Conduct your Orchestra: Teaching Presence (not only) in the Days of Zoom
Combined with the flipped classroom framework, it can enrich collaborative as well as personalized learning. In a nutshell: Anything goes that allows mutual learning and growth. Right?
As it turns out, the smorgasbord of IT-assisted educational tools and options can also create a lot of pressure and stress, leading to burn-out. It does not have to: You, the teacher, are still the conductor of your orchestra, the learning environment. You decide on the outline of the session, engaging pedagogies you are comfortable with, and what content to bring up or extend upon. Or, what to leave out and maybe try next time. Or maybe not.
As you read on, listen to Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 – Bernstein, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Notice, how conductor Leonard Bernstein allows the voices of different instruments to shine?
The Magic Word: Teaching Presence
The concept of teaching presence represents who you are in your natural habitat - the classroom. It is you, with your values, competencies, passions and quirks. Academically, the concept of teaching presence was initially defined as consisting of three categories – (1) design and organization, (2) facilitating discourse, and (3) direct instruction. The importance of the social aspect of teaching was soon paired with facilitating discourse, which remains a key aspect the educational process. Mutual trust, growth and learning are deeply rooted in social relationships. Newer definitions describe teaching presence as the “design, facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes”.
You have options to make choices to create mutually enjoyable learning environments.
Resource: Large Group Session consideration and template
1) Having a break in mind means peace of mind.
Session plans are usually flexible agendas of the following,
I also found that my learners appreciated me sharing my session agenda at the beginning of the session.
2) Pick one IT-tool (not two, not three, just one)
It is called comfort level: Just because there a great educational tools out there, you do not have to use them all at once. Rather, pick one tool intentionally that works best with your approach to pedagogy. Many of my faculty only use PollEverywhere at very deliberate times during the session. As an example, a perception word cloud at the beginning compared with the perception word cloud at the end is a true eye opener and great summary of a session. Other sessions benefit from collaborative online tools such as Padlet that allow collecting students voices in a mutual fashion. Of course, lots of dynamic in the classroom are possible through games, but you can also create a great discourse using just the chat function. My point: Pick one tool – and use it like a virtuoso.
3) Buddy up
Don’t go at it alone - find a faculty colleague, a curriculum support assistance, or your faculty development specialist to team up with you during a session. You deserve support, your role is important! Besides providing honest feedback, your buddy can keep the time for you via texting, work the zoom back-end, help you with polls, or just anything else to make education enjoyable again. So, buddy up (….. and return the favor for your fellow teacher)!
4) Your learners, your co-teachers
Your most important partners for a winning session are…. your learners! Planning for students to enter collaborative learning in breakout sessions enables them to learn from each other and as they listen to different perspectives and articulate their ideas on a given problem or question. Collaborative learning is rooted in the observation that medical students who learned to make a diagnosis as a group reached an appropriate medical judgment faster than individuals working alone. Case-based discussions or short assignments work great and can then be consolidated and summarized once students return to the main room. Hint: Make sure you plan collaborative break-out sessions and debrief from the get-go and leave some time for follow-up questions. Your buddy can help you facilitating, too! For more on break-out sessions, read my blog post here [http://elisabeth-fm-schlegel.weebly.com/elearning-bites/rock-your-breakout-session].
5) Ask for feedback. Lots of it.
Not only in the times like these: we teachers are working under some pressure, striving to help our learners to become their best against all odds. Even having a cool and innovative idea in education creates excitement to share with the class – and creates the pressure of big expectations associated with it. My tip: Ask for feedback early, beyond the institutional evaluation form. It increases engagement, provides a reality check, and allows improving your sessions.
You may approach your course director, your buddy, or learners for feedback through several channels such as email or personal confidential conversations. It is important that you have specific questions that allow an actionable response from the feedback-provider which can be implemented. A great strategy is to pick one aspect of a classroom activity or performance you need to learn more about. Staying in-synch with your own performance is key for continuous improvement and building your confidence.
And last……. these are unusual times. Doubt creeps in and we lose our confidence. Consider your history of successes and your triumphs. You are here because you are a unique teacher.
Anderson, T., Liam, R., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context.
Dankbaar, M. (2017). Serious games and blended learning; effects on performance and motivation in medical education. Perspectives on medical education, 6(1), 58-60.
Kibble, J. D. (2009). A peer-led supplemental tutorial project for medical physiology: implementation in a large class. Advances in physiology education, 33(2), 111-114.
Laal, M. & Laal, M. (2012). Collaborative learning: what is it? Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 31, 491-495.
Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2010). The highly engaged classroom. Solution Tree Press.
Morton, C. E., Saleh, S. N., Smith, S. F., Hemani, A., Ameen, A., Bennie, T. D., & Toro-Troconis, M. (2016). Blended learning: how can we optimise undergraduate student engagement? BMC medical education, 16(1), 1-8.
Whitelock, D., & Jelfs A. (2003). Editorial for special issue on blended learning: Blending the issues and concerns of staff and students. Journal of Educational Media, 28(2-3), 99-100.
Images: Shutterstock; Microsoft Stock Images.
Image 5 Avenues of Understanding/ Marzano 2009: Noah, T (2020, May). Engaging students from entrance to exit: Interactive teaching techniques for the college classroom [Invited closing plenary online session]. 2020 Teaching Professor Virtual Conference.