28 February 2012

Prepare, Discover, Analyze, Share

I had the opportunity to share an online pedagogy training with our faculty at SNU. We did a little discussion of ADA and how can offer equal opportunities for learning to our students with disabilities. We also talked about our online template. We use Moodle as our LMS and when I begin working with a professor to develop a course, I set up a new course for them from a template. While we hope that instructors can make a course their own, we do want to have some similarity between all of our courses. If students know exactly where to look for resources (assignment lists, etc.), we reduce their cognitive load and free them to learn content, instead of trying to learn where components of a course can be found. Our online courses are only 6 weeks long, so they have a small window in which to learn where resources within the course are located.

Our main focus of the training, however, was the PDAS model. While we do not expect every course to have each of these four components in every single week of a course, we do hope to balance these strategies throughout their courses.

Prepare is the part of a course in which students are "instructed" on the concepts or information to be learned. Usually, this would look like students reading from texts, watching videos, reading journal articles or websites, or some kind of similar activity. The key to this component is that professors tell students where to get the information. This is instructor-centered learning. As a side note, I personally think this should be minimalized in a course. I'm a constructivist and I think students learn best when they have to go find information.

Discover is the antithesis of the previous strategy. In discover, students construct their own knowledge. They are tasked with finding the information on their own. They have to go and "do" something. This particular strategy could take many forms, e.g. experiment (science), argumentative essay (english), find patterns of behavior in a culture (social studies), etc. The bottom line is that students begin to find their own knowledge and evaluate that knowledge for parts of it they find relevant.

It is hard to talk about either of the first two without bringing in the third component: Analyze. This is the part of the learning process in which students actually do something with the information they have learned in the first two steps. After all, if you learn something and do not do something with that knowledge, what's the point? In analyze, students might compare and contrast two stories they have read. They could read a piece of literature and create a modern version of the work (video?). They might analyze a piece of literature through the cultural lens through which it was written (literature and social studies connection). I have always enjoyed looking at the historical context of science and thinking about why advances where made. There might even be a fine arts connection to be had here in this step (pointillism and atomic theory?)

Finally, students need to Share. How can you have any kind of class without some kind of buy-in to a social theory of learning? Students need to interact with others. This becomes even more important when you consider that by simply taking an online class, they area at a disadvantage in the social aspect of learning. This means that we, as designers/instructors, must be purposeful in creating opportunities for students to share their knowledge with others. This accomplishes two things: the "sharer" learns more by being forced to communicate their learning, either in writing or in the spoken word. The "sharee" learns more by being exposed to other's worldview, perspective, and ideas of what is important within a particular knowledge domain.

This model of learning is not new to most of you, I would imagine. You probably have components of this in your classes, whether online or face-to-face. I'm learning this as I begin to deepen my understanding of classroom models and learning theories: In education, as in Physics, there is not yet a Grand Unified Theory. No single learning theory works for every single learner. We must use components from many different theories to enable students to be successful in our domain.

As teachers, we must be able to offer students opportunities to learn, based on their particular learning style. There may be learning theories that work better for differently structured domains or even from one "class" in a school to another, i.e. this year's sophomores, juniors, seniors, etc. This idea is why every teacher should be a learner (yes, SNU School of ED, I also think we need to be lifelong-learners). I didn't really understand this when I was in school. When I finished my undergraduate work, I thought, "I've arrived." However, continuing my learning beyond that has shown me just how much I don't know. That, I believe, is where true learning begins.

No comments:

Post a Comment