ABCs of Pedagogy: D is for diversity

Welcome to the fourth post in the ABCs of Pedagogy cross-posted at the university blog Teche. One of the aims of this series is to support learning and teaching award applicants. Although deadlines for internal awards have closed at my university, external award and recognition applications remain open. The skill of using scholarly language to describe your teaching and learning practice is also valuable for the purposes of reflection, conversations about teaching and learning, scholarly activities, and career progression. See the previous posts in the series.

Teaching for diversity, equity and inclusion have been a focus at my university this year, and the conversations that have resulted have been challenging and rich. These have included an Inclusive Teaching event and responses to the questions it generated on teaching for accessibility, teaching for diversity, reasonable adjustments; exemplars of Indigenous learning and teaching; focus groups with staff and students on supporting inclusive teaching; and a podcast discussion club (like a book club, for podcasts) on belonging and including teachers.

For the purposes of this series, what scholarship can you use to describe your diversity pedagogy or inclusive teaching pedagogy?

These pedagogical approaches draw on constructivism’s active learning and student-centred learning approaches (see C is for Constructivism), special education (supporting students who have physical, sensory, cognitive and social learning needs) and universal design for learning (see this free self-paced module from Disability Awareness).

If you are applying for a learning and teaching award, or otherwise documenting your teaching practice, and would like to describe your diversity pedagogy, start with your students.

Your classroom has students with diverse backgrounds, genders, religions, accents, ethnicities, abilities, ages, and experiences, including students who are first in family, underachieved at school, have had interrupted education, manage learning or health difficulties, are studying part-time, and a myriad of other factors that can impact learning.

Reflect on your responses to the following questions: What strategies do you use to get to know your students, especially early in the course? How do you ensure students feel welcome in the classroom? How do you make visible that diversity is a strength? Do you support individual students or cohorts with varying needs? How do you invite feedback on inclusivity and respond to what students tell you?

Continue reflecting on your practice and your teaching strategies, learning materials, assessment design and student evaluation. What can you evidence through student outcomes and feedback, collaboration with colleagues, curriculum design and engagement with professions, industry or community?

This reflection (I recommend making notes!) will enable you to be specific about your practice and apply an appropriate theoretical or conceptual framework to describe your philosophy of valuing student diversity.

Perhaps your focus is building your students’ academic capital.

Rowlands (2018) defines academic capital as the “various inherited and acquired resources that students bring to bear upon their education” (p 1824). The concept comes from the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1986) on social, cultural and symbolic (as opposed to economic) capital.

At the risk of over-simplifying these concepts, here are brief definitions based on how Bourdieu (1986) described these currencies of power and privilege. Social capital refers to connection to a network of recognition, support and esteem (an old boys’ club). Cultural capital includes access to resources: material (a musical instrument), institutional (a musical education) and dispositional (an appreciation for opera). Symbolic capital is more abstract but can be understood as the recognition of status and prestige, and the extent to which a person able to ‘fit in’ or belong in a particular context.

Academic capital is a combination of these forms of capital and is enabled by quality education and facilities, access to resources and technologies, participation in extra and co-curricular activities, and social and community support.

Referring back to your reflective note-taking, how do you work with students to alleviate the constraints of the uneven distribution of academic capital in your classroom? Do you include an accessibility statement? Do you scaffold assessment tasks and share exemplars? Do you provide feedback on an early, low stakes assessment task?

Or, perhaps, your focus is improving students’ self-efficacy, or belief in their capabilities for learning, which is a powerful predictor of student success (see Bandura’s social cognitive theory (1997) which builds on the theories discussed in C is for Constructivism). This might resonate if you have interest in self-regulation, motivation and other psychological concepts. More on these ideas when we reach M is for Metacognition.

The topic of inclusion has been interrogated from multiple perspectives which gives teachers from different disciplines an opportunity to connect to it. Other ways of describing your diversity pedagogy include social justice, students as partners, decolonising pedagogy, trauma-informed pedagogy. More on these ideas in future posts when we reach F is for Freedom, N is for nurturing, S is for student-centred learning and U is for universal design.

Next in the series: E is for experiential learning.

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.

References

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Bourdieu, P. (1986) ‘The forms of capital.’ In J. Richardson (ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, pp 241-258. New York: Greenwood Press.

