ABCs of pedagogy: B is for blended or hybrid teaching

Welcome to a new series, the ABCs of Pedagogy, cross-posted at the university blog Teche. It is learning and teaching award season at my university and one of the aims of this series is to provide applicants with the scholarly language to describe their teaching and learning practice. This skill goes beyond award applications and may also be useful for the purposes of reflection, conversations about teaching and learning, scholarly activities, and career progression.

For a sneak peek at the rest of the ABCs of Pedagogy planned for the series, clink on the image below for an interactive version (thanks to my colleague Kylie Coaldrake).

Blended synchronous or hybrid flexible teaching (also referred to as ‘hyflex teaching’) is when you simultaneously teach some students in person and others online. For many of us, it is a relatively new phenomenon in the context of COVID-19. This mode of teaching is certainly challenging for both teachers and students! To support the practice of ‘blendsync’, my university blog has published posts and shared resources (including slides from a recent workshop by Mathew Hillier with a shout out to Matt Bower’s pre-pandemic research).

Perhaps you have heard the aphorism “pedagogy before technology” but the rapid shift to online and blended teaching may mean some catching up is required on the pedagogical front. If you are preparing an application for a teaching award this year, it’s likely you will mention the impacts of the pandemic on your teaching and your students’ learning. Luckily, the pedagogical language and conceptual models for blended synchronous teaching are well established.

George Siemens (2005) proposed connectivism as the learning theory for the digital age. It is an extension of constructivism, one of the most influential learning theories in formal education around the world, where learning is understood to happen through social interaction and experience (more on that in the next post in the series C is for Constructivism). In connectivism, students learn in and across networks and work collaboratively to create knowledge in digital formats.

Connectivism emphasises the ability to connect and organise information and adapt to rapidly changing systems. Learning is viewed as ‘actionable knowledge’ (Siemens, 2005) and exists beyond people to reside in technological forms and structures. If your teaching involves teams of learners contributing to shared documents and creating new learning artefacts, then connectivism may be aligned with your practice.

To describe your blended synchronous teaching, there are several scholarly frameworks for thinking about the relationship between pedagogy and technology.

Perhaps the most well-known is Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) TPACK (technological pedagogical and content knowledge) framework.

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TPACK highlights that effective digital learning requires teachers to understand technology, pedagogy, and disciplinary knowledges. For example, if a teacher only addresses technological and content knowledge (TCK) domains, this could mean asking students to generate a wiki entry to explain a difficult concept. If Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) is not considered, and the task is not scaffolded, students may struggle.

For more information, seeTPACK Explained

Building on TPACK, another model for thinking about your blended synchronous teaching pedagogy is Puentedura’s (2010) SAMR (substitution augmentation modification redefinition) framework, which offers four tiers for teaching with technology. SAMR shifts from the use of technology to enhance teaching (or make it possible during a pandemic) to the use of technology to transform teaching and learning.

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Think about these levels in relation to your teaching. At the Substitution or Augmentation level, you might be replicating f2f activities for online students by recording or streaming lectures, or using online activities to prompt learning. I expect that as you continued teaching online, and started to teach online and face-to-face simultaneously, you moved into the Modification and Redefinition levels. For example, you might have designed learning activities to combine f2f teaching with features such as online chat, annotations, collaborative documents, polls, simulations and more. Modification changes the nature of a learning or assessment task given the capabilities of technology, and Redefinition uses the affordances of technology for tasks that could be not be undertaken without it.

Read more about SAMR and Bloom’s taxonomy.  

Smyth’s (2011) 3E – Enhance, Extend, Empower framework offers an alternative for describing your technology-enabled teaching practice. If the ideas of student agency and co-creation appeal to you, this may offer a way to describe your practice and philosophy of teaching.

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You can find detailed examples of the 3E framework on the Edinburgh Napier University website.

When reflecting on your teaching, questions to consider include:

  • How did your teaching practice change as a result of moving online during the pandemic?
  • What strategies for teaching will you continue to use now that students are face-to-face as well as online?
  • What have you done to build relationships with students and between students?
  • How do you create shared learning spaces for face-to-face and online students?
  • Are you scaffolding networked learning? How are your students using technology to leverage their collective creativity?

Acknowledgement: In developing this series on the ABCs of Pedagogy, I would like to acknowledge the teaching and scholarship of current and former Macquarie University staff members including Vanessa Fredericks, Marina Harvey, Mathew Hillier, Olga Kozar, Danny Liu, Karina Luzia, Margot McNeil, Anna Rowe, Cathy Rytmeister, Theresa Winchester-Seeto and others.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Puentedura, R. (2010). SAMR and TPCK: Intro to advanced practice. Retreived from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.

All images of theoretical models in this post are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license.

