By Melissa Wehler, PhD, Dean of Humanities and Sciences
On June 5, 2017, I had the pleasure of representing Central Penn College at the Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning in Bethesda, Maryland. My presentation, co-written and co-presented with Judith Dutill, Instructional Designer at Millersville University, was entitled “Pause Procedure and Reflecting Learning in the Online Classroom” and was presented to a crowd of more than thirty educators from institutions of higher education around the country.
The session reviewed methods and techniques that online teaching faculty can use to engage their online students. First, we discussed the challenges faced by online teaching faculty in designing effective instruction for the online modality and promoted the use of microlectures and pause procedure techniques. Next, we defined the elements of a microlecture and discussed the relevant research on the considerations faculty should make before endeavoring to develop their own microlecture. Finally, we discussed methods for incorporating pause procedure into video lectures and introduced some technical tools to assist with this implementation. Specifically, we reviewed some of the software techniques being used at Central Penn, including Play Posit, Voice Thread, and Office Mix.
In addition to my own session, I attended sessions on:
- What Lies Beneath: Rethinking Major Issues in Teaching and Learning
- Radically Inclusive Classrooms: Promoting and Protesting a Diverse Learning Environment
- #InteractiveLearning: Technology Tools to Engage and Support All Learners
- Advising Online: An Orientation Module to Support Faculty Student Interactions
- Improving Academic Integrity: Evidenced-Based Strategies
While there were many take-aways from the conference, here are a few that resonated with me:
Teaching-oriented versus learning-oriented. During the opening session, Todd Zakrajsek made an excellent point about this issue by asking: “does your lesson change if there are no students in the room?” The question addresses the fundamental difference between teaching and learning. If you can deliver the same presentation, run through the same information, and provide the same talking points to a room of thirty as you can to an empty room, you are probably teaching-oriented. If your lesson plan so thoroughly addresses, integrates, and engages students that you could not possibly proceed, then you are probably learning oriented.
Understand and respect cognitive load. There comes a point where students (and frankly, us as well) reach a point where we cannot take in any more information. Rather than continue past this point-of-no-return, find ways to break up the material. Incorporate reflective breaks to give students a chance to work with the information. Think about the ways to manage the class so that there is some thinking and some doing. Understand that no matter how brilliant the lesson, students can only retain so much.
Ends over means. The role of lecture in the classroom was a hot topic this year, but overall, the sessions I attended seemed to reiterate the same point: engaged students are better than disengaged students no matter the method. Sometimes, lecturing is necessary; sometimes, it’s not. The key is that you know your own strengths and weaknesses as an educator, play to those strengths, and engage your students.
About the Author
Dr. Melissa Wehler serves as the Dean of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of English at Central Penn College. Her academic writing has been published in several essay collections where she discusses topics including the gothic, feminism, performance, and culture. She enjoys teaching classes about writing, literature, culture, and film and has won two teaching awards for her student-centered approach.