Oct 28 : On the role of the teacher in social constructivist pedagogy

On the role of the teacher in social constructivist pedagogy

One role of the teacher within social constructionist pedagogy is to inspire students by demonstrating high level inquiry-based learning, and communicate a sense of high expectations.

At the start of the course, the teacher can model the style of discussing at a high level:

– reacting to the issues students face

– showing how to bring in expert opinions by referring to applicable academic papers

– applying deductive reasoning to shine the light of inquiry on new problem areas: “if this is true, then we should consider that this other factor may apply to this situation

– resourcing intra-group perspectives by sharing the viewpoints evidenced in other group discussions: e.g. “Phryne has brought up a similar issue, and she thinks that pure eLearning has significant disadvantages compared to blended learning

– recognizing that even the teacher can still realize new truths or react to new perspectives: “That is the first time that someone told me that working through a problem as a group in synchronous chat is like meditation!

The teacher’s model of high-level inquiry can serve as the foundation for the learning community, as a demonstration of preferred practice, and a key element defining the social interaction for the students to build upon.

Oct 19 : On the different uses of the term “instrumental learning”

On the different uses of the term “instrumental learning”

What Thorndike and Skinner refer to as instrumental learning is probably related to the way that Mezirow uses it in his article, but only loosely related.   Thorndike developed the idea by observingcats trying to escape from puzzle boxes, while Mezirow states:

“When we engage in task-orientated problem solving – how to do something or how to perform – we are engaged in instrumental learning; reflection is significantly involved when we look back on content or procedural assumptions guiding the problem-solving process to reassess the efficacy of the strategies and tactics used.”

While both uses of the term involve learning to do tasks and developing procedural knowledge, somehow I doubt that Thorndike spent much time theorizing how much the cats reflected on their procedural assumptions.   Mezirow applies this term to human learning, which involves things like “checking that our actions are consistent with our values“, and “whether our attitude has been objective“.

Mezirow’s use of the term is much more about meta-cognition, or knowing about how we think.   Because the current context is about human thinking, it involves much more higher-order thinking skills than the way Thorndike and Skinner used the term.

Oct 19 : On the use of Moodle quiz “adaptive mode” on summative assessment tasks

On the use of Moodle quiz “adaptive mode” on summative assessment tasks:

– the idealistic side of me responds immediately: it’s never too late to learn!   Adaptive mode will help students grasp the conceptual associations even as a parting kiss, a last chance!

– the realistic side of me notes that summative assessment is usually limited in time, and this will affect any decision to use adaptive mode.  While an experienced teacher can estimate quite accurately how long it will take for a group of students to do 100 MC questions with single-answer / no looking at the result responses, it is much more difficult to estimate how long it will take students to do 100 MC questions with adaptive mode / keep answering until you find the right response.   Especially when 100 MC questions are paired with an essay or two in a 1.5 or 2 hour summative assessment exam, I would say that adaptive mode will penalize the lower-performing students, who will take much longer to explore all the wrong answers, and have much less time remaining to work on the essays!

Oct 9 : On the use of the essay assignment or problem type to elicit higher-order thinking: Susan vs Robert

On the use of the essay to elicit higher-order thinking: Susan vs Robert

Perhaps one way of looking at the two views of the essay problem type would be to think of two approaches to learning: Susan creates an original essay answer that is built on her deep understanding, while Robert merely lists or repeats key phrases he copied down in his notes, based on his surface approach to learning.

Both students were given the same essay problem to solve, but one used deep understanding to produce an answer, while the other only used surface understanding.

Resource: http://exchange.ac.uk/learning-and-teaching-theory-guide/deep-and-surface-approaches-learning.html

Sep 28 : Which comes first, upgrading a course or writing new Learning Outcomes?

Which comes first, upgrading a course or writing new Learning Outcomes?

I mean that when a teacher wants to upgrade a course, it’s better to start by writing better LOs:

– more active verbs

– raise the expectations for the students : can they reach Relational level?

– can the LOs integrate new technology available?

– can we expect greater depth of understanding, or more collaboration?

Once the LOs have been redeveloped, THEN the teacher can implement a better course!

Just like the pony goes before the cart, the LO goes before the course.

Sep 24 : On why Biggs says that the SOLO Extended Abstract level is “outside of the learning cycle”

On why Biggs says that the SOLO Extended Abstract level is “outside of the learning cycle”:

I agree that in sanda (散打; sparring) you learn to relate the moves you were taught in taolu (套路; forms), and you can reach a deeper, more abstract understanding of the art of Wushu (武术).   You might watch a video of the fight and analyze what you did, and relate your moves to what you were taught.

When a student has the engagement+effort+talent to reach the Extended Abstract level, perhaps they may create new combinations that are original, not something they were taught.    They may even create an entirely new “style” of fighting, such as Changquan (長拳 or Long Fist), or Nanquan (南拳 or Southern Fist).

How can teachers require students to go beyond what they have been taught?

As Biggs said: extended abstract thinking is easily recognized, but difficult to specify.

This is why Extended Abstract is considered to be “outside of the learning cycle”.

Sep 24 : On the issue of participation vs criterion-referenced assessment:

On the issue of participation vs criterion-referenced assessment:

I require participation in the discussion forums because I want everyone to “dance” (for example).

If you don’t try it yourself, it’s very hard to learn to dance.

Participation isn’t criterion-referenced: it’s just black or white = you try, or don’t try.

Once I get everyone dancing, I can give feedback on what makes for good dancing: rhythm, expression, etc.

We also watch recordings of experts dancing, and I try to demonstrate some good dancing myself!

Group-based discussions can generate lots of peer feedback on individual dancing, far more than I can myself.

At the end of the course, the summative assessment should be criterion-referenced, as opposed to norm-referencing.

That is when the teacher evaluates the work based on a set of criteria, and at what level each student has achieved on each criterion.   SOLO levels are useful for applying to each criterion.

Criterion for summative assessment of a dance might be:

  • rhythm
  • expression
  • social interaction
  • effort
  • symbology

At the end of THIS course, I will evaluate each student’s performance on the summative assessments: a Learning Portfolio, and their eLearning Project.   Each will be assessed on a range of criteria.

Participation helps me get everyone dancing, and at the end of the course I evaluate each student on how well they can dance.   Some try harder than others.    Some have more talent in dance than others.   Some are more engaged with the class than others.

Part of my job is to try and engage as many students as possible, so more students can become good dancers.

Sep 24 : On the problem with unknown terms in syllabus Learning Outcomes

On the problem with unknown terms in syllabus Learning Outcomes

A course syllabus is often not very enlightening as to what the learning experience will be like in the course.   Often the “word of mouth” or gossip about a course is much more insightful to help a student find out the truth.

For example, in the syllabus of the 6311 eLearning course, the Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs) refer to an “eLearning environment”, but what does this mean?   Not until the students take the course do they find out this could be an LMS like Moodle, a web conference such as Adobe Connect, or an immersive virtual environment such as Second Life!

One way to relieve some of the confusion is also supply Unit-level Aims and ILOs, so at least the context is reduced to just one unit, instead of the entire course!

But even in a unit, you will see an ILO such as:

  • list typical VLE functions and relate them to PBL

What is a VLE?   What is PBL?    At least the Key Terms Glossary will help, and the meaning of these terms becomes clear during the unit Teaching & Learning Activities (TLAs)!    (I hope)

Sep 20 – On the differences between F2F learning and online learning

On the differences between F2F learning and online learning:

One big difference between the online environment and F2F is that everything we discuss is archived and can be read later by everyone in the class, but especially your groupmates.

In F2F, most of what happens flies into our ears, and only perhaps 1% is recorded via accessible declarative memories or written down.

Do you remember copying down everything the lecturer wrote on the chalkboard?    I do.

It’s a pretty slow way to learn, and where is the problem solving, the student-centered inquiry-based learning?