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The Learning value of questions


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DateMarch 28, 2009 Posted by: Howard Hills   Keywords: e-assessment, gathering feedback, learner engagement

The third most popular technology for implementing e-learning is Surveys and Questionnaires; perhaps more true to say third equal!  82% of respondent to the 2008 Towards Maturity selected this as a tool they used, exceeded only by the 86% of respondents who selected electronic content and the 86% who selected web resources. The use of questions and surveys in e-learning is one that gets relatively little press.
In the attached article (reproduced with permission from Saffron Interactive) Vicky Hamilton makes the point that the ratio of ‘teacher-talk-time’ and ‘student-talk-time’ should be 20:80. How do you achieve that with e-learning? Clearly collaborative tools such as virtual classrooms and chat allow this student dialogue. Perhaps the popularity of surveys and questionnaires is precisely because they enable the student dialogue in a very cheap and easy way.
Survey and testing tools are readily available and easy to use; what matters is how they are used. Vicky makes the point that they may be used for learning as well as testing and evaluation. By asking questions of learners they have to think for themselves. In the classroom learners may not always be able to answer questions, but that doesn't matter; "what counted was the fact that the students were now thinking for themselves. What’s more, if they got stuck, their fellow students would be encouraged to speak up with the answer."
Surveys and questionnaires also have an important to play in evaluation at all levels as Vicky highlights. 66% of organisations routinely collect feedback from learners on each course, 52% conduct regular surveys, but only 23% conduct regular surveys of managers. Towards Maturity research also reveals that regular surveys of managers has a correlation with business impact of 0.36 and 0.39 with take up, so asking questions makes a difference; for learners how well they learn and for managers how well that learning is put into practice.
However Vicky goes beyond the concept of surveys and questionnaires to discuss the role of scenarios in assessment; perhaps the future and better method of involving learners by questioning their thinking and application of their learning.

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