Effective Teaching Online At The Doctoral Level


By Nancy A. Walker, Ph.D.

As technology has changed over the course of the years, so has effective education. In this week’s blog, we will take a look at effective adjunct teaching at the doctoral level. We will look at online instruction through the eyes of “active” instruction/coaching. What are the components of effectively teaching course content at the doctoral level, and what are some ways adjunct online faculty members can apply these in their online classes?

Effective teaching of course content at the doctoral level consists of using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a foundation to teaching course content. As doctoral instructors, effective teaching consists of teaching, mentoring, facilitating, and coaching the student for success in academia, in career, and in life. Teaching consists of application of knowledge in a professional and personal realm to grow and develop the student both personally and professionally.

Additionally, affective teaching at the doctoral level requires, understanding program requirements and resources available for the student. Teaching encompasses understanding and use of the course sequence with application of the institution’s resources and collaborative supports. Consideration and application of the student tasks, focused on leadership, research methods, and the student’s area of emphasis via the Comprehensive Exam are necessary. The instructor necessitates to be well versed with the university policies, standards, and protocol for the doctoral level. For example, American Psychological Association (APA) standards are paramount in application. The instructor necessitates being prepared in advance of each week’s lessons, content, and having a proactive strategy attuned to policies of participation, delivery methods, assignment, and course room protocol.

Application of expertise in the field of psychology, conducting scholarly research and noting application through the exercise of ethical and effective leadership to enhance student/community effectiveness and learning is pertinent in effective instruction. As an instructor, leading through the use of critical thinking and analysis is integral. Using creative and relevant solutions and creating new initiatives via explanation, prediction, and improvement of the instructor’s area of expertise will grow and develop the entire doctoral community.

Effectively teaching course content is not solely relegated to the content, or the limitations and boundaries of the university itself; effectiveness also encompasses taking the doctoral learner into consideration within a 360 degree dynamic. This is attuned to the consideration of mind, body, spirit component of the student. Fostering persistence through encouragement and through the use of effective and regular communication with doctoral learners is essential, due to the fact that most doctoral learners have successful careers, families, and significant daily stressors.

Accommodating student needs, educational endeavors, and interests in allowance of study and research into specified areas to promote student research akin to dissertation interests, as well as promoting flexibility in the course room is analogous to effective instruction. Such promotes effective learning of the course content. Effective and timely feedback is critical to produce relationship and the ability to raise the bar for student learning. Combining the institution’s mission into effective teaching of course content is most essential.

As online learning is different than brick and mortar, establishing meaningful relationships with students aids in fostering learning and understanding of course concepts per individual growth, academic development and application of knowledge in the field. Effective relationships provide continued support and recognition of student achieving, advancement, and scholarly accommodation. Critical thinking, problem solving strategies, upgraded use of technology and teaching aids akin to learning style of the student provides positive advancement of course content. Understating learning styles through acknowledgment and continued learning of student preferences, activities, and interaction, is key. A relationship with the student, based upon a mentoring model for connection and encouragement, produces forward progression of scholarship, understanding, and application of course content. Roper notes a direct correlation between encouraging student contributions in the discussions, and a student’s continued commitment in the discussions. Therefore, the student will grow and achieve through a relationship foundational to the use of coaching and instruction alike. This model is one to ascertain.

As Yeats once wrote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”  The instructor is the conduit for the engagement of the fire (the passion to learn and apply content) and the continued “burn” of that fire.

About the Teacher in Pajamas: Dr. Nancy Walker earned a BA in Liberal Arts/Psychology from Saint Vincent College, and a BA in Elementary Education K-8 with a specialization in Spanish from Seton Hill University. She earned an MS in General Psychology with specialization in Educational/Developmental Psychology from Capella University. She has a Ph.D. in General Psychology with specialization in Lifespan Development from Capella University. She has a wonderful husband and two, older daughters that share in the love of learning and helping others to learn and grow, too. They spend most of their time involved in community and church outreaches that are foundational in education, social service, and missions work. They also enjoy traveling and playing basketball and softball.

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