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“I will…fill in the blank” (a thinking ‘out loud’ post)

In just a few days, the AEA conference will begin in Minnesota. I am sad to not be attending again this year, but am determined to do some learning in the next few weeks anyway. I’ve also been thinking a bit about the upcoming OPEN conference (slated for February or March 2013), and how to create valuable experiences for attendees. And, I’ve been thinking about e-portfolios — how I might make sense of myself and my own professional path through an e-portfolio, how students might be prompted to reflect on their learning by or within an e-portfolio, and how we might best learn and express our learning from our experiences in eventually implementing e-portfolios. There’s a lot of swirly thinking going on for me these days.

So when I stumbled upon this post in the AEA365 blog about a simple and fun activity — a photo booth with a theme — it struck me as having great potential for almost every swirly thought in my noggin.

Karen Anderson, AEA’s Diversity Coordinator Intern, writes:

“At the photo booth, attendees will… [c]hoose a whiteboard and complete the open ended statement provided, for example: ‘I will be responsive to culture in (my) evaluation work by…'”

I like the immediacy and informality of this activity juxtaposed with a potentially serious and ambitious statement about one’s intentions and identity. I like the potential for informal peer-to-peer learning about bettering the way we work. I love the example statement itself. And I’m inspired to think of ways to use this prompt concept for myself and the various activities swirling about my brain.

And… I think it might just be possible to use the prompt concept to help promote wise use of data in an accessible and light way (as opposed to a terminology laden serious and no-fun presentation of cold hard facts or preachy litany of well-reasoned arguments, etc.). As a way to explore not just why it’s important to think about data use, but how to advocate for it….

A statement like: “I will advocate for the wise use of data by…” is a fabulous prompt for me to explore what that use might look like and how I can support it — in short meaningful, action-oriented ways. And it might not only provide me with some concrete things to work on as an assessment and evaluation professional, but it also could be an interesting exercise for capacity building with others at the university who wish to improve our work with data and its use. (And it seems like this could be translated into any number of other assessment/evaluation capacity building scenarios).

Up until today I’ve struggled with how to get started with an e-portfolio for myself. Now I think that a set of prompts like this could help me a great deal in exploring who I am professionally, and how I express that through an e-portfolio (a piece of that being, of course, about actionable data). More importantly, I believe this could help me focus in when reflecting on my practice and professional development and as a result, improve the quality of my work (yay for self-directed learning). And I expect it could do the same for others in a litany of situations — students working reflectively, faculty building a culture of reflective learning at a university, program staff working to articulate how they and their program will live out their intentions for the program (does this activity this have a place in logic modeling work?), etc….

Next step? Actually giving this a try in at least one, if not a few of those contexts.

Posted in higher education

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