Wednesday, August 19, 2015

innovation in education paper accepted

herga My paper proposal, seeking to present at HERGA (Higher Education Research Group Adelaide), September 21-22, has been accepted. HERGA aims to bring together colleagues from the higher education sector to discuss best practice and new approaches to teaching in the tertiary environment. So it’s a great opportunity to present some of my action-research to a more general, non-theological audience. (When people ask me what I’ve gained from the move to Australia, things like this are part of the answer. The chance to be connected to a major University, Flinders, which enabled me to participate in the 2014 Community of Practice and now conference presentation opportunities like this that help me take steps outside the “theological” bubble.)

The conference paper proposal I put up was a followup to what I presented at ANZATS (Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools). An unexpected bonus was that in accepting, HERGA also provided me with the peer review feedback. So I have critical comment from two independent readers. I’ve had that consistently for journal articles submissions but never on a conference paper abstract. So that’s gold in terms of catching a glimpse of how my proposal abstracts are read.

Here’s the abstract I presented.

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

The Brave New World of higher education faces a number of inherent conflicts. Standardised frameworks encourage a one-size fits all approach to teaching and learning, while the makeup of the student body shows an increased diversity. This has implications for teaching and learning in higher education contexts.

This paper will explore a pedagogical innovation in teaching that was undertaken as part of a 2014 Flinders University Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law Community of Practice. This Community of Practice involved research into student experience in response to the implementation of teaching methods that sought to be mobile, accessible and connective.

E-learning technologies, including video conferencing and Moodle, were introduced. A shift in the use of contact time, from lecturer-driven content to student-centred small group activities, was made. Changes were made to assessment, shifting participation from face to face to digital in order to enable connectivity. Indigenous voices were introduced into the curriculum to enhance access. Bloom’s taxonomy was deployed as a theoretical frame to negotiate the change with students.

McInnis (2005) argued that education can be analysed using a three-fold framework that includes curriculum, learning community and organizational infrastructure. This research project engaged all three, with an infrastructure innovation making possible the curriculum change, and the results tested by researching the experience of the learning community.

Students completed a written survey at three points during the course. The results indicated that a significant shift had occurred in the class. Students had moved from an initial appreciation of content, to a consideration of how they learn from the diversity inherent among their peers. Students perceived that the changes had enhanced their ability to communicate effectively. They expressed a preference for choice, collaboration and diversity.

The research data can be helpfully theorised in conversation with Haythornthwaite and Andrews (2011) who have argued that e-learning is a social act that enhances learner agency. They draw on Preston (2008) who observed that students fill different roles in an on-line learning community. Some act as e-facilitators, others as braiders, others as accomplished fellows. These categories are evident in the research data generated by the Community of Practice.

It can thus be argued that the use of teaching that is mobile, accessible and connective reshapes the student learning experience. Flipped learning enhances student agency and increases appreciation for diversity among the student cohort. Such pedagogical innovations turn the student cohort into a class above, in which students find themselves inhabiting teaching roles among their peers.

A mechanism for this process, drawing on Haythornthwaite and Andrews, is proposed. This involves understanding how digital texts change notions of authorship and thus contribute to learning process that are more democratic and less hierarchical. The argument is that technologies, when underpinned by explicit pedagogical care, are essential elements in “re-humanising” the brave new world of higher education.

Haythornthwaite and Andrews, 2011. E-learning Theory and Practice. Sage. London.

McInnis, Craig, 2005. “The Governance and Management of Student Learning in Universities.” In Governing Knowledge. A Study of Continuity and Change in Higher Education, edited by Ivar Bleiklie and Mary Henkel. The Netherlands: Springer. file:///C:/Users/jong0009/AppData/Local/Downloads/0deec520376135d76b000000.pdf.

Preston, C .J. (2008). “Braided Learning: An emerging process observed in e-communities of practice.” International Journal of Web Based Communities, 4 (2): 220-43.

Posted by steve at 09:50 AM

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