Article Review #3
October 4, 2014
Examining teacher education practices in early childhood degree programs is the central theme in this journal article review. Reconceptualising higher education pedagogy in online learning outlines a study of 16 subjects (courses) across two early childhood degree programs. The study focus was to help early childhood faculty address the change to federal requirements in teacher preparatory degree programs. Prior to the federal changes, degree delivery consisted of paper-based coursework in an online context. The idea to reconceptualise the pedagogy was birthed out of an action research idea by the faculty. The emphasis on understanding the conclusions of the study are the characteristics of online pedagogy and not on the delivery mechanism. (Green, et al., 2010) Prior to the study, student learning focus primarily on knowledge and application as two separate and distinct processes and measures. After the study, faculty embraced the idea of learning as knowledge creation, unified and a social process.
The design of the project was guided by design-based research, also call development research. Researchers reflected individually and as a team on the pedagogy being utilized. “Data from the reflections provide a basis for decision-making about how to change what is happening to optimize outcomes.”(Green, et al., 2010, p. 258) Six characteristics were utilized to describe the project.
- Focus on broad-based, complex problems critical to higher education
- Integration of known and hypothetical design principles with technological affordances to render plausible solutions to complex problems.
- Rigorous and reflective inquiry to test and refine innovative learning environments, as well as to reveal new design principles
- Long-term engagement involving continual refinement of protocols and questions
- Intensive collaboration among researchers and practitioners
- A commitment to theory construction and explanation while solving real-world problems
The reconceptualization utilizing these six characteristics dramatically changed the way faculty designed the online courses with much emphasis on strategies to emphasis a full range of higher order learning outcomes, such as advocacy, advancing community knowledge, adaptiveness and promisingness. (Hone & Sullivan, 2009) Strong influences in assignment development included teaching through assessment and advancing community knowledge. An example used in the article is captured below.
Faculty efforts to advance community knowledge illuminated an awareness of how that knowledge would be integrated into current student and online community learning. Instead of students learning in isolation, the idea of integration was explored. Equal parts of online community knowledge, student’s community knowledge and individual knowledge creation were blended to form collaborative group work. “The online sharing of community knowledge becomes adaptive knowledge creation within the individual, which in turn impacts the wider community. Students bring to the assessment task their unique interests and they become conscious of shared and/or overlapping knowledge, which they develop into a group response. (Green, et al., 2010, p. 267)
Another aspect of interest to me was the idea of promisingness. “Promisingness has been described by Hone and Sullivan (2009 as a kind of knowledge facilitated in online learning environments through a progressive curriculum, unfolding and emerging.” (Green, et al., 2010, p. 268) The idea is for students to experience the increasingly flexible content, tasks, and assessment in each course. Thus, incorporating the cognitive learning experience within a social construct; this principle aligns nicely with the work of Vygotsky and Bronfenbrenner.
Since the study was an action research, much of the knowledge gained is qualitative; therefore, subjective and without the rigors of quantitative study. The authors noted that challenges and changes are ongoing and expected. Continued analysis and evaluation needed with the promise of the publication of follow-up papers, which will include “insights and perspectives from student’s and further personal journeys of academics.” (Green, et al., 2010, p. 270)
As faculty of early childhood education, this study was of particular interest to me. As I was reading, my thoughts compared our current online pedagogy with the study. I quickly realized that I may have an articulated online pedagogy, but I cannot assume our department has the same one. Since we are in the middles of our accreditation self-assessment process, this is an ideal time to bring up the challenge of what is described in the study- “Further reconceptualization in online environments across courses is required to ensure the links, connectivity, and consistencies across degree programs are strong and demonstrate more meaningful professional study experiences for students. (Green, et al., 2010, p. 270) I am afraid we may be “insular and unconnected.”
I even considered inviting the lead author of the study to come to Fairbanks to enlighten us further concerning their learning and adaptations. I am hungry for further understanding and their process that took them on this journey.
Green, N. C., Edwards, H., Wolodko, B., Stewart, C., Brooks, M., & Littledyke, R. (2010). Reconceptualising higher eduction pedagogy in online learning. ProQuest Education Journals, 257-273.
Hong, H.-Y., & Sullivan, F. (2009). Towards an idea-centered, principle-based design approach to support learning as knowledge creation. Educational Technology Research & Development.