Multiple Pedagogical Tools Can Facilitate Change
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Multiple Pedagogical Tools Can Facilitate Change

The current social climate brings a new awareness of a need for systemic change in the way that teachers instruct and interact with their students. Longstanding inequality through systemic biases still pervade our learning institutions, neighborhoods, places of work, and certainly cross into eLearning. The need for societal change and increasing technological advancement has brought forth examinations of fundamental pedagogies and how learning can serve a greater purpose than producing workers for an anachronistic industrial-based system. Change within a long-standing paradigm of teaching and learning can only happen with an exploration of existing pedagogies and their place in 21st-century education.

The traditional approach to learning in the last century was didactic and mimetic in nature and, unfortunately, this type of learning has migrated into eLearning environments. Lecture, memorization, and test was the norm, and it was not until the late 1970s that change started to take place when education cuts, drive toward a market-driven economy, and a lack of trust in government pushed universities to examine their role in society. Academia was forced to examine non-traditional students and new courses to attract those students. In addition to academic change, psychology was developing by leaps and bounds as a science and the old ideas of behaviorism gave way to constructivism and social constructivism, which has greatly influenced pedagogy for the last 50 years.

Social constructivism, which is heavily influenced by the works of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, views learning as “hands-on” or active learning. Learning by doing is seen as an important part of online education because it is believed that students find more meaning in the work, which imparts a deeper knowledge of the material. This is especially true when the work encourages recognition of the student’s social and cultural environment. In fact, social constructivism is believed to impart more responsibility to the student, increase motivation for learning, encourage collaboration, and place the role of the instructor as more of a facilitator than a lecturer.

While there are many insights into the future of education including Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence which have yet to fully develop, the current ideas that can be the most beneficial for online education include: project-based learning, peer feedback with interaction and reflection, instructor as facilitator, pedagogical design utilizing learning sciences, and incorporating learning analytics and formative assessment.

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning, or PBL, is a student-centric pedagogy that gives participants a deeper understanding of new material by exploring real-world challenges. PBL promotes time management, responsibility, problem-solving, self-direction, collaboration, communication, creativity, and work ethics by presenting students with a challenging problem or question that needs to be explored from the student’s perspective. Students can acquire new skills and gain lasting knowledge because the experience helps students to retain information. eLearning PBL projects can include collaborative Wikis, blogs, and more but often the fun is in changing up the delivery method; art, comic book creation, music, and video production can all be used no matter what subject the students are exploring.

Peer Feedback, Interaction, And Reflection

One of the key reasons to utilize peer feedback is that students get to see other people’s work and learn from their strengths and weaknesses as well as their point of view. Thinking becomes more analytical when faced with a rubric that helps to guide students to understand quality work. When students share assessment and are given the opportunity to self-reflect, they often find new ways of working and learn more material than they would have on their own. Some teachers have found success in helping students to create their own rubric. Of course, teachers need to guide and give additional formative feedback for the best results.

Instructor As  Facilitator

Traditionally, the idea of the instructor as a facilitator implies that the teacher takes a step back and guides students instead of giving them instruction in the form of a lecture. While this is true, it is important to take this beyond that simple meaning. The instructor as facilitator does not take away the responsibility of the instructor to teach. Yes, during a project an instructor might step back and guide students, however, the design of the project must lead students to find the appropriate information by design and not by accident. Information is still being presented, but in a way that allows for discovery which can lead to knowledge, application, and synthesis. It is especially important to consider how to scaffold Instructional Design for the benefit of student discovery. Scaffolding is the systematic building of knowledge and experience through guided instruction so that skills are built throughout lessons or projects. Individualizing the instruction to accommodate beginning, intermediate, or advanced students should be a part of the facilitation of the class.

Pedagogical Design Utilizing Learning Sciences

The biggest shortcoming of online classes is the lack of consistent and appropriate pedagogical design. Studies suggest that online classes that were developed in the early days of eLearning are less successful than recently designed classes. One reason that is cited is that new trends in pedagogy are being utilized to now improve student learning participation, while older classes are just representations of traditional teaching methods. Another reason for the improvement in newly designed classes is the use of psychological ideas that have been proven to encourage student engagement like gamification and social interaction. One suggestion for improvement of older classes is to teach instructors how to utilize Learning Management Systems effectively while simultaneously suggesting that they update their pedagogies. Many resources are available that show best-practices for implementing strong eLearning platforms. eLearning Industry, The Online Learning Consortium, Edutopia, National Standards for Quality Online Courses, EDUCAUSE, ISTE, and many others provide ideas and standards for stronger eLearning platforms.

Learning Analytics And Formative Assessment

Learning analytics is not just the gathering of data or even direct measurement for assessment like standardized tests. Learning analytics should be more of a holistic view of academic disciplines. It should include aspects of information science, formative assessment, psychology, and sociology to truly find a more authentic way of helping our students. Authentic assessment is finding ways to include information that is more meaningful and directed to an individual than a standardized score. An authentic assessment should allow for revision and utilize inclusion to recognize that diversity is valid and valued. While naysayers worry about the collection of Big Data and privacy issues, many schools are looking at ways to help students. Learning analytics can give students real-time results on their grades and examine participation and productivity. When analytics are designed to incorporate multiple factors outside of subjective judgment, concerns of biased instructors tend to disappear, and students feel more comfortable with the fairness of their grades

In the future, implementing more beneficial pedagogical ideas in online learning systems as well as brick and mortar schools will help increase retention, promote accessibility, and improve student learning outcomes while making education more relevant to student needs and interests. Instructors, parents, administrators, Instructional Designers, and politicians should recognize that a more holistic solution is needed because many old ideas do not serve the needs of a diverse population. By implementing a combination of pedagogies and assessments like project-based learning, peer feedback with interaction and reflection, instructor as facilitator, pedagogical design utilizing learning sciences, and incorporating learning analytics and formative assessment we can achieve greater success in all of our schools and give students an experience that will help them to become lifelong learners.

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