Kristi Bronkey had a nice article in Faculty Focus yesterday entitled “Re-Thinking Direct Instruction in Online Learning.” She noted that while direct instruction had a bad reputation associated with passive learning, it did not have to reflect passivity. She suggested a model framed around the notions of “I Do, We Do, and You Do.”
- I Do – Direct instruction by faculty using screencasts
- We Do – Faculty guided student processes with frequent feedback
- You Do – Students working together in authentic group processes
“Direct Instruction should be an ongoing exchange between professor and students. With effort, creativity, and the intentional use of the I Do, We Do, You Do structure, we can present new information in engaging ways, provide guided feedback as students strive to draw meaning from their new learning, and allow students the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues before independently reflecting on their own learning.”
I was struck by the parallels between Kristi’s article and the research Susan Ambrose and her colleagues published (2010) in How Learning Works: Seven Researched-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.
Kristi noted that for “I Do”, faculty could use short screencasts to help students make connections between the reading assignments and bigger picture aspects of the topic being discussed. She noted that this allowed students to “hear our thought processes.” This aligns nicely with the Knowledge Organization principle:
“How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.”
Students do not have the rich knowledge structure and associated connections of facts that faculty experts draw on when conceptualizing a topic. Articulating these connections can aid student learning.
Faculty screencasts can also help guide the students in both procedural knowledge and the knowledge of how to employ them – steps towards mastery. Developing a concise screencast can help faculty push past their own “expert blind spot” by clearly identifying skills needed and steps for applying these skills. This aligns with another principle noted by Ambrose:
“To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply them.”
Facts can be dry…but rarely come across as dry when a passionate expert discusses them. Screencasts can provide avenues in which this passion of the faculty becomes evident, and that links to student motivation for learning. As Ambrose noted:
“Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.”
Two more principles can surface in the We Do area of learning processes. Students come to our courses with a wealth of knowledge already, and helping students surface that prior knowledge influences how they filter and process what they are learning. If they lack sufficient prior knowledge, learning can be negatively impacted. The facilitative nature of We Do can help engage prior knowledge.
“Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.”
Kristi’s article also discusses the use of frequent feedback. Ambrose noted that learning is best fostered when students engage in practice that is directly linked to learning outcomes, set at an appropriate level of challenge, and is linked to specific and explicit feedback. As Kristi noted, feedback does not simply have to summative – it can be used formatively during learning processes to guide students to higher levels of achievement.
“Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning.”
In the final section of Kristi’s post, she discusses the independent nature of You Do in online learning, but advocates for a mix of group activities and independent metacognitive reflection. Tackling the potential for isolation addresses another principle noted by Ambrose:
“Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.”
The reflection on their own contribution to the progress of learning also aligns with the final principle noted by Ambrose:
“To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.”
I like Kristi’s call to action for online professors. We would not want passivity in our students, and we should not allow our delivery to be passive. Incorporating the concepts of I Do / We Do / You Do as a mindful approach to course design can not only help keep students engaged, but also better incorporate aspects of learning science that we know from research lead to more effective learning.