Learning by Doing

and doing again

July 16, 2013
by annecdeutsch

So Many Venn Diagrams So Little Time

Librarians love a good Venn diagram.  Just say boolean operator and give us a white board and a pen – it’s ridiculous. The article “A follow-up investigation of “teaching presence” in the SUNY learning network” by Shea, Pickett and Pelz (2003) is swimming in Venn diagrams.  In preparation for this post I took some time to ponder the various diagrams/models of an effective learning environment in an effort to frame my thinking about who I am as an educator and thinking about areas for development.

Starting with Bransford’s (2000) How People Learn I feel that the area that I will to focus most on creating a learner centered environment.  I’m pretty grounded in the knowledge and assessment areas.  Although I can talk a good game about constructivism and student learning, what really matters is how effective I am in designing, implementing (direct instruction), and facilitating a student centered classroom.  I find the design aspect most challenging because it’s the foundation and if built correctly should support the implementation and facilitation.  I really appreciate the definition of assessment from this model: “provide learners with many opportunities to make their thinking visible and to get feedback in order to create new meaning and new understanding” (p. 63).  This is an important reminder that assessment, at its best, is about furthering learning.

Moving on to Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education  I have a bit more to consider.  Not only are their seven criteria, but ideally they are activated at the intersection of Bransford’s three criteria.  This is starting to feel daunting.  For the moment I will consider them separately.  The areas for my greatest attention will be fostering student reciprocity and cooperation along with time on task.  Again, the other elements are already incorporated in my toolkit.  Again, I will need to dig into all of the elements of teaching presence to bring this all to life.  The opening ice breaker module will be extremely important in getting things off to a good start and building community. I”m hoping that the interview a partner and report out to the group will translate to the online environment.  I like the idea of starting introductions with conversations rather than reporting out.  The P2P forums will force students to interact and to switch traditional roles of student (asking a question) and instructor (answering a question).  I will also want to take a role in connecting students in the discussions if necessary (I”m guessing it will be, but I might be surprised!).  Time on task can make an appearance in course information documents as well as the course schedule.

Now we have Garrison, Anderson and Archer’s (2000) Critical Inquiry in a Text Based Environment and brings us to the focus of this module, teaching presence, which intersects with social presence and cognitive presence.  I really think that I will have to focus equally on instructional design and organization, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction because this is all new.  Right now, of course, I”m focusing on design with some direct instruction components thrown in for good measure.   And while I”m thinking about facilitation as I build these components, I will also be thinking about how I can improve design and direct instruction as I’m teaching.  I appreciate the distinction between teacher presence and teaching presence outlined in this article and will continue to develop pathways and support for students to develop their own teaching presence.

One of the things that I’m struggling with in this course is pacing.  I”m wondering if there is a way to build some breathing room into my course.  I don’t know what can be stripped out, but I think it will be necessary.  The course is designed for incoming freshmen and I want to keep them tuned in and engaged but not overwhelmed.  I will keep this in mind as I move forward.

Shea, P.J., Pickett, A.M., & Pelz, W.E. (2003). A follow-up investigation of “teaching presence” in the SUNY Learning Network. JALN 7 (2)pp. 61-80.


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