Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Article: What is Task-centered Learning

My good friend Dr. Greg Francom and I have recently published an article entitled "What is Task-centered Learning" in TechTrends. The article describes the foundations and fundamental principles of task-centered learning and describes several instructional models that exemplify many of the principles of task-centered learning. Below is the abstract of the article, and a pre-publication PDF draft of the article can be found on my academia.edu page. Thanks to Dr. Francom for inviting me to write as second author - he is an outstanding scholar and I have been grateful to write with and learn from him.

"What is Task-centered Learning?" Article Abstract:
Many recent models of learning and instruction center learning on real-world tasks and problems to support knowledge application and transfer. Of the many different approaches to centering learning on real-world tasks and problems, one main area in recent literature attempts to balance the efficiency of adequate learner support with the effectiveness of centering learning on real-world tasks. Names for the various models in this area have included problem-centered instruction, cognitive apprenticeship, elaboration theory, and task-centered learning/instruction. As yet there has not been much comparison or combination of the prescriptions of these task-centered approaches to learning. Therefore we compare and combine several task-centered learning models to outline essential prescriptive elements of a task-centered learning approach.
Article Reference:
Francom, G., & Gardner, J. (2014). What is task-centered learning? TechTrends. DOI: 10.1007/s11528-014- 0784-z

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summary of 2014 Sabbatical Experience

Well, I am now wrapping up my Summer 2014 Sabbatical Experience, and I will return to regular work at Franklin this coming Monday. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me, something I have dreamed of doing for a long time. I am confident that this experience will be a pivotal point in my career - it has opened up many great opportunities for personal learning and professional growth. I've blogged throughout the sabbatical - below are blog posts on my sabbatical.


Hiking and Running

Self-Reflection and Writing

Visiting Scholarship at USU - Teaching Support in Higher Education
I Reached All Sabbatical Goals
At the beginning of this experience, I committed to my leadership at Franklin University that I would (a) write 2-3 scholarly articles, (b) visit Utah State University as a visiting scholar, and (c) apply to become a certified performance technologist. I am happy to say that I have completed each of these objectives, and I have learned a great deal in the process.

I Reached All Personal Goals
In my first blog post about the sabbatical, I also wrote that I wanted to (a) revisit my personal goals, (b) spend time with family, (c) run a marathon, and (d) broaden my knowledge. I can say with some satisfaction that I have been able to do each of these, as well. I have strengthened my goals, have run a half-marathon and a marathon, have spent a great deal of time with the members of my family who live in Utah, and have have read many books that have broadened my perspective.

I am very grateful to the leadership at Franklin University for giving me this opportunity. I have learned so much through my work at Franklin, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities I have received. This was an outstanding opportunity to extend my professional knowledge and experiences, travel, read, write, and spend time with my family. Thanks again to the leadership at Franklin University for making this experience a possibility and for supporting me as I have moved forward in my goals. And thanks to my coworkers at Franklin who took over my responsibilities while I was gone. I could not have done this work without them!

Presentation at Utah Instructional Design Summit

Here I am presenting as keynote at the Utah Instructional Design Summit. 
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently on sabbatical from my work at Franklin University. While working as a visiting scholar at USU, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at  the Utah Instructional Design Summit being held at Salt Lake Community College in July. The summit is a regular meeting of instructional designers working in higher education in Utah, and I was honored to be invited to speak. I am very aware of the great talent available within the group - I know several of the designers personally and have great respect for their work - so it was exciting to be asked to speak and interact with them.

The presentation was recorded - to view the presentation, click here.

What I Talked About
I usually speak about my scholarly expertise, particularly instructional theory and/or first principles of instruction. However, for this meeting I decided to focus on what I believe are fundamental habits of success in our society today, applied to the field of instructional design. Specifically, I decided to focus on:
  • What the Knowledge Society is and how it influences the way we work.
  • How Instructional Designers must adapt their design approach to meet the needs of the knowledge worker.
  • The importance of taking responsibility for actions and living with purpose.
  • Responding (instead of reacting) to the opportunities and obstacles that constantly come.
I enjoyed speaking on these topics and I believe they are critical to success in society today. I will likely continue my thinking on these topics and will continue to write and speak about them from time to time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Finished a Marathon

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my goals for this summer was to complete a marathon. I had originally planned on completing a marathon on July 24th, the Deseret News Marathon in Salt Lake City, Utah. As I approached the date, I realized that I would likely need a few more weeks of training before I could complete it. I determined to do my own marathon distance, without entering a marathon race. I chose to run this race in the beautiful Batelle Darby Creek area southwest of Columbus, Ohio.

