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The T in Teaching Centers



These centers at colleges have many different names - Teaching & Learning Center (TLC), Teaching Support Center (TSC), Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) etc. - but  "what's in a name" - or a letter?

My university is exploring starting one of these centers (tentatively to be a Teaching Excellence Center - TEC). We already have a Technology Support Center and an Instructional Resource Center and a Master Teacher Group. So what would be the mission of the new Center?

In looking at examples of centers at other colleges, I have noticed that in many of them, the "T" has more often come to mean "technology" rather than "teaching." 

No doubt there is more and more overlap with those two things these days. But what needs to be clear is that if  the focus is how to use tools, then don't call it a teaching center.

For me, a teaching center would focus on pedagogy (and andragogy). How to use the quiz tool or gradebook in the LMS is not about assessment.  How to create stronger quizzes and sharing effective grading policies is pedagogy.

About 15 years ago, my department initiated a Teaching, Learning and Technology Group at the university. I was the manager of instructional technology then and we did instructional design (primarily for online courses) and worked with faculty to use the LMS, create audio and video files and use "tools." But when we planned our training sessions during the semester, we always included sessions that were on topics like authentic assessment, learning styles, Bloom's Taxonomy and Webb's Depth of Knowledge and other teaching topics. I was at first surprised at the interest in these sessions at a college level. I had come from the K-12 world where everyone had some education courses in the undergrad and grad curriculum and pedagogy was a standard part of professional development. It pleasantly surprised me when a professor said, "I never took an education course, so I find this all very interesting. I try to imitate good teachers I had, and avoid being like the bad ones."

Our TLT group tried to be both things - tech and teaching. But with all the focus on the tools lately and much of out Technology Support Center's staff time taken with supporting tools, the teaching can easily be forgotten. This is probably more true at a school like NJIT which is a science and technology university,  I spent 5 years at a community college and the scale tipped more to teaching than technology there. 

Having and utilizing a Master Teacher group, your writing center and tutoring staffs, and librarians is one way to increase the teaching content over the tools. Of course, it would be great to see a center being able to combine the tools with the teaching, so that the session on building effective quizzes also showed faculty how to do that well in the LMS, if that's what they are using.


And now there is heutagogy

Educators are pretty aware of the term pedagogy and frequently use and misuse it in conversations about their teaching. In K-12 education, all teachers have at least a general knowledge of educational theories and are required to attend professional development workshops on new techniques. But in higher education, many professors are willing to admit that they have little or no formal training on the art and science of teaching.

Pedagogy literally means "leading children." Most of the research in pedagogy by names like Piaget, Bruner and Vygotsky focus on teaching children.

Then, came andragogy, a much newer term coined to refer to the art/science of teaching adults. Originally used by Alexander Kapp in 1833, andragogy was developed into a theory of adult education by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and was popularized in the U.S. by American educator Malcolm Knowles. Andragogy addresses the theory that the methods used to teach children are often not the most effective ways of teaching adults. 

And now, heutagogy, a term coined by Stewart Hase of Southern Cross University and Chris Kenyon in Australia. It is the study of self-determined learning. In some ways, it is an expansion and reinterpretation of andragogy. Heutagogy's emphasis is on learning how to learn, double-loop learning, and true learner self-direction. One way to view it might be to say that while pedagogy and andragogy look at how we teach, heutagogy is concerned more with the learner.

For example, Chris Argyris has described double-loop learning in which an individual, organization or entity, having attempted to achieve a goal on different occasions, is able to modify the goal in the light of experience or possibly even reject the goal. More common in educational settings is single-loop learning (SLL) which is the repeated attempt at the same problem with no variation of method and without ever questioning the goal. 

The word heutagogy comes from several Greek words: heurista (to discover) and heuretikos (inventive) heuriskein (to find) and ago (to lead). Therefore, it is construed to mean "to lead to invention, discoveries, findings." Like andragogy, the research is based on learning strategies for mature learners.

The teacher/mentor/facilitator needs to enable learners to modify their learning in order to create new knowledge. I discovered the term only the past year as I explored MOOCs. Heutagogy fits well into the original approach to MOOCs which were very self-directed.

Heutagogy also seems to be related to the constructivism of Dewey, and approaches by Montessori and Kolb, although they were more concerned with children. In the taxonomy of Bloom, h
eutagogy is the highest order learning where problems are solved using heuristic problem solving, meta-cognitive knowledge, creativity, and originality.



click chart for orginal image



Image source & additional information at http://www.teachthought.com/learning/a-primer-in-heutagogy-and-self-directed-learning/
and at http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/pr/Heutagogy.html (Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon - 2001)



Gogy: Peda, Andra and Situated Cognition

I was reading an article called "The Problem of 'Pedagogy' in a Web 2.0 Era"  and it got me thinking about how often we throw around that term in higher education even though very few educators at that level have any formal training in it.

Higher education faculty don't get any courses on pedagogy or learning theory in their degree programs. Faculty members in four-year universities are often researchers and their focus is on their research and not on how learning occurs and perhaps not even as much on their own disciplinary knowledge as those at other colleges.

Of course, there should be faculty development efforts at all colleges and those should include workshops and presentations to increase awareness of the basic research in learning theory of the past few decades as well as what is being found currently.

All teachers learn by teaching. That in itself is a learning theory that has several names attached to it. But that learning process is made more efficient by exposing faculty to what we know about pedagogy. That doesn't mean just learning the language of constructivism or Bloom's taxonomy. It means trying out lessons and being exposed to new approaches to what is often very old content.

