I have to admit this week has been a bit of a struggle as far as completing the assigned readings and starting to work on the final project. I have too many distractions in my personal life to name and it leaves me feeling a little drained to focus. That said, I still enjoyed this week’s learning activities and I hope this reflection will highlight some of what I found interesting/important/engaging and applicable to my teaching. It will, however, most likely be a little shorter as I move onto getting into the nuts and bolts of the final project.
I found the readings to be full of much practical advice this week and my biggest takeaway was probably the consistent use of real-world examples or case studies as a way for students to discuss, analyze, and critique some the big ideas we engage with in my writing class. The “theme” is Food Politics and Culture and we read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. While this book is rich in examples and description, it is written in a journalistic style and is not reflective of what they might be reading in the academy, especially for the research project. It provides a great starting point to start thinking about all the issues in food politics and serves as an example of engaging writing, but the jump to researching and writing their own project is just too big for many of my students. The article by Koohang and Smith presented several assignments and a factual situation that followed the constructivist principles in elearning described in the paper. The one I found most useful was a collaborative analysis of different case studies. I could see this collaborative activity as a great intermediary step before students move onto their own personal research project. Students would analyze a case study (a real-world example of the impact an issue/problem in food politics) followed by a peer assessment activity that compared and contrasted of how these different analyses intersect, inform, and pose further questions about that issue. The inquiry process always starts with asking lots of good questions, and the biggest barrier for students really engaging with the inquiry process is probably finding a easy answer that may seem to satisfy but not address multiple perspectives. Asking students to review and critique others’ case study analyses forces them to confront multiple perspectives, both on the issue by the main players and also others interpretations of the problems and main solutions.
The second article by Peterson on Cyber-coaching also posed some interesting questions and made me think about how I might be able to apply different technology tools to streamline the coaching process. Although the author emphasized that the tools to coach should be ones that students should be comfortable with and should not become a distraction in the process, I can see benefit in using some of the new tools such as Vocaroo that might reduce the workload for the instructor. While the purpose is to individualize the instruction to the needs of the student, written comments can take time. To copy and paste standard feedback, as suggested by the author, seems to defy the purpose of coaching. I see coaching as “mentoring” and even though I might have a plethora of prepared comments, I would still find myself needing to edit them. Spoken feedback can be given quickly and will also give those who auditory learners better access to the feedback.
Finally, I wanted to comment on Dr Khalsa’s reflections and thoughts on online course design. It was full of great ideas but the one that stood out to me was the need for application to real-world contexts to really make the learning “stick”. This is another avenue I am going to be exploring for my writing class, as most of my students are required to take my class for general education but have no desire to be in academia once they graduate. The digital world opens up so many possibilities for a writing class to engage in Project-Based Learning that allows students to engage in real-world problem solving requiring analysis and reading of complex texts but the final project might not be the traditional academic essay.
Thanks once again for reading!
Koohang, A., Riley, L. and Smith, T. (2009). “E-Learning and constructivism: From theory to application” Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 5:91-109.
Petersen, N. J. (2004). “Cybercoaching: Rubrics, feedback, & metacognition, oh my!” Paper presented at E.C. Moore Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Indiana University. February 25, 2005.
Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006.