Steven A. Meyers
College Teaching, Vol. 56/No. 4, Fall 2008. Pages 219 - 224
Even though ESL language learning seems so distant from discussions around transformative pedagogy and its implications in teaching, especially at lower language levels, this article reflects on factors and contexts and ideas that appear highly transferable between the two learning foci. Of the five critical points made in the article, the first four seem quite applicable to ESL settings in online learning. Highlights and suggestions follow below:
- Online discussions have the right ingredients to challenge the more traditional idea of authority and power than the college classroom most of us are used to. Lowering the barriers to this idea of whom is the expert and how everyone's position is equally valid, once supported with evidence and expressed respectfully is a key reflection to keep in mind.
- Levels of permitted anonymity in online discussions can promote sharing of positions and what a person actually feels about something. However we have also considered in previous articles the downside of this aspect of online delivery - instructors may not feel comfortable knowing who said what and how to respond.
- (1) Create a safe environment in your online learning class. This is paramount to almost anything else. develop mutual trust. Consider tips and ideas such as small groups, select facilitators and leaders. Online environment seem to promote more flexible and open spaces for people to express themselves, beyond barriers of age, gender or skin colour. Instructors need to maintain supportive, present and uplifting roles all along and for everyone in the class. This may directly affect the time commitment to provide a felt 'presence' in the classroom.
- (2) Encourage individual and personal participation and sharing of one's own perspective. Invite students to examine their own assumptions. Support activities that help students make connections between what they believe and assume and their own experiences in life. Invite them to be critical and know where they stand. Promote the experience of considering alternatives. Online environment can foster this reflective approach to learning.
- (3) Teaching strategies are crucial to promoting participation and engagement. They must be appropriate, relevant and flexible. Encourage the sense that everyone's contributions are essential to the building of new knowledge.
- (4) Pose real-world problems. The idea of the "Wicked Problem" is emerging once more. relevance and meaningfulness are essential elements of the online learning experience.