Posts Tagged With: teaching

Teaching and Learning – what is it?

This is the first in a series of posts based on things I’m thinking about in relation to the courses I’m teaching this fall. One of the courses is titled the “Teaching/Learning Transaction” and since I inherited the title and description I’m starting out by exploring what the term “transaction” might mean in the context of adult teaching and learning and how choice of terms can influence how we think about what we do.


According to Merriam Webster:

  • Transaction is defined as a business exchange where goods, services, or money are passed from one person, account, etc., to another and the communication involved in that exchange.
  • Relationship is defined as the way in which two or more people, groups, or organizations talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other and the way in which two or more people, groups, or things are connected. 

Taking these terms at the “definitional” level, transaction is more a one-time interaction where relationship implies an ongoing connection. Jarvis (1995) argues that transactions are about self-interest while relationships are about connections and humanity. To muddy things a bit more Merriam Webster adds that:

  • process is a series of actions that produce something or that lead to a particular result or a series of changes that happen naturally.

When we talk about learning we can do that without bringing teaching into the picture at all. Learning is on the learner’s end. What they do. What they know. How their synapses wire together. How their behavior adjusts or skills improve. We spend a good deal of time in adult education talking about self-directed learning and at times it seems like there is an assumption there that no teacher is involved – only a learner and material resources and other people in a more “consulting” role. But when we talk about teaching and learning we bring a more complex interaction into the picture. Whether the context is a community college classroom, a community workshop, an academic or career advising session, an online class, or a private piano lesson the interpersonal interaction drives the process.*

Dees, et. al. (2007) define transaction merely as “the ‘back and forth’ or ‘to-and-fro’ quality of the teaching/learning experience.” (p. 131) and picture an “overall instructional transaction” as a container holding the teacher, the learner(s), the environment, content, assessment, mode of instruction, and teaching style but it’s all crystallized in a specific moment of teaching (and presumably learning). Their purpose is to encourage in-the-moment reflection (likely reflexivity) in faculty so focusing on an individual transaction makes sense there.

Kansanen (1999) talks about this as a teaching-studying-learning process which describes teachers’ activities as teaching, learners’ activities as studying, and the outcome (hopefully) being learning. The description of this interaction is set firmly in an institutional classroom setting but the point that talking about a teaching-learning interaction brings up an impression of the teacher as active and the learner as more passive. While active learning and active construction of understanding/schema/neural networks is much more effective than passive “absorbsion” the language we use influences how we think about concepts and how we act on them.

* An aside: Zürcher (2010) suggests that technically the resources used in more individual self-directed learning can be considered limited “teachers” in an informal learning context and expands the concept of teaching/learning to include things such as videos, books, and study guides. Within the scope of this class many of the topics and strategies we will discuss will be applicable to these non-human interactions but the focus here is on human-human interaction – albeit mediated by time, distance, or mode of communication.

Bradford, L. P. (1958). The teaching-learning transaction. Adult Education Quarterly, 8(3), 135-145.

Dees, D. M., et al. (2007). A Transactional Model of College Teaching. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 19(2), 130-139.

Jarvis, P. (1995). Teachers and learners in adult education: Transaction or moral interaction? Studies in the Education of Adults, 27(1), 24-36.

Kansanen, P. (1999). Teaching as teaching-studying-learning interaction. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 43(1). 81-89

Zürcher, R. (2010). Teaching-learning processes between informality and formalization. the encyclopaedia of informal education.

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Some light summer reading

I ran across some posts from others in learning areas sharing what they have on their bookshelves and I thought I’d share my reading/to read shelf as well.

Books for class prep for fall:
I wish our library had some of these in ebook form to check out.  I like *having* paper copies but it’s a lot more convenient to *read* ecopies when I have my tablet stuffed in my bag and the book is on my desk. 
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Multi-tasking in multi-layered conversations in multiple contexts

This interview is actually a nice bit of introduction to what I’m trying to do in my Introduction to Distance Education Systems course. I’m trying to situate the technology (and a fairly wide variety of technology) in meaningful practice. I’m trying to encourage people to be creative and generative and to reflect on both their generativity and the technology they used to accomplish it.

