Social-constructivist Pedagogy and Online Professional Development in Adult Learning

Here to help. by mag3737 on flickr

Anderson & Gron (2011) write about the evolution of pedagogies afforded by technology developments in online learning. I’m just embarking on two new online PD opportunities that I have designed (with a colleague) and will facilitate. In each, the pedagogy most evident is the social-constructivist (SC) model. I think that’s crucial in order for the PD to have any lasting impact on the practice of the teachers. The organizing idea behind each of them is a Community of Practice, groups of practitioners working together to reach a shared goal. Two defining characteristics of SC pedagogy are authenticity and socially situated learning, where participants share reflection and responses to each others ideas. Through this interaction, learning can occur.

This is a new approach for many practitioners of Adult Basic Education. Most prefer one-shot workshops or conference presentations for learning (Marchwick, et al, 2008). Because of this, their first experience in online CoP-styled learning will likely determine their perception of its impact. I’m going to work hard to create supportive structure AND be responsive to their needs throughout the experience.

Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2011). Education Pedagogy. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12.3(March).

Marchwick, K., Johnson, K., & Parrish, B. (2008). Instructional practices alignment project summary ABE transitions to post-secondary initiative: lignment of ABE and post- secondary instructional practices. St. Paul.

Establishing Community in Online Courses: When Media Complicates.


I’m planning to rework a professional development study group/course I’ve conducted for three years. My goal for the changes is to apply what I’ve learned about the impact of developing social presence and building community on constructivist learning.  Why pursue a constructivist approach? There is ample research that supports opportunities for learning that mirror problem solving in the real world and that learning happens best when students weigh their knowledge against the viewpoints and ideas of others.

One idea for promoting community is to allow different media options for course participation: podcasts, videos, and tools like Flip Grid have all be explored as text options that can help all learners feel comfortable participating.  I would love to use them!


Complication:  I just learned that I will have several deaf or hard of hearing participants in the next offering of my PD course.  Soo… how can I integrate a greater range of media in a way that supports collaborative interaction when there are DHH participants in the group?  I’m assuming that I’ll need to provide a text option for discussion. Does it also mean that I need to require a text response for every discussion? For learners who want to use Flip Grid, do I still need for them to do the writing?  Is there some tech that can automatically close-caption the Flip Grid audio in a reliable way?

Much to explore to make this work!

Rovai, A. P. (2002). Building Sense of Community at a Distance. International Rview of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3(1), 1–8.