Universities as places

The third session of the Philosophy and Theory of Higher Education Society (PaTHES) season on slow academia focussed on theorising place. You can access the slides below.

When this session ran, I was isolating with covid along with my family (we all tested positive in quick succession). Being unable to leave the house changed my sense of place, so I started by locating myself in my neighbourhood with a virtual dog walk.

Our discussion looked at various theorisings of place: Augé’s (1995) non-places (transient, interchangeable, without distinctiveness, where people are anonymised) and Nørgård and Bengtsen’s (2016) call for the ‘placeful’ university:

“Rather than considering the university as physical architectural spatiality (concrete) or imagined articulated space (concept), it might be fruitful to approach the university as place, considering the ways people may dwell within institutional settings, bringing values, concerns and forms of engagement of a broader societal character into the academic context, and vice versa. The university space/place is a particular form of invitation that supports and promotes particular beings and becomings in education while stifling and preventing others.”

We discussed Foucault’s (1984) heterotopias (counter-sites that are special or transformative in some way, that mirror the university but challenge its conventions). I have previously posted in my experience of heterotopias in higher education. We finished the session with a discussion of sensory noticings and minglings, in which Barbara Grant (who is chairing the discussions) shared her research experience:

“When I think of myself as a human sensorium, a picture of Star Wars’ R2D2 snaps into my mind’s eye … [As an academic woman interviewing academic women, researching with mingled bodies] is so much more relevant … Taking account of familiarities and minglings speaks to me of the difficulties I have had with being anything like that ever-vigilant, noticing, sensing, critical research machine of my fantasies. Instead I have struggled with feelings of sleep-walking: the sounds, the smells, the colours, the shapes of the rooms, the layout of departments, the taste of coffee and scrambled eggs – the echo and imitate and ghost one another.”

A highlight of this session was the further reading suggested by participants:

This week, I am looking forward to celebrating National Reconciliation Week (‘Be brave, make change’) at my university on Dharug Country with a Smoking Ceremony, truth telling discussion and art and performance.

Stories of the self

The second session of the Philosophy and Theory of Higher Education Society (PaTHES) season on slow academia focussed on theorising the self. You can access the slides below.

I started by recapping the first session with a succinct summary of our discussion: start theorising by reading. Two books (covers pictured below) were recommended by participants, and these are now on my reading list.

Each session, I am using a different strategy to prompt a slow start. This time, an autobiographical story that I have told, and retold, multiple times in an attempt to grapple with its meaning. It’s an event that has shaped who I am and how I move through the world: my daughter’s birth and subsequent diagnosis with epilepsy. Most recently, I wrote about this, along with theories of writing and creative non-fiction, and my academic promotion application in an article entitled Details optional: An account of academic promotion relative to opportunity.

I have a previous blog post summarising the article, which responds to Judith Butler’s (2001) ‘Giving an Account of Oneself’. Butler writes:

“If I try to give an account of myself, if I try to make myself recognisable and understandable, then I might begin with a narrative account of my life, but this narrative will be disoriented by what is not mine, or what is not mine alone. And I will, to some degree, have to make myself substitutable in order to make myself recognisable. The narrative authority of the ‘I’ must give way to the perspective and temporality of a set of norms that context the singularity of my story.”

I invited participants in the PaTHES seminar to give an account of themselves by sharing their university stories. I find Tamson Pietsch’s call to rewrite academic biographies a useful prompt to think about the familial, historical and political processes that shape our university stories. As always, these university stories offer fascinating insights into our meandering lives and multiple and changeable selves.

Our discussion of storytelling moved to bell hook’s (1994)Teaching to Transgress and Susan Carter’s (2020)The Place of Stories. These works prompted us to consider how we describe school and university experiences, the games we played as children, and the lessons our early learning taught us. I have previously blogged about these ideas: memories of learning and storytelling.

Finally, I provoked a discussion on how the norms of academia construct us, and how we are complicit in contructing these norms, starting with this statement from my article:

In seeking to have recognition conferred by the Promotions Committee, I am both subject to the norms of academia and ‘the agency of its use’ (Butler 2001, 22). I am simultaneously constructed by and constructing the norms of academia, the social conditions under which the fragmentary, multiple ‘I’ emerges …

Discussions in these sessions are associational, open-ended, questioning and tentative. It’s important that we are able to think aloud and share ideas that are not yet developed. Participants talked about academia as a calling, staying in academia, changing institutions from within, and complicity with neoliberalism. The discussion referenced to ideas from Karl Marx, Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hartmut Rosa, Judith Butler, bell hooks and Sara Ahmed.

It’s such a pleasure to talk theory together! In the third session, we spoke about theorising place. A summary post is coming soon.