Methodological Competency

We are continuing to briefly explore each of the 12 Characteristics of the 4C Quality Faculty model . Last issue, we looked at Competency in Technology. This issue, we conclude the Competency dimension with a quick review of Methodology.

This characteristic deals with the wider array of theories, models, and practices related to teaching and learning. Methodology primarily deals with connecting the right methods of instruction to the context, content, and types of learners. A Quality Faculty understands there are a variety of ways of learning and are skilled at understanding the student as learner, identifying which ways of learning best fit the situation or subject, and connecting students to the learning process. In short, this characteristic emphasizes learning and what the faculty member can do to facilitate it happening.

In this characteristic, it is essential that faculty pay attention to what methods are effective, allow students to identify ways of learning that stimulate learning, and do research to see what methods best work for the particular learning goals. Pedagogy is the basic science of teaching. In its simplest form, the instructor is responsible for the material being taught. This is because the learner often lacks the personal experience neccesary to provide context to the learning objectives. In turn, students are motivated by external measures, such as grades and the consequences from failure. Andragogy is a sub-set of pedagogy and relates more specifically to adult learners. In an andragogical approach, the learner is self-directed and often brings experience that benefits their ability to learn. Learners want to perform tasks, solve problems, and see relevance to real-life scenarios.

These two approaches in recent educational theory really form a continuum of sorts, although some argue that andragogy is just a particular subset of pedagogy. The reality is that whether it is a traditional college course or an online adult accelerated course, students can fall all along that continuum. You can have traditional age-college students in a typical class that are much more self-motivated, street-wise, savvy in multiple disciplines, and naturally sharp at critical thinking. Likewise, you can have an adult student in an online or accelerated adult course with years of experience in a field but lacks the most fundamental knowledge and context for a particular course and struggles to engage in the level of dialogue and critical thinking that andragogical principles would suggest.

The key thing for a quality faculty member is the ability to discern where individual students fall along that continuum and adapt accordingly. Effective teaching involves shaping the method and the assumptions to fit the specific moment. Draw from published learning theories such as andragogy, but become an expert of your own and knowing when to utilize which approach.

How aware are you of the different ways of learning and how the context shapes one’s teaching? What different ways of learning will be involved in your particular classes or area? How will you adapt your teaching to the specific course context?

If you are not already, send some time getting familiar with some of the current leading theories on adult learning such as Bloom’s revised taxonomy, Fink’s Significant Learning Experiences, or the 7 Ways of Learning. You might want to periodically explore what learning theories are most applicable to the specific context of the course you are teaching. 

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Bryan Easley

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Dean of Online Education, Oklahoma Wesleyan University

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