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What Help Do We Provide for Online Teaching

post_title='What help do we provide for moving to online teaching?'

Thinking about this post started months ago when I read Lawrie Phipps’ post - “People wanted help, we gave them guidance”. A post reflecting on the types of requests for help being asked as people try to make the COVID “move online”. For me, there’s a suggestion that there are some help requests that were being answered well. e.g. Questions that lead to a “push this button” answer. But trouble begins as the questions begin to deepen into questions that don’t have easy answers (e.g. “how do I get student engagement?). Given the current context Lawrie’s worry is “that in some places we are more concerened with providing sound guidance around pedagogical theory than we are with providing help”. This is something I struggle with. I agree with Lawrie. There is a tendency in higher ed to provide guidance around difficult questions (e.g. how do I get student engagement?), rather than help. I agree with Lawrie that providing guidance is a “get out of jail free card” for the people providing it. It’s much easier to explain the “5 principles for encouraging student engagement” than it is to work with someone to figure out how to sustainably adapt and apply those principles within a specific course context (including consideration of learners, teachers, agency, knowledge, content & learning aims, available technologies, time and other constraints etc). Especially, if as at most institutions, you have to do this in at least a few thousand different course contexts. As I commented on Twitter,

The following is an attempt to reflect on this challenge more deeply. To make connections with reading, talking and work I’ve been doing and observing. In essence to explore the question

What help do we provide for moving online? Beyond COVID. With a focus on scaling across an institution of higher education. Attempting to analyse the challenges and suggest interesting areas for further work.

Misc resources

Demming on outcomes (and people with jobs dependent upon them)

Help to achieve what? And the fetish that steals the oxygen in the room

What are we trying to achieve?

I assume some variation on helping students achieve appropriate student learning outcomes, posess graduate attributes, be employable, and have a good time along the way. I’m happy to accept some variation of those as the outcome we’re working toward.

The first problem I see is that the people charged with helping teachers achieve this goal spend a lot of time and energy exploring, discussing, defining, re-defining, promulgating, mapping and documenting specific visions of these outcomes. One explanation for that is that institutions see specific sets of outcomes (e.g. graduate attributes) as a way to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Something that important requires certain important roles within the institution to take responsibility for those outcomes. Leading to the the problem Deming identified - “People with targets and jobs dependent upon meeting them will probably meet the targets” not sure this fits

TODO learning outcome fetish from hybrid pedagogy

Ellis and Goodyear (2019) argue that higher education has a tendency to privelege “outcome measures at the expense of understanding the processes that generate those outcomes” (p. 2) which leads to the problem that

Over recent decades, Western universities have been very good at picking up and reproducing modish language about their purposes and methods – engaged enquiry, T-shaped graduates, being and becoming, and so on. They have been less good at ‘tooling up’ to deal with the complexity of analysing how their educational ecosystems actually function and of systematically redesigning for sustainable improvement. (p. 242)

One of the explanations offered by Ellis and Goodyear (2019) for this limitation is that the “processes that generate those outcomes” are spread across different organisational units (at the least): learning and teaching; information technology; and, facilities management. good learning teaching uote from E&G about require a mismash The Deming quote could come in here The nature of teleological organisations could come in here

Ignoring the person in the middle (the teacher)

Shuell (1986) suggests

..if students are to learn desired outcomes in a reasonably effective manner, then the teacher’s fundamental task is to get students to engage in learning activities that are likely to result in their achieving these outcomes, taking into account factors such as… A perspective Biggs (2012) describes as creating a learning environment in which “all students are more likely to use the higher order learning processes which ‘academic’ students use spontaneously” (p. 39)

In my experience, the outcome fetish