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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Thornhill

Back to School - Reflection 3 (3.4)

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

So, for the first time in 20 years, I am taking a legit class! This is more from a continuing conversation a friend, who is also a teacher, and I are having about it.

So, week 3 of your class is wrapping up. How's it going?

Really well! This week we looked at how to design our courses to optimize them for teaching online and how to carry out a group project.. completely online.

Hahaha... the dreaded group project... How'd that play out?

It wasn't nearly as painful as people make it out to be. We got to collaborate a bit to lay out our ideas (though we didn't get to speak to each other live - that's something I would add) and then we used Flip to make mini-presentations to one another. It was pretty fun, I have to say.

They must be magicians if they made a group project fun...

Hahaha, you're just a control freak.

Oh, for sure, 100%. So, you're calling these posts "Reflections". What kinds of reflection are you guys doing for the class?

All kinds. This time they asked us about how we have our students should reflect on their own learning, our own reflections on the differences between face-to-face and online learning, and how we would reflect after assigning and evaluating a group project from our students. We approached it from many angles.

Nice. So let's take that first one. How should we have our students reflect?

So, in the program I'm working with now, the students reflect at the end of each lessontask. They reflect on how they carried out the function (describe, tell a story, make a plan, explain, give instructions, summarize/report), how well they organized their thoughts, their word choices, their grammatical accuracy, and their fluency (speed, pausing, stammering). They also reflect on what's been challenging and what's been easy.

And you would do that live?

Not necessarily. We do this synchronously now, but you could use LMS tools (like H5P) to gather this information asynchronously as well.

That makes sense. And how about the second one, your reflections on face-to-face versus online class?

I reflected on the clarity of directions and how to scaffold asynchronous activities. I'm a pro at explaining and scaffolding in person, but having to plan out almost everything I do verbally ... that's a different story. It'll take some time to get that right, though, I would compare it to curriculum and materials development, to a certain extent. When I develop material, I do think-aloud protocols of how I would carry out the activities. The information I capture either goes into the activity instructions, explanations for learners I call Read Mes (explanations of cultural or grammatical concepts), or the instructors' notes and handbook that go with the material. It seems like taking that process one step further and spelling it all out on an LMS instead of in a Word or PowerPoint document wouldn't be that difficult.

Not difficult, but maybe a bit tedious [laughs].

Meh, without tedium how would we recognize anticipation and thrill?

Good point. So, the third one was...

How we would reflect on a student group project carried out online.

That's right. And?

I would ask myself some questions. First, did the project line up with my program's instructional goals? If one of your program's goals is for the students to develop teamwork skills and products (like presentations) for your learners to use later while on the job or during an internship, then group projects are perfect for that, for example.

Then, I would ask myself if the project matched the learners' goals. Was it relevant to them? This is essential. Students will dive right into something they're interested in, even if it is a group project (which seems to provoke quite a bit of dread).

The last question I would pose would be: Was it well-designed? And then that leads to a whole bunch of more detailed questions. Was there a true need to collaborate or did I assign the project just because I think group work is a good idea? Were the instructions clear? Were there enough milestones or checkpoints? How did the end product come out? I would monitor this part very carefully, especially if you're a newbie to fully or mostly asynchronous teaching,

You should turn that into a checklist... or even a workshop.

Who says I haven't already?!

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