Tuesday, July 7, 2009

eTeaching? eLearning? What’s the Difference?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Zen Teaching and Learning
Last term I overheard a teacher conversation on pedagogy:

“It’s all about learning. You don’t talk about teaching anymore.”

I wondered about this. I thought, ‘what am I doing if I’m not teaching?’

It didn’t take me long to sort out the conundrum. It was to do with the perception of a teacher ‘filling jugs’ with learning. I’d never accepted this metaphor. I’d always believed that teaching was closer to learning than the metaphor suggested.

The conversation progressed and centred on the teacher:

There was an involved discussion before some resolution was found on the difference between knowing when something was taught, and recognising if something had been learnt.

Learning is explicitly to do with the learner. Isn’t teaching to do with the learner? Is there a difference between what’s taught and what’s learnt?

This post is about these two related spheres: teaching and learning.

How do you find out what’s already been learnt?

A good teacher asks questions. In introducing a new topic, searching questions are put to the learner to see what resident knowledge and skills abound. In doing this, the teacher may well find out what, if anything, is required to be taught.

It could be that parts have already been learnt. In which case, this exploratory conversation can serve as useful revision. It may also serve as an appropriate introduction to the next part of a lesson.

So it is (and should be) with elearning. By embracing the function of asking questions during an introductory part of a topic, the learner is permitted to establish where competency lies. Opportunity to tackle any associated learning deficiencies can be offered at this stage. Once a compatible group of competencies has been recognised, a learner should then be able to progress swiftly to the next sphere of learning.

How do you know when something's been taught?

The direct presentation of raw information in text or other visual data is so often confused with teaching. Coloured pictures, animations or videos, however well designed and accompanied by notes or other instruction, do not constitute teaching when displayed on their own.

So much more is needed to engage the learner, and to satisfy a learning objective through this engagement. The key to engagement is to ask questions or otherwise provide opportunities for the learner to participate.

There should be a pedagogical progression, interposed by strategic and appropriate occasions for the learner to take part in dialogue about what’s gone before. Exemplary answers are given if and when they’re needed. This so-called formative assessment achieves a number of things relevant to learning:
  1. assists the learner to think about the topic in context

  2. provides additional teaching for a learner who may not yet have grasped all of an idea or concept

  3. can confirm, and give the learner confidence, that learning is happening
So often in an elearning environment, less confident learners can be on track, yet be unaware of their own capabilities. Formative assessment can assist the able learner by providing assurance that what they have assimilated is aligned with the learning objective.

  • Through questions and associated dialogue a teacher can affirm that something has been taught; it must not be confused with what is learnt.

How do you know what’s taught has been learnt?

In the classroom, a series of questions making up a summative test, together with associated perfunctory aural questioning, can be used to establish the extent of knowledge and skill uptake.

Assessing some skills may require learners to demonstrate
visibly the extent of their expertise. This may not be easily achieved in a written test. Assessment of practical skills requires learners to manipulate equipment or make observations from these or to do both.

In elearning, summative assessment can be just as involved. The use of video streaming or video recording, so that learners can demonstrate a skill, such as playing a musical instrument or speaking a language, can be part of summative assessment. Where appropriate, these are incorporated into NCEA assessments of distance learners in New Zealand.

There is an art in designing elearning resources, as there is in teaching.
Learning and good teaching are in balance with one another.

When the student is ready, the master appears Zen proverb
Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


V Yonkers said...

A colleague of mine just wrote her dissertation on the "teacher" piece of elearning. She's an instructional designer who has felt that research has discounted the role of the teacher (who often is different than the instructional designer in adult distance learning). She contends that there is an important role that teachers play in the learning process. Your post gives voice to this and outlines it well.

Her research also included teaching style (just as there are different learning styles there are different teaching styles). The importance is to match teaching and learning styles. Students need to learn how to address different teaching styles just as teachers need to address different learning styles.

Mark Buckland said...

Very interesting post. I really like the section about the teaching. I had to read it a couple of times to solidify it in my own mind, but I agree with what you have said.

There is such a fine line sometimes when giving the "Exemplary answers", as I have found that some learners will use them in their future learning without considering other possibilities - they take your answer as THE answer, when there are so many other options.

On the other hand, a less than concrete example can confuse students. All children are, of course, at different levels. It is the art, rather than the science, that is so important.

I also like what you say, Yonkers, about the different teaching styles. We have heard a lot about learning styles, but do we really consider the effects that different teaching styles have on the learning styles, and how they mix? There's a research project in that.

I don't think that all styles should be matched up, because then learners do not develop in a particular area. It's all about moderation and balance.

Easier said than done....

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā kōrua!

Kia ora Virginia! Empathy is what I believe is needed for good teaching. It also helps learners if they possess some. When there is empathy, it often transcends the need for adopting a particular style. There is potential in elearning for empathy to be a useful support in teaching and learning.

Haere mai Mark!

So good to have you visit Middle-earth!

I know what you mean about exemplary answers causing some problems. They can do this so easily in Chemistry, especially Organic Chemistry when molecular structures are involved.

I like what you say about 'the art rather than the science' being important - I agree. I also agree with what you say about moderation and balance when it comes to matching learning styles.

Catchya later