First things first

Much of education today seems to focus on knowledge and content.  However, there continues to be growing demands for abilities outcomes as the end result of an education, ie. ability to use knowledge.  In a discussion with a colleague of mine, Phil Schanely from the Cedarville University Center for Teaching and Learning, he mentioned David Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction.  First principles are the irreducible minimum for teaching.  These are the elements that all educational theories seem to have in common.  He suggests that all of these elements be connected to a real-world problem or task in order for learning to be efficient and effective.

1. Activation: leveraging previous experiences, new experiences, and structure

2. Demonstration: this refers to guided practice; show the learner how to solve the problem

3. Application: let the learner solve more problems with increasing complexity and continued feedback

4. Integration: the learner begins to own the new knowledge and “make it their own” by using it in everyday life.

In looking at many different types of teaching theories and strategies, I think you will see most of these elements.  Which of these elements do you find the most challenging to incorporate?  Do you incorporate all of these in your teaching?  Test it out.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

In previous posts, I mentioned that feedback and practice are essential.  Here are two quotes from Merrill’s article:

“Gardner (1999) and Perkins and Unger (1999) both emphasized the necessity of many opportunities for performance.”

“Feedback has long been recognized as the most important form of learner guidance.”

Merrill MD.  First Principles of Instruction.  ETR&D. 2002; 50(3);: 43-59.   (He also recently published a book that you can find on Amazon.)

You will be assimilated

Technology has become a part of everyday life for most.  I use technology in many different ways.  I use it to deliver content, to give students practice opportunities, to gather data used to give students feedback, to interact with students, and for feedback on my own teaching.  In higher education, there exists a tension between technology and traditional delivery of education.  Here is video that gives some food for thought on the best practices in using technology in education.

As good as it gets

I was conversing with a colleague of mine on the subject matter of faculty development.  Over the years, I have personally needed much development.  Professionally, I feel that one of the greatest barriers to higher levels of care is the lack of development time built in to the average person’s work week.  This leads the professional to choose between personal life and professional development.  Which do you think most often would be chosen?

What would it look like if 4 hours a months were built into a work week for development?  I understand that some go to week long conferences.  But, even then, how much is being used to develop the professional?  If I take just one thing back from a conference, I think I’m doing good.  But, if I had the slow, steady change of more frequent development time, what would be the effects?

Many systems seem to be okay with the product that they produce.  But, the most successful companies don’t rest on their laurels.  They continually ask, “How can we improve?” and “How do we know we are doing our best?”  [This continuous improvement is only one aspect of a professional.]

The tension between good enough and continuous improvement will also exist.  What is one thing that could do today to set you on a path to improve for tomorrow?