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For my third course, Theory and Practice of Online Pedagogy, one of my assignments was to write my philosophy of online teaching. I am posting it here so I can easily access it and share with others in the future. And also because I thought it would be neat to get feedback from experienced online educators. The course finished a week ago, and my assignment is already graded, so I'm not trying to get help with my homework! 😉
Please take a look at my philosophy, and let me know what you think!
Sandy's Online Teaching Philosophy
Online learning has transformed and broadened the educational opportunities available to learners of diverse backgrounds, ages, interests, and abilities. As an online teacher, it will be my privilege and responsibility to ensure any students entrusted to me experience meaningful learning which will enrich their lives by moving them toward reaching their personal and professional goals. The key to meaningful learning for students is connection: to me as their teacher, to their fellow students, to course content, and to real-world applications. My priority as an online teacher will be to create conditions in which maximum connection takes place.
Connection is my favorite part of teaching and learning; it is what has excited me from the first time I entered a classroom. Getting to know my students as individuals and watching them grow in their understanding through connecting new ideas with previous learning has always given me a natural high! When I became an online learner myself, earning a master’s degree entirely online, I came to more deeply understand how vital connection was to me. In my traditional classroom experience, connection was a natural outcome of living life with my students every day. In online learning, I realized that connection was not a given. Unfortunately, I learned this by being a student in some classes where I did not feel my instructors knew me or knew how the course content related to my professional work.
As I anticipate teaching online, my goal is to implement effective teaching strategies that were modeled for me as a student as well as best practices I have learned about in both my formal and informal studies. Students will be the focus of my teaching, and personal connection to my students and personalization of their learning experiences will be my top priority.
The methods I will use in teaching will be the primary vector for establishing connections and personalizing learning in my courses. My students will have a clear picture of my expectations and course content to be covered through a detailed syllabus and calendar which will be shared with them on or before day one of the course. Initial activities such as a Getting to Know You discussion board and a synchronous video conference will take place in the first days of the course, and part of the purpose for those activities will be for the students and me to introduce ourselves to one another and discuss the course expectations. Through these connecting activities, early on we will all come to understand that we are in the learning adventure together with other flesh-and-blood people who are unique individuals with valuable contributions to make to the process.
During my courses, my students will have opportunities to make personal and professional connections to the content through discussions, reflections, and posing their own questions to one another and to me. I will actively participate in the discussions and respond to my students’ reflections and questions to get to know them as learners, validate their ideas, and encourage them to stretch their thinking. Whenever possible, the content being discussed will be contextualized in real-world scenarios to make connections to practical applications of the learning. I will be available to my students by email at any time and through online office hours and appointments if they desire to further discuss content or other course matters in a more private setting, and I will reach out to and arrange to meet with students who I sense might be struggling with any aspect of the course.
Assessment of Student Learning
The assignments and assessments in my courses will focus on the application of course content in real-world scenarios. Informal assignments will include discussion board postings or reflections which serve as steps leading up to more formal assessments such as papers or presentations. Formal assessments will be assigned when students need to synthesize and apply large amounts of content or research that is new to them. Whenever possible, assessments will be project-based and will have a direct connection to my students' current or future professions. For example, if I am teaching a course to students who are practicing educators, I will design projects that result in products which my students could use in their current educational setting. Because my students will come from diverse educational settings and have multiple purposes for studying the content in my course, I will include choices for the format of product outcomes while clearly defining requirements for project contents through a rubric.
Assessment of Teaching
The most important evaluation of my teaching will come from my students. Throughout a course, as I monitor student progress and provide feedback on their assignments, I will also be assessing myself. I will ask questions of myself, such as, "Is the quality and content of my students' assignments what I am aiming for? If it is, how can I encourage my students to stretch? If it is not, what must I do to help my students improve and how must I do it?" I will also ask students for informal feedback at critical points in the course, such as when a major project has been explained or is coming due to see if there is any clarification I need to provide or any way I need to tweak the design of the project for the next course iteration. At the end of the course, I will conduct an anonymous survey of my students to see how they rate the course overall, what they liked about the course, and what suggestions they have for improvement. I will study my students’ feedback, look for patterns, and make improvements to my teaching strategies in future courses based on the results.
In the first courses I teach, I will ask a fellow faculty member who is experienced in online teaching and willing to mentor me to be an observer in my class. Their feedback will be valuable as I am gaining my first online teaching experience and seeking to encourage student success and grow as an online teacher. To keep current on best practices and online education research, I will network with other online instructors and maintain connections to professional organizations through Twitter, blogs, and peer-reviewed publications. I also have a goal of conducting action research in my courses to assess and improve my instructional practices and student learning.
When I completed my master's degree in 2010, I was asked to write about my future goals. The goal I wrote about which called to me most strongly was the goal to invest in the continued learning of my fellow educators through teaching them online. I still feel the call of that goal and hope to realize it soon. Nothing inspires me more than investing in the growth of students, and to have fellow educators as learners in my classes, to connect with them where they are in their professional experience and partner with them in the next steps on their journeys will be an enormous privilege. I believe my philosophy of online teaching will guide me in building crucial learning connections for my students and providing them with a fulfilling educational experience.
All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Please see specifics on my re-use policy before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.