Moving From Teaching To The “Guide On The Side”
In part 1 of this 6-part series, Thomas Stanley looked at an overview of blended learning, specifically the critical interactions of a blended learning model. In part 2, he looked specifically at student-to-student interaction, and the reality of synchronous and asynchronous access. In part 3 below, he takes a look at student-to-teacher interactions, and moving from instruction to becoming the “guide on the side.”
What role should the teacher assume in the blended and online world that will engage students effectively using the tools of technology? Should instruction be direct, or should the teacher just be a “guide on the side”? In an inquiry-based environment there is no doubt that the teacher should become a “guide on the side.” Saying that does not mean that the teacher abdicates his/her responsibility. In fact, it means that the teacher has even more responsibility to work with each student throughout the lesson.
Using a combination of face-to-face, online synchronous and asynchronous environments, there are a number of things a teacher can do to guide students to success. The first key responsibility is for the instructor to organize the blended/online learning environment so that the students understand the project and theme, the need for a plan, the resources they will need, the timelines, how to use the various technologies, and how they will be evaluated. Clearly conveying these responsibilities takes a considerable amount of effort on the part of the teacher; these responsibilities need to be communicated to the learner by blending the real-time and anytime tools. They should be posted in online forums. Also, it is not a bad idea for the teacher to create a video of the assignments. This serves to not only convey the job at hand, but also to be an example of presenting material in a variety of ways.
It is important to remember that the lesson will have a “flow” to it that intertwines the real-time activities with the anytime class work (content/discussion/chat /project areas). Judging that flow is one of the hardest tasks an instructor has during the project. One thing that must be done is to set up a final project due date, and stick to it.
While the lesson is in progress, the teacher will have to work individually with each student, or student group, to guide them toward their goals. Guide does not mean tell them, guide means to evaluate their work by suggesting resources and setting standards that allow students to formulate their own well-documented ideas of what is right or wrong. If the students determine that their original hypothesis is “wrong” then the students must go back and re-do their work and answer the questions that are now appropriate. Whether their work is “wrong” or not, is based on an evaluation by their peers, the teacher, and experts from that field.
Another important role of the teacher during the lesson is to suggest data (websites, experts, etc.) that students can use when analyzing and presenting their findings to the class. This is particularly important if the work is inaccurate or sloppy. The students should have to go back, re-do the research, or restructure the resources, and find more appropriate responses to the questions.
The teacher’s role is to encourage each student group to come up with their own answers to the essential question or problem. Remember, not every student or group will come up with the same “answer” to a question; the students will not only learn the material, but they will learn about the process required to support and execute an answer. As a teacher in this environment, it is necessary to help students learn the proper process to support an accurate measure of their findings. Using an assortment of technology to do this requires a tremendous amount of time and effort on the instructor’s part.
A major part of the teacher’s responsibility is to help students set up the end of the lesson where they will do a quality presentation to real-world experts, defend their ideas, and then re-analyze what they have learned about the subject. To help with this, teachers should have the students identify, at the beginning of the project, a target group of experts, and then help them get these experts or groups organized to come into the classroom. It is also the teacher’s job to work with the students to determine what the finished product should look like.
For example, how much multimedia should be used, what online resources should be used, and what traditional and other resources should be a part of the project as the students begin to publish, post, or share their work. It is an essential part of the lesson that the instructor work closely with the students to help them determine the most effective tools to use and what training the students need in order to accomplish their work.
When different students do the same project, come up with different answers, and present their work to experts from other subject matters or real-world areas, it encourages the young scholar to do quality academic work.
As stated before the teacher’s essential role is guiding the students. The teacher will need to help students find the people or resources needed, to evaluate the thinking process, to determine the accuracy of the work, to fill in missed ideas or needed skills, and to make sure students do a quality job on their work.
Because there are so many fantastic resources found in the online environment to accomplish this awesome task, the teacher is constantly teaching to the moment or evaluating students’ work. Whether a student is a minimalist or completes in-depth research, each individual student is responsible for his/her own work and, in the end, his/her own education. The depth of learning will be greater no matter what level the student seeks for his/her education. By using the variety of instructional tools that are available (real-time and anytime) the online world can be a rich experience for all students.
Image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad