September 2010 Archives

As I reflected on Scott's Architects of (Pedagogical) Innovation, I thought of an initial example of pedagogical innovation that considers the goals of the teaching activity (i.e. pedagogical vision) prior to determining the right tools/technology to achieve the goals. The following example involves my experiences from a Teacher Education Program at The College of NJ.

In the Spring of 2006, I completed student teaching in mathematics and computer science at the secondary level. During this rich experience, I often was observed by two secondary education supervisors. The supervisors would observe one of my lessons and immediately following it, lead a one-on-one discussion on the positive/negative aspects of that lesson. I was rated on five categories: planning, teaching, classroom management, teaching performance, and professionalism.

During the post-lesson discussion, the supervisor would provide notes that were taken during the lesson, and put them in context with what I was doing during that time. Examples:
  • "when you were starting the lesson... tell them what you are going to do (give a road map)"
  • "at the beginning of the lesson... you handled 'the student eating in class' calmly and appropriately"
  • "when you make your closing remarks... insist on quiet so that all students can hear"
The goal of this activity was to improve my teaching practice through the observation of my lesson by a experienced supervisor and discussion on what could be improved during the lesson. Additional goals were to document progress over time and demonstrate that I met all expectations/requirements needed to pass my teacher preparation program. Although the above example provided me with valuable feedback, there are a number of concerns with this approach:
  • First, it was hard to remember every situation that had occurred. It was necessary to remember what I had done during the lesson in the places that my supervisor saw a need to correct or compliment. 
  • Additionally, as I look back on my supervisor's notes from the observation, I cannot remember the lesson as well as when I had just finished it. The approach requires immediacy otherwise it will fail to reach the objectives and outcomes.
  • When my supervisor put her notes in context, it was according to her visualization of my teaching practice. Our visions may or may not have been the same based on experience and without seeing what my supervisor had observed, it was difficult to understand her perspective. Sometimes, I had my own vision of what I had done during the lesson and without having an ability to go back and view what had occurred, it was my opinion against hers.
  • Finally, the approach does not involve self-reflection. Other than a "how do you think it went?", I was not asked to provide my own interpretation of what had happened. More self-reflection could increase the learning that occurs.
If I was an Educational Consultant for my previous school, I would recommend to the Teacher Education Program to go back to the pedagogical vision and goals of the activity and redefine the goals if necessary. The new goals:
  • Improve teaching practice through the observation of a pre-service teacher's lesson by a experienced supervisor and discussion on what could be improved during the lesson
  • Record and document the observation so it can be accurately referenced and used in future reflection
  • Provide pre-service teacher's with a tool for self-reflection after the completion of a lesson
  • Document progress over time and demonstrate that pre-service teachers meet all expectations/requirements needed to pass the teacher preparation program
How can we meet the redefined goals and objectives? Enter "video-elicited reflection" (Sewall, 2009, p. 14). "Video-elicited reflection" as opposed to "traditional observation debriefing" (the above example), allows the supervisor and pre-service teacher to watch a videotaped lesson, and "start and stop the tape as desired to comment in a 'think-aloud' fashion on whatever he or she noticed" (Sewall, 2009, p. 15). In addition to providing an active process of supervisor reflection, video reflection allows pre-service teachers to highlight and find differences in their written reflections and the true events that occurred. For example, in one pre-service teacher's video reflection process, the teacher began, "After I finished the teaching day, I thought the lesson went pretty good. Then reality set in... and I watched the videotape. I would have to say that my lesson was unsuccessful..." (Calandra et al., 2008, p. 145). Video reflection allows to see issues and concerns that might not have been initially present.

After understanding the pedagogical vision (although limited in nature), and the tools (i.e. video) that could be used to accomplish the goals, it is now time to pick the right video reflection tool (e.g. VAST, VITAL, VideoPaper, StudioCode) or to create a new one based on our vision. I'll leave that to another day.

Calandra, B., Gurvitch, R., & Lund, J. (2008). An exploratory study of digital video editing as a tool for teacher preparation. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 16 (2), p. 137-153.

Sewall, M. (2009). Transforming supervision: Using video elicitation to support preservice teacher-directed reflective conversations. Issues in Teacher Education, 18 (2), p. 11-30.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about integrating technology into teaching and learning. Interestingly, I think the elephant in the room that no one is talking about is teaching itself. Conversations around technology in teaching and learning run in two veins: The first is the training vein. This is simply teaching/promoting faculty to use specific tools (e.g. dreamweaver, powerpoint, LMS systems, etc.). The underlying assumption in this vein is that faculty will use the tools in their own teaching as they think they can best be used. This shows respect for faculty's autonomy and academic freedom. Give them the tools they need and change will follow. The weakness is that faculty's expertise is in their disciplinary field, not in teaching. Thus it is rare for there to be much uptake, and it is even rarer to get a faculty member who truly innovates pedagogically.

The second vein is a slight variation on this first one. In this vein the relationship between the faculty and technology person(s) is more collaborative. We have a great example of this at PSU in the form of Cole Camplese and his ETS group. They develop infrastructure for innovative tools, for example we have an amazing blogging platform (which this post is being made in) available to student and faculty here on campus. Then the technology people collaborate with faculty to help them implement these new technologies in their courses. Technology folks are entrepreneurs of technology. The collaborations between technologists and disciplinary faculty can also be initiated by faculty who find a technology they think will be useful, but need help with implementation.

The basic approach in both veins is to have an instructional designer (ID) and a subject-matter expert (SME), which is a direct result of training and professional approach of the instructional design community. IDs are, for the most part, engineers of one kind of another and then tend to view the world like an engineer (though some care deeply about teaching). 

The problem with faculty in higher education is they often don't have expertise in either the pedagogy or the technology. They are experts in their content area (classics, communication, physics, etc.) and part of their job is to teach classes. They don't spend time a large chunk of their time thinking about technology OR pedagogy. They think about their discipline. That is as it should be, but what does that mean about integrating technology into teaching and learning in higher education? It likely means that giving faculty training in technology tools will lead to little change in either their technology use or their pedagogical approach. It means that IDs collaborating with them about how a technology tool might impact their practice is likely to only impact how they use the technology to support their current practice. If these are the primary models in higher education (and I believe they are), then it seems unlikely for technology to transform the academy the way it is so often claimed it will (same claims are made for K-12 schools and the lack of impact is similar). 

What we need are architects of pedagogical innovation that can consider the tools of technology without being limited by them. When you think of Frank Gehry designing a building, he draws it and then it is up to the contractors to create the technology to make the vision into reality.

I believe there is a powerful analogy here that has not been taken advantage of in the TLT community. We need people who can sit with faculty and talk about their pedagogical vision, what goals they have in mind for their class and then help those faculty create a pedagogical vision (which is architectural) first. Then it is time for the technologists to get to work and determine the right tools for the job of supporting this plan. It may mean that there is a need for pneumatic hammers for part of the work, but it might also mean there is a need for wooden mallets and chisels. It might also mean that there is a tool that needs to be built that does not exist yet, and in this way the pedagogical innovation can spawn technological innovation. However, if all we focus on is how the newest pneumatic hammer can make things better we may end up just building the same old poorly designed house a hell of a lot faster. Not sure that is a goal worth aiming for.

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