6 papers on education to read this summer to prepare for blended teaching and learning: Ideas for a journal club

Dominik Lukes
Digital Learning Technologist (Saïd Business School
University of Oxford)

Introduction

As the post-isolation summer heaves into view and worries about teaching in uncertain autumn come front of mind, it may be a good idea to review some of the principles we can draw on as educators to help students learn under non-traditional conditions with little guarantee to be the same from week to week. Remote teaching, blended teaching or self-learning – all of these will be a part of our repertoire going forward.

Here is a list of 6 articles that may form a good curriculum for a summer reading club or just anybody’s personal reading or re-reading list. They cover 6 areas that seem relevant to teaching in these times but are really just about good teaching in any context:

  1. Engagement
  2. Cognitive processing
  3. Feedback and formative assessment
  4. Peer instruction
  5. Deliberate practice
  6. Connectivism

Even though the papers come from relatively different traditions of thinking about education and mostly don’t even engage directly with each other’s research, they all build upon one another and put each other in a useful new perspective.

All these papers are concerned with education theory but they are also full of practical ideas. I believe that one can read each one of these papers and find in them something about which they will say “You know, I think this is a good idea, I will try to do that.” In fact, I used some of them in creating a little checklist for online course design. I found it easy to map them onto very practical activities and tools.

In the list below, I provide a very brief summary of why I think the paper is worth reading and provide some alternatives or elaborations. But one thing they all have in common is that they summarise previous work and provide ample references for further reading. Where I could find them, I also point to related YouTube videos or blog posts.

I also created a list of “5 books on knowledge and expertise” that may provide relevant readings.

1. Online Engagement Framework for Higher Education.

Redmond, P. et al. (2018). An Online Engagement Framework for Higher Education’. Online Learning, 22(1). doi: 10.24059/olj.v22i1.1175.

This is a good place to start because it summarises the literature on student experiences of online learning and builds a useful framework for thinking about it through 5 modes of engagement: 1. Cognitive, 2. Behavioural, 3. Collaborative, 4. Emotional, 5. Social. These are not mutually exclusive or always clearly delineated but it is easy to see how we often focus on some to the exclusion of others.

This paper was also summarised with some practical tips in a recent blogpost on the ALT Blog by Gabi Witthaus. Recording of a webinar with the paper authors is also available.

An alternative view of engagement that is complementary can be found in Tanis (2020) who draws on the famous ‘Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education’ by Chickering and Gamson (1987) and shows how they are seen by students and faculty in an online course.

2. Cognitive engagement and ICAP Framework.

Chi, M. T. H. and Wylie, R. (2014) The ICAP Framework: Linking Cognitive Engagement to Active Learning Outcomes. Educational Psychologist, 49(4), pp. 219–243. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2014.965823.

I think of the lessons of this paper as best summarized by “There is no learning without engagement but there is engagement without learning”. It takes the ‘cognitive’ mode of engagement mentioned in Redmond et al. and drills down into what kinds of engagement make for learning. Its central theses is that the four kinds of engagement Passive, Active, Constructive and Interactive build on each other and progressively lead to more learning expressed by the formula I > C > A > P.

The greatest strength of this paper is that it is supremely practical and brings together decades of research on learning in a way that makes good sense. It can be used to design classroom activities, the entire curriculum but it also is a great framework for interpreting results of research. It can also be used as a way of interpreting student behaviour in and and out of the classroom.

The follow up paper Chi and Menekse (2015) which looks more deeply at effective student interactions is also well worth reading.

A complementary view from Fiorella and Mayer (2016) provides more examples of engagement activities that lead to learning.

Michelene Chi talks about the framework in a public lecture and Richard Mayer talks about his cognitive learning framework related to multimedia learning in this presentation.

3. Feedback, formative assessment, and distance education

Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2005). Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students’ Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1(1), pp. 3–31.

Gibbs and Simpson provide another perspective on the need for active engagement with the content of teaching by the students. They identify 10 conditions under which feedback can be effective based on a survey of research into feedback and formative assessment. Their main message is that feedback can only be effective if it is relevant to student improvement. This will be seen as even more important in Ericsson et al. (1993) the fifth paper on the list which sees actioned feedback as the main characteristic of deliberate practice.

