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Evidence of Teaching

Effectiveness & Innovation

To potentially facilitate review, I’ve organized this section by the portfolio criteria. However, many elements obviously cross review criterion, so a piece of evidence presented in one section might be also very applicable to another. In attempts to minimize redundancy, I have not reidentified elements in several places but rather have left it to the review committee to make those evaluations. I present evidence throughout this portfolio section from two online courses, EDUC 614 (Designing and Assessing Teaching and Learning) and EDUC 615 (Educational Change).

Criterion 1: Reflective Practice

Criterion #1: Evidence of Growth and Reflective Practice as an Online Educator

Reflective practice is what I preach to my teachers, and reflective practice is what I engage for myself. As I will explain in more detail in the Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness and Impact section, I teach critical reflection to teachers and do my very best to walk my talk. As a result, I am continuously eliciting student feedback in a variety of ways and seeking to further my professional learning. I do this in myriad ways, and will describe several of those ways below.

Submitted course for course review

In 2014, I submitted my course (EDUC 614) for review by the Stearns Center (formerly Office of Distance Learning) by a team of Mason colleagues with expertise in online instruction and course development. That review process was transformative. While they noted a great number of strengths present in the course, they also highlighted areas where I could enhance students’ learning experience. Two of those places were providing audio of module text and captioning for videos. In response, I began recording audio of module text on SoundCloud and including the embedded audio on each module page. That first semester of doing this, I also surveyed students using Blackboard’s survey tool to determine how they felt about the audio. The survey was voluntary. Of the ten students who replied, 100% of them listened to at least “a few” of the audio recordings, and 90% expressed that they are a beneficial addition. In response, I kept doing them. A student comment from this past Fall 2018 EDUC 614 mid-term survey demonstrates this feature’s value: “I also really like how there is audio for all of the written content. When I come home from work and finish my readings for the day, my brain is fried and I don't feel like I can read another word without confusing myself, so having the audio option to listen to is wonderful. I didn't think I would use the audio tool in the beginning, but now I see how useful it is.” In response to the captioning note, I also submitted videos to ATI for their captioning services. One other point of feedback stuck with me as well: When I asked the review team for guidance on the breadth of activities happening in my course, one reviewer offered the guideline, “Consider activities that allow students to demonstrate multiple learning objectives at the same time.” I think about this advice each time I design an online course so that students’ online learning environment is robust and varied but also cohesive and meaningful.

Here is my Getting Started video for EDUC 614 that offers a glimpse of the course in its current iteration.

Since 2015, I’ve served as an Online Course Reviewer for the Stearns Center, typically reviewing between two and five courses a year from programs across the university. This process not only gives me the opportunity to offer service to strengthen our collective teaching efforts and student learning experience, but also to learn myself. I have gained so much through course review that I apply to my own courses. I always try to approach a course review looking to help that instructor strengthen their course, but also to notice effective and innovative things that they are doing that might help me to think my own instruction differently.

Online course reviewer for the Stearns Center

CEHD Online Teaching Initiative

Although I had been teaching online for about 10 years, in Fall 2018, I enrolled in the College of Education and Human Development’s Online Teaching Initiative for faculty. Since this initiative is geared at people who are new to online teaching (and I didn’t realize until I got in that many folks actually had no online teaching experience at all yet), I admit that I tentatively wondered, “What could I learn that would add value to my online teaching?” Well, that hubris was quickly challenged. My practices were 100% refreshed and innovated. Here are some examples:

Click each semi-circle for 1-minute (ish) videos of evidence and explanation

This one is not exclusively about my own online teaching but rather what I’ve learned to support others in their online teaching. I am co-Academic Program Coordinator of my program and the quality of our program relies on the quality of teaching across all courses. This past November, I presented at the OLC Accelerate conference in Orlando, Florida. The topic of our presentation was how to effectively support adjunct faculty in online teaching. The infographic we presented is linked in the graphic to the right. Our tips were gathered from surveys with our own program’s adjunct faculty, as well as the (limited) research literature in this area. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from peers in attendance who want to use our graphic with their faculty, and I learned a lot from those exchanges about how other institutions may or may not be structurally set up to effectively support their adjunct faculty. That experience combined with a co-teaching arrangement with an adjunct this semester and a recent review of courses taught by our adjunct faculty has led me to a goal for this semester to create an infographic of our program instructional expectations (things like using the BB gradebook throughout the semester, providing ongoing feedback, and updating content). Some of our expectations we thought were communicated, but it turns out they were assumed. Having a document shared and co-created with our adjunct faculty will be invaluable.

supporting-5c-2_34150112.png

Online Learning Consortium (OLC)

Click the image to see the full infographic we presented.

