I’ve been working on my teaching philosophy, and came up with some principles for good practice of my own, all starting with R [forgive me, for I am a former editor and fan of alliteration as being an extremely useful and effective rhetorical device]. You’ll note that I don’t really talk or consider anything specific to ‘online’ education here, because I have difficulty in categorising ‘online’ as a defined and different mode of delivery. I have as many deep and rewarding experiences with students I have never (and will never) meet as I do with on-campus students. Students in my classes are the same in that they’re all different, and we’re all working together for the same thing – to have a rewarding experience that leads us to new places.
So my ‘Seven Rs’ are as follows:
Respect: Mutual respect between students and teaching staff should underpin the way in which we interact and view one another at all times. This is demonstrated by having empathy for one another, being polite, and demonstrating a high level of regard for how comments and critique may be viewed by the recipient and others ‘in the room’.
Relationships: A learning environment is one where positive and beneficial relationships must be maintained and sustained. This is underpinned by respect. It’s a fundamental element of many good teaching practice models (eg Chickering & Gamson, 1987). It also requires teaching staff to remain engaged at all stages of the learning process for the student (see MCracken, Cho, Sharif, Wilson, & Miller, 2011).
Relevance: Content must be relevant, or presented in a way that students can come to see the relevance from their perspective. In this, I draw on sense-making theory because it’s a theory that recognises the user as the driver of making meaning from information. In this context, sense-making is “the process by which individuals create an understanding so that they can act in a principled and informed manner” (http://it.toolbox.com/wiki/index.php/Sensemaking), and this appeals to me because being principled and informed are great aims in education. As a theory, sense-making is most commonly used within information systems and technology, but its relevance in contemporary education environments is now being considered more widely (see for example Butcher & Sumner, 2011).
Reflection: Students and educators must reflect on their practice, and be given the opportunities to do so, at every opportunity. They need to be encouraged to reflect critically, and this must be embedded in aspects of learning design and teaching practice. There is a strong link between reflective practice, learning, and being an effective teacher (Kane, Sandretto, & Heath, 2004).
Repetition: Students should, where possible, be given the chance to do something again and build on their knowledge and improve their understanding. This requires drafting and feedback to be integral to course design. This is known to be effective, particularly in writing courses (Romova & Andrew, 2011).
Rigor: High expectations are required of students and educators, and assessment must be challenging. I believe that learning is through the doing and internalising, so it’s the assessment design that is the most important part of the learning journey. I don’t believe that content should be difficult to understand; rather, it’s my role to help interpret, define, and clarify concepts. At the same time, I expect students seek and engage with quality content outside that which is ‘delivered’.
Recognition: I believe that all students must be recognised and rewarded for effort and for what they do well.
Butcher, K. R., & Sumner, T. (2011). Self-directed learning and the sensemaking paradox. Human Computer Interaction, 26(1), 123-159. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07370024.2011.556552. Published, 01/2011.
Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. American Association of Higher Education Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7
Kane, R., Sandretto, S., & Heath, C. (2004). An investigation into excellent tertiary teaching: Emphasising reflective practice. Higher Education, 47(3), 283-310.
McCracken, J., Cho, S., Sharif, A., Wilson, B., & Miller, J. (2012). Principled assessment strategy design for online courses and programs. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 10(1), 107-110.
Romova, Z., & Andrew, M. (2011). Teaching and assessing academic writing via the portfolio: Benefits for learners of English as an additional language. Assessing Writing, 16(2), 111-122. doi: 10.1016/j.asw.2011.02.005