This course has helped me to develop and refine my personal teaching philosophy, particularly as it relates to online teaching. My philosophy of teaching has been based on three fundamental components: clear expectations, integrated course design and active learning. This course has helped me support and develop these ideas, but has also encouraged me to add community and reflection to those fundamental components. In the relatively small classrooms, in which I teach, community has come about naturally and readily. In the online environment, this aspect, which is equally important as my previous components needs to be deliberately developed. I have also learned that by adding more metacognative experiences for the students is necessary for their growth as learners.
I believe that clear expectations are the cornerstone of any well designed course. Students that clearly understand what is required of them and the direction of the course can focus on learning the material, rather than navigating through the course. As Stewart (2008) states “clear rules and policies coupled with the incentive to become familiar with them, prompt instructor feedback via a variety of means, a sense of community, and a variety of lesson and assessment types are essential to student success in the online classroom.’ Clarity is important for all students, but particularly for non-traditional students and English Language Learners that already face additional barriers to success in online courses (Muilenburg and Berge 2005).
Having clear expectations and policies requires thoughtful instructional design. I think that Backwards Design promotes thoughtful course design and helps me to create meaningful assessments and activities that lead to mastery of the final assessment (Wiggins and McTighe 2005). While a clear instructional design is the goal of my teaching, I believe that it should also have some level of built in flexibility, when topics need further development or revisiting. Flexibility should be built around frequent formative assessment so misunderstandings can be detected and clarified early on. Fink’s (2013) model of integrated course design suggests the three integrated components of learning goals, teaching and learning activities and feedback and assessment. His model allows for flexibility and proposes a model that is more cyclical than linear. This model focuses on learning and teaching as a continuously evolving process, much like the scientific method and adopts a “growth mindset’ rather than a “fixed mindset’ (Dweck 2013).
Overall, my teaching style can be considered primarily constructivist and relies heavily on inquiry based understanding. For both face to face and online classrooms I feel that deeper understanding of the material, especially within the context of Science, requires students to construct their own meaning through experimentation and observation. The CoI (Community of Inquiry) exemplifies this theory and I think it works particularly well with Science (Swan, Garrison, and Richardson 2009). Creating authentic assessments and activities that allow online students to experience CoI’s is a challenge, but with the tools and skills I have learnt in this course and other ONID courses, I believe it can be successful.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Random House
Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Muilenburg, L. Y., & Berge, Z. L. (2005). Student barriers to online learning: A factor analytic study. Distance Education, 26(1), 29—48. doi:10.1080/01587910500081269
Swan, K., Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework. In Payne, C. R. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57.
Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.