LIGHTNING / BIG IDEA / ON LINE ARCHEOLOGY
Smart people have thought a lot about how to teach classical antiquity and archeology on-line, but it’s mostly new wine in old amphorae.
SOURCE: The arts of ancient Greece: the birth of classical taste by Plantzos Dimitris, University of Athens
I’m working on a micro learning module of a CUNY Graduate Center MALS course on classical antiquity in New York architecture. To get a handle on the size and subject range of e-learning in a related subject, I examined an on-line course offered by the University of Athens, “The arts of ancient Greece: the birth of classical taste”.
The syllabus for the 12-week video course provides a good structure for dividing the subject into time and topic headings and methodology. The Athens course is a digital reflection of a face-to-face course. Each week a new lecture video or set of readings is posted to the class along with assignments and exercises. One face-to-face class is scheduled with the teaching staff, and students are encouraged to email and post questions to stimulate interactivity.
In the end, it seems like applying new technology to old methods, using video and a learning management system to replicate the classroom experience. It’s time-shifting and place-shifting with some increased student autonomy, but it can’t deliver the full value of the face-to-face experience. Compared to the old methods, it’s only slightly different and not any better.
This article focuses on research done in the last 17 years in looking at efficacy in traditional versus alternative teacher preparation programs. The main conclusions from the piece were that:
“Traditional teacher preparation consistently yields better instructional knowledge, self-efficacy, and teacher retention than alternative preparation across all levels of schooling, except kindergarten…Studies comparing alternative and traditional teacher preparation programs have yielded mixed results in relation to student achievement. Several studies revealed that less selective alternative preparation programs were either substantially less effective or slightly less effective than traditional programs.”
The issue with the argument and most of the reviews for me as a reader is how these researchers assess teacher effectiveness. Teacher effectiveness is commonly assessed student learning gains in end of year term scores or standardized testing. I am not sure if this is giving us the right information because student success for one person may be very different for another.
The article did support one portion of my big idea, the plan to include selective admissions criteria in the teacher preparation program.
“Some studies revealed that less selective alternative preparation programs were either substantially less effective or slightly less effective than traditional programs.”
The need to push through and create a more revolutionary program within a traditional teacher preparation program seems to be a benefit for both the teachers and their students.
My first job out of college was a 40-hour a week graduate assistantship with the Office of Student Activities at Fairfield University in Connecticut. Having worked anywhere from 15 to 50 hours a week since the age of 13, having a job wasn’t an unfamiliar concept but having the same job for all 40-hours rather than bouncing between part-time gigs was. My graduate assistantship paid for my master’s degree which meant that from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I was working and then for two nights a week from 6 p.m. until about 8 or 8:30 p.m. I was in class. It was one of the few, if only in the region, graduate assistantships in higher education that paid for a MBA versus requiring graduates to be a part of an education-based master’s program.
I was able to secure this opportunity through the advocation of a quasi-mentor and a supervisor while finishing my final year of undergraduate work. The quasi-mentor had worked with me since my sophomore year and supervised me for one of those years. Since we “came up” together, me becoming a senior leader on campus and her being promoted from assistant director to director of the activities office, there was a collegial/mentoring relationship there. The other supervisor was my supervisor for my role as a resident assistant. Both of these woman knew me well enough at that time to know that without a push, I wouldn’t have thought I was a viable candidate for such a prestigious opportunity. They both pushed me to apply and wrote letters of recommendation and I was interviewed on-campus and subsequently earned one of 3 spots.
As I mentioned, I was prepared to do 40 hours of work total and thankfully due to the structure of the position, it was almost like having 3 to 5 part-time jobs but housed in the same building. My role, in the first year, was to advisor two class councils, the student senate, facilitate a first-year seminar course, and manage the on-campus pub. Each responsibility requiring a somewhat different approach based on the personnel and goal of each group. Coming from a small business school where everything we run pretty much like a business, I was woefully underprepared to “advise” students or assist them in their “development” as students and/or campus leaders. At first, I ran things as a supervisor with rules, policies, and my assumption was that since I set the goals, they should follow the ideas and path I’ve laid out for them. Wrong. So wrong. Terribly wrong. That is almost a textbook example of how not to be an educator especially when the ultimate goal of my position was to advise and help students learn. After the first year, I was fully capable of doing the tasks of the job but I was severely deficient in working with the people in the job.
I only began to put an effort towards changing that after my boss had a serious meeting with me about why I was not having any fun in the position. He had to reframe it for me to realize that every responsibility I had operated in a grey area and not in a black/white dichotomy of right and wrong. The grey area being that I was to serve as a guide on the side and not the sage on the stage when dealing with the students. The position was designed to assist and advise, not supervise and lead. That was a struggle for me. It changed when I went to my first higher education conference and learned from a mentor I was paired up with who had been in the field for 30 years. He said that in 30 years he never had two of the same day and that he could not wait to get back to campus to apply some of the new things he’d learned. A professional in the field for 30 years who still had something to learn? The concept was a foreign thought for a business student fresh out of school thinking they knew it all but one that eventually would become my calling. To develop, encourage, and design ways for professionals to continue their learning during and beyond their working years. In my second year, I was placed in the new student experience role which encompassed all responsibilities regarding the first year experience program and new student orientation programs.
I left my first job with a job offer to stick around on campus in a different role. I had other offers from other institutions but none could match the benefits, location, and community of what Fairfield University offered. Eighteen months later, I would leave Fairfield for another role due to the impending layoffs and also to move back closer to home (Massachusetts). They never refilled my position.
Did college prepare me for that position? Yes and no. It made me feel like I could take on the world with the amount of experience and opportunities I was able to take advantage of but it never made it seem like I had to keep learning after graduation.
Ann Webster-Wright (2009) explores the concept of professional development through the lens of authentic professional learning. Her approach for this dichotomy is that professional development views the employee as starting with a deficiency that must be corrected with more knowledge or training. This is where Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed comes to mind as he looked at banking education versus problem-posing education. Freire (1970) wrote that students were/are often viewed as empty vessels that need to be filled with knowledge from the educator. This puts the student in the seat of being oppressed in a way as all their knowledge must come from the educator (oppressor). Freire’s suggestion to counter this approach is the problem-posing education where student and educator are working in concert to solve problems.
Webster-Wright (2009) drives a stake through the heart of the matter of professional development when she states that PD [professional development] looks at employee not as professionals engaged in self-directed learning but rather as people in need in further training to become whole in their roles. She compares PD to an effort of “topping up” a tank of knowledge that has run low for the employee. Freire’s influence comes into play again here as Webster-Wright argues that professional development means something needs to be “done’ to the professional in terms of “training” or “development” which implies a transmission of knowledge from oppressor to oppressed.
With Webster-Wright’s article and Freire’s influence, I am beginning to struggle with whether Defiant Learning will be a model, a framework, a theory, or a program/curriculum.
Webster-Wright, A. (2009). Reframing professional development through understanding authentic professional learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 702-739