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Transformation of Online Teaching Practices Through Implementation of Appreciative Inquiry

Dr. Bruce A. Johnson (College of DuPage, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 2:45pm
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere A3
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 3

Take the distance out of distance learning with innovative online teaching strategies that can be used in any online class.

Extended Abstract

Participants will learn about an innovative instructional approach that can help bring out the best in students, strengthen their working relationships with students, and bridge the distance gap.

The online classroom has not changed the basic principles of adult learning, only the format. What has not changed is the students' need for one-on-one interactions. Instructors can guide the development of online relationships by creating an environment that is conducive to and supportive of productive exchanges. This requires an investment of time on the part of the instructor as online interactions are not limited to one scheduled class meeting.

Students develop perceptions about the class, the process of learning, and the school based upon their classroom interactions and they are likely to find it reassuring to know that their instructor is dedicated to their progress and overall development. These interactions are most effective when the instructor has developed a strong virtual presence, one that is responsive to students and their developmental needs. Being actively engaged and present in the class results in a positive experience for the instructor and the students, and promotes a productive learning environment.

The online classroom may also change the nature of students' motivation, engagement, and performance. A student's need for self-motivation and taking responsibility for his or her class participation and assignment completion may be greater with an online classroom. Depending upon the level of involvement by the instructor and the students, the online classroom has the potential to become mechanical in nature and it may become easy for a student to experience a sense of disconnection from the class and/or the instructor, even with assigned class discussions.

Some of the challenges that are related to distance learning involve a lack of direct communication, students who feel stuck in the class for whatever the reason, those who lack academic skill sets and the determination to learn, and feedback that is provided without the benefit of any follow up discussion or explanation. All of these factors have a direct impact on students' performance, including written work and participation, along with their engagement in the class and the learning process. It will also have an impact on their level of motivation, which influences their progress, willingness, and persistence when faced with challenges.

Another environment where motivation, engagement and performance are studied can be found within the organizational setting. The field of organizational development has produced numerous theories of employee development and one theory that addresses development from a positive frame of reference is appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry is a tool that has been used to affect change and influence employee performance, which are essential factors of a successful employee and lead to improved overall organizational performance. It is a process of examining peak performance, it has a positive focus, is strengths-based, and often used to enact change or support a change initiative.

Appreciative inquiry was viewed as having potential to be adapted as an instructional strategy for online learning, which could bridge the gap between an instructor and his or her students. Because there was little research concerning the application of appreciative inquiry to an academic environment, elements of appreciative inquiry were adapted for a research study within undergraduate and graduate online classrooms. This instructional strategy was called appreciative andragogy, which used the appreciative nature of appreciative inquiry and the word andragogy to acknowledge that adult learners are self-directed in nature and their ability to learn depends upon their involvement in the process. Appreciative andragogy emphasizes the positive nature of adult learning that may occur through supportive interactions with an instructor.

The primary research study question was: How does the application of elements of appreciative andragogy as an instructional strategy for instructors positively affect online post-secondary classes?

Additional research questions were related to application of elements of appreciative andragogy as a positive instructional strategy for online classes and the impact of this strategy on adult learner motivation, engagement, and performance.

The purpose of this multiple case study was to explore the application and outcome of appreciative inquiry as an online instructional strategy. The appreciative inquiry model was adapted for this study as appreciative andragogy and utilized over a four-week implementation period. The participants worked with selected students from their online class and they measured the three factors (motivation, engagement, and performance) before and after the implementation phase.

The use of appreciative andragogy provided many benefits for the participants and the conclusions reached after the implementation period indicated the potential that it holds to be applied to other online classes. The use of appreciative andragogy as an instructional strategy was easy to implement, even with limited prior knowledge of appreciative inquiry, because of the conversations held with each of the participants about the underlying concepts.

The participants found that appreciative andragogy provided an effective relationship-building tool and it helped them put the focus of their conversations on the students' developmental needs, which were then tied to the students' future goals. The use of appreciative andragogy also modeled active motivation, engagement, and performance on the part of the participants, which in turn demonstrated that they were responsive to their students and actively present in the class. The study concluded that appreciative andragogy has an ability to take the distance out of distance learning.

By the end of this presentation, participants in this information session will be able to implement processes that can be utilized in any class since it isn't dependent on a particular subject. It is especially helpful for working with students who are struggling to connect with the online environment.

Participants will be inspired to try a new approach as appreciative andragogy provides a language for educators to use that allows them to find common ground with their students and develop meaningful communication.

Participants will also be provided with access to the worksheets used in this study so they have tools to use with their online classes.

Lead Presenter

Dr. Bruce A. Johnson is an innovative educator with experience in higher education as an online instructor and college professor, along with work as a corporate trainer and manager of a corporate training development. Dr. J has developed expertise in his career with adult education, distance learning, online teaching, faculty development, and organizational learning. Dr. J published his article, Transformation of Online Teaching Practices through Implementation of Appreciative Inquiry, in the Online Learning Journal (Vol. 18, No. 3, Oct. 2014). http://olj.onlinelearningconsortium.org/index.php/olj/issue/view/40