Essence of the paradigm shift in instructional design theory and practice

The paradigm shift in instructional design theory and practice refers to the necessary change in emphasis from teacher-centered to learner-centered instruction. No longer is the traditional view of education of “presenting content to students” the focal point of ISD. Rather, the emphasis should be on ensuring that learners understand what they are taught (Reigeluth, 1999) and that they have meaningful and engaging opportunities in which to construct this learning.

This paradigm shift in ISD is absolutely critical to the field of religious education (RE). The RE field is considerably behind public education and corporate training models in relation to the having this learner-centered perspective. In far too many churches and organizations within evangelical religious circles the emphasis is still on “how to teach a lesson” rather than on “how to help students learn the lesson”. I look forward to helping this paradigm shift take place in RE.

Reference:

Reigeluth, C. M. (1999). What is instructional-design theory and how is it changing? In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: a new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol. 2). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Effective Implementation of Instructional Technology

The development of an online format of volunteer training presents a variety of challenges worth considering. Learning takes place at different levels based on the commitment level and mode of accountability for volunteers (Rogers, 2000). The reality is that most volunteers are only looking for surface learning opportunities when, “the student simply puts in the minimal effort” (Rogers, 2000). A paradigm shift from teaching to learning is necessary in the volunteer training strategy of Christian Life Fellowship church in order for technology integration to take place.

Rogers states, “effective use of technology in the classroom will require a paradigm shift from ‘teaching’ to ‘learning,’ which will require adequate training in technology and learning styles, as well as adequate technical support” (Rogers, 2000). She presents the need for philosophical change of instructional opportunities before innovative technological strategies will be successful. At present, the volunteers who do take advantage of the offered monthly training sessions do so with the simple expectation of receiving information, rather than being part of any collaborative learning experience. The shift in thinking needs to take place from simply a desire to be “taught” to a emphasis on learning together how to be a more effective teacher.

Rogers (2000) examines these issues involved in application within higher education settings. She notes that technology can only be as effective as its implementation within instruction. Beyond implementation, teachers utilizing technology within any educational setting must receive the proper training on the execution of the training within the technology-rich environment.

Rogers (2000) identifies three levels of technology adoption: personal productivity aids, enrichment add-ins, and paradigm shift. Within the volunteer development context where I am seeking to enhance the quality and methodology for training I recognize that enhancements must begin with the paradigm shift that Rogers identifies. Since change of this sort requires active leadership at the highest level (Rogers, 2000) I am putting forth the effort to develop well-planned instructional strategies which should will hopefully foster a new viewpoint on volunteer training; a mindset of life-long learning.

References:

Rogers, D. L. (2000). A paradigm shift: Technology integration for higher education in the new millennium. Educational Technology Review, 1(13), 19-33.

Instructional Design in Religious Education

The common emphasis on lower-level objectives is certainly a common fact within religious education contexts. From my professional experiences within this field, I often see the “sage on the stage” mentality permeate instructional contexts, as the typical “Sunday school” approach has remained stagnant in regards to instructional change over the past several decades.

The religious education field has been built upon a very traditional approach to instruction and is based strongly on a strong cognitive view of learning. Authorities would support the description of the cognitive domain of learning proposed by Reigeluth and Moore (Reigeluth & Moore, 1999) that states, “Cognitive education is composed of the set of instructional methods that assist students in learning knowledge to be recalled or recognized” (p.52). Teachers see their duty to teach God’s word to children from the Bible in a manner that children can grasp and apply to their lives. Because these teachers often times are teaching a theological concept as opposed to a skill, they may tend to only incorporate learning activities at the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (Reigeluth & Moore, 1999). Most of the laity that teach weekly religious education courses do not have immense amounts of preparatory time nor do they have much extra time in the weekly class to engage in many desirable constructivist activities.

I do agree with the position stated that instructional designers should seek to develop higher-order objectives for their instructional projects. No matter the topic that is being taught, I believe it is advantageous to help learners evaluate, apply, and synthesize their learning into applicable contexts. In the religious education setting, I believe it is far more important to help a child discover why God’s principles are true and how they can be applied to his or her life rather than simple teaching that “thus saith the Lord.” The struggle within the religious education context is that there is a measure of faith that must be incorporated into the learning environment. I’m working at slowly changing the instructional mindset of the volunteer teachers in my church and helping them to see the value of incorporating constructivist learning opportunities into their classes.

