Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
The posting below looks at some provocative approaches to reorganizing teaching in a technology driven environment. It is from Chapter Nine: Building a Twenty-First-Century University or College in the book, Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning, by A. W. (Tony) Bates and Albert Sangra. Copyright (c) 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741--www.josseybass.com. Reprinted with permission.
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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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The Need for Multiple Visions for Teaching and Learning in the Future
Probably the most serious problem we have identified is the general lack of imagination about the possibilities of technology for meeting the needs of today's students. We need to move away from the dominant paradigm of the fixed time and place classroom (Andrea del Sarto's "silver-grey, placid and perfect art" in the chapter's opening quotation) as the default model for university and college teaching, and think of all the many other ways we could organize and manage teaching. In particular, we need to think very concretely about what teaching and learning could and should look like in the future. Our reach should exceed our grasp, driven by our assessment of the needs of students in the twenty-first century, and not by the existing institutional requirements that they must fit into. The best place to develop such a vision is at the program level, and particularly when a new program is being designed.
In the scenario that opens this chapter, we have tried to provide just one example of a vision for teaching and learning in the future. Here are some of the implications from that scenario.
1. Abolition of the semester system. In this scenario students can start-and finish-courses at different times of the year, although they are limited to three or four start and end times, to enable groups to cohere during the course. Some courses would stretch over a year, and would be worth 12 credits; others-especially foundation or prior knowledge modules- would be shorter, some as short as a week.
2. Since course materials or content are constantly changing - many sources will be off- campus-courses will be built around learning outcomes, such as research design, critical analysis, and knowledge management, within broad topic areas.
3. Courses would be designed to accommodate a range of students, from those still in high school to those already graduated. There would be a strong emphasis on collaborative learning, group work, and student mentoring. The professor will define very carefully the roles and expectations for different kinds of students and mentors in each group, and different assessment criteria would be used, depending on the experience of the students.
4. The teaching will focus on getting students to do the work: finding material, organizing it, reporting it, evaluating it, using digital technology to create portfolios of work, and peer assessment. Students would be assessed on their progress through the course, as displayed by their work.
5. Large undergraduate courses (over 250) will have one or two full professors, supported by graduate students and off-campus mentors (graduates of the program now in the workforce), an instructional designer, and digital technology support staff. The course will be designed and delivered as a team. The professor(s) will be academically responsible for the course, setting learning outcomes, determining the scope of content coverage, and managing the assessment of students. This will entail, setting criteria and rubrics for the measurement of learning outcomes, and ensuring standardization in grading between the graduate students and mentors. Most assessment will be done by the graduate students and mentors in undergraduate classes, monitored by the professor(s), with some peer assessment by students as well.
6. Large classes will be broken down into small groups of 20 to 30 students, each led by a graduate student or mentor. The professor(s) will move between the groups (both in face-to-face and online contexts), monitoring the work of the mentors, and occasionally participating directly in the discussions. Professors will also create learning materials that relate specifically to their research that links to the course topics. All such material created for teaching will be open content, except for the professors' and graduate students' own research areas. Generally for undergraduate teaching one professor will be responsible for a maximum of 250 students or 10-15 groups (and, of course, smaller classes if possible). There would be less differentiation in class size throughout the program, as students will be working through their studies in cohorts. However, the concept of a "class" will become blurrier, since students will be able to opt in and out more (see point 7), depending on their needs.
7. Assessment methods will vary, but in many cases it will be through "proof of learning," either in the form of mainly authenticated electronic portfolios of work, or by challenge. In the latter case, students may opt to take an examination when they feel they are ready. They may not follow the set curriculum, but can opt to meet the published assessment requirements through a supervised or proctored examination, or through a submission of an authenticated portfolio of work. Portfolio work will be authenticated by graduate students or mentors who have been accredited to work with students.
8. All PhD students will receive up to six months' training in teaching and learning, as well as in research techniques, as a prerequisite for tenure. Students taking master's courses who wish to act as mentors, as well as those who have graduated and are in the workforce who wish to be mentors, will receive up to three months' training in teaching, embedded within their studies.
9. Most universities will belong to consortia, which allow for automatic credit transfer of courses, modules, or credits from other consortium members into their programs. There will be many different consortia reflecting the growing diversity of higher education institutions. Many of these will be international consortia.
10. Costs will be driven down in several ways: professors focusing on overall program design, supervision of assessment, and supporting adjuncts, graduate students, and mentors in their teaching; students working within a managed learning environment, with more experienced students helping the less experienced; use of low-paid mentors from the workforce, who benefit from the contact with the research in the university; use of graduate students, who spend as much time mentoring and teaching as researching; use of technology to improve communication, and to ensure that everyone (professor, graduate students, mentors, students) is aware of what is happening in teaching and learning within a program through an electronic system that tracks students' progress and the work of teaching staff.
We hope that you do not like this vision, so we can challenge you to come up with a better one. We need a myriad of different visions, to meet the diversity of learning environments. Above all, we need more argument and discussion about teaching models appropriate to a technology-rich environment.
A vision for how the program will be taught should be developed very early in the program planning cycle. Visioning is best done as a group activity, involving different stakeholders, and not giving too much attention to current reality and constraints. Participants should be exposed to an analysis of the current situation, examples of technology-based teaching in the topic area from both within and outside the institution, and be asked to work in teams to develop different scenarios (see Fritz, 1989, for an excellent guide to the visioning process). Students, learning technology and IT staff, as well as academics and representatives from the community should be involved in this process. It should end with some consensus on how the program will be taught, with a shared understanding of what this will look like by all those working in the program. However the details of implementation should be left to small working groups or course teams.