Developing Criteria for Best Practices
My goal is to continue to teach at the elementary school level. In this day and age of technology, there are more tools that I will ever be able to use. However, that will not stop me from using “best practices” to create an environment that is conducive to student learning and the 21st century. When I strive to be the best that I can, my students will follow my lead. As you read on, I hope you will find these “best practices” helpful.
Criterion 1: Establishing a clear and specific learning goal in an organized manner
One key criteria for best practices is establishing a clear vision for specific learning goals in a well thought out and organized manner. In other words, the readings, lectures, activities, tasks, etc. has to relate to the specific learning goals. For example, if the learning goal is to identify the endangered species in the rain forest and how humans can protect this species, then your readings … activities, etc. should relate. You would not include text about the planets and how the solar system works, again unless the information is related.
Justification of Criterion 1
Instruction has to flow and maintain organization where each task builds upon the previous one where students continue to construct and re-construct prior knowledge. Garrison (2011) stated that during the design phase instructors must do their best to provide reasonable structure (goals, expectations) and anticipate as best they can the evolving needs of the students. If the design or instruction is presented out of order or discombobulated the learning goal is muffled and ineffective. Graphic organizers are helpful when organizing information. From my experience they have worked well in my traditional classroom settings. However, they help to provide a visual of facts in an organized manner. Lightle (2011) states that graphic organizers or flowcharts have proven to be effective tools to aid learning and thinking by helping students and teachers to represent abstract information in more concrete form, depict relationships among facts and concepts, relate new information to prior knowledge, and organize thoughts for collaboration and writing. While organizing and planning your content be aware of time constraints. There is nothing more frustrating than to plan too much or too little during the assigned time limits (trimester, semester, week).
Criterion 2: Resolving Technological Issues
As we all know, technology can be all good one minute and all bad the next. Not that we have a crystal ball and can determine when a site may be down, there is nothing more frustrating than when your technology does not perform as you planned. In this fast paced world of technology tools and systems can become outdated in no time. Even when we do a tester or a pilot run, things can still go wrong and ruin your presentation. So, with that being said teachers, have a paper copy of some sort if you meet face-to-face. If you are strictly online it may not be as simple. Let’s look at some of our challenges. In terms of meeting the needs of students/users, an appropriate technological infrastructure and standards must be adopted that are both cost effective and also ensure that key issues such as system security are addressed. Many of the virtual campus projects need to adopt open source technologies in providing suitable flexibility and functionality in a cost effective manner. (Stanfield 2009).
Justification of Criterion 2
Over our course, we experienced technical issues the first time with our guest speaker using Skype. Skype did not work well for us. The sound was muffled and we could not hear. However, the problem was resolved at a later date using a different tool that was very effective. To this point I have not experienced any issues using Blackboard. If the tool students are to use does not work, it makes it difficult to keep up. If students and teachers experience frustration, then the learning goals do not take place. It’s just like driving a car and that car acquires a flat tire. Well, the car will no longer get you from point a to point b so the tire is useless. The same scenario can be applied to technology. So, if your site goes down, have other web tools available to adjust instruction. The show must go on. One last thought, technology is a tool, not the content. Therefore, the use of technology should not be difficult and time consuming to figure out. Some students are more computer savvy than others and need not be penalized because of it. Keep the tools simple and adhere to the content.
Criterion 3: Effective Teaching
As far as I can think back, effective teaching is the most important criterion for me. If your skills are unorthodox and the way you present to a group are unclear, then your lesson is ineffective and there is no purpose for the learning at all. For example, if I were to say write the mathematical formula for finding the hypotenuse of a right triangle and did not take you through direct instruction to teach you, then you will have a difficult time responding. Another example, my one year grandson is not walking yet, and I tell him to walk from the kitchen to the bedroom, that is not effective teaching. Now if I show him and help him along, that is more effective. There has been lots of attention given to what is effective and what is not. Some wanted to judge teachers based on the assessments of students. So, if your students scored high, you were effective, on the hand, you know the rest. Being a teacher myself, it seems that what worked at one time, may not work at another so teachers should not be penalized for poor performances but trained to be more effective. Therefore, “effective higher education teaching is a ‘contested concept’ with varying definitions. Numerous attempts have been made to identify these characteristics, using a variety of theoretical perspectives, from qualitative and quantitative approaches, from various disciplinary standpoints and from the student point of view, but there is no universally accepted definition of effective university teaching.” (Devlin & Samarawickrema (2010). Now what?