Where I’m still struggling is how to really encourage them to use the “cultural practices that have started to emerge that help us to navigate though those new technologies, and to engage more fully in participatory cultures” in a transparent manner so we can all learn and reflect on them together. Things like:
  • deciding where it makes sense to pay attention
  • scanning the environment looking for relevant data, digging deep, and engaging with it as needed
  • seeing that we communicate information across multiple channels and in different information contexts
  • working with multi-layered conversations, reading across multiple topics and trying to learn how to connect pieces of information together

Jenkins points out that:

those people who come to technology as adults are going to learn how to use technology when it is meaningful for them to do so, when it is embedded in a community practice that allows them to use the technology as a vehicle towards a set of meaningful goals.  They’re not going to learn how to use technology when they’re asked to use technology in the abstract, and that’s where I think the panic comes in, “I’m not very good at technology.” And I have the same problem as most of the people I work with: If I presented a machine and said, “Learn how to use it,” my first question is, “Why? What is it I want to use it to do?” And that’s a totally legitimate question to ask. So for many of those people, it’s that they haven’t been exposed to something they meaningful want to do using this technology.

I’m seeing that reflected in some of the reflections the students are writing here at the end of the course.  Some of them didn’t think they were “good at technology” but when they diagram their personal learning networks they see there’s a lot more virtual interaction and digital information mining going on than they realized.  As they lay out what tools they’re using they also see how some tools have expanded from the academic area into other areas of their lives as they see the utility of it in various contexts.
I’m hopeful that one thing this class has done for most of the students is to provide a safe opportunity to explore some of the many options for researching, creating, collaborating, and learning that can be used in  elearning.
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maintaining a presence

Presence. Something to think about on many levels.

Here and now however I’m thinking about online presence.  How present am I in the online classes I teach, in the CritLit2010 course I’m participating in this summer, on this blog, on my Amplify blog, on Twitter and so on?  This is not a post about the Community of Inquiry Model – though that is certainly one way to look at presence and one I have used before.  This is more of a personal look at presence.

What do I do and what are others doing when I really *feel* present in an online environment?  What do I need to do for some critical mass of others to *feel* that I am present and an active participant in community?  Here on this blog and other blogs I have had in the past it’s mainly about me taking the time and energy to post something substantial on a regular (at least weekly) basis.  If I stray too long it’s very hard to come back round and re-engage.  (Note to self for dissertation progress as well. ) I like getting comments but I’ve never had a lot of comments on a blog and I don’t tend to comment on others’ blogs.  It’s just not a conversational place for me.

When you go to a class – either physically or in a synchronous online setting – you interact and get feedback and stimulation immediately.  There has been much written about the rapid give-and-take of synchronous meetings versus the time delay of asynchronous ones.  It’s the whole delayed gratification issue.  You send something out and by the time someone replies you may or may not have forgotten where your train of thought was going.  However, the anytime-anywhere flexibility of asynchronous is what attracts many people to online classes and communities in the first place.  And there is a line between being an active presence in a community/class and feeling tied to it 24/7.  I have spoken with faculty who are present in their online courses 7 days a week because they want to be and those who are because they feel they *have* to be and those who state up front that they will only check in the course 4 or 5 days a week and that specifically excludes weekends and holidays.

I was involved in a discussion recently about the minimum size for an online class to run and the real crux of the matter was how many people does it take to carry on a reasonably-paced conversation to maintain interest and motivation for learning?  Of course it depends entirely on how active the participants are but since there is no way of knowing that in advance you have to pick a number and live with it.  (we picked 8.) In the CritLit2010 class, there is not a lot of discussion going on in the course Moodle site but there is a lot of posting going on outside on blogs, Twitter, etc. I have blogged but haven’t participated in any discussion so I don’t really feel like I have a presence in the course yet. 

I had another dissertation interview yesterday and we talked a bit about hand grading papers versus typing in comments.  Is part of “presence” really about, as Virginia Shea would say, remembering that (normally) every user ID in an online setting is a real, live human? I hand wrote comments for one assignment this past spring, scanned them in and uploaded them to the course. It made me feel more present but does it help the students?  Most of the faculty I have interviewed record audio or video for their classes.  Some studies have found that students connected more to online classes if they could see the instructor.  In a smaller-enrollment graduate class (as opposed to a 50+ roster undergrad class) I wonder about the possibility and practicality of having students record audio or video on a regular basis?  It would certainly increase my perception of their presence but it would also increase the amount of time it would take to process their work – both for me and for the other students.  Reading is faster than listening. Are the trade-offs worth it? Is file size still an issue?

I could go off on a tangent about legitimate peripheral participation here but this is long and rambling enough so I’ll save that for another day.

If you’ve actually read through this far please leave a comment so I know someone is present 🙂

Categories: meta, online, teaching | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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