5 Potential Teaching Alternatives

light bulb idea from beginanadventure blogspotOne idea:
“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” Etienne Wenger (ewenger.com)

This tactic also calls on research that demonstrates “students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats.” Barbara Gross Davis. “Collaborative Learning: Group Work and Study Teams,” Tools for Teaching (1993). http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/collaborative.html

My thoughts:
This idea is similar to earlier educational models. It is particularly related to the apprenticeship model where a student who is more experienced, such as a journeyman, might instruct the neophyte. However, usually this was done under the careful oversight of the master. I do not think that instituting students-teaching-students will allow the university to create larger classes (or at least not significantly larger classes) for the professor to administer.

Second idea:
Numerous studies suggest that intensive courses produce equivalent or superior learning outcomes compared to traditional formats. Students are more easily able to focus on the material and are less likely to become distracted by the life events that may happen over the course of a long semester.

Sources for this idea:
Pascarella, E. and Terenzini, P. 2005. How College Affects Students, Volume 2. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass.
Daniel, E. June 2000. “A Review of Time-Shortened Courses Across Disciplines.” College Student Journal: 34(2).
Kucsera, J. and Zimmaro, D. 2010. “Comparing the Effectiveness of Intensive and Traditional Courses.” College Teaching. 62.
“Shorter Classes Are More Effective.” Machine Design. 80(11): 110-111.

student thinkingMy thoughts:
I am actually teaching a more learning intensive course, during the regular semester, but I don’t think that is what they are talking about here. I know that my three-week British literature course studied the same things and had the same homework as my long-semester British literature course, when I was teaching at the community college.

My students DID do better in the short course, but those were also generally students who were home for the summer from UT, A&M, or SHSU. They were taking an “easy” course (which it was not!), but it was certainly a different experience from their long semesters in classes with 100+ students.

Musings for the future:
If the university decided to offer courses in three-week blocks throughout the long semester, so that a student could take five courses in 15 weeks, would I want to teach those courses? (When I would be teaching one more course than the normal load for faculty at my university.)

I have taught business writing and British literature in three-week courses and would be perfectly happy to continue to do that.

I would not mind teaching my third of the intro to rhetoric grad class in a week instead of five weeks (assuming I still get to assign the same reading/writing responsibilities).

I would NOT want to teach fyc in a three-week course and, indeed, don’t think that I could do so without significantly impacting the quality of my teaching.

BusinessThe three-week courses are INTENSIVE, not just for the students, but also for the professors, and five back-to-back intensive courses would be exhausting. A month off would not lead to time to do research but simply be used to recover for the next fifteen-week sprint.

Perhaps offering students two six-week courses at a time, over an eighteen-week semester, where students could do twelve hours in a shorter early or late semester, would be an alternative that allows for more concentration (two courses rather than four to six) but without quite the same pressure to get the grading done–especially for writing intensive courses, which all of mine are!

Colorado College has a three-week intensive course series, which requires only four classes per semester to be taught.

Some courses would be far easier than others to do this way.

Third idea:
Problem-based learning, which is “a curriculum and a process. The curriculum consists of carefully selected and designed problems that demand from the learner acquisition of critical knowledge, problem solving proficiency, self-directed learning strategies, and team participation skills. The process replicates the commonly used systemic approach to resolving problems or meeting challenges that are encountered in life and career.” Barrows, H., and Kelson, A. C. (1995). Problem-Based Learning in Secondary Education and the Problem-Based Learning Institute (Monograph 1), Problem- Based Learning Institute, Springfield, IL.

My thoughts:
Not quite sure how this would work for a literature classroom. Less confident of fyc courses here, too. Rhetoric classes, on the other hand, might work like this, though the approach would significantly change what we are doing now.

I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing. Just different.

typingFourth idea:
Hybrid classes. Elements of face-to-face and distance learning are combined in a single course.

“”Hybrid courses’ those that are offered online but also involve substantial face time can produce better outcomes than those that are delivered exclusively on the Web or in the classroom.”

Kolowich, S. (September 22, 2009). Sustainable Hybrids, Insider Higher Ed. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/09/22/hybrids#ixzz2HzNPiSLM

“The hybrid flexible model is delivered using a combination of face-to-face seminars and electronic delivery and communication tools. It is found that academic performance is higher for students who studied under the flexible delivery model.”

Dowling, C., Godfrey, J. M., & Gyles, N. (2003). Do hybrid flexible delivery teaching methods improve accounting students’ learning outcomes? Accounting Education: An international journal, 12(4), 373-391.

My thoughts:
I actually like this idea. I think it would be good to teach a course where, perhaps, every two weeks the class got together for class discussion and in-class work that would help students develop, while normally they have time outside of class to read, write, and prepare for the course.

If the hybrid were set up with flexibility, some students might do better because they would be able to get their work done, but not have to have it done every two days. On the other hand, some students would do worse because they need the schedule.

Fifth idea:
Flipped class.

The traditional course model (content delivery in class, practice outside of class) is reversed. Class time is used to practice, answer questions and address problems.

Because of its emphasis on information application, rather than transmission, flipped teaching offers potentially better learning outcomes (Eric Mazur).

“It’s a whole different paradigm of teaching,” says Mr. Wieman, likening the professor’s role to that of a cognitive coach. “A good coach figures out what makes a great athlete and what practice helps you achieve that. They motivate the learner to put out intense effort, and they provide expert feedback that’s very timely.” http://chronicle.com/article/How-Flipping-the-Classroom/130857/

My thoughts:
I have read Robert Talbert (Casting Out Nines, writes for the CHE) for years and his talk of flipping his calculus course was my first introduction to the concept.

One of my friends is doing a flipped literature course this semester. She said that it is very labor intensive before the semester begins and less so once the class has started. In fact, she says, one day she felt superfluous and sat in the corner of the room creating a reflection on the students being so engaged in what they were doing that they wanted her to not be there. (She did say that towards the end of class they wanted to show her what they had done.)

She doesn’t use as many writing assignments as I do in my literature courses (probably shows my writing background/bias), but she does have some amazing projects. The students do dramatizations, write sonnets, and create art as a group. Very cool.

I think that digital presentations and group assignments would be particularly useful in this venue.

One thought on “5 Potential Teaching Alternatives”

  1. I am currently a student at WGU-Texas, which is completely online, but before that I was a community college student. While at the CC, I took a hybrid course, and I must say it was a very smooth experience. It worked out extremely well when I got a job in the middle of the semester, since it was only once a week. I don’t feel like I learned any more or less than a regular class, but definitely more than the other online classes that I took at the CC. I do feel like I am learning what I need to know at WGU-T, however.

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