eTeachers: Empowerment and ownership

How do we, as educators, upskill in a way that both empowers us to figure out how things might work best for our learners, while having no experiencing of learning in that way ourselves? Stephen Bright in E-teachers collaborating: Process based professional development for e-teaching (a .pdf file) explores this question.

Stephen indicates that “Lecturers (e-teachers) who get involved with e-learning face a number of challenges. Often they are grappling with a way of teaching in which they have no experience as learners, and while feedback processes may be available for monitoring and analysing the face-to-face lecturing environment, few systems are in place in most institutions to give supportive feedback to staff about their teaching effectiveness in the online environment” (Bright, 2008, p. 75).

Conducting a small-scale case study, Stephen worked with six teaching staff who had a range of eLearning experience from beginner to advanced. The purpose was to develop a framework and process for collegial review of teacher presence in online courses. It was framed in terms of Professional Development (PD) rather than Quality Assurance (QA). The study was conducted to increase the quality and quantity of feedback that teachers get about their courses. Most of the QA processes tend to be based on a check list, so re-framing it as PD was a way of making it less imposing, and this was enhanced by the fact that the participants created their own checklist.

In the paper, Stephen recommends the Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) eBook as a primer for eLearning and a model. He also uses the Seven Principles for Good Practice from Chickering and Gamson (1987) around undergraduate education, engagement, and active learning. Stephen Marshall’s Maturity Model is also suggested as a benchmark.

Of the seven people involved, each was given one principle each. They then met to brainstorm, and collated their ideas in a wiki. The final step was going through and undertaking a rating process (what are the must haves, and what are the nice to haves?). This resulted in primary indicators (30 – the must haves) , and secondary indicators (60 – the nice to haves). The participants discussed how eTeachers could set high expectations – feedback, timeliness, exemplars, and models, and generic feedback comments in neutral spaces, for example.

The Collegial Appraisal process was based around a range of roles, which took about 8.5 hours of face-to-face time and 3.5 hours contributing to the wiki. They spent an average of 2 hours each on self-appraisal and 4.5 hours for 3 review meetings.

The findings indicated that the staff who participated felt empowered rather than evaluated, and the resulting framework was available for institutional use. In addition, it illustrated the fact that you don’t have to have best practice frameworks, and you end up with more ownership when the eTeachers develop the frameworks themselves. The framework often ends up a good match with other benchmark models.

How do you conduct evaluation of blended and online courses at your institution? Is this an approach you might like to, or have already tried? Please leave comments below.
Reference: Bright, S. (2008). E-teachers collaborating: Process based professional development for e-teaching. In Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings ascilite Melbourne 2008. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/melbourne08/procs/bright.pdf

Image: ‘Planning Your Online Coursev2‘  http://www.flickr.com/photos/59217476@N00/8186356402. Found on flickrcc.net.

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About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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