ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

Applying authentic learning to my teaching

Posted on: December 18, 2011

As I’m asking myself if I use the authentic learning approach I’m checking my work with my master students of “Social Work”. One of the topics of the subject “Social informatics” is online counseling.

The e-moderating course for all students

All students (26) absolve an e-moderating course of 3 weeks (based on Gilly Salmon’s 5 stage model of virtual groups). Within these 3 weeks they experience the phases access and motivation, they socialize with each other, share knowledge, acquire new knowledge and develop a plan how to use and further develop their e-moderating competences.

The assessment of the e-moderating for all students course is based on the activity in the different forums. Here I only check that they contribute and do not grade the quality of each contribution. If necessary I contact them and invite them to contribute. Everybody finished the e-moderating course successfully exept for one student who dropped out of the study degree after the first month.

Students as e-moderators

Five of the students decided to practice their new competences and work for 5 weeks as e-moderators in the virtual room of another subject (taught by another lecturer). Within the virtual room of my course there exists a discussion forum only visible for the 5 e-moderators where they can reflect their experiences and get support from me. Furthermore we discuss theirs problems with the e-moderation during two presence excercises.

The assessment of the work of moderation for the 5 -emoderators is done via collaborative papers. In my topic all students have to write a small paper about one field of Social Informatics (alone or in a group). For this paper they should do research, interview people in the field of social work, integrate their working experience into the paper, .. The e-moderators can use their e-moderating experiences for the paper (written as group) by reflecting what happened, discussing the differences of their moderation activities and of their groups, describing some of their interventions and if they worked.

But is this authentic learning??

To answer this question I related my teaching concept with MarilynM. Lombardi’s paper:

  • Real-world relevance: yes, social workers should be able to communicate in the virtual room in a reflective way and to seer and control communication processes
  • Ill-defined problem: yes, the moderation of the discussion groups were manifold and colorful and not entirely predictable. They had to transfer Gilly Salmon’s concept into their moderating practice and deal with disappointments and their own strict time tables (as they are working and studying)
  • Sustained investigator: yes, they had to moderate their groups over 5 weeks and achieve a certain development of the group discussion as well
  • Multiple sources and perspectives: they had their own experience as participants of the e-moderating course including some theoretical concepts, they experiences the moderation of their groups and at the same time were participants of the discussion in another group (this change of role was a big challenge for them) and in the meetings with me (and in the virtual forum) they got the perspective of my work als e-moderator.
  • Collaboration: they collaborated with each other during the e-moderating course and afterwards in the writing of their final paper
  • Reflection: yes, reflection is a very important part of the art of moderation
  • Interdisciplinary aspect: yes, the exchange and discussions had interdisciplinary aspects as well
  • Integrated assessment: hmm, probably yes, as I’m not assessing their work inearly

So it seems that my students are partly learning in an authentic way 🙂

2 Responses to "Applying authentic learning to my teaching"

Yes, indeed I would say your students are definitely learning in an authentic way! You could make it even more ‘authentic’ (the way we have described it) by creating a bigger task for students. Rather than write a paper that no one sees, perhaps they could create a collective website that will share their growing knowledge about e-moderating with the world!

Thanx Jan, for your comment.

Yes, I know that the visibility and pr is the weak point of my concept … But … they are persons who are working as well (so they have a constant time management problem), they are not keen to immerse themselves into technical tools. Hmmm, maybe I will find some solution for next year,


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