Graham Gibbs expressed this message most starkly in a lecture on this topic with the slogan: “Feedback doesn’t work because the teachers give it, it works because something goes on in the students’ head.” (min 20:26). Surely, this could be said about instruction in general. (For a quick look, slides from the talk are available.)

4. Peer instruction

Crouch, C. H. and Mazur, E. (2001). Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics. American Association of Physics Teachers, 69(9), pp. 970–977. doi: 10.1119/1.1374249.

Taking the theme of interaction and engagement even further is this paper on peer instruction based on Eric Mazur’s famous work at Harvard. Crouch and Mazur summarise the key outcomes of research into this technique that relies on peer explanations to promote understanding. Astute and non-astute readers alike will note that sections of this paper basically describe the flipped classroom before video. There is also a clear parallel to peer instruction in the famous ‘hole in the wall’ experiments summarised in Mitra and Dangwall (2010).

Going further, Balta et al. (2017) conduct a meta analysis of research in Peer Instruction and find the positive effects can also be moderated by cultural differences. As a complement to this, Nokes-Malach (2015) provide a more uptodate summary of research on student collaboration and provide a framework for thinking about when it does and does not work.

Eric Mazur talks about Peer Instruction in this lecture and examples of what this looks like are shown in a video from Harvard. Sugata Mitra describes his experiments in a famous TED Talk and talks about it in more detail in this lecture on the Future of Learning.

5. Deliberate practice

Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T. and Tesch-Romer, C. (1993). The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), pp. 363–406.

Ericsson’s work on deliberate practice (made famous by Gladwell’s 10,000 hours) does not often get mentioned in the context of education. And reading this paper, you could be forgiven for questioning its relevance. It spends most of its time talking about exceptional expert performance being the result of years of training. It also looks at examples from sports, musical performance and typing rather than doing well on a history exam. But the framework for thinking about practice as developing mental representations through a focused effort supported by feedback is very much complementary to the four previous papers. It rethinks the role of the teacher as a coach which is also very relevant but ultimately, it places emphasis on learner effort, which puts it directly in line with all the other papers on this list.

Ericsson (who sadly died earlier this year) also described the framework in more detail in the popular book Peak (Ericsson and Pool 2016).

There is a video of an interview with Ericsson that ranges over some of these subjects and a 7 minute video summary of Peak that highlights the key points.

6. Rhizomatic education and connectivism

Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum. Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 4(5). Available at: https://www.learntechlib.org/p/104239/ (Accessed: 20 June 2020).

This paper is the most theoretical of the 6 and has the least in it that is practical. It is programmatic and speculative. But I think it opens up an interesting question about the nature of knowledge that the other papers left mostly alone. It’s contribution is it the central metaphor of contrasting a view of knowledge as a tree, orderly, mathematizable, with clear roots and knowledge as a rhizome, distributed, interconnected, ever-changing and even anarchic. While the other papers mostly stayed within the bounds of traditional education with something added, this one imagines possibilities of rethinking the structures which we take for granted.

This key note lecture by Cormier is a very good complement to the paper. Dave Cormier also blogs about his work and teaching and his book in progress on the subject is publicly available. What’s more, to see this in practice, the skeleton of the the course on rhizomatic learning conducted in a rhizomatic fashion (#rhizo14) is available on P2PU.

It is useful to contrast Cormier’s vision with things that can happen when it is put into practice. Mackness et al. (2016) describe the experiences of students who took part in #rhizo14. Many of the lessons they outline apply even to traditional courses.

An alternative formulation of Rhizomatic learning has been put forward under the heading of “connectivism” (sometimes heard when people mention connectivist MOOCs (or c-MOOCs) which were the original MOOCs run by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Siemens and Conole (2011) are a good overview of the approach.

List of videos

Pro tip: You can listen to these videos as podcasts on your favourite podcast player via the free service Huffduffer. I’ve already Huffduffed some of them on my channel.

AERA 2017: Distinguished Contributions to Research in Ed Award (2016) Address: Micki Chi (2017). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-y9wFA0gj0&t=138s (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

Dave Cormier. The rhizomatic lense – ICERI2015 Keynote Speech (2015). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROkbPHyb1D0&t=1s (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

Designing Multimedia Instruction to Maximize Learning – Dr. Richard E. Mayer Lecture (no date). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5i3f9E53Og (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic learning (2012). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJIWyiLyBpQ (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

Eric Mazur, Harvard University. Peer Instruction (2014). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UJRNRdgyvE (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

Eric Mazur shows interactive teaching (2012). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wont2v_LZ1E (Accessed: 22 June 2020).

