Sunday, 13 May 2012

FL: Activity 5. Strategies for flexible Learning

FL: Activity 5. Strategies for flexible Learning

 ‘Symbols and Rituals’


This post has been adapted from an exercise I completed in CCEH…

The paper I teach basically looks at how Social Anthropology (SA) can be used to better understand the cultural context of clients and workplace settings in OT.  We explore this by looking at a variety of ‘themes’ including the example of Symbols and Rituals; firstly from a theoretical perspective, and then in the context of the students’ fieldwork placement which they do at the same time as this paper.
The ‘Symbol and Ritual’ theme is important to this course as it’s the first ‘chunky’ piece of SA that students start with. In terms of context, students have just returned from hui and this subject area is important to settle students into the broader disciplines of SA and OT. This part of the course is also important as at the end of the course, students have a choice to analyse this theme (as well as two others) for an assessment that is worth 50% of this paper.

In terms of this activity, what I want to look at is introducing an additional option within this theme of Symbols and Rituals:
  • to help students better understand Symbol and Ritual in the context of OT
  • to offer a chance for students to post an observation early on and receive feedback from me and their classmates (recognising the development of the relationship between students and with me as facilitator)
  •  to test the capabilities of students (i.e. is there a cohort of students who need technological support in interacting with Moodle) so this can be addressed, or are there a cohort of students not understanding this theme (i.e. could offer a focussed tutorial for those who want it?)
Design proposal:

One design part I would like to strengthen is to provide students with the opportunity for feedback. Currently there is no activity or tutorial in this part of the course for Symbols and Rituals which offers this opportunity. 

Last year I trialled the option of having online forums for 3 other themes whereby students were asked to post responses to how they were observing each theme within their OT placement. What I noticed was that students who participated in these forums developed stronger analytical understandings in their final assessment compared with those who did not. Many students also commented via the Student feedback gathered in 2011, that they found these online forums helpful for their final assessment as they were able to go back and re-read the discussions and my feedback. This in turn helped them frame up the more complex task of pulling three themes together at the end of the course.

What I would like to do is to include a discussion forum but instead incorporate a group activity. My idea is to have the students work in groups (of about 3 or 4)  and discuss with each other examples of symbols/rituals in their OT placement and post their comments online.
To help me work through this idea I completed Bronwyn’s Design Planning Matrix below: 


One area that will need to be sorted is how feedback will be offered. I am currently enjoying the group feedback given in the Flexible Learning paper I am doing, where Bronwyn gives an overall summary to the class with hyperlinks to specific students work (in this case a blog) highlighting key points each student has offered. I think this could work well as:
1. This is the first assessed discussion forum that students will post to, so by doing it in a group activity this will hopefully alleviate any anxieties about posting online and if they are not technologically secure in using forums, then their peers could also offer assistance.
2. Group feedback will encourage the class to learn from each other’s postings rather than solely from the facilitator.
Last year the forums were set up so I could easily mark them without students seeing these marks (but they could view their own). Last year I didn’t offer the students to post in groups on discussion forums because it meant that the posting can only be tied to one student’s marks. One idea I have to address this logistical challenge is for one student to upload the post and the others in the group to also post- but to refer the reader to the original post. In this way all the students from each group can generate an individual mark. I will liaise with ECD to work out if this can work.
The reason this forum is assessed is it was thought that it would generate a higher participation rate. This may not be the case however, so having some online forums that are not tied to assessment could also be explored as an option which means I do not have to incorporate the technological options of recording marks.

Mayer (2004). "Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning?". American Psychologist 59 (1): 14–19.


  1. Gina I do believe that you have answered the dilemma about whether to assess the discussion forums. If the students have to engage in the discussion to be able to do the assessment, then there is no need to mark the discussions. Also the freedom of exploring and discussing what sounds like a very interesting topic without having to worry about specific criteria will keep them motivated to participate.

    It is also very likely that they will want to be there to find out what the teacher thinks about the examples they are contributing. Your idea of the groups is fantastic, and perhaps they could each take a turn to summarise the week's activity. If they know that this is going to aid their understanding of the assessed topic, you can betcha they will join in.

    Your matrix explains the options well. Would it be possible to have either two smaller assessments or a two part assessment? That way the symbols and rituals component could be assessed in part one just after they engage in the first discussion forum. That could help the students to 'cut their teeth' on the subject and prepare them for a more challenging second discussion in preparation for part two of the assessment.

  2. Thanks Bronwyn- good idea re breaking up of assessment - (if it stays assessed that is!) but yes having smaller steps is a good way for students to engage with this. Thanks Gina