I completed my marathon at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. There are some great trails there, though they are fairly short. The longest is  about 4.5 miles, so I had to repeat a few trips.

I wasn't sure what the weather would be like, so I woke up pretty early (2:30 AM) and began my marathon in my neighborhood. I walked 10 miles there until the sun started to shine, at which time I drove to the park to complete the next 16.2 miles.

One of the trails at Darby Creek Park. It is a pretty park with some nice trails.

A few notes from the marathon experience:

  • Rain - It actually rained off and on for most of my marathon. I ended up using an umbrella to try to avoid getting my feet wet, which could have caused more blistering.
  • Frogs - I probably saw 27 frogs while completing the marathon. I walked by a couple of snakes, too, which was a little disconcerting.
  • Pain - One of my friends described his first marathon as "excruciating," and I now know what he meant. The last 3 miles were incredibly painful, which really surprised me. This kind of pain something I would not like to experience anytime soon.
  • Books - I listened to 2.5 books during the marathon. This is a great way to learn and exercise at the same time.

This is around mile 15. I was still feeling pretty good at this point. I am looking old.

When I came home from the marathon, I was feeling pretty messed up. I stopped by Chipotle for a Veggie Burrito, showered, and fell asleep for 4 hours. Later that night when I woke up, I found that my feet were so sore that it KILLED to walk on the cracks between the tiles in our kitchen. That was weird.

I am happy that I accomplished my goal to complete the marathon this summer. It took many weeks of training, and I still didn't feel quite prepared for the difficulty. I had set a goal to complete 36 miles on my 36th birthday, but at this point (the day after the marathon) I am not too sure. As far as completing another marathon, I may likely try it again, but I'm pretty sure I won't do it for quite a while.

More Sabbatical Adventures

I was looking back through some of our photos from our sabbatical trip to Utah and realized that I hadn't share a few of the great experiences we had. I will share these below.

Yellowstone National Park
We traveled with our good friends the Dutsons to Yellowstone National Park and spent several days with them there. The Dutsons have a pop-up trailer, which makes camping much more enjoyable. We stayed at Buffalo River Camp (I believe) about 40 minutes from the west entrance to Yellowstone. 
The Dutsons and the Gardners at Yellowstone National Park.

Omar and CK looking at one of the many weird anomalies at Yellowstone.

Here I am at a pretty awesome waterfall in Yellowstone. The scenery was quite incredible.
Yellowstone was a great experience. We saw some elk and swam in one of the few swimming holes in Yellowstone. We saw the Old Faithful geyser and generally enjoyed the incredible beauty of the various mountains, waterfalls, rivers, foliage and wildlife. A great experience with great friends.

Hiking near Alta, Utah
A few weeks later we drove up the canyons east of Salt Lake City to the town of Alta, where there a several world-class ski resorts. We decided to hike to Cecret Lake, a pretty little lake high in the mountains. Here are some pictures of the hike and the beautiful scenery. (For whatever reason, I didn't take a picture of the lake itself...)

CK hiking toward Cecret Lake.
Me at Cecret Lake looking across the canyon.

Hiking with Dr. Nick Eastmond
One highlight of my time in Utah was a hike with Nick Eastmond, one of my former professors and dissertation committee member at Utah State University. Nick and I attended the same church congregation when I was there, and I have a great deal of respect and admiration for him. He is one of the people who inspired me to earn a PhD and to become a professor. I enjoyed drawing from his knowledge of nature as we walked, and he shared some of his many international experiences, which were illuminating.

A picture from the hike in Cache Valley with Dr. Nick Eastmond and my brother-in-law, Chris Walker.

Sabbatical Travel: Returning to Ohio

As I have mentioned in previous posts, we we have spent the last several weeks in Logan, Utah where I have served as a visiting scholar at Utah State University. We have finished our stay there and just recently returned to our home in Grove City, Ohio. We traveled along I-80 through Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa, went down I-74 into Illinois and Indiana, and took I-70 into Ohio.

