This is how I teach
This month we spoke with Associate Professor Edward Palmer, Director of the Unit of Digital Education and Training in the School of Education where he is also Acting Deputy Head of School. Read about his innovative use of technology to benefit both the teacher and the student.
How would you describe your approach to teaching/your teaching philosophy?
My main aspiration with teaching is to provide students with an engaging, meaningful learning experience that provides them with sufficient challenge to motivate them so they can achieve the best they can. I believe that any student we accept at our University can be successful and believe that if I can get a student to engage, I can help them be the best they can be within my courses. I base my teaching on a blend of four theoretical perspectives. The three most prevalent educational theories of the last century: behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism and I also apply connectivism as it deals with learning from non-human artefacts such as computers, virtual reality and AI.
What do you like most about teaching in your discipline?
I love teaching in my discipline as I have the opportunity to support the learning of a diverse group of students: prospective teachers within Australia and experienced educators from across the world. I find the varied experiences of these students, combined with their hunger to learn makes my classes dynamic and engaging for everyone, including me.
How does your teaching help prepare students for their future?
My teaching helps students prepare for their future by supporting teamwork and meaningful learning. I do this by basing the course on a community of inquiry, utilising authentic learning and assessment approaches. This relies on teaching presence, cognitive presence, and social presence to build and support a positive learning environment. In such a community, teaching presence is a key factor in establishing rapport, which in turn allows for the ability to influence and motivate students. I provide teaching presence by welcome messages, regular announcements, and short, meaningful videos as well as class recordings.
At the beginning of each course, I introduce myself, ask students to do the same and run a survey to ask students (optionally) to describe their learning environment, learning goals, learning strategies and any barriers to their success.Ed Palmer
Students are forthright in their answers (and most answer), often describing good learning characteristics but at other times describing challenging situations with caring duties, poor support networks and mental illness. Like most staff I am adept at producing content in my own area of expertise, but I further support cognitive presence by presenting content in a variety of ways (videos, timelines, branching scenarios), making it clear when content is optional and when it is core and minimising the weekly load for students to ensure they have the capacity to process the weeks learning. I highlight the expectations around social and cognitive presence on Day 1 of my courses. My icebreakers typically ask students to describe their reasons for doing the course and to introduce themselves and are designed to lead directly into summative weekly discussion activities, which start in Week 1.
What is your favourite way to use technology to enhance learning?
I’m fortunate that my expertise is in technology in education, so I find myself with an ever-changing smorgasbord of tools to use to enhance teaching. Whilst I have used a broad range of technologies, including augmented and virtual reality, I make greatest use of the simplest of them, discussion boards, but provide an innovative approach to their use, mainly by focusing my assessment and scaffolding around them.
The biggest technology to impact education since the printing press and internet is artificial intelligence and I’m enjoying working out ways in which this tool can be used to enhance learning. It poses a significant risk to the way we currently assess our students but I’m confident the outcome of this will be greater engagement with our students, improved learning outcomes and most importantly enhanced learning.