And if you are teaching older, non-traditional students, then you really should be aware of what has been found to work in the field of andragogy. Pedagogy literally means "leading children" and came first from studies of students in grades K-6 and then later included those in secondary school. Andragogy was a later area of study. Malcolm Knowles and others theorized that methods used to teach children are often not the most effective ways of teaching adults. I think many college professors would say that their students are often somewhere between those two -gogies. The 18 year old freshman, the 21 year old senior, and the 23 year old graduate student are very likely to sit in a classroom with a 28 year old freshman, 35 year old senior and a 50 year old graduate student.

I would love to be in a discussion with a group of interested educators about some learning theory like "situated cognition." If the topic is new to the participants, all the better. Situated cognition is the name given to the theory that knowing is inseparable from doing. It proposes that all knowledge is situated in activity which is bound to social, cultural and physical contexts.

To take this theory on means nothing less than making an epistemological shift from empiricism. To put it into action in a classroom would mean encouraging thinking on the fly rather than the typical back-and-forth of knowledge storage and retrieval. Cognition cannot be separated from the context.

If it sounds radical, it's because it is radical. And yet, students and teachers have been doing it throughout their lives - though probably not very often in a classroom setting.

Do I think this should be the new way to teach? No. But I would love to hear educators talking about it and about learning theories, pedagogy and andragogy with some of the same passion that they discuss their research, promotion and tenure, and contracts.



Are We Really Talking About Pedagogy?

pedagogyI was very pleased to see a post titled "Pedagogy – You Keep Using That Word… I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means" by Rolin Moe on his blog All MOOCs, All The Time. He bounced his response off Bryan Alexander's post about a MOOC course called CFHE12 (more later). Although Moe is focused on MOOCs, his question is one I often ask myself when dealing with the use of technology in classrooms.

People toss off the word "pedagogy" easily. I hear vendors use it when pitching products as a way to connect a tool with good teaching practices. I hear educators use it to mean that they have changed their classroom practice.

Using PowerPoint slides instead of writing on the board does not change your pedagogy. It probably doesn't change learning either- and don't tell me it addresses visual learners because those bullet points have some clip art next to them.

As Moe points out, "learning theory" is not pedagogy. Neither of those are topics that many teachers in higher education have ever studied, and that most have probably not even considered formally.

Learning theory is the study of the way people learn. They are conceptual frameworks to describe how information is taken in, processed, and retained. The big three are behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism, but there are others like connectivism that come up in MOOC discussions.

Pedagogy is the blend of art and science and the way we teach.

CFHE12 (Current/Future State of Higher Education) is a course that started last week. It is an open online course to "evaluate the change pressures that face universities, and help universities prepare for the future state of higher education." That's a big mission. Good luck kids.

Some MOOC history: cMOOCs versus xMOOCs. Udadicty/Coursera/edX courses are referred to as examples of xMOOCs.  xMOOCs are based on the teaching model (instructivist) where the teacher teaches, and the students learn by consuming the knowledge from the course, and by doing activities such as watching/hearing a lecture. cMOOCs are based on connectivism.

It's not that no one in education is considering the possible pedagogical and learning theory possibilities and implications of MOOCs. And it's not that there aren't clear connections to online learning that has been researched for decades.

Moe's post references how Coursera courses are self-described as being "designed based on sound pedagogical foundations, to help you master new concepts quickly and effectively" but that those pedagogical foundations are not explained.

In most of these xMOOCs you watch a segmented video lecture, take a quiz during (embedded) or after viewing. There are discussion boards (perhaps with a facilitator) to discuss concepts and ask questions and share knowledge. There might be supplementary resources. There might be a written assignment, but that's hard to assess when there are thousands of students in a course, unless you use peer review.

Described in that way, a lot of people in higher ed might say, "That's new? It sounds like an online course that could have been offered ten years ago. And not even a great online course at that." 

Of course, in 2000, you wouldn't offer the course to 50,000 students. Or have it open to anyone. Or offer it for free. And a learning management system (more likely called a course management system back then) and the bandwidth would never has been able to sustain the activities.

So, is that what is new?

Take a learning theory like constructivism from educational psychology which came out of the work of Piaget and Bruner. It emphasizes the importance of active involvement of learners in constructing knowledge for themselves. It is top-down processing. Start with complex problems (problem-solving, problem based learning) and teach the basic skills while students solve the problems. If you believe in constructivism, you are less likely to believe students will learn deeply by experiencing a lecture or reading a textbook.

Connectivism is a learning theory and cMOOCs seem to rely on the networking of those thousands of students, personal learning networks, digital artifacts, and not much teacher involvement. No teacher, no pedagogy?

And xMOOCs emphasize content over teaching and are very student-centered. If the student utilizes the resources, they can learn, but that is up to the student.

Besides MOOCs, another very buzzy concept this year has been the flipped classrooms. Platforms like Coursera follow a similar model to Khan Academy’s flipped classroom.

Didn't we have flipped classrooms before this? Sort of. We didn't have HD quality video and that bandwidth to stream it. Sal Khan was asked about the research and learning theory behind his Academy, but he passed on the question and allows that others can do the research. Khan also expects his lectures to be used along with teachers to assist students. The "teacher" in a MOOC may be another struggling student.

So, when we talk about MOOCs are we also talking about pedagogy or learning theory? Not yet.  And don't let me get started about andragogy.