“Look What I did!” Success Counted in #Rhizo15

I’m participating in Dave Cormier’s #Rhizo15 cMooc. Though this week I’ve been more lurker than participant due to obligations of the jobby job (and my love of a good paycheck), Dave’s latest challenge lured me in enough to pull together this response.

For Week 2, Dave laid down the challenge of how to measure success if we throw out the traditional “the student will be able to…” objective indicators for something more subjective to the individual.

In the #Rhizo15 Facebook group last week, I’d posted this quick thought:

Objectives: What you want me to learn
Subjectives: What I want me to learn

Outcomes: The measureable result of a learning activity
In-comes: The internal benefit of a learning activity

It was a fun play on words, yet had deep resonance with the group, and that led to a pretty healthy discussion of 75 or so comments all related to figuring out how we know if learners are successful, both for their own metacognition of success, but also for the instituional measurement of it.

It’s such an easy problem, if we take the academy out of the equation.

It starts from our earliest steps to our fumbling progress at drawing with crayons or tying our shoes or riding a bike or helping with big people tasks. You proudly exclaim to whoever is nearby, “Look what I did!” Instant. Acknowledged. Success.

Little girl washing a big truck


It’s a much harder question to answer when institutions get involved. Somehow something has to be quantified and qualified to separate those who are progressing from those who are not. To award the institution’s acknowledgment of success. To make the institution’s piece of paper worth something.

If, as Dave asked, we imagine a world where the learning objective is not used and we have to count a different way, how would we do it?

Here are some options that could be counted:

  • Student as Networked Learner – This would certainly mappable – but then Kim Kardashian and Justin Beiber have ridiculously large connected networks, yet I wouldn’t want to award them a PhD anytime soon.
  • Student as Completer – In the land of competency-based education, the grades aren’t important – the mastery is. The question still remains as to who determines how many modules/units must be completed to equal success?
  • Student as Currator of their Own Learning – This is perhaps my favorite – think ePortfolios, Domain of One’s Own, LearningLocker, and the like – where the student currates the story of his/her own learning. It’s perhaps the closest digital version to “Look what I did!”

What other ways might we count if we remove the learning objective? Join the #rhizo15 conversation here or on Twitter.



Filed under teaching and learning

7 responses to ““Look What I did!” Success Counted in #Rhizo15

  1. I love this idea of measuring success by having the students “curate their own learning.” If learning subjectives ask students to identify “what do I want me to learn” then the measurement of that would naturally be “have I learned what I wanted to learn”. In order to do this, I think we need to give students the tools to first figure out where they are, figure out where they want to go, and figure out if they got there. I think we can create supports to help them in this process of self-discovery, while still allowing them the freedom to control the direction.


  2. I like the curating piece of this puzzle …


  3. Angela

    I also love the curating aspect of portfolios, and I can see they work well if the artifacts collected are based on real-world meaningful tasks – designed so that they have some tangible impact in the actual world. (e.g instead of an essay about a public health problem, a public health education video created with and presented to the actual target audience). That way, the collection isn’t just symbolic, it’s a record of impact and action where the student can identify…”wow…here’s how my learning changed individuals and community”.


    • Lisa Chamberlin

      I love authenticity in assessment – students know the difference and engagement jumps. The hurdle is transitioning the course design to help faculty manage it when it is so different from what they’ve traditionally known to do.


  4. lisahubbell

    At a year and a half, my daughter set herself the challenge of climbing a very large staircase in a museum. When she got to the top, a man looked at her and said, “You did it!” She responded, “I did it!” Her first sentence.


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