CEHD Teaching through Technology Micro-Conference

Energized by my experience at OLC, a faculty colleague and I are currently organizing a CEHD Teaching through Technology Micro-Conference in April. We are organizing it as an informal discovery event, where instructional faculty in CEHD will be able to share innovative and effective things they are doing in their own online classes and in using digital technology in their face-to-face classes. This would be much smaller, more focused, and more informal than the Mason-wide Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference held in September. The April timing will also allow new learning to be integrated into summer and fall course development. I look forward to not just leading, but learning at this professional development event. If the event is successful, I would love to collaborate with the Stearns Center on similar events in the future, as appropriate.

Criterion 2: Engagement

Criterion #2: Online Student and Learner Engagement

1.

Provide multiple means of representation

2.

Provide multiple means of action and expression

3.

Provide multiple means of engagement

To the left are the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In my educational world, this is practiced as differentiation and is, in fact, a significant portion of my EDUC 614 course: Designing and Assessing Teaching and Learning. How do students with a variety of interests, skills, abilities, values, preferences, worldviews, and affective states engage in learning within one classroom, whether it be face-to-face or online? How are their strengths valued and their needs met? My course would be disingenuous if it wasn't also styled by these principles. I don't provide separate evidence here related to UDL, but the evidence presented throughout this section demonstrates how each of the UDL principles are enacted within my online teaching in both EDUC 614 and EDUC 615.

Universal Design for Learning

Presence

Instructor presence matters! I make sure students know me and know I'm an active participant with them. For me, it is way too easy to kick into autopilot with an online course, because I, like everyone, have so much going on every minute that seems to demand immediate attention. There is a certain level of presence inherently built into face-to-face courses. That is not the case with online. Thus I make it a priority to be mentally and physically present in a comparable way to my face-to-face course. Click on each bullet below for evidence of my instructor presence.

Interaction and Community

interaction.png

Varied and frequent interaction in my online courses is a core element of their design. But meaningful interaction, particularly student-student interaction, does not just happen. It takes careful prompting, scaffolding, and feedback. Without those things, interaction can be awkward and insincere (like in the cartoon above). Here I present evidence related to instructor-student interaction, student-content interaction, and student-student interaction. 

Instructor-student interaction

As presented earlier on this page in relation to presence, instructor-student interaction is continuous and intended to welcome, engage, encourage, and challenge students. My tone is typically informal, intended to break down typical hierarchies of ivory tower power, yet (I think) conveys clear expectations and expertise. I am also honest with students- if something is not posted on time or feedback is delayed, I apologize. If I am trying something new, I let them know so that they see that I am growing in my practice as well and responsive to their needs. As an example, in Fall 2018 EDUC 614, based on their opening discussions and content-related questions in the first three weeks, I completely revamped Weeks 4 and 5 to allow for a greater inquiry approach. In Week 4, they posed and then researched their own questions related to the content (differentiated instruction). To do this, they used resources and links I provided them, but they also had to do searching on their own. They then came back in Week 5 to report on what they learned and the new questions that were now raised (Click here for a screenshot of the activity directions). There were definite growing pains in this process as my discussion boards were not working as I had envisioned, so I had to tweak after the Weeks were live. I do not like changing directions after a Week is open, but I communicated with students the challenges and explained that this was a first run of this activity. This communication contributes to our class community as students see risk-taking and open communication being modeled. (And FYI, these two weeks were very effective and student feedback indicated that following their own questions was meaningful to their learning, although I do have some streamlining I will do when the course runs again). As I noted above and detail further in Criterion #3, feedback is another mode of instructor-student interaction.

