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Tuesday, July 2 • 11:00am - 11:40am
Blended learning and knower building: Reconcilable or not?

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"The ever-changing student population requires lecturers to constantly reconsider and adjust their teaching methods, considering large classes, learning technologies, student engagement, etc. The South African Council on Higher Education (CHE), in a recent report, called for “more and better trained academics” (CHE, 2016, p. 147) to adequately support students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. However, in the same report they state that increasing staff workloads is a reality for most higher education employees. This raises the question: how do we offer professional growth opportunities for overburdened academics?
Electronic media, through the option of well-developed online resources, could offer a possible means of addressing this need by providing just-in-time, easily accessible professional development resources that are tailored to our context. It is however important that we consider our conceptions of effective teaching and determine whether blended and online workshops and courses can achieve the goals stipulated by the CHE.
Drawing on arguments in Legitimation Code Theory (Maton2014) and previous work done at Stellenbosch University (SU) (Leibowitz et. al., 2009 and 2011, it needs to be noted that becoming a “better trained academic” as the CHE suggests, is not only about gaining the required knowledge, but also about interacting, talking and sharing, and ultimately developing a mutually acceptable set of values and way of thinking.
In this presentation, we will discuss two instances of professional development opportunities using blended and online formats. Employing Laurillard’s Conversational Framework (Laurillard, 2002) and the Specialization dimension of Maton’s Legitimation Code Theory (Maton, 2014), we will address two questions:
(1) How is effective teaching conceptualised in these two examples? Is it about the knowledge – disciplinary and/or educational – that the teacher has, or about their attributes and values?
(2) Are the two cases offering learning facilitators appropriate opportunities to become effective teachers, per the conception expressed in their design?
The two frameworks were used in an approach similar to that of Maton and Chen (Maton and Chen, 2016) in their study of constructivist pedagogy, with the Conversational Framework acting as organisational framework and Specialization acting as analytical framework. The Conversational Framework describes the learning process as a conversation between lecturers and students, students and students, as well as between concepts and practice. It identifies six different ways of learning, drawn from the most prominent learning theories. It argues that “the good teacher will use all these types of learning that continually prompts the learner to generate and modulate the concepts and practice” (Laurillard, 2012). It thus offers a way of looking at the extent to which online learning incorporates the six ways of learning and was used to analyse the soundness of the design of the two cases in our study.
Specialization focuses on whether different knowledge practices valorise the possession of specialised knowledge or knower attributes, both or neither (Maton, 2014) and was thus used to look at what is valorised in conceptions of good teaching.
The two examples in our study, were an online short course offered to science tutors and a suite of online teaching and learning workshops offered to science lecturers, from the same faculty. We also analysed national and institutional teaching policy and guideline documents in order to determine the general conceptions of good teaching in the South African context.

Analyses of these data sets revealed the conception that effective teaching requires both the possession of specialised (educational) knowledge and specific attributes. Whilst acquisition of specialised knowledge can be achieved through acquiring specialized knowledge and skills (Maton, 2014), developing the required attributes requires a slower process of cultivation or immersion, which raises the question whether short courses, by their nature, can achieve this.
Integrating the two frameworks allowed us to see how effectively the design of the online environment is able to support the conceptions of good teaching expressed in the policy and guideline documents. What we learn is that there are limitations to what online professional development might be able to achieve, but that this could possibly be addressed though deliberate design of the face-to-face aspects of blended opportunities.
The findings of this study is of value to all who are using shorter online forms of professional development.

Tuesday July 2, 2019 11:00am - 11:40am SAST
Room B45

Attendees (5)