4 June 2011
Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education – Framing the ‘Seven Principles’ to a Workplace Project
Two statements from Chickering and Gamson (1987) set the scene for this post: “We recognise that content and pedagogy interact in complex ways” (p. 2); and, “What is taught is at least as important as how it is taught” (p. 3).
The ‘Seven Principles’ can be framed to the re-design of online components of a flexi course for undergraduates of early childhood education. The subject is maths, science and technology in early childhood education. Faculty require improvement to online components to:
1. better support students with the practical skills in making ECE resources (e.g. woodworking – identifying and using different types of saws)
2. facilitate student thinking beyond assumptive frameworks of ECE teaching toward a learner-centred ECE pedagogy.
The student profile is 90% women, most over the age of 35, and most without the knowledge or skills to make ECE resources for maths, science and technology. One or two on-campus workshops are held during the semester, but most study is online, via Moodle.
LEARNING GOALS – A COMPLEX MIX OF SUBJECT MATTER AND PEDAGOGY
Students have to learn subject matter at 3 levels – infant, toddler, young child. They also have to design learning objects for each of the levels. Thirdly, they have to apply ECE pedagogy to help children explore their worlds with these objects.
HOW TO MEET THE DESIGN CHALLENGE?
Referencing Chickering and Ehrmann’s (1996) paper, Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever, I believe that the task of re-design can be achieved with an emphasis on three principles:
1. Contact between students and faculty.
There could be an improvement to asynchronous communication to increase dialogue, questions-and-answers, and collaborative problem solving. I also think that providing an option for private messaging (student-teacher forum) would benefit learners who are sensitive to public messaging of any learning difficulty. As the course doesn’t have an ice-breaker, one could be introduced at the start of the online course page to build an online community (student benefit) and to elicit prior knowledge of ECE teaching practice and pedagogy (faculty benefit).
3. Good practice uses active learning techniques.
While the existing course uses active learning and practice-based assignments, there could be more multimedia. It could be contextualised to a pedagogical problem or to showing how to make learning objects for maths, science and technology (e.g. make a bucket and pulley; make a jig-saw). It would be unethical to show a video of poor ECE pedagogy, so xtranormal cartoons could be used to demonstrate examples of ‘bad’ from ‘good’ pedagogy, or at least demonstrate a dialogue around bad versus good ECE pedagogy. A peer at MET has suggested that students could create their own ‘spoofs’ and exemplars in xtranormal. That would be active learning.
6. Good practice communicates high expectations.
Chickering & Erhmann (1996) report that students feel stimulated knowing their work is going to be published on the web. Also, that published work provides opportunity for peer evaluation. Setting students tasks that require them to produce work (text, graphic, photo, video) and then share it with others on Moodle and receive peer feedback, could be a means of establishing high expectations of ECE students.
An additional, important principle mentioned by Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) is Principle 4: Prompt Feedback. However, the workload of faculty will prohibit too many interactive exercises involving faculty communication with students. A better approach is to set up tasks that require student-to-student interaction/feedback.
In conclusion, Chickering and Ehrmann’s principles 1, 3, and 6 are considered to be most relevant for framing a solution to this particular course redesign project.
Chickering, A. W., & Ehrmann, S. C. (1996). Implementing the seven principles: Technology as Lever. AAHE Bulletin. Retrieved 10 May 2011 at http://www.aahea.org/bulletins/articles/sevenprinciples.htm
Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin. Retrieved 10 May 2011 at http://www.aahea.org./bulletins/articles/sevenprinciples1987.htm