2. Teaching, learning, assessment

2a. An understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes

Introduced to me during my MA studies, I often refer back to Conole et al. (2004) to analyse the learning design of activities. Using the same content, it is possible to create a very different learning experience and learning outcome, simply by considering where on these axes a learning activity is positioned.

Now in my work with MOOCs, the idea of designing based on a mixture of different learning experiences is key to the storyboarding approach favoured by FutureLearn (which builds upon Young and Perović’s (2015) ABC design method). Conole et al’s design axes in terms of individual/social, information/experiential and non-reflective/reflective, map to the general experience of social, experiential and reflective. However, within MOOC design there are also learners who take courses individually, purely for new information. In this case it is the learner who determines the learning experience, not necessarily the activity design.

Online CPD courses for science teachers

I led colleagues in the creation of three practical science MOOCs as CPD for science teachers. My role involved explaining MOOC pedagogy, with specific reference to FutureLearn’s guidance for social learning, storyboarding, developing the learning activities, editing the courses and building them on FutureLearn. The course authors are subject experts, bringing their experience of teacher CPD, and part of this project was to develop in-house capacity for further course development.

The courses are not designed to be online textbooks, but instead encourage critical reflection on teaching practice, sharing of ideas and improving confidence of teachers. However, to do this, there still needs to be a foundation of subject knowledge in the form of practical demonstrations. Where we wished to present a number of related demonstrations, I advised limiting to one demonstration per course step, with an overarching activity that connected the steps together to meet a specific learning outcome. For example, the screenshot below shows how the author’s content on progression was developed into an 8 step activity: an introduction, followed by four examples, a polling task, discussion and modelled example from an experienced teacher. This breaks down the learning experience into different types of activity, and goes beyond non-interactive, ‘acquisitional’ learning.

Reflection

Another of the courses was reviewed by an external consultant who identified a similar opportunity for this pattern of learning. In particular, the use of directed commenting prompts for demonstration videos that would otherwise not have a specific learning activity attached to them. As I discussed this with the course authors, we considered which questions would be most effective for our learners. I adjusted the style of the page to emphasise the comment prompt.

Further reading about MOOC engagement, where learners may be selecting “individualized pathways motivated by individualized objectives for the learning experience” (DeBoer, et al., 2014), has let me to multi-layered learning designs. These allow both sequential learning through courses and, for those learners who just visit single steps, key learning points within steps themselves. This is just one of the many design contradictions in MOOCs, where the individual learning task may be completely disaggregated from a larger learning activity, yet still create a meaningful learning experience.

References

  • Conole, G., Dyke, M., Oliver, M. and Seale, J. (2004) ‘Mapping pedagogy and tools foreffective learning design’, Computers and Education, vol. 43, nos.1–2, pp.17–33.
  • De Boer, J., Ho, A.D., Stump, G.S., Breslow, L. (2014) ‘Reconceptualizing Educational Variables for Massive Open Online Courses’, Educational Researcher, 43(2), 74-84.

2b. An understanding of your target learners

Improving lecture capture for specific subjects

Mathematics and physics: the lecture space is primarily a way to show mathematical thinking (Pritchard, 2001). The lecture wall is used to cross-reference different mathematical processes, for example drawing upon previous stages in a derivation to support an explanation. Sequential ‘revealing’ of formulae on PowerPoint slides would not allow explanation at a symbol-by-symbol level, attuned to the needs of the student group. In my former role, I was able to make the case for funding for camera-based capture, to extend the existing provision of digital screen capture in teaching rooms heavily used by maths-related departments.

The system was configured to give lecturers full control over which parts of a lecture included camera capture, allowing the rooms to be used by non-maths subjects without requiring additional consent. Students have responded positively, albeit acknowledging the system is not perfect, it provides an equivalency with other subjects that have been able to use lecture recording to support their learning for many years.