Student-content interaction

Students interact with content in many ways. For each reading or video, I pose questions to consider while reading/watching. In module content, I embed links for further information or source material. I pose questions throughout module content, often these are attached to journal entries (stop and jot points), while others are places for reflection on their own. 

Student-student interaction

Student-student interaction is a core of my online teaching. A few examples of how this is lived are below. Click on each bullet to see evidence. 

  • Each class has a Community Lounge and a Course Questions forum linked on the front page. The Community Lounge is voluntary but sets the tone that who they are matters. The Course Questions forum is a place for individuals to post questions regarding the course. While I will always respond within 24 hours, it gives peers an opportunity to answer questions if they can before I am able and it makes questions public for the benefit of others. There is much to be said about community when students are not timid to ask questions in class.

  • Discussions in video posts. In EDUC 614, I start the course with everyone (including me) posting a video post and end the course with a video post. At any point in between, students are encouraged to post in video if they are so moved but it is not a requirement. I had one student use this option when she broke her wrist and could not type, and other students have posted in video at varying times just to break from typing. 

  • Small group discussions. To begin the semester, students always post their opening discussion contributions to the entire class so that we can make connections with one another. After that, small group discussions are the norm. I usually vary the small group members each week to offer students wide opportunity to engage with peers but in a small group setting. 

  • Critical friends groups. In my online courses, I also use the structure of critical friends. Critical friends are partners or small groups who push and support one another in the course tasks. In EDUC 614, critical friends are exemplified in our video analysis assignments. In this task, each student records themselves teaching, uploads the video to YouTube (unlisted) or Kaltura, then posts the link to their critical friend via a Group discussion forum. They also post one or two questions about which their critical friend can offer feedback. The question(s) are very important so that the feedback isn't overwhelming to either friend. In EDUC 615, critical friends help their partner/group analyze data about their schools and develop action plans for addressing their data. 

  • Collaborate sessions. In both courses, we hold two synchronous class sessions each semester. These are not webinars. They are class sessions structured for prime instructor-student interaction, student-content interaction, and student-student interaction in small group breakout rooms. Since I record sessions for students to rewatch later if they want, I wanted to link one here, however, due to privacy protections, I was not sure that was allowable, so here are slides for two sessions: EDUC 614 (note: in this session, students were chosen to present some of their own students' work so that we could experience a 'protocol' from their textbook. Reading about engagement with colleagues is not enough, we need to try it- even in an online environment! and EDUC 615 (note: in this session, students brought their work to date for a part of their final project to elicit peer feedback).

Criterion 3: Assessment

Criterion #3: Assessment of Online Student Learning and Achievement

My courses are designed backwards with the end in mind. This ensures that course activities are related to the outcomes. To the right  is a simple (homemade:) graphic that I share in my EDUC 614 course illustrating this process.

Each module of my online courses also contains explicitly stated learning objectives that guide the multiple means of formative and summative assessment: discussions, blogs, wiki (assessment via image), padlet, journals, papers, self-analysis, peer analysis, authentic tasks, and  mini-inquiries.

 

These varied assessments are not meant to be a bunch of activities, but rather each is carefully connected to the course outcomes because I have designed with the end in mind. In fact, the syllabi explicitly identify the major course assignments and their relationship to course outcomes. Feedback on formative assessment is meant to inform the final summative assessments of each course. Formative and summative assessments are guided by rubrics (available in the syllabi) that detail performance expectations. When appropriate, exemplar assignments are shared with the caveat that they are not templates to follow but are meant to offer the big picture of what students are building.

The online environment is meant to not be a mirror of a face-to-face course, nor a runner-up. While still achieving comparability of outcomes, I believe that online courses should be their own unique environments for learning that take advantage of the affordances that a digital medium offers. 

backwards design.jpg
Impact

Criterion #4: Teaching Effectiveness and Impact

The evidence for this criterion is in large part located in the portfolio section entitled, Teaching Effectiveness and Impact. Evidence of the service contributions can additionally be found above in Criterion #1. 

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