Questions to Ask Before Engaging Faculty and Staff in Becoming Learning-Centered Dr. Jo Allen Senior Vice President & Provost Widener University Chester, Pennsylvania San Diego 2007
Presentation Overview • Faculty Perspectives • Learning and Learning-Centeredness • Learner and Learner-Centeredness • Implications for the Faculty • Group Perspectives • Administrative Perspectives • Institutional Perspectives
Do We Know What “Learning-Centered” Really Means? • Assumptions • Educational institution • We are all about “learning” • We know how to “center” something • How can we not be learning-centered?
If we aren’t learning-centered, we must be …. • Enrollment/Business centered • Faculty-centered • Student-centered • Mission-centered • Administration-centered • Something else???
If we aren’t learning-centered, we must be …. • Teaching Centered (?) • TOP Concerns • “Cover the text.” • “What do my peers think of my teaching?” • “I stand for quality and high standards.” • “It’s our job to weed out ill-prepared students.”
If we aren’t learning-centered, we must be …. Teaching Centered !CAUTION! Faculty Development Faculty Evaluations
Back to being “learning-centered”… What do you know about learning?
What do you know about learning? • What works? • For whom? • Under what conditions? • For what purposes? • Rewards? • Punishment?
To Focus on LEARNING… We have to study what learning actually is by understanding “contemporary theories of learning and knowing [that] emphasize the way knowledge is represented, organized, and processed in the mind.” Knowing What Students Know. 2001.
To Focus on LEARNING… Focus on what students need to know (not what you need to teach them). • Prioritize conceptual/contextual knowledge • Prioritize skill sets within those contexts • Prioritize developmental practice of those skill sets • Prioritize theoretical sophistication • Prioritize advanced skill sets
To Focus on LEARNING… • Recognize that students learn from multiple sources in multiple situations • Provide theoretical similarities (schema) • Provide practical similarities • Provide opportunities for others to teach/demonstrate (groups, field or clinical settings, guest speakers, etc.) • Provide context and practice for transfer of knowledge and skills
To Focus on LEARNING… • Decide which model of cognition and learning will serve best. • Short-term memory or long-term memory? • Individual learning or social/participatory learning? • Capacity for organizing learning for recall? • Application of stored learning (critical thinking) to address multiplicity of complex situations?
To Focus on LEARNING… • Make obvious schemas that help organize information contextually • Measure the attribute of relevance • Chunk information into manageable units • Recognize patterns • Work for rapid retrieval and application of knowledge
To Focus on LEARNING… • Explore expert-novice differences in knowledge and skills. • Extend opportunities that promote meta-cognition. • Graph learning strategies on a continuum correlating to development of efficiency and appropriateness for knowledge & skill. • Make students’ strategies for learning visible to create choices for teaching/learning. • Offer substantial, timely, and informative practice and feedback.
To Focus on LEARNING… • Help students understand conditions under which knowledge and skills learned in one context can be transferred to another. • Practice communication strategies that promote and demonstrate learning, as well as demonstrating the actual use of the tools of communication.
OR… Focus on the LEARNER
Five Key Changes to Practice • The Balance of Power • The Function of Content • The Role of the Teacher • The Responsibility for Learning • Evaluation Purpose and Processes • Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Changes to Practice. 2002.
How can I share power, responsibly? • Activities and Assignment Decisions • Course Policy Decisions • Course Content Decisions • Evaluation Activities
How can I share power, responsibly? • How much power is enough? • How much freedom can they handle? • When do teachers compromise professional responsibilities?
How can I rethink content to make it learner-centered? • How much content is enough? • How do we change attitudes about the role of content? • What about students at different skill levels? • How do I adapt general learning activities to fit the content I teach?
How can I revamp my role as teacher to promote learning? • Allow students to do some of the learning activities (organization, questions, diagrams, etc.) • Do less telling so students can do more discovering. • Do more design work.
How can I revamp my role as teacher to promote learning? • Do more modeling. • Do more to get students learning from and with each other. • Do work to create climates for learning. • Do more with feedback.
How do I promote students’ responsibility for learning? • Create conditions and develop policies and practices that enable them to understand their responsibility and then empower them to accept it. • Communicate logical consequences, not discipline. • Be consistent.
How can I use Evaluation and Assessment to promote learning? • Promote self-reflection and evaluation. • Promote peer reflections and evaluations. • Develop critical thinking dialogues. • Develop rubrics that differentiate levels of mastery.
Questions for the Faculty Am I bold enough?
What happens when we talk about LEARNERS vs. LEARNING?
Implications • Resistance • students • peers • parents • deans • and others? • Benefits (What will this approach enable you, your students, and your institution to do?)
Questions for a faculty group Are we on the same page?
Questions for the group… • Can we work together to study and reflect on what we know about learning and what we know about learners? • Can we devise ways to measure students’ learning over time, rather than at a single point in time? • Can we work together to promote the value of multiple sites of learning and multiple demonstrations of learning? • Can we work together to model meta-cognition and reflection about learning throughout their experiences?
Questions for the group… • Can we work together to agree on a continuum of learning that would allow students to demonstrate both where their learning falls along that continuum, as well as what/how they may anticipate their next steps? • Can we work together to agree on the most relevant aspects of the learning situation and the demonstration of learning? • Can we work together to revamp our system of rewards for faculty (reappointment, tenure, promotion, merit pay, etc.) to accommodate our new perspective and research?
Questions for Administrators Do I have the influence, trust, and stamina to make this work?
Questions for Administrators • Is there a dominant will among the faculty and staff to be learning-centered and learner-centered? If not, how can I prompt that focus? OR… • Is there an identifiable group of pioneers on campus who want to explore and model this commitment? • Is there an identifiable group of pioneers who understand and value assessment and want to apply it to multiple realms and sites of learning and to whatever we move toward as an institution?
Questions for Administrators • Do I have the requisite understanding of what I am asking my faculty and staff to do in terms of teaching and learning? In terms of assessment? In terms of using the results of assessment? • Time * collaboration • Resources * integration • Expertise * potential conflict • Support * commitment
Questions for Administrators • Am I prepared to articulate how I intend to use the results of teaching, learning, and assessment work? • Budget implications • Group and individual rewards and recognition • Showcases for programs • Campus * publications • Community * websites • Accreditation * marketing • Donors & other constituencies
Questions for Administrators • Am I prepared to support this initiative—financially, philosophically, and professionally? • Am I prepared to answer questions about academic freedom? • Am I prepared to answer questions about quality? • Am I prepared to support tenure, promotion, and reappointment decisions that will necessarily be difficult/different?
Questions for ALL… Are we a team of learners, ready for change, in order to promote more learning?
Questions for All… Can we acknowledge each program’s uniqueness and, thus, the potential uniqueness of its teaching, learning, and assessment approaches?
Questions for All… Can we count on both the individual effort, as well as the team effort, in our work?
Questions for All… Are we open to advanced or entrepreneurial approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment?
Questions for All… Can we keep the focus on learning and, especially, on new research on learning (and teaching that accommodates that research)?
Questions for All… • Are we prepared to have conversations about rewards for conducting research in teaching, learning, and assessment? And to commit to honoring those rewards throughout the personnel review cycle?
Questions for All… • Can we place the appropriate attention on teaching as a strategy or tool (through faculty development and faculty evaluations) in the context of being learning- or learner-focused, rather than as a product in itself?
Questions for All… Can we consistently focus our learning-centeredness within the context of our institutional mission?
Can we consistently focus our learning-centeredness on the students we attract to our institution? Questions for All…
Questions for all… • Are we prepared to defend each other—and our proven strategies—for teaching and learning that defy traditional approaches? to any group or stakeholder?
Questions for All… Are we ready to celebrate all meaningful victories—both small and large—in our students’ learning outcomes?