Reference:

Reigeluth, C. M., & Moore, J. (1999). Cognitive education and the cognitive domain. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: a new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol. II). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Accessibility in e-learning

Dr. Norm Coombs’ presentation on Good Distance Learning Principles describes EASI’s (National Center for Accessible e-learning) concern that students and professionals with disabilities have the same right to access information technology. Dr. Coombs has been a long-time leader in the field of distance education and accessibility issues. He is visually impaired and presents a very enlightening presentation regarding the importance of accessibility issues in e-learning at:

http://www.easi.cc/media/csundl.htm

I found several of Coombs’ points to apply directly to the staff development efforts that I am involved with. First of all, the idea that, “distance learning is not always at a distance” (Coombs, n.d.). Through the needs analysis that I conducted, I found that my volunteers, even while they all live within a fifteen minute drive from the church, would rather have the availability of participating in learning without having to travel to another location, no matter how short the distance may be. The globalization of our society as a whole I believe has a lot to due with this, as people enjoy the conveniences of everything from banking to ordering a pizza, all from the comfort of their home. As I seek to develop accessible staff development opportunities for my volunteers, the online format has proven to be an advantageous option for many adults who serve in our ministries.

As I continue to study successful models of distance education, I have become a firm supporter of Coombs’ statement that, “I urge all distance learning teachers not to try to repeat and replicate what you do in the classroom” (Coombs, n.d.). Distance learning models can provide revolutionary means by which constructivist methodologies can be utilized. This engaging learning environments can far surpass the quality of a traditional lecture-based teaching. I must admit that currently our volunteer development classes have been primarily instructivist in nature, despite my attempts to add collaborative activities to the short workshop times. I look forward to experimenting with much more collaborative environments possible via the online format.

One final key which I really identified with was the necessity for online instructors to be accessible and approachable. While these are attributes that any instructor should seek to develop, I believe they are increasingly important for online instructors. As Coomb’s mentions, a tendency exists for new online learners to feel detached from the learning environment. Online teachers must see themselves as facilitators, or “hosts” as Coombs’ mentions, and be willing to take extra steps in remaining visible and accessible within the online classroom. A simple email can make a big difference in communicating to a learner that s/he is important.

Distance learning certainly has many means of applicability, whether it be to facilitate learning across the street or around the world. As online instructional designers we should not limit our viewpoint of online instruction to such huge contexts that we overlook the myriad of more localized ones which are just as important.

– Jason

Success factors for online learners

The National Center for Online Learning Research publishes the Journal of Interactive Online Learning as a resource online educators and instructional designers with the purpose of, “providing a venue for manuscripts, critical essays, and reviews that encompass disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives in regards to issues related to higher-level learning outcomes” (“About JIOL,” 2004). This peer-reviewed journal aims to not only disseminate timely research pertaining to interactive online education but also to deepen the level of knowledge available regarding innovations and application of online education.

Smith and Winking-Diaz refer to success factors for online learners in their article entitled, “Increasing Students’ Interactivity in an Online Course”. They refer to the necessity for online learners to understand the online learning processes in order for them to be successful (Smith & Winking-Diaz, 2004). The relatively high attrition rates in online learning settings can be attributed to unclear perceptions of online methodology and course requirements. They also stress for learners to have possess a level of self-motivation and to be willing to interact with the content, learners, and instructor (Smith & Winking-Diaz, 2004). The rich collaborative environment is one which many online learners do not initially expect or are prepared for.

As I reflect on my own online learning experiences, I find myself whole-heartedly agreeing with Smith and Winking-Diaz. I’ve seen many learners through my online master’s and now doctoral degree coursework initially opt for the online mode of learning simply because they thought it would be an easy way to complete a course. What these learners have found that to the contrary of that idea, the online format is a much more engaging, intense, and rich format of learning than any traditionalistic means of learning. I’ve seen that as learners experience the benefits of the online format for themselves, these preconceived notions of “easy learning” will be replaced with the concept of “meaningful learning”.

– Jason

References:

About JIOL. (2004) Retrieved April 28, 2004 from, http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/about.html

Smith, M. C., & Winking-Diaz, A. (2004) Increasing students’ interactivity in an online course. Retrieved April 28, 2004 from, http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/archives/2004/winter/03/index.html