Justification for Criterion 3
From an higher education standpoint, what are effective teaching skills and practices? As defined by Devlin & Samarawickrema (2010), the criteria of effective teaching in higher education are understood to comprise particular skills and practices applied within particular contexts. However, as stated above, there is no universally accepted definition of effective teaching. Let’s look at some best practices I am familiar with. First, effective teachers bring relevance to the subject matter. Then they create a positive online or classroom climate. Remember, if it is not positive, students will not respond well. Devlin & Samarawickrema (2010) also suggests that teaching excellence … requires sound knowledge of one’s discipline and adds that excellent teachers are those who know how to motivate their students, how to convey concepts and how to help students overcome difficulties in their learning. Some effective strategies (Marzano 2011), is to design plans that demonstrate the relationship between learning theory, critical thinking, and performance skills. Other strategies include using a variety of approaches (art, hands-on, collaborations, presentation, etc.). Other factors include using appropriate assessments for the learning outcome. Some effective strategies may include bonding with the student, collaborating, meeting diverse needs, maintaining a positive and upbeat environment, committing to the goal, and providing feedback. Effective teachers provide rubric and grading systems so that students are clear as to what is expected for a positive outcome. This is why effective teaching could very well be the foundation of effective learning. Effective teachers know how to differentiate instruction, if necessary, correlate tasks and activities that are related to the subject matter, engage students in meaningful conversations (no matter the tool), use a cognitive presence for critical thinking discourse and a social presence that invites a comfort level where students can express their ideas safely.
Criterion 4: Thrive for Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence
Since students do not have a visual of their classmates in an online course, participants still need to establish a since of community and present themselves in a “real people” way. The forms of social presence include (Hanover Research Council 2009):
- Affective – expressing emotion, feelings, and mood
- Interactive – evidence of reading, understanding, and participating
- Cohesive – group commitment and a sense of belong
Another example from the Sloan Consortium that was profiled in excellence in teaching online was presented to Bill Pelz, a Professor of Psychology, who shared his belief that there are three effective online pedagogies. The first is “let the students do most of the work,” Plez (2003). In other words students should be leading the discussions, helping others learn, analyze and respond to peers in a meaningful way. The second principle involves “interactivity.” Pelz stresses that students should not just interact, but be to interact in a variety of ways, like groups, with the text, a partner, teams, be able to inquire, and problem solve. Variety is the spice of life. Last but not least, Pelz’s last principle is for students to “strive for presence.” As we learned earlier this trimester, we are to strive for social, cognitive, and teaching presence. Social presence is where we all need to connect emotionally to create a trusting bond. Cognitive where students can construct meaning, re-construct meaning through discourse. Having a strong teacher presence is crucial in order to direct and guide instruction.
Justification for Criterion 4
As mentioned above, when students do most of the work, they are actually learning, not just memorizing rote points that they forget after an assessment. If students take learning into their own hands and own it, they will be life long learners. Getting back to the “strive for presence,” each idea is just as important as the other. Connecting and building a strong foundation justifies this criterion. Without the emotional commitment, there is no feeling, no passion, and no excitement. This has to be, I think, this is the first component of an online course. This is where the “attention getter” comes into play and the “why are we learning this?” I have to say that Dr. Baek has made us socially connect. I feel that I knew many of you well before I actually met some of you face to face. The pictures that also helped us make an emotional connection. And now we have grown and created a bond. We have given each other high praise on a job well done, and have given suggestions on what could have been better. Creating a cognitive presence is what I strive for. If the level of learning does not involve critical thinking and problem solving, then I don’t feel challenged, and I feel the course was a waste of time. As long as the learning goals are met by specific assignments that are related, that cognitive presence will strive. Having a strong teacher presence is what guides the instruction. Everything is a learning process. Again, relating to our instructor, she tells us when we have done an excellent job and when we could have done better. Then she gives you an opportunity to do better. Now that is what I call a strong learning presence. A teaching presence includes some direct instruction and examples (thank you.) Giving feedback, posting assignments, advising us to be effective researchers and “cite evidence” is something will guide us to become better writers that can express and articulate our ideas with clarity.
Criterion 5: Assessments (Peer to Peer & Instructors)
As we all know, we have to assess in order to know that our learners our meeting the objectives and goals. As instructors, we need to know that our teaching is also effective, so we give assessments or surveys find or close these gaps. Assessments should be both formative and summative. It is not best practice to give one or two assessments at the end of the course and discover that the learners did not achieve the intended goal. The remedy, formal assessments, self-checks, checkpoints, and peer assessments along the way. Assessments provide accountability on both the students and the instructors in order to continuously improve and to better understand the content. Furthermore, Davis that “assessment may be defined as an activity that engages both students and teachers in judgments about the quality of student achievement or performance, and inferences about the learning that has taken place.”
