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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The layered classroom approach to teaching.


The Full List of The Publications on The Methodology of Teaching Science

The layered classroom approach to teaching.
Nowadays when people hear phrase “digital education” they assume “MOOCs”, or other forms of delivering content via the Internet. However, it is clear already that online content delivery does not solve all the problems education has and needs to solve. That is why a blended approach has been developed, which also has its own deficiencies.
The layered classroom approach is to combine advantages of a real time on-site education with an online education.
The blended approach assumes that when taking one course a student consumes information from two sources: a face-to-face conversation in a classroom, and from the Internet (in different forms).
The essence of the layered classroom approach is allowing different students taking the same course using different forms of information consumption. Those different forms are called “layers”.
The first layer is comprised of students participating in the live communication sessions by attending the class on a site. The number of attending students should not be large which will allow to engage all students in the teaching process.
The next layer is represented by students participating live (active participants) via different online communication means available to a date (Youtube, google+, Ustream, Periscope). One of the goals of this experimental course is to test different platforms and to find strength and weaknesses of each.
The third layer is represented by students who can observe the lesson in real time but cannot participate in the process (passive participants). Those students can post questions on a discussion board; the questions will be answered in the time after the lesson.
Each lesson also will be videotaped and placed on the Internet.  The last layer is comprised of students who will be watching the videos after the class have been taken.
One of the goals of the program is to collect feedback from students on the structure of the course communication.
If a course requires lab exercises, in the middle of the course all students will attend a lab day in order to complete three laboratory exercises, to reinforce concept learned during the classes. At the end of the course another lab day will be offered to make the total number of laboratories to be equal to six (the minimum number required for premedical students).
To minimize the number of on-site labs an institution can develop or use developed various available digital resources, as well as a home-used lab kit.
Even when an institution offers only online classes, the approach can be useful, because the layered classroom model does not necessarily require actual on-site classes  (although I believe that even a small on on-site course nucleus would greatly help student retention).
For people taking online courses seeing once in a while, even once a semester, that there are actual “living” students who study the same material, even as a short group exercise, may have a positive psychological effect. This experience will help to keep online students engaged in the learning process.

A "light" version of this activity does not involve any on-site communication; in the “light” version several students can remotely interact with each other, instead of being in the same room.

This approach also can be used as a marketing instrument.

One needs to note that the form of learning (online, on-site, blended, layered) is much less important than the substance of the learning process (lesson plans, lesson content, peer-to-peer communication, student-teacher communication).

The more flexible a form is, the higher should be the quality of the substance. That requires the participation of instructors who are excellent in developing and delivering subject-related content, who are experienced guiding students, and in advising other instructors on how to develop and deliver content in other subjects. 

I believe that the future of the development of the new approaches to education will be defined by young (recently established) educational institutions, because the old and well-established institutions do not have a taste for actual innovations in educational practices (e.g., read “On the science of teaching science”, or “Three Myths of The Higher Education”).

NOTE: This proposal was rejected three years ago by Boston University Digital Learning & Innovation”. If then it would have gained any support, than today for many BU faculty the transition from fully on-site teaching to fully online teaching would be happening much smoother and easier. BU DLI and the NSF have rejected other proposals in the field of digital education. This only demonstrates again the absence of vision, innovation, and risk management skills. I wrote on several occasions that the level of management in the U.S. have been gradually declining for at least two decades. Management includes risk management, that begins from listing a set of risks, ranking them, and designing strategies for mitigating them. That requires pro-active thinking. But today managers do not know any more how to think pro-actively, they can only react to the events. And all the events related to COVID_19 epidemic only prove this fact.
Today, if I was a college student who was forced by COVID_19 to switch from fully on-site to fully online learning, I would ask college administrators one question. “Will the quality of online education be the same as the quality of the expected on-site education?” If the answer is: “No, online education will be only about 80 % as good as on-site education.” I would say: “OK, then I would like to have back 20 % of my tuition.” If the answer is: “Yes, online education will be as good as on-site education”. I would say: “OK, then why I was not offered it before? And why can’t I have now it for the rest of my learning?” If I was a college administrator, I would anticipate such questions from students. I would plan on lowering tuition by 20 % but significantly expanding online offering, at least in the form of the layered classroom  

Appendix I
The discussion about "what is wrong with U.S. education and how to make it right" has been around for decades.
Some participants point at such exemplary educational systems as in Finland or South Korea (e.g. read this informative paper). However many publications focus only on the visible attributes of education, its form. For example, quote (from the paper mentioned above):
"In Finland, students spend around 600 hours/year in a relaxed environment, calling their professors by their first name and incorporating the arts into every subject. Finnish schools offer flexible schedules to cater to the students’ learning pace and sleeping habits." 
But the authors fail to states that in order to successfully navigate such classes teachers must be absolutely fluent in their subjects well beyond the grade they teach, they need to know fundamentals of science and psychology, they have to be highly effective in communication with a diverse group of students, and also have time to professionally grow. That requires a completely different approach to teacher preparation and to teacher evaluation. 
"100 percent of teachers in South Korea and Finland come from the top third of college graduates. In these countries, teaching is a competitive field with an abundance of pursuers. In America, only 23 percent of teachers come from the top third of their class". 
This statistics screams that the education reform needs a new paradigm, including new approaches to teacher professional development.

Appendix II

The links to all six my applications to the NSF 2026 Big Idea Machine (from August 31, 2018 to October 26, 2018):

1. Entry125253: High Frequency Data Streams in Education

2. Entry124656: objective measures of physics knowledge

3. Entry125317: National database teacher PD

4. Entry124655: role of NSF in funding education

5. Entry125719: The new type of a science course for science teachers.  

6. Entry126205: The development of the uniform standard for measuring content knowledge in physics.

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