How to Master Anything: PEAK by Anders Ericsson | Core Message (2016). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoUHlZP094Q&t=5s (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

‘Improving student learning through assessment and feedback in the new…’ (2012). Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/city-ldc/improving-student-learning-through-assessment-and-feedback-in-the-new-higher-education-landscape (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

New experiments in self-teaching | Sugata Mitra (no date). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk60sYrU2RU (Accessed: 22 June 2020).

Online learning beyond the technology: Reconceptualising online engagement | Association for Learning Technology (2020). Available at: https://www.alt.ac.uk/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=507 (Accessed: 22 June 2020).

Professor Graham Gibbs at the Learning @ City Conference 2012 (2012). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbzMTXRBcQk (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

Skill Mastery & Peak Performance via Deliberate Practice with Psychologist Anders Ericsson (no date). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiBne5EGBQ8 (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

Sugata Mitra: The Future of Learning (2015). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-e9WRMWcdI (Accessed: 22 June 2020).

References

Balta, N., Michinov, N., Balyimez, S., & Ayaz, M. F. (2017). A meta-analysis of the effect of Peer Instruction on learning gain: Identification of informational and cultural moderators. International Journal of Educational Research86, 66-77. doi: 10.1016/j.ijer.2017.08.009

Chi, M. T. H. and Menekse, M. (2015). Dialogue Patterns in Peer Collaboration That Promote Learning’, in Resnick, L. B., Asterhan, C. S. C., and Clarke, S. N. (eds) Socializing Intelligence Through Academic Talk and Dialogue. American Educational Research Association, pp. 263–274. doi: 10.3102/978-0-935302-43-1_21.

Chi, M. T. H. and Wylie, R. (2014). The ICAP Framework: Linking Cognitive Engagement to Active Learning Outcomes’, Educational Psychologist, 49(4), pp. 219–243. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2014.965823.

Chickering, A. W. and Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. AAHE Bulletin. Available at: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED282491 (Accessed: 8 June 2020).

Cormier, D. (2008) ‘Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum’, Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 4(5). Available at: https://www.learntechlib.org/p/104239/ (Accessed: 20 June 2020).

Crouch, C. H. and Mazur, E. (2001). Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics. American Association of Physics Teachers, 69(9), pp. 970–977. doi: 10.1119/1.1374249.

Ericsson, A. (2016). Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. London: The Bodley Head.

Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T. and Tesch-Romer, C. (1993). The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), pp. 363–406.

Fiorella, L. and Mayer, R. E. (2016). Eight Ways to Promote Generative Learning’. Educational Psychology Review, 28(4), pp. 717–741. doi: 10.1007/s10648-015-9348-9.

Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2005). Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students’ Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1(1), pp. 3–31.

Hay, D., Kinchin, I. and Lygo‐Baker, S. (2008). Making learning visible: the role of concept mapping in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 33(3), pp. 295–311. doi: 10.1080/03075070802049251.

Mackness, J., Bell, F. and Funes, M. (2016). The rhizome: A problematic metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 32(1). doi: 10.14742/ajet.2486.

Mitra, S. and Dangwal, R. (2010). Limits to self-organising systems of learning—the Kalikuppam experiment. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), pp. 672–688. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01077.x.

Nokes-Malach, T. J., Richey, J. E. and Gadgil, S. (2015). When Is It Better to Learn Together? Insights from Research on Collaborative Learning. Educational Psychology Review, 27(4), pp. 645–656. doi: 10.1007/s10648-015-9312-8.

Patchan, M. M., Schunn, C. D. and Correnti, R. J. (2016). The nature of feedback: How peer feedback features affect students’ implementation rate and quality of revisions’. Journal of Educational Psychology. 108(8), pp. 1098–1120. doi: 10.1037/edu0000103.

Redmond, P. et al. (2018). An Online Engagement Framework for Higher Education. Online Learning, 22(1). doi: 10.24059/olj.v22i1.1175.

Siemens, G. and Conole, G. (2011). Connectivism: Design and delivery of social networked learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3).

Tanis, C. J. (2020). The seven principles of online learning: Feedback from faculty and alumni on its importance for teaching and learning. Research in Learning Technology, 28. doi: 10.25304/rlt.v28.2319.

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