Category Archives: Community of Practice

Reflective Practice

Impact of Reflective Practice on Online Teaching Performance in Higher Education, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Vol. 10, No. 4, December 2014 629

As this article states, there is a growing interest in reflective practice as a strategy to improve reflect-teacher-featuredthe “art of teaching”.  John Dewey and others encourage systematic reflection about teaching as “the process of thinking about what one has taught and using that data to inform the planning of the future lessons.” In this study, specific areas of self-reflection were identified in order to focus on the quality of interaction and instruction that takes place in an online classroom: communication, engagement, expertise, and the use of quality instructional techniques.

Use this set of criteria for self-reflection to help you think about your own teaching. Does it ask the right questions? Is it helpful? Do you already use this practice to engage with students? Should you add it to your practice?

The study itself uses very specific tools available in their specific LMS to create the interaction. You might use email rather than the discussion forum, for example, to create the same interaction with your students. I’ve added alternative examples in parentheses. As you review these points, focus on the practice rather than the tool used to support it. Does having focused points make a difference in your ability to assess and change your online teaching?

Use of Announcements (reminders, emails):  course due dates, assignments, and general overall guidance regarding course events.

  • Uses course announcements to inform, motivate and engage the entire class.
  • Provides announcements (or emails, blog posts) that summarize the past learning outcomes.
  • Provides announcements, … to facilitate learning and promote student success.
  • Builds positive relationships.
  • Builds a positive learning community.

Use of a “Questions for Instructor” Discussion Forum: This represents a dedicated online course discussion forum where students can post questions to the instructor. You might use student blog posts, emails, or other tools for students to ask you direct questions.

  • Uses an established practice of answering student questions to build course community.
  • Directs responses to questions to the entire class.
  • Provides responses that are knowledgeable and instructive in nature.
  • Responds to student questions in a timely and supportive manner.

Use of General Discussion Forums (syndicated blogs, twitter):

  • Stimulate conversation with the students regarding course content.
  • Ask higher-order critical thinking questions or blog prompts that elicit a critical response.
  • Ask follow-up questions that are varied, yet specific to the unit objectives.
  • Actively engage in the discussion and participates in scholarly conversations.

Assignment Feedback: This area represents the instructional feedback provided to the students in response to submitted assignments.

  • Uses the assignment grading rubric to evaluate assignments.
  • Provides quality feedback on assignments that is content-related.
  • Provides quality feedback that is APA and writing-specific.
  • Provides timely feedback and evaluation information.
  • Holds learners accountable for meeting performance criteria.

Quality Instructional Techniques:

  • Uses personal expertise and experience to enhance the content learning.
  • Provides additional material to augment and enhance course content.
  • Provides an end-of-module summary of the week’s learning.
  • “Sets up” the upcoming module by linking new learning to past modules.
  • Engages in the dialogue and conversation with and between students.


When Do You Create your Online Course?

When I talked with a group of faculty at the Teaching Professor Technology Conference October 11, I asked TPtech14pollthis question in a poll, When Do You Create your Online Course?  Only some of the people responded, but I was not surprised by the results. 36% of the responses were “while I am teaching the course” because in their reality, they were asked to teach, online or in-person, only weeks before the course began.

My presentation was about “What’s Different about Teaching Online.” After polling the audience, I talked about the 12 week course we had developed over three years for faculty to help them prepare to teach online. The same reality struck course participation. Many dedicated faculty could not continue to commit that much time to learning to teach online when they were already teaching, often with an overload.

At the same time the way we communicate personally and professionally began to change. Our communication technologies made it possible to connect with each other seamlessly and often.

What information is essential for faculty learning to teach in this new open networked world? What type of Just-in-time information about teaching can make a difference in the way they establish communication with and among their students?

people sharing contact info through smart phones

In the online classroom, it is the relationships and interactions among people through which knowledge is primarily generated.
Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K.(2007).Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom, (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Wiley, p. 15)

Ultimately e-learning is not about technology, it is about flexibility, connections, and community…sound pedagogical ideas must be merged with the astounding capabilities of the new and emerging communication technologies.
Garrison, D.R. (2011). E-Learning in the Twenty-First Century (2nd ed.)  New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. (pp. 73-74).

I wish I already had the answers to the best way to support faculty learning to teach with connected learning principles using the networked world. It will be an intriguing exploration of collaborations in design.