Tag Archives: fslt14

Open Learning Designs

I came late to the Teaching online open course #TOOC14 discussion on learning designs. But wanted to think about this both for tooc as well as courses I currently have a hand in designing.

There were frameworks presented. Personally I take a checklist approach evolved from a number of frameworks:

  • Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) Principles
  • Kolb’s (1984) cycle
  • Brookfield’s (1995) lenses
  • Activity theory (Engeström 2001, Vygotsky 1962)

Over the years I have distilled a set of terms from these and others, which work for me to capture something of good teaching practice. I presented these terms in #FSLT14: outcomes-led, experiential, activity-based, dialogic, participatory, community learning. I ask myself how what I am doing allows at least some outcomes to be intended in advance. Is it linked to any external benchmark reference? How does it draw on or explicitly use activity to create an experience for the participant? How is conversation enabled with co-participants or collaborators? Where do the tutors stand on the participant-observer axis? I would have them stand toward the participant side. For learning to be authentic and to engage learners, tutor engagement works. And, so does group-work. We may not build persistent communities around any one course but we will use support techniques that are based in community-building practices. Some of this will involve peer evaluation. Previous students are invited back as teaching assistants.

Now I am working on a book idea in a similar vein. The organising principles are emerging from a series of conversations with David Jaques.

  • Learning in groups, which picks up on themes of activity, community, identity, discipline, teamwork
  • Authentic learning, which picks up on learning from experience, professional work-based learning, problem-based learning, simulation
  • Technology and learning, which expands on spaces and places for learning, physical and digital
  • Criticality and reflection, which picks up on group and public evaluation, incident analysis, direct and indirect objects of learning, diversity, inclusivity, perspectives, models and theories that might explain or predict learning

References

  • Brookfield, Stephen D. 1995. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publlishers
  • Chickering, A., and Zelda Gamson. 1987. “The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” American Association for HE Bulletin, no. March 1987 (and frequently reprinted): 3–7.
  • Engeström, Yrjö. 2001. “Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an Activity Theoretical Reconceptualization.” Journal of Education and Work 14 (1): 133 –156.
  • Kolb, David. 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
  • Vygotsky, Lev. 1962. Thinking and Speaking (first Published as Thought and Language). Edited by Eugenia Hanfmann and Gertrude Vakar. Lev Vygotsky Archive transcribed by Andy Blunden. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/words/index.htm

 

Reflecting on reflections

I have just spent a rewarding hour reading initial reflections on teaching by participants on First Steps into Teaching in Higher Eduction. The people on this course are, for the most part, new to teaching in higher education and are entering into the identity of a teaching academic in their many ways. There are many ways of being a teacher. It is not like there is one way that we can teach. But, I suppose there are some broad areas of practice, which might be considered widely useful. And – no surprises – reflection is one of these.

But it is hard. It is especially hard to take a critical perspective on yourself! So we put some structures in place. Brookfield’s lenses and Kolb’s cycle are the two opening moves made on this course. Patience and kindness come out of these writings as virtues for new teachers. I am tempted to add mindfulness and compassion, but that might be for a later stage! Patience and kindness have to be applied to one’s self as well as to students, of course.

History – ones own history – is crucial but sometimes the fact that we have done something for a long time can stand in the way of growth and development. How can we turn our history into critical learning? Self questioning is important. It is not always easy to ask why we did things in a certain way, but if we can’t answer that question, maybe we need to try again. Self-criticism of the negative sort can be unhelpful. Scaffolding helps, and that’s what frameworks like Brookfield and Kolb offer. FSLT is, itself a framework, breaking things up and arranging them propped in a way that they won’t easily fall down, even if we are unsure of our footing.

 

 

 

 

Outcomes-led learning in an open online course, #FSLT14

“Outcomes-led” is still very contentious for many (e.g. Hussey and Smith 2003; Scott 2011). On the one hand, there will be outcomes. Taking any of the reflective cycle models (Kolb in particular) allows one to anticipate some outcomes through an intentional design process. These may be expressed as “intended” outcomes or “expected outcomes”. There may, of course be many “unintended outcomes”, many of which may well be beneficial, though not necessarily expressed in the curriculum.

The contentious point for me is when anticipated outcomes (predictive) become intended outcomes (prescripticve). That said, is there something inherently inappropriate in expecting practitioners in a community to have shared practices?

So, I feel it is OK to have courses with intended outcomes. And, I think outcomes may be correlated with some measures of learning gain. [Need to check this.] On the other hand, having intended outcomes means you can measure their attainment (SMART objectives, anyway). And the fact that you can measure means you do measure and consequently you would expect there to be a correlation (because it is all just circular, really). If you give a target to a group of people with a reasonable skill set in a domain, the chances are that some (many?) will hit it.

Hussey, Trevor, and Patrick Smith. 2003. “The Uses of Learning Outcomes.” Teaching in Higher Education 8 (3): 357 – 368

Scott, Ian. 2011. “The Learning Outcome in Higher Education: Time to Think Again?” Worcester Journal of Learning and Teaching (5). http://www.worc.ac.uk/adpu/documents/WJLTIssue5PersonalperspectivesIScott.pdf