Participant Pedagogy: a MOOCMOOC Production

Posted on by Brooke

(This week, I am a learner in a Massive Open Online Course—a MOOC—that is on the topic of Massive Open Online Courses. Yes, it's a Moocmooc. Our assignment today is a short post about "participant pedagogy.")

In Jesse's post today and elsewhere, he kicks "learner-centered learning" up a notch (Emeril style!): for the course designer, it's no longer just a matter of asking, "What does the learner need in order to accomplish the learning that the course asks of her?" It goes further, asking, "What role does the learner need to take in joining in the design of the course during the course itself?" How do I design a course such that the learners, as part of their learning, make decisions about the structure and expectations of the course?

This raises for me a distinction that I have learned regarding course design: the difference between closed-ended "selected response" assessments (multiple choice, short answer, matching, true/false) and open-ended "constructed response" assessments (learning logs, presentations, discussion, portfolios, productions such as artwork). When we talk about these, we usually are talking about how to assess a student's control of a subject matter: geology, history, a language, mathematics, or whatever.

But Jesse's post makes me review the ways in which I empower students to participate in course design, and I realize that it is mostly in a "selected response" style: I allow the learners to choose among options that I have set. For example, for their final project, I will give the learners a set of rubrics that tell them what that project must accomplish, then I let them choose between, say, a thesis paper or a digital visual essay ("selected response"). What I have resisted doing is to allow them an open-ended choice: "Go ahead and come up with something that will accomplish the requirements of the rubric" ("constructed response").

My reasons for resisting this have more to do with how I perceive my own limitations than theirs: What if I fail to equip them to make good choices? (And by "good choices," I don't even mean "choices that lead to a good product"; I mean, "What if they make choices that don't even lead to a learning process? What if they don't even "fail well"?)

If you are an instructor, what kinds of "participant power" have you given your learners to shape their learning experience: closed-ended "selected response" or open-ended "constructed response"? If you are a student, what kinds of "participant power" have you been given? What kind have you wanted? What has happened as a result?

[Participant Pedagogy: a MOOCMOOC Production was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/08/15. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]