Unit 2 Notes

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Course: Instructional Skills Workshop Online
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Date: Thursday, 20 June 2024, 3:10 AM


Unit 2 Notes

Unit 2 Overview

This week we have two learning activities that will be facilitated by your colleagues - specifically:

  • Class Discussion Forum Case: Course Review Task Force (Class forum)
  • wiki Wiki Activity (Class) How do Adult Learners get their needs met online?

These activities will be supported by different technologies - the first uses forums (which you should now be getting comfortable using) and the other uses wikis, which may or may not be a familiar technology for you (wikis are essentially websites that anyone can edit - think "Wikipedia").

If you are not listed as one of the facilitators for the activities this week (see the course schedule), then you are a "student" in that activity and will be getting direction from the facilitators.

But...do start by reading and viewing the material in Unit 2 to prepare yourself to participate actively. There are some great videos in this unit from experienced faculty who share some of their experiences.

Toward the end of the week, "students" will give the facilitators feedback on how they did in the Mini-session Feedback Forum. So you might also have a look at the learning outcomes for this unit and prepare to give feedback on how their facilitation did/not support your achieving those outcomes. And if not, what would have helped you?

If you are finding the "flow" of the course confusing, please return to the Course Overview and review the section on Learning Activities, particularly the bits on Facilitating Mini-sessions, and participating in Mini-sessions.


Unit 2 Learning Outcomes

This unit focuses on the following course learning outcomes and self assessment criteria:

Learning OutcomeSelf-Assessment Criteria
Discuss theories of adult learning and styles and their application to online teaching
  • Articulate rationale for instructional choices
Reflect on how best to facilitate online learning effectively
  • Define instructor role (s) in supporting learning online
  • Demonstrate effective and appropriate online facilitation, communication, questioning and coaching skills
  • Identify and respond strategically to online “teachable moments”
Discuss how to link theories of how to build and sustain online communities with theories of adult learning and styles
  • Identify strategies for working with diverse online communities (e.g., existing cohort and team cultures)
Manage the online course environment
  • Use appropriate strategies to establish and maintain online environment, including instructor presence and general housekeeping
  • Articulate strategies for maintaining work/life balance and boundaries (e.g., office hours, manage expectations early in the course)

Learning Theory - a Primer

The readings this week are grouped into 3 clusters:

  1. Learning Theory (general)
  2. Adult Learning Theory
  3. Learning Styles

The idea is to get an overview (or, a reminder) of these schools of thought and to think about learning - the ways in which it is thought to occur, and what your role is as an instructor.

Knowing the basics of different learning theories helps us better understand the motivations and desires of learners and how best to support the learning process through instructional design and learning facilitation.

Here is an overview of the big ones: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism. Connectivism is increasingly discussed these days in the "networked" and "information" age, where there is so much information that is constantly changing.

What do you know/believe about learning? Like many, you probably have an eclectic view that draws from more than one theory.

How does learning occur? Black box - observable behaviour main focus Structured, computational Social, meaning created by each learner (personal) Distributed within a network, social, technologically enhanced, recognizing and interpreting patterns
What factors influence learning? Nature of reward, punishment, stimuli Existing schema, previous experiences Engagement, participation, social, cultural Diversity of network
What is the role of the memory? Memory is hardwiring of repeated experiences - where reward and punishment are most influential Encoding, storage, retrieval Prior knowledge remixed to current context Adaptive patterns, representative of current state, existing in networks
How does transfer occur? Stimulus, response Duplicating knowledge constructs of "knower" Socialization Connecting to (adding nodes)
What types of learning are best explained by this theory? Task-based learning Reasoning, clear objectives, problem solving Social, vague ("ill defined") Complex learning, rapid changing core, diverse knowledge sources

Adult Learning

Seminal research among adult learning theorists (e.g., Knowles, 1973; Merriam and Caffarella, 1999; Merriam, 1993) has revealed that:

  • adults continue to learn after completing their formal education
  • adults learn differently than children
  • adults learn in purposeful, self-directed ways

Malcolm Knowles is a big name in adult education. He argues that adults...

  • need to know why they need to learn something
  • need to learn experientially
  • approach learning as problem-solving
  • learn best when the topic is of immediate value

Understanding the motivation and needs of the adult learner can go a long way to helping you design activities and courses that will work for adults: establish relevance, provide meaningful, problem-based activities that are useful to their real lives. Often including opportunities for choice in assignments and readings can go a long way to meeting these needs.

Facilitators often have to take into account the paradoxes adult learners present. On one hand, adult learners are accustomed to feeling competent and in-charge. On the other hand, they may harbour feelings of insecurity about their ability to perform in "school". While they may have years of work experience and informal learning, they may not have been involved in formal learning for several years.

How do we meet the needs of adult learners online?

Certain strategies and approaches seem to work well, including providing choice and inviting adult learners to leverage their experience, using coaching, dialogical models, and team-based learning reinforce a facilitative rather than directive approach to instruction. And meeting adult learners where they are, with active (experiential), relevant, applicable learning experiences will go far to support engagement and ultimately learning.

Learning Styles

The idea of "learning styles" (or, "preferences", as they are often called) is an interesting one. The main idea behind Learning Styles is a widely adopted and accepted idea in Education: people learn in different ways.

On one hand, it seems like one of those "motherhood" statements. For example, as Richard Felder notes, Students preferentially take in and process information in different ways...it's hard to disagree with that. And people believe it (how often have you heard someone say, "Oh, I'm a visual learner?")

On the other hand, it's not without controversy. In this week's readings, there are two "con" pieces that illustrate how learning styles may not hold up as promised under strict research scrutiny.

We wanted to provide this balanced view. The ideas behind Learning Styles are very useful to have in mind, but they aren't a solution to every teaching challenge. You don't, for example, want to spend a lot of time, "diagnosing" learning styles and changing everything, every time, for every learner. That's not the point.

The point is, to be aware of different ways that people can/do/prefer to take in information, and therefore the different ways you can make information available, online. Having the idea of learning styles in your mind, for example, may inspire you to seek (or create) a piece of audio, or video, or an image to communicate, instead of text-only resources.