By Nancy A. Walker, Ph.D.
How do online instructors maintain consistent teaching at the doctoral level? Are there tricks, tips, special formulas? There are proven methods that aid instructors in preserving an even balance at the doctoral level. While teaching online is a different venue in and of itself, teaching doctoral courses brings another dynamic to the table all together.
A main tactic to ensure that an online instructor is consistently teaching courses at an appropriate level for doctoral students is by using a learner-centered approach to instruction. According to a widely held view among educational psychologists, experts typically construe learning as an active process of knowledge construction rather than a passive process of memorization. The learner centered or constructivist instruction charges teachers to facilitate knowledge construction by tapping into learners’ interests, perspectives, prior knowledge, and learning strategies, among other things (Torff, 2003).
Using this technique in accordance to weekly concepts and objectives with encouragement, and application of learned knowledge on behalf of the students and also per example in light of instructor learned knowledge is relevant. As such, the learner-centered approach aids in the active process of knowledge that does take place and is ascertained at the doctoral level. Knowledge in light of this active phase, combined with that of learner’s interests (for possible dissertation and research work for example), perspectives, prior knowledge, noted learning and styles, and learner centered case studies, question prompts to build analysis and evaluation, and also prompts to note and discuss the synthesis of learned and accumulated experience will balance and promote consistent level for doctoral students.
According to Torff (2003), “The learner centered approach puts emphasis on lesson initiation, based on the belief that effective teaching depend “attention grabbers” deployed to engage students at a lesson’s outset. Where content is concerned, the learner centered approach advises that less is more; that is, it is favorable to carefully regulate and often reduce content knowledge so that learners are not overwhelmed and can connect new knowledge to prior learning” (p.18).This approach facilitates forward progression in thinking for further promptings, discussion, and will open the door for effective strategies and tools to be used in light of individualized learning styles and experiences per the students.
The learner-centered approach gives way to enhance evaluation, analysis, and synthesis of information per Bloom’s Taxonomy. This technique expands the critical thinking of doctoral students, while at the same time, it enables them to be and become more of the independent thinkers in which they are being modeled into via the graduate process.
Please feel free to comment on and discuss the ideas generated in this blog. We’d like to hear from you. Do you have a variety of learner-centered approaches that you employ on your online or in-class courses?
Torff, B. (2003). Developmental Changes in Teachers’ Use of Higher Order Thinking and Content Knowledge. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(3):563-569.
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.