Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I don't get the COI survey

I always feel like I'm missing something, and now I'm missing what's so important about this CoI survey. It seems like just like the evaluation form students fill out every semester at the end of the class. But I have to be missing something because the literature treats it like this seminal document that changed everything.
First, I don't like the Likert Scale. In the clinical trial I'm in, I have to fill out about 5 surveys a month with that scale, and it NEVER feels accurate in the sense of really telling my experience. And this survey really brought that home to me. It's like there's some invented student who "agreed or strongly agreed" with each of those statements, and the response is directed towards that student's experience. I know you're supposed to feel like you're allowed not to agree, but "agreeing" to all those will create what's supposed to be the optimum experience of this class. And it's a very limited experience--very traditional. The instructor isn't really part of the class, but just the one who "responds" and "gives feedback." The only outcome of "discussion and brainstorming," apparently, is that the student is exposed to "different points of view". Gee. How advanced.
 It just feels like if a student described this as his/her experience of a class, it wouldn't sound like a particularly good class. It doesn't sound like an optimum experience. I'm not sure at all why this is a big deal and everyone is using this survey. There's no "community" being described there. There's no joy or conflict or even learning described there. It's kind of like the bare minimum -- "Yeah, we're allowed to express our points of view (about what?) and we tolerate others doing so! Booya!" I mean, really, if that's all class discussion does... if it doesn't -create- new knowledge-- if it's just about "expressing our points of view," then it might be okay for a first-year class where students still have to learn that other people think differently. Diversity training. But really. Where's the indicator of new learning? Of new skills of thinking? Of knowledge created by the class learning the material in the class?
So why is this a big deal? I don't get it. We have to use it in just about every discussion in the class, and it's constantly being referenced in other papers, and there's a website devoted to it, and there was just a 10-year- retrospective article about how it changed everything. Huh? Maybe it's because it's 10 years old and I've seen things based on this, but I just don't get it. What's transformative? Remember the Mina Shaughnessy book about errors and expectations? The Lebov book about Black English? THOSE were transformative-- they changed the way everyone looked at how we learn and teach. This is just an evaluation. So? But see, I've been missing the point about a lot of things, so maybe this survey is something more than just an evaluation of an adequate class.
I'll study it again. This is probably my inadequacy of never being able to see both the forest and the trees at the same time. I can't switch focus! So when I look at the actual statements, I can't see the overall purpose.

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