I’m in the process of putting together a workshop for the facilitators of one of our modules that we’re restructuring in order to use a blended learning approach. Here are the notes that I’ve been putting together on the Community of Inquiry (CoI) for the workshop. Bear in mind that these notes are my attempt to get a better understanding of the CoI, and so lack academic rigor (i.e. there are no references). Finally, I apologise in advance for any errors or misinterpretation of the model, especially where I’ve given my own examples for our participants. Feedback, as always, is welcome.
The Community of Inquiry is a framework developed by Garrison and Archer (2001) as a way of describing favourable conditions to stimulate learning in online environments. Since a lot of the Applied Physiotherapy module will be conducted online, the CoI is a useful framework to guide our understanding of interactions in the social network we’ll be using. The CoI suggests that in order for meaningful learning to take place in online spaces, there needs to be evidence of 3 types of “presence”:
- Social presence
- Cognitive presence
- Teaching presence
Social presence is about encouraging purposeful communication in a trusted setting, and developing interpersonal relationships by projecting personality. There are 3 categories of social presence;
- Affective response: humour, emotional expression (e.g. emoticons, “lol”)
- Open communication: recognition, interaction, reflection
- Group cohesion: use names, greet students, use inclusive pronouns (e.g. “Hi Sue. This is a good question that we can all learn from”)
Cognitive presence refers to an ability to construct meaning through sustained communication. There are 4 practical components to developing a sense of cognitive presence, which are similar to Kolb’s cycle of experiential learning:
- Provide a triggering event or problem that is indicated by a sense of puzzlement. The idea is to create a conflict between a students perceived understanding of reality (“This is how I believe the world to be”) and a realisation that the evidence doesn’t support their perception (“The world is not how I believed it to be”).
- Opportunities for exploration of the problem. This is achieved by creating an opportunity for students to understand the nature of the problem (“How or why isn’t the world the same as my mental construct of it?”), find relevant information (“What evidence can I find that will help me to understand this problem better?”), propose explanations (“If this is true, then it means that…”), and exchange information (“Hey guys, here’s some information that will help us understand this better”). You can see from these examples that this is similar to the process we want to stimulate in our cases.
- Students must try to integrate the new information through a focused construction of new meaning based on the new evidence. They do this by connecting new ideas and concepts to old knowledge that they already have. An understanding of the Zone of Proximal Development would be useful here.
- There must be a final resolution of the problem i.e. it must be solved.
There are 6 practical suggestions for how cognitive presence can be facilitated in online spaces. I’ve tried to explain each of these suggestions in terms of how we might implement them because it turns out the when facilitators model the behaviour we want to see in students e.g. critical discourse with each other and constructive critique, students tend to do similar things. The idea is that if we succeed in doing things like what is outlined below, we create the favourable conditions for cognitive presence in the online space:
- Discourse. We should aim to be active guides by posing questions that are relevant to emerging topics of discussion. Be aware of entering a discussion and “breaking it” by being an authority figure and / or using “academic” language that students may not be familiar with. There’s little point in students’ continuing a discussion when one of us comes in and provides a definitive resolution (i.e. an “answer”) to whatever problem they’re discussing, or when we say things that they don’t understand. Remember that we want to stimulate a conversation for them, not end one they’re already having.
- Collaboration. Groupwork should aim to involve generating, sharing, critiquing and prioritising solutions. There are 2 key elements; availability of the facilitator and the intellectual engagement of the student with the content.
- Management. Students begin to take increasing control of the learning activities e.g. suggesting and developing their own projects, with feedback from the larger group guiding their implementation.
- Reflection. Students tend to spend more time deliberating on their reflections when they know that what they write will be read and commented on by others. This is why we will use “public” reflections online and students will be expected to read and comment on each others’ reflections. Reflection, simply, is forming relationships between your abstract view of the world (i.e. how you believe the world to be) and how the world actually is (i.e. the congruence between your belief and what actually happens in the world). Try to use language to help students make connections between the cases and personal experiences.
- Monitoring (self-assessment). Rubrics can be used to help students grade their own progress and understanding. They take responsibility for making judgements about their work, which is what self-directed learning is. In the professional world, it is rare that we have someone else telling us what we don’t know. It’s up to us as professionals to evaluate our skillset and make decisions about where we’re lacking and what we need to do to fill gaps in our knowledge and skills. We need to enable students to make judgements about what they know and don’t know. Peer- and self-assessment is one way of doing this.
