bolton, 2006, p. 5).  In the case of this assignment, the rubric was the priority over the recommended development time.  The rubric clearly stated the desired outcomes and the students completing this assignment chose to ignore the directions on development time in order to complete the assignment following the rubric.  Because of this process and the project fresh in our minds, the second group project was already in motion. Even though we were working with a different partner, we had each been through the first exercise and had the confidence to quickly lay the foundation for a second project. However, was the overall performance improved for the second project? For me, there was a deeper level of research and applying the learning theory to activities in the first assignment.  The second factor (due date/timeframe) is more clear-cut.  The first project was due four days from the time it was assigned, which was then extended.  The second project was due two hours after it was assigned. Because of the large variance in the timeframe, there was extra time to develop the first project.

A mixed-methods research design could be used to study the two projects developed in this course, or to study the process we went through for this assignment.  The population is small, with only one class being studied.  Quantitative data could be collected on student demographics, time spend on assignment and assessments, and to gather data on general understanding of goals and expectations.  Interviews or open-ended questions could then be gathered for qualitative data to further explain the students’ opinions and feelings.  This would allow for a more complete analysis or picture of the process.  The number of participants in this type of study would be too low for a strictly quantitative study, but the addition of rich information gathered from various viewpoints of the participants may be helpful feedback and provide additional emerging topics beneficial to the researcher or instructor.

Bolton, F. C. (2006). Rubrics and adult learners: Andragogy and Assessment, 18(3), 5-6.

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