This is the fourth of these weekly summaries/reflections – perhaps learning log is a better description – but only 1 is complete so far. Hopefully this will be #2. The course is titled Pedagogical Content Knowledge and appears to aim to use Schulman’s ideas of PCK to frame the necessary learning about both pedagogy and the content for the pre-service teachers in this course.
At least two of the courses I’m studying have eStudyGuides. A concept/approach I had a hand in during my previous working life. It’s interesting to be on the student side of the approach. The original intent was to provide a useful way of integrating the old print study guide approach (very 2nd generation DE) into online learning. My initial thoughts are that the integration of eStudyGuides with Moodle has not gone very far. The eStudyGuides are separate from the Moodle topic/weekly schedule, this reduces their effectiveness. Especially when there are other problems.
It is also interesting to see other students being highly pragmatic and focusing heavily on the assessment first and then working back and identifying what they really need to do. I’m currently taking the more naive approach and trying to work through the material. I wonder how long I will keep that up and what these observations mean for the efficacy of the learning design inherent in these courses.
Oh dear, the joys of e-learning, the network between my machine and the machine with the eStudyGuide is not playing nicely. Being very slow. Ahh, there it is (save as). Not quite, still downloading. Let’s look at the ToC. So there is a bit of a intro/background before the first module. Let’s start with that.
Your learning journey in PCK
It will involve “two complementary modes of learning”: resource-based learning and online collaborative learning. While I don’t have a problem with the theory of resource-based learning I am experiencing some issues around its implementation, the topic for another post.
Learning, teaching and pedagogy
Starting with some definitions before moving on, the provided definitions include
- Learning – “The process of making meaning out of experience”.
I imagine that could be debated depending on the epistemological perspective/learning theory you abide by. This would appear to be a very constructivst perspective.
- Teaching – “process of guiding and facilitating learning”.
- Pedagogy – “strategies, techniques and approaches or styles of instruction that teachers can use within learning contexts”.
Ahh, a learning task list – is this an example of an advanced organiser? – a clear statement of what we have to do, something that is missing from the other courses (at least based on my limited perusal of the other courses). It shall be interesting to see how well all this fits together. So lets use the learning task list here
Go to the Moodle site for this course and locate “Topic 1—Learning,
teaching and pedagogy”
A simple start, done.
Complete Activity 1–1(found in this Study Guide)
Go to the Moodle site and read the section “What is teaching?”
- Complete Activities 1–2 and 1–3
- Complete Reading 1–1: Effective teaching strategies (Part 1) (CRO)
- Go to the Moodle site and read the section “What is pedagogy?”
- Complete Activity 1–4
- Complete Reading 1–2: What is pedagogy anyway?
- Go to the Moodle site and read the section “Effective pedagogy”
- Complete Activity 1–5
- Go to the Moodle site and read the section “Pedagogical content
- Complete Reading 1–3: Effective teaching strategies (Part 2) (CRO)
- Complete Activity 1–6
Activity 1-1 – What is learning and teaching?
Before getting deeply into the content, we start with our own current understandings. You would expect that we might be asked to revisit this at the end of the course to see how our understandings have changed over time.
What is learning?
If I adopt a connectivist perspective learning might be defined as the formation of new connections/networks at a variety of levels. More specifically, according to the wikipedia article
Connectivism sees learning as the process of creating connections and developing a network.
Based on my limited and primitive understanding of brain science, this is a general description of how the brain actually works. i.e. it’s less abstract than the definition used above. You can’t make meaning out of experiences without creating new connections, neural and otherwise.
Ahh, Downes adds the additional insight that (emphasis added)
At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.
More of Downes’ writing connects with one of the activities performed in class yesterday and its implications. i.e.
In connectivism, a phrase like ‘constructing meaning’ makes no sense. Connections form naturally, through a process of association, and are not ‘constructed’ through some sort of intentional action.
The activity relied heavily on the proposition that our memories work by association.
What is teaching?
Have just come across (perhaps again) this argument/definition from George Siemens
when we make our learning transparent, we become teachers
From that perspective, again a very connectivist approach teaching becomes the act of making out learning transparent. Which of course links to the Downes slogan of “to teach is to model and demonstrate”.
Siemens again argues that teaching (the role of the teacher) is focused on influencing or shaping a network (perhaps networks?). He goes on to describe 7 roles teachers play
- Wayfinding and socially-driven sensemaking
- Persistent presence
Within this course/program, perhaps even the current education paradigm, the focus is on constructivism. In such a paradigm, where learning is seen as constructing meaning, the role of teaching seems to become creating experiences that enable and encourage students to construct meaning.
As argued briefly above and previously I would probably argue that the concepts of “meaning” and “networks” have a lot of overlap/similarity. i.e. in constructivism teaching is influencing/shaping student meaning making, in connectivism teaching is influencing/shaping student network making (and traversal).
I wonder if Siemens’ 7 roles from above can be merged/overlapped with some more “traditional” constructivist approaches.
Lastly, you have the “standardised-testing” perspective of teaching which is increasingly prevalent in local schools. i.e. teaching is achieving the desired results on standardised tests by whatever means possible.
Teaching and not learning
I found this a somewhat difficult question to get my head around, which is perhaps somewhat ironic given what I think the question is getting. Here it is in full
Recall an experience where another person performed all kinds of teaching or training tasks designed to help you learn yet you were still unable to learn what it was that was hoped you would learn. Apply the distinction between “teaching” as a task term and “teaching” as an achievement term to your experience and list the activities or tasks the person performed designed to help you learn. Then try to identify the factors and variables that you believed prevented you from learning.
In this case, I’m sure I’m meant to be taught something, but am unsure what. Mostly because of the phrases “task term” and “achievement term”. I’m not really certain exactly what is expected of me because I am not confident that I am using the correct definition of these terms. I can probably extrapolate something, but I’m unsure that it will match the intent of the “teacher”.
So, obviously I’m going to use Google to discover some interpretations. Seems to goes back to Ryle (1949) and there is some description of that here and it’s expanded in Marshall (2009).
(Not to mention the fact that Google reveals that this is not a new question answered by education students
In fact, Marshall’s original 1975 paper argues that teaching is a task verb and does not have an achievement sense. Which I read as meaning that it is a on-going process. The purpose of his 2009 update is to suggest that the increasing neo-liberal discussion around education has introduced teaching as an achievement term.
And just when you think educational literature can reveal no new words – otiose – serving no practical purpose or result.
On skimming Marshall (2009) it would appear to go into areas quite a long way from what is required here. So, I’ll turn over a pragmatic leaf.
In terms of someone teaching me something, my memory/interpretation suggests the only times when they failed to teach me was when I wasn’t interested. This has usually occurred in organisational settings around policies, procedures and plans. That lack of interest may have arisen from lack of relevance of what was being taught; lack of quality of what was being taught or how; or, lack of “proximity” of my current situation. e.g. Marshall (2009) wasn’t going to teach me about his arguments because it delved into complexities that I currently have neither the time nor energy to engage with.
Another example, is that in my answer I haven’t really engaged with the “achievement/task” distinction in the question. While I think I see the point, I don’t think I’m prepared enough to answer that aspect. A large part of that is that I’ve probably spent far too much time on this question and have lost significant interest.
What does this suggest for your own teaching practice
- Connect with students existing knowledge and motivations, perhaps as the initial start of the network creation.
- Teaching is then a practice – perhaps a task term, an on-going process – of influencing and shaping network formation.
I can see how this might work within an ICT course focused on programming, but within the confines of a mathematics course – especially a junior course in the context of NAPLAN tests – I can see it being more difficult. But still possible, perhaps.
Okay, go looking on the website for more “sub-questions”. Ahh, here is an explanation of the task and achievement sense of the word teaching. Just a little late perhaps? This other resource states
If you examine how ‘teaching’ is used most commonly it has two dominant uses. One, is where the focus is on what the teacher is doing (‘teaching’ in the task sense) and the other where the focus is on whether the teacher achieves or fails in achieving helping others learn (‘teaching’ in the achievement sense). This distinction helps explain how someone can claim to be teaching while nobody learns and paradoxically, how teaching seems to imply learning.
All I’m finding at the moment is some more content, expanding on the definitions of teaching, pedagogy etc. Makes me wonder why it’s not in the eStudyGuide.
Oh dear, there they are. The first one is simply an expanded version of the question I answered above in a Word document! Do I have to repeat much of the above? Don’t think I will.
What’s worse is that the directions back to the Moodle site are in different areas leading to some duplication/losing my way.
Activity 1-2: The teaching profession
So, the aim here is to determine whether or not teaching is a profession. Before completing this activity, I’ll suggest that there are at least two possible answers to this question: personal and societal (i.e. what is agreed by the majority). I’m not convinced that my personal answer to this question is all that important, it is the societal answer that is more important. Teaching is only a profession because most of society recognises it as so, not because teachers define a bunch of terms and meet them.
We’re meant to fill in a table expressing why/if we agree/disagree with a sequence of statements about teaching as a profession. In most cases, I’d argue that both apply to varying degrees. For example, one example of the YES/NO pairing is the following two
- The teacher’s work is essentially intellectual in character, much like the work of doctors, lawyers, or engineers.
- Teachers do not always use the available intellectual knowledge in the classroom, and some tend to resort to a rule–of–thumb approach more typical of a semi– or non-profession.
I could agree with both of those statements. I don’t think it is just teachers that resort to rule-of-thumb approaches. Most management decisions seem to be made that way. Human nature itself is biased towards repeating familiar patterns of activity, experts of all types fall trap to this from time to time.
There is another pair around a professional code of ethics.
- Yes, teaching is a profession….A professional code of ethics has been developed, widely disseminated, and periodically revised.
- No, it isn’t…..Codes of ethics are inadequately enforced in education.
I think you can replace teaching with just about any profession and agree to both those statements. In terms of enforcement, I’m sure when breaches are discovered and made visible, most professions enforce their code of ethics. I’d also suggest that for most professions the code of ethics doesn’t play a core part in everyday practice. I’d like see the research around how many members of a profession could recite the professions code of ethics or even know where to find it.
The remaining questions around around whether a profession is worthy, what’s the difference between being a professional etc, and will you be starting your teaching career as a professional?
Not going to bother with those.
Principles of teaching
So, there’s a table with a list of “principles of teaching” with three empty columns in which we are meant to indicate out believes related to these principles to the teaching of adults, adolescents and children. And if we like some space at the bottom to add some more principles since, as pointed out in the question, these principles may not represent the contemporary classroom.
I am wondering if my level of cynicism increases the longer I work on this material. Perhaps I should be breaking course study more?
I won’t do all three, but give some stream of consciousness responses
Teachers should not coerce, bully or intimidate learners.
Absolutely, the line between encouragement and its significantly more negative alter egos is something to be careful of.
Teachers should respect learners by not belittling or abusing them in any form.
Yes, but I still think there is a line here somewhere. Part of learning is “unlearning”/recognising that you don’t know everything. Which suggests a teacher may, for some students, have to engage in a bit of gentle “mindset adjustment” to enable change. This doesn’t mean belittle, but I can see circumstances where it could certainly be interpreted that way.
Teachers should try to improve the learner’s self–worth.
I’m cynical enough to balk slightly at this. Yes there is value in this. But just as earlier readings have emphasised that you can’t really force someone to learn, I’m not sure you can really force someone to have an increased sense of self-worth.
Teaching should be about collaboration with learners concerning the aims, purposes and methods of the learning situation wherever possible.
Nice aim, but in this era of outcomes-based assessment, standardised testing etc it’s not hard to pick up some mixed messages around this principle. The “where possible” modifier could be used quite significantly.
Teaching should be about praxis.
I find it interesting that praxis hasn’t been introduced in this program yet, and from my understanding its meaning isn’t widely known and multiple in nature. e.g. is it meant here in terms of Kolb or Friere (or some other perspective)? I like both of Kolb or Friere’s definition (a la Wikipedia).
Learners should be encouraged to reflect on their personal experiences as a means to their educational development.
Remember, we’re not coercing, bullying or intimidating people. In addition, if we’re collaborating with learners about the methods of the learning situation, shouldn’t they be given the choice. That said, my affinity for praxis and connectivism suggest that I agree with this, however, I also recognise the difficulty of encouraging students (of varying ages) to effectively reflect on their experiences.
Teaching should foster critical minds so that learners realise that much of knowledge, values, beliefs and behaviours are socially constructed.
Yes, but I shudder slightly at some of what gets accepted under this principle. Social constructivism can be taken too far. There is a real world.
Teaching should be both informed and open–ended. Teachers should know enough to facilitate learning and teachers should also be honest about what they do not know and use this as an opportunity to learn with the learners.
Well, I wouldn’t be much of a “connectivist” if I didn’t agree.
Principles of effective pedagogy
We’re asked to generate our own, I’ll stick with what I know.
I find Chickering and Gamson’s 7 principles for good practice in good education a reasonable guide. It’s one I’ve used before.
The other I don’t mind at the moment is Downes – Teaching is to model and demonstrate, learning is to practice and reflect.
The aim here is to complete a “PCK diagram” using one of the curriculum specifications that teachers in the glorious state of Queensland are meant to draw upon. Of course, based on what I remember seeing, there really hasn’t been a good explanation of the diagram. What am I missing?
Ahh, that’s because there’s another reading, located in another place from the eStudyGuide I’ve been working through. Should it really be this hard to work through a sequential collection of activities and readings?
| General PCK/KLAs
|| Domain specific PCK
||Topic specific PCK
|These match the 8 main essential learnings (e.g. Years 1-9
||Match “Knowledge and understanding” within specific ELs
||The dot points within a specific area of knowledge
- Chance and data
- Representation of rational numbers
- Applications of rational numbers to describe and solve problems
- Representation of numbers of the real number line.
- Use of decimal approximations of irrational numbers in geometric contexts
- Formation of upper and lower boundaries for estimations.
- Solving problems involving ratinal, irrational numbers, simple powers, square roots and conventions of four operations.
- Financial decisions based on analysis of benefits and consequences of cash, credit and debit transactions.
- Understanding the GST.
Reading 1-1: Effective teaching strategies
And there’s more. Reflections on pp 1-7 of
Killen, R. (2003). Effective teaching strategies: Lessons from research and practice (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Thomson Social Sciences Press.
Oh dear, it looks like the OCR during scanning of the hard-copy had some problems, of is now some funny symbol and other examples exist.
Major reviews of “good teaching” all conclude no single teaching strategy is effective all the time for all learners. Because learning is complex due to: learners’ attitudes, abilities and learning styles, teachers’ beliefs, knowledge and abilities, and learning context. The best that can be concluded
effective instruction requires active involvement of learners and an emphasis on academic achievement
Sounds very Chickering & Gamson 7 principles to me.
Learning is more effective if students are motivated, if learning is interesting, enjoyable and challenging. Some general guidelines
- provoke curiorsity.
- appropriate to learners’ academic & social development
- related to learners’ everyday experience
- learners need to experience success.
- teachers should take into account knowledge, skills and attitudes learners bring to the classroom (isn’t this repeating #2 and #3?)
- teachers …account diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds
- Teachers should emphasise the importance of concepts and principles, rather than rote learning.
There is an increasing sense of repetition here.
Onto learning styles. Apparently Sternberg (1997) claims that differences in ability only account for about 20% of variation in learner performance. Suggesting that it is variation in learning style that plays a part.
The need for reflective practice for improving teaching/being a good teacher.
Onto planning, after deciding on a strategy (by using a long list of questions) time to develop a lesson plan.
Talking about decorating the classroom, making it a visual space.
Okay, going on a page explaining what is understanding by quoting a few folk and their definitions.
Yep, we’re into the outcomes-based education mode. “The first step (emphasis in original) is to describe what it is that you want the students to understand”.
Ahh, not very “Biggsian”. The second step is to select content. Biggs would suggest that the second step is to identify the activities that the students will have to perform in order to demonstrate their understanding.
This reading draws on “Project Zero” from Harvard’s idea of “generative topics” – “issues, themes and ideas that provide depth, significance, connections and a variety of perspectives to support students’ development of powerful understanding”.
Identifies four types of knowledge required for teaching effectively
- knowledge of your subject;
- knowledge of how students learn;
- general pedagogical knowledge;
- PCK a la Schulman.
Reading 1-2: What is pedagogy anyway?
Smith, T. and Lowrie, T. What is ‘pedagogy’ anyway? [online]. Practically Primary; v.7 n.3 p.6-9; October 2002
“pedagogy is to talk of the appropriate ways we interact with each other as teachers and learners”. Involves the relational, emotional, moral and personal dimensions. i.e. effective teaching and learning must consider affective, cognitive and social factors.
“assessment becomes a participatory event ‘shared with’ learners throughout the learning process, rather than something that is ‘done to’ learners during separate events” What? Like NAPLAN tests?
I wish the authors would get to the point.
The basic point is that thinking about pedagogy as “creating opportunities for constructive and enlightening conversations”. i.e. in maths getting students to write and talk more about their understanding. Perhaps some thought should be given to ensuring that the conversations are succinct.
Marshall, J.D. 2009. Revisiting the Task/Achievement Analysis of Teaching in Neo-Liberal Times. Educational Philosophy and Theory 41, no. 1: 79-90.