Monday, August 29, 2016

Global innovation of teaching and learning in higher education: transgressing boundaries - book overview

Global innovation of teaching and learning in higher education: transgressing boundaries edited by P.C. Layne (Elon University, North Carolina) & P. Lake(Sheffield Hallam University) (eds.) 2015 Springer (Switzerland) and read as an ebook with limited loan time (1 day) from Ara library. as per usual, I have summarised chapters pertinent to my work. Overall the book has a higher education focus but many challenges and innovations have been written up to be generalisable across tertiary education.

After an introductory chapter, the book has 20 other chapters grouped into 5 sections.

The introductory chapter, written by the two editors, sets out the background of how the book came about. The authors use the term ‘academic adventurers’ to describe the international group of contributors to the book. The rationale for the book and its contribution to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in higher ed is also presented. In particular, student demographics and the importance of engaging students (mind, body and spirit) are discussed with how each of the chapters connect to the book’s rationale.

Part 1 has 5 chapters focused around ‘transforming the ‘traditional’ in higher ed.

Chapter 2 by J. T. Baun discusses ‘concentrated learning: a linear approach to knowledge in higher ed.’ Concentrated learning is defined and investigated as an option. The distinctions between and history of accelerated, intensive, immersion and concentrated learning are provided. Neurological studies supporting the concept are summarised and discussed. Two case studies are used to unravel recommendations or suggested factors for concentrated courses. These include the need to have active, experiential or applied learning as part of programme design. Instructor enthusiasm and feedback, emphasis on depth of learning and the strategic application of ‘spacing’ to allow students time to digest and reflect.

In the next chapter, P. C. Layne reports on work undertaken at Elon University with ‘higher education: a slow route to revolutionary innovation”. The university undertook comprehensive strategies to support SoTL. Both the physical spaces (whole campus development) and the virtual spaces were developed / structured to engage students in learning. Even the academic calendar was restructured to allow for shorter / ‘condensed’ courses which were also ‘blended’. Student feedback was used to illustrate the impact of the restructure on students’ perception of learning.

Chapter 4 by V. Barnes, D. Gachago and E. Ivala is on ‘digital storytelling in industrial design’ at a South African higher education institute. Background on South African socio-political context and the need to meet the learning needs of a diverse range of students are provided. A Universal Design of Learning framework underpins the approach reported in the chapter. Students’ challenges are discussed. There is good information of how digital storytelling is aligned to UDL principles.
Sue Burkill writes the next chapter on ‘challenging pedagogic norms: engaging first-year undergraduates in an intensive research informed learning programme’. The ‘grand challenges’ approach is described and substantiated through the chapter with examples from work undertaken at the University of Exeter. In essence, the ‘grand challenge’ is an intensive section offering useful and exciting educational experiences – usually completed over part of a ‘summer’ term. Both student and staff perspectives on how the approach work are summarised.

‘Rethinking evidence: assessment in the history discipline in Australian universities’ is the topic of A. Nye’s chapter. A discipline focused study is detailed with the reasons provided for undertaking the study. In short, rationale and suggestions for shifting how assessments are carried out in a traditional discipline. Innovations include – fraudulent evidence task whereby students create a false ‘primary source’ which is inserted into authentic evidence. Other groups are tasked with sifting through the evidence, identifying and rationalising their decision; role play of historical events; and analysis of ‘areas of contention’.

Part 2 showcases global innovations in teaching and learning with two chapters on how to acknowledge and provide opportunities to learn intercultural competency through ‘culturally relevant’ pedagogy.

Part 3 is on ‘transgressing boundaries using technologies’

Chapter 10 by S. M. Morris and J. Stommel is on ‘the course as a container: distributed leanring and the MOOC’. The chapter provides overview of MOOCs, origins, definitions and evolution. The importance of building community through MOOCs is the underlying theme through the chapter. Data visualisation is used to trace and understand the connections MOOC learners make and the communities formed during and beyond the MOOCs. Proposes ‘tenets’ to enhance community building in MOOCs including teachers not being the sole arbiters of the MOOC but to provide opportunities for flexible learning and to make courses more ‘permeable’.

D. R. Kulchitsky, A. F. Zeid and A. M Hamza detail ‘the efficacy of LSA (Variant)-based feedback for assessing student learning in an introductory international relations course’. Details an innovative way (not possible before advent of digital technology) to provide automated feedback / checking of student notes as a course progresses. The process is argued to provide for ‘student-centred digital note-taking’ so students are able to ensure their note-taking assists learning.

Two chapters follow on code-switching (using Twitter as a classroom communication tool) and how to work with conflict in online learning between groups of learners.

Part 4 has 7 chapters on ‘restructuring delivery, formats and modes’

Chapter 14 by R.A. Collins on ‘what’s an instructor to do’ recommends activities useful to support the teacher as innovative learning approaches are entered into. Techniques include allowing for students’ adult learning attributes. Approaches include cooperative / collaborative learning, reflection / concept maps and questioning techniques.

P. Lake contributes to a discussion on ‘does duration matter: a case study’. As accelerated learning is one of the innovations presented through the book, this chapter investigates and substantiates the ‘shortening’ of course time.

Chapter 16 on ‘active student engagement: the heart of effective learning’ is by R. Strachan and L. Liyanage. Active learning approaches are rationalised with good discussion and examples from both on and off campus delivery. The approaches are based on work of Phil Race (ripples model), Salmon’s e-tivities and e-moderation and the REAP approach to assessment and feedback.
Three chapters follow, one on using lego and serious play to ‘learn in three dimensions’ another on contemplation and mindfulness in higher ed. and last one on fostering the affective and cognitive dimension of learning in exploratory search.

The final chapter by the editors brings the book to a close with a discussion on ‘moving the field forward’.

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