In my last blog post, I promised to share more findings on viewing faculty-development programs through the lens of TPCK after trying to implement the TPCK framework into our faculty development program—DePaul Online Teaching Series, or DOTS. This program, offered in both a quarter-long and an intensive three-week format, is intended to prepare faculty to design online and hybrid courses. A total of twenty-one DePaul faculty members from psychology, public services, and education attended DOTS in spring and summer 2008.
My attempt to apply TPCK to DOTS yielded interesting results. While the overall high rating of the program showed how meaningful it is to blend technology (T), pedagogy (P), and content knowledge (CK) together through concrete examples, some feedback from faculty attested the old adage, “rules are made to be broken”—including the rules of TPCK. As I explained the rules of TPCK in my previous blog post, I ‘d like to share with you some lessons learned on how to strategically “break” the T, P, and CK bundle (as long as they can be molded back together at a certain point of the process).
Specially, here are three lessons learned from DOTS:
- Clear the T (technology) barriers before plugging in T, P, and CK as a whole.
- Maintain a good balance of Pedagogical preface and TPCK examples.
- Breaking the discipline (CK) boundary with an elegant match of Technology and Pedagogy is possible.
Clear the T (technology) barriers before plugging in T, P, and CK as a whole.
If you have read Joann Golas’s post on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Faculty Support, you don’t need any more explanation about why we should clear the T barriers before doing anything else. As Joann cited in her post, Eric Larson illustrated in his presentation that faculty use of technology for teaching loosely follows Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; that is, until the basic needs—Biological and Physical, Safety, and Belongingness and Love—are taken care of, faculty will not be able to reach any higher stage on the hierarchy, including Esteem, Cognitive, Aesthetic, Self-actualization, and Transcendence.
In arranging the summer DOTS program, we made plans to take care of those “lower needs” at the very beginning:
- The first stage, the Biological and Physical need, was addressed by providing each participant with a pre-imaged and fully tested laptop.
- The second stage, Safety, was addressed by using technology brush-up and intro sessions to erase the fear of using technology. Two intensive tech training days were scheduled to refresh faculty’s Blackboard skills and to introduce a number of basic technology tools that faculty need to be acquainted with to become online instructors.
- The third need, Belongingness and Love, was met by surrounding faculty with technical supporters in the training room. During the training sessions, a 1:2 staff to faculty ratio ensured that no one was left alone to struggle by him- or herself. Also, sitting with their peers in a group gave faculty the opportunity to share the same fears and desires.
This arrangement also reflects Punya Mishra’s premise of creativity, which states that the path of technology usage goes from mechanical to meaningful to generative. The mechanical stage is necessary to bring faculty on board on any type of new technology.
Faculty responses also reinforced the effectiveness of addressing their needs in a hierarchical way: the tech sessions of DOTS received almost all full scores from the participants in regard to their appropriateness on the evaluation sheets.
Maintain a good balance of pedagogical talk and examples of TPCK.
The TPCK framework carries a strong message of delivering both pedagogical and technical training through showcases—that is, to plant the T and P into the disciplinary (or the CK) context. Showcases are, therefore, a key method used by DOTS, for which many of the teaching strategies and technologies are presented in a show-and-tell mode. One thing I found by observing showcase presenters is that they usually put the “tell” (explaining the contextual/theoretical background, design philosophy and rationale, and even some lecture review) before the “show” (going through the course site). In the evaluation, faculty strongly recommended that we cut down the “front end” as to allow more time to explore the course. It is interesting to find that although almost all of the front-end talks have focused on pedagogical aspects of the design, audience still treat them as teasers before the “real thing,” and they want a teaser to be no longer than a commercial.
Will it work better to reverse the sequence from a tell-and-show mode to literally, a show-and-tell? Or what about inserting the pedagogical explanation into the “course tour” so that the “tell” is part of the “show”? The answers will be found through future DOTS sessions.
Breaking the discipline (CK) boundary with an elegant match of Technology and Pedagogy is possible!
In selecting guest speakers for the DOTS program, I wanted faculty presenters from the same discipline as the participants. I thought the ideal presenter would be someone who not only has outstanding online-teaching experiences but also speaks the same disciplinary language as our faculty participants. I believed that the relevance of content knowledge (CK) would make pedagogy (P) and technology (T) more approachable to faculty.
Yet, despite my suggestion, my staff picked, from a number of potential speakers, a person who was not in the field of psychology, education, or public services. Michelle Pacansky-Brock, an art-history professor from Sierra College was chosen to showcase her online courses. As it turned out, her session was scored the highest of all four guest speakers for DOTS. Michelle, a 2007 Sloan-C winner of the Excellent Online Teaching Award, conducted a breathtaking presentation, “Extreme Makeover: Online Course Edition,” and captured our hearts with not only her use of technology but also her passionate and devoted style of teaching. I am so glad that I wasn’t listened to, because otherwise, I would have missed Michelle, who taught me a great lesson—an elegant match of technology and pedagogy is like music that can strike beyond the linguistic boundary of any discipline.
You may click here to read Michelle blog about her experience with DOTS.