Peer review of a colleagues assessment item

This post is a quick peer review of a design based research proposal a colleague has developed for a unit in their masters where they are required to demonstrate peer review. Good luck Rebecca!

The proposal is centered on a short course, five weeks in duration that is offered to high school students so as to provide them with some insight into tertiary education. The course uses Conley’s model of college readiness to guide what is taught in the course, which includes the following facets of readiness:

  • Key cognitive strategies
  • Academic knowledge and skills
  • Academic behaviours
  • Contextual skills and awareness

It is clear that there are some issues associated with the short course as it stands now. Some of these issues resonated with me as they are not limited to just this short course. For example, one of the problems mentioned is linked with the dominant online course delivery mechanism in higher education, the learning management system (LMS). Rebecca points out that LMS delivered courses have transactional distance, are instructor led and have to be completed in an allocated timeframe. According to the proposal introduction, the style of teaching and learning afforded by the LMS is not constructivist, connectivist or conducive to learner autonomy and critical thinking. All sentiments I agree with to some extent. However, given the dominance of LMS as the way that eLearning is delivered in higher education (Coates, James, & Baldwin, 2005), and given that this is a preparatory course for high school students, it seems appropriate that future students gain some experience with this medium, warts and all.

The proposal mentions moving towards a “more heutagogical approach”, I assume to offset some of the limitations associated with LMS based eLearning. I’m no expert at Heutagogy but I must admit that the idea of self determined learning is very attractive in comparison to the current approaches to eLearning. The proposal also considers the student cohort, many of who live in rural or remote areas, and come from low socio-economic backgrounds. This can correspond to limited access to technology, such as reliable broadband internet connections.

The proposal describes three research questions:

  1. Does restructuring the Preparation for Success in Health course to include a Heutagogical approach, allow students to collaborate, critically reflect and provide feedback in an open online environment?

  2. Does shifting the knowledge acquisition into the students’ hands mean they will access a wider variety of sources of information, including health professionals to answer their questions and build on their own ideas of what appropriate knowledge is?

  3. Will the students engage in the Preparation for Success in Health course more authentically if allowed to be more self-directed in their approach to learning, thus engaging in deeper cognitive learning?

The proposal’s literature review hinges upon student centred learning and suggests that Heutagogy might be an appropriate framework for digital age learning. In a Heutagogical approach, the learners are highly autonomous and the focus is on building the learner’s capacity to learn. Experiential and reflective learning is preferred over ‘transmissive’ approaches. On the surface at least, Heutogogy seems to have a lot in common with the personal learning environment literature from a while back. Even the graduate/generic attributes folk talk about some of this albeit from a different perspective, as do the problem based learning folk. The double-loop learning approach described in the proposal interests me as it links nicely to my PHD around complex adaptive systems. Non-linear learning, to me, is a better match for how people really learn from an anthropological perspective, yet the dominant socio-technical approach is very linear (IMHO).

Some feedback on the proposal:

Very interesting and worthwhile proposal. I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Have you considered an internal SOLT grant?

  • The chosen methodology is design based research or DBR. This needs to be unpacked more comprehensively. It is not clear to me how the implementation plan links with the methodology. DBR does seem to be driving the methodology behind implementation plan, but it’s not explicit.
  • I’m not sure about the three research questions. All together they describe a very broad scope that includes a huge body of literature. My advice would be to narrow the scope somewhat. The first research question is great, and, in my mind, enough.

More specifically:

  • Conley’s model needs to be unpacked in the introduction.
  • Heutagogy is introduced in the introduction without introduction. I would suggest that describing the problem in the introduction, without Heutagogy, is the way forward. Then introduce it as an alternative framework in the body of the proposal.
  • The proposal could benefit from an abstract/paragraph/exec summary to help set the scene for the introduction section.
  • The proposal touches on constuctivism, connectivism and technology. Might be just my pattern-entrainment but this could be a nice way to articulate how this proposal is different and is challenging the status quo. Some of the technological issues associated with the LMS, David has unpacked here.

All in all, a very interesting and worthwhile proposal. Well done and good luck.


Coates, H., James, R., & Baldwin, G. (2005). A critical examination of the effects of learning management systems on university teaching and learning. Tertiary education and management, 11(2005), 19-36.

2 thoughts on “Peer review of a colleagues assessment item”

  1. Hi Col,

    Thank you for your very insightful, constructive and helpful feedback. I agree with what you are saying. Leone had similar comments also. I will make the changes. I hadn’t thought about an internal SoLT grant, but may pick your brain about this when I have reviewed my assignment.

    Thank you for the quick turnaround on this also, much appreciated. As always – fabulous.



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