Thursday, June 11, 2015

A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context

I’ve spent much of the week, between various work meetings, working on a conference paper on innovation in teaching for the ANZATS (Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools) in Sydney. The original abstract proposal, which was accepted back in March, is here. I’ve re-worked the title from:

Revaluing the lives we teach: the pedagogies we employ and the Gospel truths they deploy


A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context

The first title fitted the conference theme, but only worked “in-conference.” So the second title was written with an eye to finding a receptive journal down the track. It was composed as part of an exercise during a Flinders University professional development workshop Publish and flourish on Tuesday.

Tuesday and Wednesday mornings I drafted the methodology section, pulled from notes generated during early morning coffee meetings with my Community of Practice cohort last year.

Today I edited in some of the results. These were originally written at the Tel Aviv airport in September last year, stuck in baggage claim, waiting for a baggage collectors strike to end!

Then, in emailing a colleague asking if they could provide a critical read of a complete first draft, I found myself having a first attempt at the conclusion.

My main argument is that the learning shifts implemented in the Theology of Jesus class resulted in a significant shift in student experience, from an anticipation of content, to considered reflection on the process of how learning happens. In that shift, the class dynamic and the diversity among the student cohort became much more appreciated by the student cohort as factors in their learning. In other words, students became essential to the learning processes. If the call of Jesus to “come follow” is a call to transformation that is set in the context of relationships of learning, then the use of technologies, when underpinned by explicit pedagogical care, are essential elements in “re-humanising” learning. They can turn the entire student cohort into teachers, inhabiting different roles in the “conditions” of learning.

It is amazing where one finds oneself writing – desks at home, cafe tables, University lecture rooms, work desks once the corridor goes quiet, polished floors in the no-mans land that is baggage claim. (And no doubt the hotel accomodation in Sydney the night prior to paper delivery on 1 July).

Posted by steve at 06:51 PM


  1. Thank you Steve. Great stuff,
    especially from a learning community perspective- focus on learners, interactive learning processes and the
    shift in student experience and their learning enhancement; turning student cohort into teachers.
    Tremendous to place weight on written survey evidence provided during the course to demonstrate learning shifts for student and teacher; transformative learning experiences in the Theology of Jesus class…student centred small group activities…
    Is there also evidence that these innovative, collaborative and reflective pedagogical processes made a positive impact on other aspects in terms of the learning outcomes, like academic achievement for the student through formal assessment, or impact on the co-learner/teacher formalised as well as anecdotal (The way that you have written on this topic in your blogs-1/3/15 and 11/6/15- exudes excitement, fun, enthusiasm and new learning) or class retention or the social development of the co-learners in and after the class, or…
    I only mention these other evidence possibilities as they might strengthen the argument you already make so well in favour of a student centred approach rather than a lecturer-driven content traditional approach.
    Wonderful to read about your application of learning community principles and processes at the College and at the conference.
    Have fun at the conference too.
    Regards, John.

    Comment by John Littleton — June 13, 2015 @ 6:12 pm

  2. Thanks John. Yes, I was certainly delighted to find a way to do evidence-based research with my class and thus provide not just an experiment in innovation, but to actually assess the impact on student experience.

    I had thought about academic achievement. But I wonder if there are too many variables, including student ability.

    In terms of co-learner/teacher, I have been pondering a further section in the paper, in which I re-read the journal I kept as part of the assessment; and to look for ways that the student feedback changed my teaching ie how I was a co-participant in the community.

    I am also wondering about trying to put together a visual map, of which students were interacting with each other in the online space. I’m not quite sure how, or what would result, but it it a possible source of data for mapping learner activity.

    You are right, it’s a great project.


    Comment by steve taylor — June 15, 2015 @ 10:42 pm

  3. Hi Steve – would love to get a hold of your paper to contribute to the project I am developing…how can I get hold of it?


    Comment by Peter Armstrong — June 16, 2015 @ 2:03 pm

  4. Hi,

    This is a work in progress.

    The conference is June 29-July 1. There’s a difference between delivering a paper and having it published. I’m working toward both. In this case, that means targetting a journal.

    But I’m also happy to send you a copy, esp if you give me some helpful feedback in return 🙂


    Comment by steve — June 18, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

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