- Knowledge construction. Students must make personal meaning (i.e. “sense”) of the information they gather. They must identify the problem (“The patient can’t weightbear on the ankle”), collect data related to the problem (ROM, history of the incident, functional ability, etc.), create an hypothesis (“I believe that the lateral ankle ligament has a grade 2 sprain”), test the hypothesis (send patient for stress test under X-ray), confirm hypothesis or collect more data if necessary, make a conclusion. This process is more effective in terms of “deep learning” than memorising the signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle.
Teaching presence is about directing the social and cognitive processes (see above) to develop personally meaningful and worthwhile outcomes. There are 3 categories of teaching presence:
- Design and organisation i.e. developing and structuring the learning experience and activities
- Facilitating discourse by maintaining student and facilitator interest, motivation and engagement
- Direct instruction through “injecting knowledge”, dealing with issues around content and summarising discussions
Social, cognitive and teaching presence all interact / are dependent on each other. Studies have found that “teaching and social presence play a major role in predicting online students’ ratings of cognitive presence, and that teaching presence is strongly correlated with students’ satisfaction with the online learning experience and their sense of community. Furthermore, comfort in online discussion was the most significant factor in students’ perceptions of cognitive presence i.e. in order to develop higher order critical thinking, students need to feel comfortable with online discussion. It may be useful to ask students to reflect on their levels of comfort with online discussion. If they report low levels of comfort, further reflection on their part might identify why they feel this way and what might be done to improve their comfort levels, allowing facilitators to modify their approaches and / or the environment.
Explaining, naming and crossing border in Southern African higher education
Prof Piet Naude
This was one of the most challenging presentations I’ve ever listened to. I didn’t agree with a lot of what Prof Naude said, but he made me question my own beliefs and biases.
Ontology: language is the house of reality (language shapes reality)
In political discourse, language precedes actual violent acts. In Rwanda, people called each other “cockroaches”, and it’s much easier to kill a cockroach than to kill a human being.
Crossing interpretive borders in higher education:
- Utilitarianism: views universities as vehicles for the promotion of sectarian interests e.g. religious, political, economic → doctrines dictate the boundaries of science and denies the search for truth without fear nor favour (religious language abundant in university e.g. professor, sabatical, rector). University as a vehicle to continue the doctrine or belief e.g. when universities in South Africa advanced the notion of Apartheid in different fields (biology, politics, religion, etc.). “Truth” would be based on doctrine.
- Scientism: views “real knowledge” on the basis of empiricist, quantitative assumptions and a correspondent theory of truth. Science is the future, Humanities is the past. Some scientists are blind to the social construction of scientific paradigms. Blind to the link between science and the power or use of science. Blind to the complexity of personal and societal development.
- Liberalism: rests on presumed a-contextual and unversalist assumptions about the human person, rationality and knowledge whist actually reflecting post-Enlightenment, Western thinking. “Professional training is vicious”. I think therefore I am vs. ubuntu = I am who I am because of who we all are. “Vicious ideological nature of Western scientific thinking”. Are there non-empirical forms of validation that are equally valid as scientific ones? Are all forms of non-Western knowledge subject to verfication by Western evaluation practices?
If universities don’t exist for the public good, they become playgrounds for the rich. Commercial language can change the direction of education e.g. when a “vice chancellor” becomes a “CEO”
Crossing 5 metaphorical boundaries
- Centre – periphery: where you are born will determine your ability to succeed in the world / geographical (in)justice
- Conceptual – technical / applied (epistemic justice). People who work with their hands are not as “smart” as people who can “think”. In South Africa, we need a greater emphasis on technical / applied knowledge. More colleges, fewer universities.
- Uniformity (globalism) – plurarility (glo-cality) (cultural justice): where everyone wears jeans, watches BBC and speaks English. Emphasise a system where I can function at a global level but remain true to my local context. What is the impact on language / culture of the homogenising effect of university?
- Anthropocentrism – cosmocentric thinking (ecological justice): it’s a problem when science and technology seeks only to improve the lot of human beings at the expense of everything else.
