A case study of the challenges of teaching english composition

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A case study of the challenges of teaching english composition

  1. 1. COHERE 2012: A Case Study of the Challenges of Teaching EnglishComposition in a Blended Format at DeVry Institute of Technology, Calgary
  2. 2. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format DeVry’s Approach to Blended Learning• Various definitions of “blended learning”• DeVry‟s highly similar to definition derived at 2005 conference sponsored by Alfred P. Sloan Foundation “1. courses that integrate on-line with traditional face- to-face activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner; and 2. where a portion (institutionally defined) of face-to- face time is replaced by online activity” (as cited in Picciano, 2011). 2
  3. 3. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format DeVry’s “Supershell”• Online and blended courses share common shell• Core material remains unchanged• Flexibility for on-site professors• “… professors are encouraged to …make use of the considerable opportunities which exist for instructional flexibility and individual creativity” (DeVry‟s Blended Learning Guidebook, 2010). 3
  4. 4. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Four English Composition Courses Discussed • ENGL 032 • ENGL 092 • ENGL 112 • ENGL 135 4
  5. 5. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format ENGL 032 and ENGL 092 Courses 5
  6. 6. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format These Are Developmental Courses• All entering students tested in math, reading, and writing skills• Placed into ENGL 032 or ENGL 092 if scores below certain cut points• Courses are non-credit- must be passed before credit English courses taken• Often ENGL 032 and ENGL 092 among first courses taken 6
  7. 7. Teaching English Composition in a Blended FormatCharacteristics of Engl 032 and 092 Students• Many EFL students• Some native speakers with reading and/or writing weaknesses• Could be some with undiagnosed or diagnosed LDs• Few have ever taken blended courses 7
  8. 8. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Importance of Computer Literacy Skills in e-Learning Draffan and Rainger stress that • Learner‟s Information Communication Technology (ICT) proficiency is as important as attitudes and motivation in blended learning (2006). • If e-skills are weak, learners may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information (2006). 8
  9. 9. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Meeting the Challenges of Needed ICT and e-Skills• Resources in course shells to help build these skills• I do extra things• Important to be cognizant of this need 9
  10. 10. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Blended Learning Often Requires a Paradigm Shift in Learning• Sharma (2010) observes in blended learning “students may favor one of the delivery modalities (face-to-face or online) to the detriment of the other” (p. 457).• Why- may be used to highly teacher-directed learning or come from cultures where listening and speaking are predominant teaching modes. 10
  11. 11. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Another Reason a Paradigm Shift Is Needed• Renes and Strange‟s differentiate “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” and contend digital natives are better suited for blended learning (2011).• Digital natives grew “up around technology, appear comfortable with it, and benefit from what it has to offer… [and] find learning about, from, and with technology an obvious choice” (2011, p. 205).• Shouldn‟t assume students are digital natives 11
  12. 12. Teaching English Composition in a Blended FormatAssisting ENGL 032 and ENGL 092 Students in Achieving the Paradigm Shift• DeVry Calgary‟s former Dean of Academic Affairs strongly encouraged taking these courses in blended- not online- format• Viewed these classes as essential in discovering how to interact online and in learning the expectations of blended learning (personal interview with A. Ryan, 2012). 12
  13. 13. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Facilitating the Paradigm Shift (1)• For those who prefer face-to-face (F2F) modality : o Empathize with frustrations regarding emphasis upon online modality o Stress DeVry‟s course shells are relatively standardized in look and feel o For some questions students want answered face-to-face, send to shell for answers o Explain purpose of and participation techniques for threaded discussions 13
  14. 14. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Facilitating the Paradigm Shift (2)• For those who prefer the online modality, use various strategies: o Stress the value added by regular class attendance o Engage them in regular group work during F2F classes 14
  15. 15. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Need for Independent Learning Skills• Petrides (cited in Burgess, 2009) believes one of the primary concerns in implementing online/blended developmental education is “the independent nature of this type of learning” (p. 11).• Significant number of ENGL 032 and ENGL 092 students not strong in self-direction 15
  16. 16. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Stress the Need for Regular Participation in Course Shells• Add passage to syllabus on what blended learning demands from students and discuss in class• Use shell feature that allows monitoring time spent in various sections of shell and email students spending insufficient time• Add “On-line Work” section into “Weekly Assignments” page identifying specific activities students should do online 16
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  18. 18. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format ENGL 112 and ENGL 135 Courses 18
  19. 19. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format ENGL 112 and ENGL 135• If students are not placed in ENGL 032 or 092, first composition course is ENGL 112• Students have wide range of abilities• Students must pass ENGL 112 with a minimum of 60% to progress to ENGL 135• My expectation: Students will become “ „self-directed learners‟ (Candy, 1991) who like being in charge of their learning experience” (Draffan & Rainger, 2006, p. 59). 19
  20. 20. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format ENGL 112 Strategies to Develop Students’Collaborative & Self-Directed Learning Skills• Start with small groups in F2F exercises and then progress to independent learning online in Threaded Discussion area: o “Current Issues” exercise. o “Peer Review” exercise. 20
  21. 21. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format ENGL 135 Strategies to Develop Students’Collaborative & Self-Directed Learning Skills• Start with small groups in F2F exercises and then progress to independent learning online in Threaded Discussion area: o “Research Proposal” exercise. o “Paraphrasing” activity. 21
  22. 22. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format Meeting the Challenges to LearningDraffan and Rainger (2006):• Cannot be overcome by adjustments made on one side• Needs of a learner require the cooperation and involvement of both the faculty and student 22
  23. 23. Teaching English Composition in a Blended FormatThe strategies we have discussed are designed to provide our students with • Skills to use the computer as a learning tool; • Attitudes needed to be successful collaborative and blended learners; • Abilities to make the connection between F2F and online learning activities and threaded discussions. 23
  24. 24. Teaching English Composition in a Blended FormatGarrison and Vaughan (2008) assert, “Students want tobe actively and collaboratively engaged in relevantlearning experiences…. They want both face-to-face andonline learning experiences that connect them to otherstudents and the instructor. This represents a seriouschallenge for instructors…” (p. 147). 24
  25. 25. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format ReferencesBurgess, M. L. (2009). Using WebCT as a supplemental tool to enhance critical thinking and engagement among developmental reading students. Journal of College Reading & Learning, 39(2), pp. 9-33.Draffan, E. A., & Rainger, P. (2006). A model for the identification of challenges to blended learning. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 14(1), pp. 55-67.Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles, and guidelines. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 25
  26. 26. Teaching English Composition in a Blended Format References (cont‟d)Mayers, P. & Lewinski, C. (Ed.). (2010). Blended learning guidebook: Version 2.02. Retrieved from www.devryu. net/Picciano, A. G. (2009). Blending with purpose: The multimodal model. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13(1), pp. 7-18.Picciano, A. G. (2011). Introduction to the special issue on transitioning to blended learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 15(1), pp. 3-7. 26
  27. 27. References (cont‟d)Renes, S. & Strange, A. (2011). Using technology to enhance higher education. Innovative Higher Education, 36(3), pp. 203-213. doi:10.1007/s10755- 010-9167-3Sharma, P. (2010). Blended learning. ELT Journal: English Language Teachers Journal, 64(4), pp. 456- 458. doi:10.1093/elt/ccq043 27

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