Here are a couple of pictures from the trip.

Me and my beautiful wife Katie at a stop somewhere in Wyoming. 
My daughter CK at the Stagecoach Inn somewhere in Nebraska.
We completed the return trip in three days. For some reason, the return trip was a lot less pleasant than the trip out. We were already pretty tired from all of the traveling, playing, visiting, etc., which made the trip more arduous. It was definitely great to arrive at home in Grove City!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Top Services in Centers for Teaching Excellence

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am currently serving as a visiting scholar at Utah State University (USU). I have been working with the Office of the Provost to identify ways that teaching can be support more effectively at USU. As part of my research, I have been reviewing the websites of several Centers for Teaching Excellence at other large universities across the United States with the goal of identifying the common kinds or services and supports given at the university. In this blog post, I will describe some of my findings.

How I Chose the Centers to Include in My Review
I used a fairly unscientific approach for selecting these centers. I performed a Google search for the term "Center for Teaching Excellence." I then began reviewing each site in the order of their ranking by Google. I reviewed a total of 7 sites using this process. I also reviewed the sites of Utah Valley University and the University of Utah, though U of U's site appeared to be in transition from one structure to another and I therefore did not include it in the review.

To document and tabulate my findings, I created a giant table with the university in the first column and the potential services throughout the subsequent columns. I placed a check mark to indicate whether the center provided the service and also made notes in the limited space. I ended up adding an additional piece of paper to the table to add more columns. I also took notes on  a separate Word document on what I found interesting as I went through the sites.

Common Services/Programs at Centers of Teaching Excellence
The following table lays out the most common services offered at these centers. The services are organized from most common to least common.
# offering service (of 8 reviewed)
Online teaching resources for faculty (e.g. blogs, web pages, videos, podcasts related to teaching excellence)
Teaching workshops and/or institutes
New Faculty Teaching Preparation
Teaching Consultations
Teaching Observations
Small Grants for Teaching Innovation/Improvement
Graduate student teacher support program
Teaching awards
Center-led mentoring program
Faculty fellowships to promote teaching excellence
Teaching Certification Program
Faculty portfolio development support
Department-level faculty ambassadors/liaisons
Instructional technology programs and research groups
International graduate student teacher support program
Customized workshops
System for faculty observation of high impact teachers
Center-run “Journal of Teaching Effectiveness”
Faculty Writing Academy

Typical Staffing of Centers for Teaching Effectiveness
I made it a point to document the basic staffing structure of each of these centers. Based on my review, the following staffing structure seems fairly typical and standard in higher education. It should be noted that many universities had several more employees and programs than these; however, these appeared to be the most common.
  • Director – The director should have expertise in faculty development and capacity to lead the center while working closely with administrators of the various faculty support initiatives.
  • Faculty Fellow –Some kind of temporary visit from a faculty member to the center, perhaps for 1-2 semesters.
  • Support Staff – Administrative assistance and support, maintenance and support of website, communication, etc..
  • Graduate Student – Students providing research and support to director and to the faculty fellows.
The average number of employees at the centers reviewed is about 6. This usually included 2-3 individuals with doctorate degrees who were usually directors or associate directors. Most centers include 2-3 support staff, though some had many more, including instructional design and technology support. I assume that some of the universities that didn't have these kinds of roles in the center likely had them in separate areas.

Structure of the Center Website 
I found that the structure of most of these sites was unique. Many of them were fairly disorganized, and as I looked at them from a faculty member's perspective, I had a hard time figuring out what they might be able to do for me. I would probably keep the faculty member in mind when creating the site. Here is what I currently think should be the basic structure of the site of a center for teaching excellence (though some further analysis and testing is warranted). Basic sub-pages should include (1) the About page, (2) the Services page, (3) the Workshops page, and (4) the Resources page.
Recommended structure for center for teaching effectiveness website. 

A Few Final Notes
It should be noted that this was a review of a relatively small number of centers (only 8), but I believe they are typical for what is out there. Also, these were larger universities, and it would be difficult for a smaller university to implement some of these programs. However, the general categories of support appear to be very sound and useful, and it makes sense to me to use these categories in many settings.

This is my current thinking on the topic, but I am still doing plenty of investigating. I have purchased some books on teaching support at the university level and will continue to deepen my knowledge as I focus on this kind of work going forward.