- Past / present – future (noogenic justice): the world is in a mess, we need to prepare students to improve the future. Challenge students to imagine a future that does not exist, and give them the knowledge and skills to create it.
Perceptions of PBL group effectiveness in a diverse pharmacy student population
Study set out to evaluate student perceptions of differences in plenary vs small group work in a PBL context
4th years have better experiences with groups than 3rd years
Some students prepare only what THEY need to present in plenary sessions, whereas small groups mean that students must prepare better and more broadly
Students generally feel that the plenary sessions aren’t a “good way of learning”
Most students agree that working in small groups helps develop tolerance for language and cultural difference
Most students agreed that small group working helped them to work effectively
Cases in small groups helped students to clarify areas of difficulty
PBL seemed to work well across a diverse student group, perceptions were generally positive
Confusing / difficult conceptual work required the development of certain attributes e.g. communication, self-directed learning, tolerance
Some students found the small groupwork sessions frustrating and challening
Groups demand a large investment in time and energy, from students and staff
Problems must be resolved very early on
Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the PBL process is essential
Facilitators must pay regular attention of the changing needs of the students (students change and develop as part of the process, as do their needs, so facilitators must be aware of the changes and change the programme accordingly)
Use the positive benefits of diversity, rather than merely work around it (how can student diversity actually feed into the programme, encourage students to bring themselves into the cases, share their own life experiences in order to enrich the module)
Supporting and enabling PG success: building strategies for empowerment, emotional resilience and conceptual critical work
What are the links between students’ development and experiences: ontology (their sense of being in the world) and epistemology (how they construct knowledge)
Why do students undertake doctorates and what happens during their studies to help / hinder them?
Conceptual threshold crossing (Meyer & Land): the moments when you know that you’re being cleverer than you thought you were 🙂
What can staff do to enhance and safeguard research student wellbeing and nudge conceptual threshold crossing?
Building emotional resilience and wellbeing
Students kept learning journals for a duration of 3 years and included interviews during that period
“Troublesome encounters” (Morris & Wisker, 2011)
Doctoral learning journeys are multi-dimensional:
- Meeting course requirements (instrumental)
- Professional dimension
- Intellectual / cognitive development
- Ontological (how does it change the person?)
- Personal / emotional
How do doctoral students signify their awareness of working conceptually?
How do supervisors recognise students’ conceptual grasp of research (this applies equally well to UGs conceptual grasp of the discipline)
Conceptual crossing is evidenced by:
- Troublesome knowledge
- Movements on from stuck places through liminal spaces into new understanding
- Transformations (Meyer & Land)
Ontological change: seeing the self and the world differently and you can’t go back
Epistemological contribution: making new contributions to understanding and meaning
You have to find your own way, otherwise it’s a mechanistic process
Threshold concepts are:
- Transformative: developing an academic identity
- Irreversible: when you change how you perceive the world, you can’t go back
- Integrative: forming relationships between what seemed previously to be disparate ideas
- Troublesome knowledge: dealing with complexity
Learning moments that may indicate threshold crossings:
- Coming up with research questions
- Determining relationships between existing theory and own work
- Device methods and engage with methods
- Deal with surprises and mistakes
- Analsyse and interpret data
There needs to be a number of conceptual leaps, otherwise the thesis is a box-ticking exercise
Make sure that the doctoral project has boundaries. The work is part of a greater whole, and the more focused the work, the easier it is to define the boundaries
Research is a journey (risks, surprises, deviations, even though it looks mapped), but a thesis is a building (ordered, coherent, organised, linked)
Constructive, intellectually challenging relationships
Student wellbeing is essential for postgraduate success:
There are factors in the learning environment that pose challenges to student wellbeing
What are the wellbeing issues for our research students?