Rowlands, J. (2018). Deepening understandings of Bourdieu’s academic and intellectual capital through a study of academic voice within academic governance. Studies in Higher Education, 43(11), 1823-1836.

ABCs of pedagogy: C is for constructivism

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.

If you have only heard of only one pedagogical term as a teacher in higher education, it is likely to be constructivism, one of the most influential learning theories in formal education across the world. You are probably familiar with John Biggs’ framework of constructive alignment, in which teaching activities and assessment tasks are designed to meet student learning outcomes (Biggs and Tang, 2011). This is evident in our approach to curriculum design: identify the intended learning outcomes for students, facilitate activities that enable students to develop and practice specific skills and knowledges, and assess their capability.

Constructivism and constructive alignment are linked through an understanding of students as active participants in their learning, and a view of the role of the teacher as structuring learning experiences to challenge students’ thinking. The starting point of constructive alignment is not “What do I want to teach?” but rather “What do I want students to learn?” (See a Quick Guide to Constructive Alignment here).

To sum up constructivism in a couple of sentences: learning, or the construction of new knowledge, happens through social interaction and is based on prior understandings. A constructivist teaching context is designed to enable students to collaborate to make meaning and to build knowledge based on their experiences.

As with all pedagogies discussed in this series, constructivism is contested in the scholarly literature and, strictly speaking, draws on many theories and encompasses multiple pedagogical approaches. Van Bergen and Parsell (2019) discuss three broad approaches to constructivism – radical, psychological and social constructivism – and their epistemic and pedagogic assumptions. As they succinctly put it:

Each version of constructivism …  can be seen as a particular elaboration of the central claim … that knowledge is constructed. If the construction is characterised individually, as the product of one person’s interactions with the world, the result is radical constructivism. If the construction is instead thought to happen in social groups, the version is social constructivism. If the cognitive processes that constitute the construction of knowledge are emphasised, the version is psychological constructivism.

Van Bergen & Parsell (2019, p 47).

The origins of constructivism, as we understand it in higher education today, are Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, Lev Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism and Ernst von Glaserfeld’s (1995) radical constructivism. (You’ll hear more from Vygotsky when we reach Z is for Zone of proximal development).

Piaget’s (1970) theory of cognitive development offers a model for ages and stages from childhood to adulthood learning. For the purposes of higher education, knowledge is constructed based on students’ prior learning and experience, and adult learning is marked by a capacity for abstract thinking and metacognition.

Vygotsky’s (1978) theory of social constructivism focuses on the social environment as a facilitator of development and learning through various cognitive tools and structures: language, symbols, objects, and institutions. In such a complex and changeable context, learning is seen to be directly connected to social factors.

In von Glaserfeld’s (1995) radical constructivism, knowledge only exists within a learner’s subjective experience. If this idea appeals, you may also be interested in ungrading.

The following questions may help you to decide whether constructivism aligns with your teaching philosophy and practice:

  • Would you describe your teaching as student-centred?
  • Are you a facilitator of learning?
  • Do you utilise active learning strategies in the classroom?
  • Are there opportunities for collaboration between students in small groups?
  • Is class discussion a valued learning strategy?
  • Are any of the following an important part of your teaching: experiential learning, problem-based learning, reflective practice (more on these ideas as we proceed through the alphabet in this series).

If these questions are partly true for you, it may be that your teaching context is appropriate for a moderated form of constructivism that incorporates direct instruction and guidance to scaffold learning. It is important to note that these brief explanations can only scratch the surface, and further reading and reflection on your teaching practice is always recommended.

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.

References

Biggs, J. B. & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill.

Piaget, J. (1970). Science of education and psychology of the child. New York: Oxford University Press.

Van Bergen, P. and Parsell, M. (2019). Comparing radical, social and psychological constructivism in Australian higher education: a psycho-philosophical perspective. Australian Educational Researcher, 46, 41–58

von Glasersfeld, E. (1995). Radical constructivism: A way of knowing and learning. London: Routledge Falmer.

Vygotsky, L. V. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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.

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.

Image source.

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.

Image source.

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.

Image source: https://staff.napier.ac.uk/services/vice-principal-academic/academic/TEL/TechBenchmark/Pages/overview.aspx

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
http://hippasus.com/resources/sweden2010/SAMR_TPCK_IntroToAdvancedPractice.pdf

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.