Manion & Selfe, “Sharing as assessment ecology”

Manion, Christopher E., & Selfe, Richard. (2012). Sharing as assessment ecology: Digital media, wikis, and the social work of knowledge. Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 25–45.

Manion and Selfe provide their method for shared evaluation using wiki spaces to support the collaborative development of habits of mind and inquiry within three fields of study (anthropology, psychology, and professional writing). Wikis support dynamic, collaborative creation of content which is often times counter intuitive to product-centered methods of classroom assessment. Instead, the authors look to ecological frames to understand assessment: “the complexities of composing…might be better grasped if we see it as distributed among agents and other structures in the environment, emerging from local networks of organizing activity that is embodied in physical space and human action and enacted through contextualized practices unfolding over time” (27). In such a perspective on writing, assessments often reduce this highly complex understanding of writing and, accordingly, tell us little about student’s writing ability.

A cornerstone to their shared evaluation method within the wikis is the development of habits of mind: “socializing students into a single disciplinary way of knowing or communicating” or providing them a “habit of inquiry” where students develop a familiarity with the tropes of research within a particular field of study or community of practice (such as writing). Wikis provide a space for the classroom community to externalize, reflect, and grapple with the classroom values. Students disseminate their work with their colleagues and are accordingly held accountable in ways that operate outside the typical teacher-student classroom hierarchy. This is what they call a model of distributed assessment whereby students are seen as colleagues who provide recursive feedback in order to practice habits of mind and inquiry. As such, teachers able to trace student’s development of habits of mind in these spaces.

Concluding, the authors claim that such a distributed model of assessment provided students “some control as they took up habits of thought that their instructor wanted them to learn. Students were asked to take part in assessing their and their colleagues’ work and were shown how to apply assessment throughout the term as they produced mediated wikis” (43). However, the focus early on in the course on developing habits of mind is important to allow such collaborative feedback to work.

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