Negative impacts cripples creativity and encourages you to take the path of least resistance, where the project is more about a qualification and less about innovation
Important to switch off from the process and engage in the world in different ways, as a coping strategy when experiencing difficulty
Crossing borders between face-to-face and online learning: the evaluation of an online tutoring initiative
Collaborative learning has as its main feature a structure that encourages students to talk
Created an online module because student numbers increased, shortages of venues and tutors, timetable clashes, changing student profile and needs
Blended approach could help with logistical problems, expose students to a new way of learning, more challenging activities, develop wide variety of skills
Uses Gilly Salmon’s model for teaching and learning online as a point of departure, provides scaffolding to take students through a process of familiarising students with the environment
Students’ perceptions of online components were generally positive. However, students reported challenges with effective textual communication and typing, time management (which seems odd, since blended learning seeks to help with time issues), self-expression, understanding of concepts that are read rather than heard, poor familiarity with computers and the internet → disadvantage, feedback is immediate with face-to-face, relationships → face-to-face is a more personal interaction
Used Community of Inquiry framework to develop good online teaching practices (see Kleimola & Leppisaari, 2008 for breakdown of different “presences”)
- Needs to be agreement about turnaround time for feedback from facilitators
- Purpose of each activity should be clear
- Understand the benefits of the activities
- Must model effective online behaviour
- Communicate expecations clearly
- Promote the mind shift that needs to take place
- Create a non-threatening environment
- Don’t assume students are familiar with the environment
- Explain the role of face-to-face and online activities
Was there integration of online and offline activities? Used real-world examples to develop conversation around activities
Students’ learning satisfaction from a blended learning environment for physiology
What aspects of technology provide benefits / advantages to the learning process. NOT whether technology is inherently good or bad
How collaborative groupwork affects students’ writing
Shena Lamb-du Plessis, Laetitia Radder
Aim was to get the students to write in as many different ways, and as regularly as possible during the course
Used group journal reflections and group progress reports
Peer feedback is valuable when students know from the start that they will be sharing their work with others
Developing a writing identity means pushing students to think for themselves and to imagine themselves as writers
A process of developing and clarifying thoughts by sharing them with an audience
Groupwork can shape the meaning of the work
Group dialogue helped to define / outline the writing requirements
Students felt that personal expression validated their viewpoints
Helped to develop self-confidence when they realised that others shared their experiences
Must introduce conflict management strategies, orient students to role allocation, discuss writing tasks to restructure meaning
Exploring the tension between institutional learning management systems and emergent technologies: staff perspectives at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Daniela Gachago, Eunice Ivala, Agne Chigona
What are “emerging technologies” and can they disrupt teaching practice?
The impact of technologies in education falls short of the rhetoric:
- They are used to support and improve current teaching practices
- Teachers and students use a limited range of technologies
- Used to reproduce existing practice, as opposed to transforming practice
- Supports passive, teacher-centred and didactic instruction
Need to redefine e-learning: “can no longer be viewed as a purely institutionally based or narrowly defined set of activities” (HEFCE paper, 2009, 5). Difficult because institutions are reluctant to give up their power and control
There is a shift of the locus on control:
- Control moves to students and lecturers
- Transfer of authority of knowledge and ownership of technology
Type I technologies replicate existing practices, Type II technologies allow students and lecturers to do things that they couldn’t do before
In complex-adaptive domains, knowledge doesn’t provide prospective predictability but rather, retrospective coherence. Learning should be self-organised and collaborative (Williams, Karousou, Macness, 2011)
“Hard” technologies: constraining and limiting, stifles creativity e.g. LMS
“Soft” technologies: freedom to play
Soft technologies require skill and artistry. It’s not just what you do but how you do it.
Qualities of disruptive technologies (Meyer, 2010):
- Designed to offer options, motivate students, provide connections to the lives, jobs and communities of students
- Capitalise on willingness of students to experiment and fail, to improve, and to keep at problems until solutions are crafted
Laurillard (2002, 141): We’re playing with digital tools but with an approach still born in the transmission model. There is no progress therefore, in how we teach, despite what is possible with the new technology
Laurillard’s conversational framework: there’s no escape from the need for dialogue, there is a constant exchange between teacher and student:
Laurillard (2002). Rethinking university teaching.
No one approach is better than the other. We need to have a mix of approaches to get the maximum benefit of using different tools
“It’s a way of doing life. It’s not about computers. It’s not about mobile learning. It’s just learning – it’s just life”
Analysing teaching and learning at five comprehensive universities
What are the mechanisms in the world that exist in order for us to have the experiences that we do?
Move beyond the statistics of higher education, and ask what must the institution be like in order for this to be (im)possible?
What is the role of Culture (ideas), Structure (process), and Agency (people)?
