This artefact represents part of my coursework for MDDE 603: Foundations of Instructional Design: Systems Analysis and Learning Theory. It was the second assessment in the course, and required learners to write a 10-15 page paper synthesizing the learning in the course to date. Briefly, some of the instructions related to the activity were as follows -
As a "Personal Theory of Practice" the paper was intended as a reflection as to how learning theories might be applied in our own teaching and learning contexts.
This was my first course in the M.Ed.(DE) program and I was terrified. While my professional life requires me to write quite a bit, it had been some time since I had written a paper in the role of student. More, the subject-matter was daunting, and it seemed that every time I picked up the course text I would abruptly fall asleep.
That being said, my rationale for choosing this artefact is threefold. First, I very much wanted to pick at least one exemplar from this first course of study as, if I was to reflect on my development as a learner, I wanted to include bookends as part of the experience. Second, while this was not a collaborative assignment, it was in this course that I made some long-lasting connections with peers; I wanted to pick something from this course, as although not related to this artefact per se, I wouldn't have made it through this course without the support of my fellow learners. Lastly, and arguably the most relevant reason for picking this artefact, is that it does demonstrate my understanding of the fundamental theoretical basis for all that came next. More, reviewing this paper was particularly resonant, as even though I have learned so much over the course of my four years of study, it is interesting to note that the five personal principles I identified as shaping my theory of practice still ring true today. And so while it might seem that nothing has changed, I would argue that it is the breadth and depth of my understanding, together with how I have effectively woven these principles into my professional practice, that truly evidences my learning.
My first thought on reviewing my submission for this course, is just how far I have come. Yet, also I noticed how ready, in hindsight, I already was, and how much I had taken for granted in terms of what I already knew, or how I was already applying "theory" to my practice (1-5, 10). I finally had words to give name to the things I felt strongly about in terms of my ideal teaching and learning experience (2-1).
I described 5 principles grounded in evidence-based theory and research and provided justification as to why they informed my "personal theory of practice" (1-8, 4-3):
I have always understood that learning is about the learner. I come from a family of educators, and I think I understood early that "teaching" is only as good as the success of each participant in the process. In the first forum in the course, on being asked to describe my assumptions and beliefs about teaching and learning I said this -
To the best of one's ability, a teacher should try and understand one's learners - where are they coming from, what are their inherent beliefs, what are their motivations, who are they? Even in a large online class, it is easy to start a discussion asking just these questions so that one might gain a better understanding of the participants. This might be the best start to a learner-centred approach!
And while I did write these words, I also feel now, that four years later, I have an even deeper sense of what it means to be learner-centred (1-10). And while these understandings extend from this initial paper, they have been built upon in the courses that have followed. I think more and more about issues of class, gender, race and access. In particular in online spaces where we assume that everyone has the same opportunities, but where there exists still a digital redline that privileges some but not all. I have also learned what a learner-centred design means in terms of instructional design, and that it is a thoughtful, intentional, and inclusive process, and not necessarily as easy as an instructor learning more about their learners (though I would still argue it is a very good start!).
As I have already mentioned, this course offered me the introduction to a new lexicon. When I look across what I wrote about these principles, I am struck by how my present day vocabulary began with this course. Shortly after finishing this course (literally two weeks) I began a job at a university, and these words now permeate my everyday (2-7). Though I should be careful to note that they are more than words. It would seem that one thing I have noticed through my current employ, is the temptation to bandy about the "right" words, but knowing is a different thing all together. This course offered me the opportunity to really understand the various epistemologies of knowledge, and to deeply appreciate the benefits (and downsides) to various theories of learning: constructivism, cognitivism, humanism, etc. (2-3). For example, while I wouldn't consider myself a behaviourist, I do value the 'best' of behaviourism as it pertains to learning. I recognize that learning is more than knowledge, in that it is the application that more often matters. From an instructional design perspective, I know the value of multiple representations of content, and the benefit of assessments that require higher-order thinking. I now have a certain assurance in knowing that my recommendations are underpinned and grounded in my understanding of theory (4-4).
Lastly, it was this course, and this early submission, that introduced me to the concept of "communities of learning" which I now know as "communities of inquiry". In distance and online learning environments in particular, I appreciate first-hand how important it is to foster these relationships (4-7). As I now write, I glance above to what I just wrote in my rationale about the support and inspiration I garnered from peers and it would seem that my comments are suddenly very meta.
All of this to say, I am glad that this was the first course I took. Yes, I was terrified, but I survived. And mostly, it seems now that it was the perfect bookend for the rest of my learning.
Miller, K.. (2011, December 7). Crawling. [Cover Image} Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/aZ1zL2 CC-BY-ND 2.0