Teaching Strategies and Faculty Workshops

At Wake Forest to date, we’ve run technology training workshops involving faculty from more than 150 universities and colleges. Our early formats, however, failed.

We started out the logical way, with educational theory and group discussion about course objectives. But most faculty had little patience for Bloom’s Taxonomy or Gardner’s Theories of Multiple Intelligence. These were not the theories of their disciplines! This is not what they had come to learn. They wanted to understand and master uses of the new technology. After a morning of theory, many did not return from lunch.

So, for a brief time, our workshops started with lessons on how to use the comment function within Microsoft Word, how to create a spreadsheet, and how to upload a Web page. This second format was even less successful than the first because the approach was shallow. Faculty wanted substance, not mere technique.

Now, with much greater success, we start with teaching strategies. We still encourage participants to link course redesign with learning theory, but not until the end of the day.

We came to focus on five effective teaching strategies by analyzing how 150 professors at 45 of America’s most wired campuses use technology to enhance their teaching. Writing in Interactive Learning and Teaching with Technology (see www.ankerpub.com/books/brown.html), many of these professors were searching for additional ways to:

  1. Increase interaction, especially by augmenting the quality of communication between themselves and their students
  2. Encourage depth of thought via controversy and debate
  3. Heighten relevance by involving “outside” experts
  4. Customize learning opportunities (“different strokes for different folks”)
  5. Foster collaboration among students.

Computers offered additional options for pursuing the five issues stated above, and the courses were redesigned, not to use computers, but rather to address these issues. The incentive for considering redesign came from an awareness that many new possibilities were being presented by the computer. The outcome of the redesign process included both computer-enhanced alternatives and changes that did not involve the computer.

Throughout the upcoming academic year, I plan to devote a full column to each of these strategies. Although I already have many examples, let me encourage you to write me at brown@wfu.edu about your experiences using technology to address the five strategies.

Today we start our workshops by asking attendees to accept the premise that they will want to use technology for many of the same reasons that our 150 professorial essayists use it. Participants then redesign their courses after learning some of the basic techniques for incorporating the strategies. After the course has been redesigned in skeletal form, they are asked to judge whether the changes make sense in terms of learning theory, and whether they are relevant to theories in their own disciplines.

About the Author

David Brown (brown@wfu.edu) is vice president and dean of the International Center for Computer Enhanced Learning at Wake Forest University.

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