Letting Go of Tradition & Control

I’ve gotten so many great ideas for my course in this past two weeks. I especially liked reading Bill Pelz’s article (My) Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy: the ice breaker activities that included documents justifying his teaching methods, and the how to’s for the best interactions in the course, the value of peer assistance. I also felt that the article justified some of my own practices, such as peer collaboration on projects, but he really takes it up a notch or two. Hopefully I can take it to that level now too. I found Bill’s example Developmental Psychology course very helpful as well since I am designing a child development course myself. What I especially took away from Bill was permitting the students to do the work and direct their learning; trust that they will do it and they will. Bill even went so far as to allow the students to devise and monitor their discussion topics, rather than him acting as the discussion facilitator. He also does not participate in the discussions. I am not sure if I would go to that extent. He seems to guide from behind the scenes through private messages as necessary. I will have to experiment with this when I start the course. My hope is that as the course progresses that I will be able to step back and participate less and less as the students take on more responsibility for their learning.

The way that we are conditioned as students is that teacher is the all knowing being, in which we should sit and try to soak in as much of their wealth of knowledge that we can, so as a teacher I expect that I should be doing the same. Of course, I also KNOW that this is not the best way to educate students, this is not surprising to me at all, yet it is so easy to fall into this pattern of  the “sage on stage.” Part of the reason is because it is what the students expect, and sometimes even want. To be a passive student in a class is much easier than an active participant expected to contribute to the class’s knowledge. Tell me what I need to know–spoon feed me so I can pass the test. It is an easy pattern that needs to be avoided.

This week I also have found more value in the use of questions. Not to say that I did believe this to be important before, but I wonder if I can go through a whole class or discussion without doing anything more than ask questions. I surely can incorporate this in my online course where I have time to think before responding. My goal is also to get the students thinking about questions. Again, using one of Bill’s ideas, I would like each module to begin with every student posting a critical thinking question about a relevant topic, giving all students to contemplate, reply, and ask follow up questions.

Now that I have laid out the activities of my course I feel that it is finally making sense. I needed something concrete, as prior to this the task seemed endless. I had too many ideas, too many activities, too many things I wanted to try. I will continue to make changes. Since submitting my outline I already have been thinking about how I want to change, add, and take things away. I know I will continue to second guess and question decisions until the moment it goes live; finally then I can see what works, and what does not, so I can continue to modify my course to make it the best I can to better serve my students.

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