I am taking part in a pretty interesting reflection exercise. Last week when I left the “What, So What” part of our discussion I wasn’t really sure what just happened. The facilitators provided us with minimal structure for the discussion, which meant that I had a sense of freedom during the discussion while at the same time feeling unsure if I was doing what I should be doing.

So far, we ask more good questions than come up with answers. We had an amazing discussion last week about the need for connection and making learning meaningful happen but I really wanted to get to the “Now What” part of our discussion, which we did today.

I was happy to hear that it was a common experience that people in my new group also wanted to get to “now what” last week and found the group time short. Our group decided to have a conversation instead of just brainstorming what we can do to humanize learning.

Now What: Focus on Process over Product

We seemed to agree on the need to focus on learning, not grades. Self-assessment is a good way to teach students evaluative judgment and is an authentic way to assess students.

We didn’t get into a lot of strategies for this, but in smaller classes, one student shared that they did self-assessment, met 1:1 with their teacher, and classes were pass/fail. I struggle with how to do that in my context. I would love to meet with all my students but when I tried that in 2018 with a class size of 70 students it was quite a challenge.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now What: Build Relationships

Another idea that I agreed with is building rapport with students by sharing empathy. As a current student, I can say things to my students that helps to demonstrate empathy and create a space where they feel comfortable being honest with me about their experiences in my class.

Now What: Inclusive Co-Creation

Assessment co-creation is something I have done (syllabus, rubrics, exams) in the past that we talked about, which helps to clarify the assignment expectations in my mind. It surprised me that several people in my group had experience with co-creation in some way. We talked about the need to define co-creation, unlearn the traditional hierarchical way of the teaching-learning relationship, and get student buy-in for the process. I shared how co-creation is an authentic way to assess and work with students because after graduation students do need to be able to self-assess and set their own goals for ongoing lifelong learning. We talked about the challenge of engagement and being okay with allowing students choice when we use whole-class approaches to co-creation. There may be several barriers to engaging in co-creation with students and we are interested in knowing how learners experience co-creation. I was thrilled to meet some fellow co-creators in the group and shared that co-creation is what I am studying at Queen’s University as a student.

Say NO to “Banking Education” (Freire, 1973)

Now What: Open-Book Exams

We had some brief discussions about the value of open-book exams to help us reduce the pressure on students of online learning. The reality is that our students live in a world where they can look up information online. I have two presentations on this topic coming soon: One at the Northern Lights conference and one at TESS. I also have two in-press publications on the issue.

Killam, L. A., & Camargo-Plazas, P. (2021). Revisioning assessment and evaluation in nursing education through Critical Caring Pedagogy: Using authentic examinations to promote critical consciousness. Advances in Nursing Science. https://doi.org/10.1097/ANS.0000000000000382

Killam, L. A., Luctkar-Flude, M., Brune, S., & Camargo-Plazas, P. (Accepted). Redefining cheating on written exams: A shift towards authentic assessment to promote Universal Design for Learning in the context of Critical Caring Pedagogy. Advances in Nursing Science.

This list of how I can humanize laerning will likely change with time as I grow and change.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.


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