Most institutions continue to reflect their individual histories as rural/urban, disadvantaged/advantaged, traditional/university of technology. There seemed to be little cohesion in terms of what it means to be a comprehensive university.
Comprehensive universities emphasise the management discourse that focuses on the “complexity to be managed” rather than a “knowledge discourse” i.e. what is knowledge / research, etc.
There are implications for academic identify and research output
“Powerful ways of knowing”
Often students are constructed as deficits i.e. they are deficit in language, life skills, motivation, etc.
- Is More Zen, Less Plus The Way to Go? http://ow.ly/1uqHOf. “Zen mode” in WordPress helps you to focus on writing #
- Google Plus Feature Request: Automatic Circles http://ow.ly/1uqH4n #
- Learning with ‘e’s: Seven reasons teachers should blog http://bit.ly/pVV9A8 #
- Reasons teachers don’t blog http://t.co/VKLcLIS #
- OER@UCT | Excellent video explaining Creative Commons http://bit.ly/qzgJFI #
- Sage on the Stage : Education Next http://bit.ly/norWHX. Is lecturing really all that bad? #
- Just installed #Apture for contextual highlighting http://bit.ly/qz9Mcx. Fantastic browser plugin #
- The Future of Hospital Apps http://rww.to/lw27UT #
- US publisher moves to make catalogue of over 4,000 academic texts available free online http://t.co/hqE0vuy #
- Google Plus: Is This the Social Tool Schools Have Been Waiting For? http://rww.to/kWEhwe #
- A critique of the role of social presence within the community of inquiry framework | IRRODL http://bit.ly/maDXnq #
I’m busy reading Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, and wanted to share some of the takeaway points that made me think about how I could change my own teaching practice. I haven’t finished the book yet, so I may update this post when I do.
The premise of the book is that we aren’t always the rational beings we believe we are, and that there are powerful emotional factors that cause us to make decisions that are often counterintuitive. If we understand how these factors predictably make us less rational, we might be able to affect greater self-control over our lives, and be better off for it.
One of the ideas that really got my attention was how we respond to social and market norms in our everyday interactions with other people. When you think about it, a lot of what we do as teachers has nothing to do with market norms i.e. we don’t work the hours we do because we’re paid appropriately. Social norms mean that we go above and beyond what is required of us possibly because we have a sense of shared purpose or a belief that we’re contributing to something more important than money. In other words, people are motivated to work harder when they believe they’re in a socially-orientated relationship, rather than one in which market values dominate. Ariely also conducted experiments showing that when market and social norms collide, relationships that were based on the social norms are disrupted and can take years to rebuild. This has implications when we start thinking about building communities of practice in our professional domains, and it seems that we would do well to base our interactions on a shared sense of purpose, rather than financial reward. I know from recent conversations with students with whom I have a good relationship, that they try harder to impress me with their work, and worry less about the mark they receive, than they do with other lecturers who don’t engage with them at all. For me, this is a powerful incentive to engage with students not only on a cognitive level, but on a social level as well.
Ariely also shows clearly how emotionally heightened states cause us to make bad decisions for ourselves and for those around us. How many times have we made a bad decision when we’re angry? When I think about it (and if I’m honest with myself), I know that I’ve been guilty of being a stricter assessor when I’m in a bad mood, than when I’m having a good day. I know that my marking isn’t as objective as I’d like it to be, but to be shown the evidence of how much it influences my behaviour has made me commit to avoid marking students’ work when I’m upset.
When discussing procrastination, Ariely makes the observation that when students are given absolute submission dates for assignments that are appropriately spaced, they do better than students who are given flexibility in determining their own submission dates. I know that recently I’ve started including draft deadlines into assignments to “encourage” students to begin work their on assignments early, and to continue improving their work up until the final submission date. Last year I saw students who participated in the drafting process score significantly higher marks than those who chose to submit only one, final version of the assignment. Students will procrastinate if left to themselves, and I guess we need to decide if we’re OK with that, or to rather try and figure out how to more effectively guide them through the process of making regular improvement through regular feedback.
The final point I wanted to highlight is from a TED presentation that Ariely gave (although it might be in the book too), where he finds that students are less likely to cheat after thinking about the 10 commandments. It turns out that signing an honour code might not be as pointless as I’d previously thought.
You can also see Ariely discuss some of his ideas at these 2 TED talks: