Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Saturday, November 24, 2007

November 2007 Conference Travels

Wow, it sure has been awhile since I last posted to my Blog. Whatever happened to my weekly self-reflections this semester :) Sigh, time just keeps slipping away . . .

Anyway's, I'm just heading back to Calgary after a 10 day conference tour to promote the Blended Learning in Higher Education book that Randy Garrison and I just published with Jossey-Bass. First stop, was the Sloan ALN conference in Orlando, Florida where Randy and I presented a session on Blended Learning & Student Engagement. The weather was wonderful for the entire stay (mid 70sF and blue sky) and I was able to get in a couple of good runs and swims in the hotel pool. Randy and I also had a couple of wonderful dinners, which I was able to capture in pictures. Sloan has traditionally focused on text-based asynchronous learning environments but with the growing use of synchronous communication tools (i.e., Elluminate) a number of sessions were about "blended" online learning - an area that I'm excited to conduct research studies in collaboration with Dr. Mike Power from Laval University. I tried to capture my thoughts from each session I attended in a set of digital notes.

Next, it was off to the 27th Annual International Lilly Teaching Conference at Miami University on Oxford, Ohio. En route, I was able to stop over in Brooklyn, New York to spend a bit of time with my sister Christy, her husband Charles and their new infant son Benjamin. We had a wonderful time together and I had some GREAT runs in Prospect Park - which is located just 2 blocks from their apartment.

This was my 4th Lilly Conference and it always feel like "I'm coming home" when I arrive at the Cincinnati Airport. The drive from the airport to Oxford winds through hills and along river valleys. Fortunately, I was able to stay right at the Marcum Conference Centre once again and enjoy the running trail through the forest along the river below the Centre. I had been invited to facilitate a couple of sessions - one on Podcasting: Aligning the Medium with Learning in Higher Education and another one of Designing for Student Success through the use of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Framework. This conference features a number of teaching scholars and I always take copious quantities of notes :)

A few highlights for me were Dee Fink's session on the Joy and Responsibility of Teaching Well. Dee discussed a lot of important concepts in his presentation and the one that "stuck" with me - was the importance of emphasizing more than "academic" learning outcomes in a course. The following is a list of his recommended learning outcomes for any course:

  • Foundational knowledge – understanding and remembering information & ideas

  • Application – skills, thinking, critical, creative, practical, managing projects

  • Integration – connecting ideas, people, realms of life

  • Human dimension – learning about oneself, others

  • Caring (values) - developing new feelings, interests, values

  • Learning how to learn – becoming a better student, inquiring about a subject, self-directing learners (generate own learning agenda and apply an appropriate learning strategy)

It was neat how the next session I attended by Alan Wright, the Vice Provost of the University of Windsor focused on the last learning outcome. The title of his session was The “ORA” of Engaged Learning: Ownership, Responsibility, and Autonomy. He has developed a very interesting survey that asks students and faculty to rank their top 5 strategies for developing meta-cognition in a course. I'm going to try this as an ice-breaker activity in my winter 2008 courses.

Marcia Baxter-Magolda continued on this theme in an evening session by stressing her student development concept of self-authorship. She and Robert Kegan from Harvard define this concept as "one's capacity to internally define one's beliefs, identities, and social relations (Baxter Magolda, 2001; Kegan, 1994). Based on a 21 year longitudinal study she has been conducting on a group of former Miami University students she suggests that the journey to self-authorship involves three phases:

  • External formulas – rely on external sources for what to believe, identity, and how to relate to others, learn for tests

  • Crossroads – experience dissonance with authority-dependence; begin to listen to internal voice

  • Self-authorship – internal voice moves to the foreground and mediates external influences

      She indicates that support and challenge are key to a students' development process:
      • Situate learning in learner's experience
      • Define learning as mutually constructing meaning
      • Share authority & expertise
        • Portray knowledge as complex & socially constructed – internal belief system
        • Self is central to knowledge construction – internal identity
        • Validate learner's capacity to know
        Finally, I was very impressed with the session by the President of Miami University, Dave Hodge's presentation on his framework "Student as Scholar". He has published a paper on this framework. He suggests that there is an important distinction between scholar and engagement and that we have moved beyond a teaching and learning paradigm to one of discovery - outlined as follows:
        • Teaching paradigm – telling students what they need to know

        • Learning paradigm – engaging students in learning how to learn (limited body of knowledge)

        • Discovery paradigm – encouraging students to seek out new knowledge – break down boundaries – move into new territory

        His notion of "Student as Scholar" is based on one developing the following attributes during their university experience:

        • accepts responsibility for learning

        • integrates learning

        • lays out appropriate attributes

        • students belief in doing original research

        • importance of looking at the entire curriculum rather than an individual course