Chapter 12: Supporting teachers and instructors in a digital age

12.7 Building the future

Print

Figure 6.16 A volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world Image: © Carol Mase, Free Management Library, 2011, used with permission

Figure 12.7.1 Navigating a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world
Image: © Carol Mase, Free Management Library, 2011, used with permission

Print

12.7.1 The rationale for change

This book really sets out the case for increased training in teaching methods, or more accurately a different approach to training, for teachers, instructors and faculty, if students are to be fully prepared for life in a digital age. The argument goes like this:

1. There is increasing pressure from employers, the business community, learners themselves, and also from  a significant number of educators, for learners to develop the type of knowledge and the kinds of skills that they will need in a digital age.

2. The knowledge and skills needed in a digital age, where all ‘content’ will be increasingly and freely available over the Internet, requires graduates with expertise in:

  • knowledge management (the ability to find, evaluate and appropriately apply knowledge);
  • IT knowledge and skill;
  • inter-personal communication skills, including the appropriate use of social media;
  • independent and lifelong learning skills;
  • a range of intellectual skills, including:
    • knowledge construction;
    • reasoning;
    • critical analysis;
    • problem-solving;
    • creativity;
  • collaborative learning and teamwork;
  • multi-tasking and flexibility.

These are all skills that are relevant to any subject domain, and need to be embedded within that domain. With such skills, graduates will be better prepared for a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

3. To develop such knowledge and skills, teachers and instructors need to set clear learning outcomes and select teaching methods that will support the development of such knowledge and skills, and, since all skills require practice and feedback to develop, learners must be given ample opportunity to practice such skills. This requires moving away from a model of information transmission to greater student engagement, more learner-centred teaching, and new methods of assessment that measure skills as well as mastery of content.

4. Because of the increased diversity of students, from full-time campus-based learners to lifelong learners already with high levels of post-secondary education to learners who have slipped through the formal school system and need second-chance opportunities, and because of the capacity of new information technologies to provide learning at any time and any place, a much wider range of modes of delivery are needed, such as campus-based teaching, blended or hybrid learning and fully online courses and programs, both in formal and in non-formal settings.

5. The move to blended, hybrid and online learning and a greater use of learning technologies offers more options and choices for teachers and instructors. In order to use these technologies well, teachers and instructors require not only to know the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of technology, but also need to have a good grasp of how students learn best. This requires knowing about:

  • the research into teaching and learning;
  • different theories of learning related to different concepts of knowledge (epistemology);
  • different methods of teaching and their strengths and weaknesses.

Without this basic foundation, it is difficult for teachers and instructors to move away from the only model that many are familiar with, namely the lecture and discussion model, which is limited in terms of developing the knowledge and skills required in a digital age.

6. The challenge is particularly acute in universities. There is no requirement to have any training or qualification in teaching to work in a university in most Western countries. Nevertheless teaching will take up a minimum of 40 per cent of a faculty member’s time, and much more for many adjunct or contract faculty or full time college instructors. However, the same challenge remains, to a lesser degree, for school teachers and college instructors: how to ensure that already experienced professionals have the knowledge and skills required to teach well in a digital age.

7. Institutions can do much to facilitate or impede the development of the knowledge and skills required in a digital age. They need to:

  • ensure that all levels of teaching and instructional staff have adequate training in the new technologies and methods of teaching necessary for the development of the knowledge and skills required in a digital age;
  • ensure that there is adequate learning technology support for teachers and instructors;
  • ensure that conditions of employment and in particular class size enable teaching and instructional staff to teach in the ways that will develop the knowledge and skills needed in a digital age;
  • develop a practical and coherent institutional strategy to support the kind of teaching needed in a digital age.

 12.7.2 Building your own future

Although governments, institutions and learners themselves can do a great deal to ensure success in teaching and learning, in the end the responsibility and to some extent the power to change lies within teachers and instructors themselves. In probably no other profession is there such an opportunity to work in the way that you choose.

To help you create the kind of teaching needed in a digital age, Appendix 1 provides an exercise for building a rich learning environment for your students, applying the guidelines outlined in this book.