Learning about other subjects: I wanted to explore the meaning of ‘the lecture’ within different disciplines so that I could convey the purpose of student attendance beyond simply taking notes. I arranged to speak to a number of lecturers from different subjects to understand discipline-specific practices. Each lecturer aimed to inculcate their students into the ‘way of the discipline’. As a Philosophy lecturer put it, “watching me at work.” By better understanding the academic discipline, I could then explore the learning and teaching impact (both positive and negative) of deploying lecture capture. This piece of work was conducted as part of a peer support activity in application for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.

  • Interview notes about subject lectures [Link redacted for public portfolio]

Reflection

By drawing upon student feedback and academic perspectives, I could relate to the concerns of academic staff from an informed point of view, building relationships that would help embed lecture capture technology where appropriate. The concept of “a holistic approach to the module”, as shared by one of the lecturers helped me position the use of lecture capture, not as a way for students to better revise the lectures, but to help them prepare for application of lecture content through seminar discussions, practical work or exams. I also learnt that finding time for conversation with academic colleagues is one of the most meaningful activities central teaching support staff can do.

Reference

  • Pritchard, D. (2010). ‘Where learning starts? A framework for thinking about lectures in university mathematics’, International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 41(5), 609-623.

Designing for flipped classroom

Declaration: This example has been adapted from my FHEA Application.

In my previous role I worked with the academic lead for a postgraduate nursing programme who was looking to address conflicts of limited timetabled contact hours, placement schedule, quantity of content and learning aims of the programme to meet professional nursing standards. I was involved from the early stages of a redesign to identify the learning and delivery challenges within their existing pedagogic models of scaffolded content delivery, case-based learning and problem-based learning. The flipped classroom approach was suggested to deliver lecture-style content online in advance of face-to-face teaching within these models, thus freeing up in-class time for higher-order learning through critical discussion and application to practice (EDUCAUSE, 2012).

I provided the following recommendations based upon flipped learning research literature (summarised in my webinar on flipped learning design): consistency in approach throughout a module (Strayer, 2012), including setting expectations of work and workload, so that students can adapt to a new way of learning; reducing the content being delivered in lecture format to fundamental concepts, from which case-studies and in-class discussions could build, to make the exposure to new content manageable; designing-in active learning activities to ensure online flipped content is not passively engaged with and students are required to demonstrate understanding providing opportunities for self-identifying knowledge gaps to follow up with in class.

As a result of the initial discussion and recommendations, I delivered two targeted workshops for the teaching team, explaining the principles of flipped classroom with emphasis on the links between the online and in-class activities, suggesting approaches for both such as micro-lectures and peer-learning (McLaughlin et al., 2014). Then ran a session on the technical processes of recording video lectures.

Reflection

This example is a demonstration of adapting to the needs of academic colleagues based on curriculum delivery constraints they have for their students. Unlike much of the central support offer, this development was focused on the context of these educators. The process started with a discussion with the programme lead, before devising two opportunities for programme colleagues to understand more about the pedagogy and technology. As this approach had the potential to transform multiple modules and affect the whole programme, I aimed to empower academic colleagues by understanding the pedagogical differences to what they had done previously. This enabled them to make informed choices about how they would both support their students learning in a different way and develop their own teaching.

References

  • EDUCAUSE (2012) ‘7 Things You Should Know About… Flipped Classrooms‘, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, February 2012.
  • McLaughlin, J. E., Roth, M. T., Glatt, D. M., Gharkholonarehe, N., Davidson, C. A., Griffin, L. M., Esserman, D. A. and Mumper, R. J. (2014) ‘The Flipped Classroom: A Course Redesign to Foster Learning and Engagement in a Health Professions School’, Academic Medicine, 89, 2, 236-243.
  • Strayer (2012) ‘How learning in an inverted classroom influences cooperation,
    innovation and task orientation,’ Learning Environments Research. 15(2), 171-193.
    Young, C. and Perović, N. (2015) ABC Learning Design. UCL.

Next: Core Area 3. The wider context

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