Justification for Criterion 5
Peer assessments are a concept that has been growing in recent years. Therefore, the importance of learners who can reflect on their own learning and on the learning of peers through peer and self-assessments is receiving increased acceptance in educational settings (Davis, et. al. 2007). When students are involved in collaborating and voicing a set of criteria or rubrics (developed by the instructor) they can assess each other as well as reflect upon their learning. As I ventured on my journey in ETEC 501, we commented on our peers work, made suggestions, and learned more information together beyond our realm as if we just wrote a paper and turned it in to Dr. Baek alone. Look at all of the scholarly information that was acquired from each other. Using the constructive model where we construct and reconstruct our knowledge, peer assessments make good practice as mentioned above, to hold everyone accountable and responsible for peer learning. As I instruct my students and the various levels in my classroom, if you “get it” then teach your partner or your group. This is a process, however, that we have to teach at an early age to develop peer contributions and take responsibility for our own learning. To be clear, I am not going forward or implying that peers are to actually grade their peers. I still believe that ultimately grades are that of the teachers’ expertise. But, I am saying that peer assessments help to engage students and since we are online everyone has a voice that is appreciated and valued. To conclude, “self-assessments were also required, and learners took into consideration the comments and suggestions received from their peers and from the instructor. In the self-assessment, the learner had an opportunity to defend his or her writing and to reflect on the suggested improvements” (Davis, et. al. 2007). I have to admit that my peers allowed me to perform better when I was lacking. With that being said, I was able to reevaluate my performance and increase its quality of my work. Our instructor also gave us opportunities to reassess our final products to create high quality work as well.
Conclusion: There are many “best practices” that one can elaborate on. As we continue our journey to be the best that we can be, continue to reflect upon your “best practices.”
References: Davis, N. T., Kumtepe, E. G., & Aydeniz, M. (2007). Fostering Continuous Improvement and Learning Through Peer Assessment: Part of an Integral Model of Assessment. Educational Assessment, 12(2), 113-135.
Garrison, D. Randy (2011). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice. New York: Routlege.
Hanover Research Council (2009). Lightle, Kimberly, Ph.D. (2011). The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology.
Marzano, R. Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. (2011). Classroom Instruction That Works Publisher: Pearson Education.
Stanfield, Mark (2009). Electronic Journal of e-Learning (7)(2), 155–164.
Quote your best post(s) from the week and explain why you feel these are the best. Best Quote: “Let the students do most of the work,” Plez (2003). In other words students should be leading the discussions, helping others learn, analyze and respond to peers in a meaningful way. This speaks out to me. Since then I have been letting students take more control of their learning. When we teach them and not limit our students the outcome exceeds our original expectations.
Quote several of the best posts from other students. Explain why you chose the ones you present. Lorraine: Felder and Brent (1996) point out that learner-centered teaching provides “increased motivation to learn, greater retention of knowledge, deeper understanding, and more positive attitudes toward the subject being taught.” Explanation: This quotes relates back to my position in that students should be in control of their learning. When they are they own it and really learn the content.
Victor: The importance of success and process measures (i.e., best practices, benchmarks) is a critical component to the future of eLearning (Ash, 2011). The author’s focus is upon three global standards to assess scalability. It includes 1) the ability of e-learning platforms to easily adapt to increased demands; 2) the degree to which e-learning facilitates and responds to organization change; 3) creating an organization culture. Explanation: Sometimes as educators we don’t think (I don’t think) about the other sectors where technology is just as important as in education. Victor did a great job in expressing the business side of technology. When it all boils down, how much technology costs in any sector is a major factor, relating back to “supply and demand” (Economics 101).
What did you learn in the discussion this week that will be useful to you or that changes the way you view something?
I learned from all of my peers this quarter. It has been the best. My peers are well informed, they put a lot of effort into their work and it shows. I like the fact that each of us has something to share without reading from a boring textbook. I also learned that “best practices” is a broad topic, however, when we justified the topic, we narrowed it down and made it more specific. I appreciate our guest speaker an all of the professional forums he lead us to. The segment about copyright, accessibility, and learning objects opened my eyes as well. This was great learning experience.