HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
In their article on the effect of instructor participation in online discussion boards, Margaret Mazzolini and Sarah Maddison (2003) asked if, “online instructors [should] be encouraged to take a prominent ‘sage on the stage’ role, a more constructivist ‘guide on the side’ role, or an ultra-low profile as ‘the ghost in the wings’” when they are facilitating asynchronous discussion boards. Fifteen years later, we are still debating this same question.
The peer review processes for promotion and tenure and for continuing appointment provide committees with what’s needed to make overall judgments about the quality of instruction. For teachers, however, peer reviews usually don’t contain the diagnostic, descriptive feedback they need to continue their growth and development in the classroom. The assessments are broad and in the interest of preserving collegial relationships, any negative comments lurk between the lines or in vague statements that can be interpreted variously.
We often hear that peer review is an excellent opportunity for reciprocal student learning. In theory, this makes sense. Since an instructor can only dedicate a certain amount of attention to each student, peer review allows students to receive more feedback and engage more frequently in the content they are learning. Research shows this benefits both the students who receive and provide feedback.
As teachers we know that our written work is not ready for publication until it has been reviewed by a variety of colleagues for commentary and edits. External review is needed even for good writers because we have a hard time seeing our own writing errors. Plus, we need that extra feedback to sharpen our ideas, discover new directions to take, and generally elevate our work to publication quality.
“So, what does that mean—’I need to provide more scaffolding’?” a teacher asked, with frustration in his voice. He was just back from a peer review debrief. “Maybe that’s more a suggestion than a criticism,” I offered. “Okay, but what do I do to provide more scaffolding?” he asked.
Because we know that active engagement in collaborative projects can create a synergy among students that often surpasses what can be learned individually, we find ourselves designing assignments that create opportunities for students to collaborate and learn from one another. Also, the ability to work together in teams is a skill needed in today’s workforce. So for many reasons, assignments that foster collaboration have become essential parts of a well-designed course.
One of the biggest problems with doing group projects online (and face-to-face) is student resistance, says Jan Engle, coordinator of instruction development at Governors State