Although a sound basis of knowledge and experience is important, no other quality in teachers is more important than vision and imagination. This book attempts to provide a glimpse into the possibilities of teaching in the future, but that future still needs to be invented. The demands of the market, the ethical and moral challenges of society, changing technologies, and the diversity of learning needs are all components in a complex mix of factors that require an appropriate response from teachers and instructors.

This book attempts to provide some foundations for decision-making in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, and I end with Scenario J that aims to suggest one possibility for the future, but it will be the imagination of other teachers inventing new ways of teaching that will eventually result in the kinds of graduates the world will need in the future. I hope this book in some small way will help you along this road.

Activity 12.7 Develop a future scenario for your teaching

1. Read Scenario G and/or the other scenarios in this book. Now write your own scenario for your own teaching. Do NOT take into account current resources or institutional policies.

2. What would have to change in your organisation to make your scenario possible?

Key Takeaways

1. There is increasing pressure from employers, the business community, learners themselves, and also from  a significant number of educators, for learners to develop the type of knowledge and the kinds of skills that they will need in a digital age.

2. The knowledge and skills needed in a digital age, where all ‘content’ will be increasingly and freely available over the Internet, requires graduates with expertise in:

  • knowledge management (the ability to find, evaluate and appropriately apply knowledge);
  • IT knowledge and skills;
  • inter-personal communication skills, including the appropriate use of social media;
  • independent and lifelong learning skills;
  • a range of intellectual skills, including:
    • knowledge construction;
    • reasoning;
    • critical analysis;
    • problem-solving;
    • creativity;
  • collaborative learning and teamwork;
  • multi-tasking and flexibility.

These are all skills that are relevant to any subject domain, and need to be embedded within that domain. With such skills, graduates will be better prepared for a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

3. To develop such knowledge and skills, teachers and instructors need to set clear learning outcomes and select teaching methods  that will support the development of such knowledge and skills, and, since all skills require practice and feedback to develop, learners must be given ample opportunity to practice such skills. This requires moving away from a model of information transmission to greater student engagement, more learner-centred teaching, and new methods of assessment that measure skills as well as mastery of content.

4. Because of the increased diversity of students, from full-time campus-based learners to lifelong learners already with high levels of post-secondary education to learners who have slipped through the formal school system and need second-chance opportunities, and because of the capacity of new information technologies to provide learning at any time and any place, a much wider range of modes of delivery are needed, such as campus-based teaching, blended or hybrid learning and fully online courses and programs, both in formal and in non-formal settings.

5. The move to blended, hybrid and online learning and a greater use of learning technologies offers more options and choices for teachers and instructors. In order to use these technologies well, teachers and instructors require not only to know the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of technology, but also need to have a good grasp of how students learn best. This requires knowing about:

  • the research into teaching and learning;
  • different theories of learning related to different concepts of knowledge (epistemology);
  • different methods of teaching and their strengths and weaknesses.

Without this basic foundation, it is difficult for teachers and instructors to move away from the only model that many are familiar with, namely the lecture and discussion model, which is limited in terms of developing the knowledge and skills required in a digital age.

6. The challenge is particularly acute in universities. There is no requirement to have any training or qualification in teaching to work in a university in most Western countries. Nevertheless teaching will take up a minimum of 40 per cent of a faculty member’s time, and much more for many adjunct or contract faculty or full time college instructors. However, the same challenge remains, to a lesser degree, for school teachers and college instructors: how to ensure that already experienced professionals have the knowledge and skills required to teach well in a digital age.

7. Institutions can do much to facilitate or impede the development of the knowledge and skills required in a digital age. They need to:

  • ensure that all levels of teaching and instructional staff have adequate training in the new technologies and methods of teaching necessary for the development of the knowledge and skills required in a digital age;
  • ensure that there is adequate learning technology support for teachers and instructors;
  • ensure that conditions of employment and in particular class size enable teaching and instructional staff to teach in the ways that will develop the knowledge and skills needed in a digital age;
  • develop a practical and coherent institutional strategy to support he kind of teaching needed in a digital age.

8. Although governments, institutions and learners themselves can do a great deal to ensure success in teaching and learning, in the end the responsibility and to some extent the power to change lies within teachers and instructors themselves.

9. It will be the imagination of teachers inventing new ways of teaching that will eventually result in the kinds of graduates the world will need in the future.