Let me see if I understand your predicament: you want your students to reflect on their experiences re teaching & learning and propose some ways things could go better. Or just to sit with that query on their minds ("mull") for a little while, spend some time in that state of creative not-knowing. You want to open the discovery (& the discussion) up wide, BUT also generate -- publicly or privately -- some concrete ideas for change.
Hmm. That's a tall order.
I'm a BIG fan of appreciative inquiry so I like what you're trying to do with that approach. But when I ponder your revised prompt; i.e.
>>What constructive outcomes could happen if you changed your approach to any aspect of a course?
... I confess the first thing that pops into my mind is "but WHY would I change my approach to how I'm currently teaching Course X? I'm already teaching it the best way I know how (otherwise I would have already changed, wouldn't I)??"
I agree with Jeff that I would need a fair bit more clarification before I responded to this prompt. For example, what do you mean by "approach"? Your suggestion to "provide a few examples" would probably go a long way to help people get started. What do you think about suggesting something maybe a bit radical to get them thinking? Maybe even a combo of the appreciative inquiry & TRIZ approaches? I don't know, ... something along the lines of:
Suppose you suddenly stopped during [some approach, be specific] & replaced that with [some other approach, be specific]. What's the best thing that could happen? What's the worst?
Thanks Gina for walking through this and providing some clarification. You've got me thinking!
It is fascinating to me that the initial question of What do you want more of in the teaching and learning experience? would be a challenge. It's a question I ask myself when I am going into developing a course, whether it is curriculum, learning activities, interactions with students and assessment, etc. What do I want more of for the students' success? Then, how might that work, and I start considering options- even if they don't generate the exact outcome I expected. I guess I am exposing my own vulnerability as an instructor. I don't have an answer here, just mulling my own experience of drafting this prompt....
You want to open the discovery (& the discussion) up wide, BUT also generate -- publicly or privately -- some concrete ideas for change. Absolutely. These are instructors who are interested in professional development and are taking the course to improve learning. Ideally the teaching experience as well but that's another angle. Brainstorming many ideas and sharing can empower one's self and others. The focus here is on possibility. It would be messy and that's probably what the challenge is. I suspect many are more comfortable sharing final ideas, rather than expose 'in progress'..
In thinking about the examples that could be offered, here goes:
What constructive outcomes could happen if you changed your approach to any aspect of a course?
In my Intercultural Communications Studies course I currently have students write a final paper that demonstrates conceptual understanding and personal shifts they see in themselves from the beginning of the course until now. I get the odd one that reveals a sense of deep learning about ones self and an empathy and curiosity about other ways of being and doing. It's okay, but how could I liberate them if the paper is constraining their ideas? I confess, when I asked a faculty to try a different approach to the research paper, I was elated, had fun and that paper was a success.
What if I allowed students to choose the method to show me their learning? The criteria wouldn't change, but how they present it, could. They could always do the paper, but now their are other options.
When I did this, I got erasure poetry, a short story and a video, all demonstrating solid understanding of concepts and personal reflection. It was the most powerful expression of learning that I saw and I wondered why I had not done this before. The prompts that I drafted for this course were an attempt to see what wording might invite that kind of exploration of practice. I probably should have added to the context that this would not be the first discussion and that time for relationship would have been provided. Does that make more sense?
Thank you for the revision: Suppose you suddenly stopped during [some approach, be specific] & replaced that with [some other approach, be specific]. What's the best thing that could happen? What's the worst? I like that it is about imagining- I think that is a more effective word. I like the best thing that could happen. That is the positive tone I was leaning to. I deliberately didn't go with the worst because I was thinking it added another part to the participant/student/teacher's workload, and there may be a tendency to dwell in the negative. However, I see how a balance of the question might be necessary.
Hoping this is more clear. Thank you Jeff and Gina for pushing me through this!
When I read your first post, I was confused and sort of moved away without responding. Now, after just reading the examples in your last post, if I were in your PD course, and you asked me this, I would have a much better "concrete" idea to reflect on. In fact, you have got me thinking about what if I were to use the topic, "How could I "rethink" my use of discussion forums in my online course to enhance the meta-cognitive learning process in my students?" It would be like taking this micro-FLO on discussion prompts as a part of the whole conversation on the role, purpose, and facilitation of discussion forums in the online course. Now, I'm excited, and I want to further explore because this is exactly where I am at right now in my learning process with teaching online courses..
The benefits of a snow afternoon...time to reflect.
Out of confusion comes clarity.
I struggle with telling all the details and seeing what can emerge from something more wide open. Probably my background in process drama and visual arts where parameters of skills are set but then just go for it and see what comes up.
Clearly, I gotta reign it in!
Actually it occurs to me that asking about the 'worst that could happen' might result in the person thinking something like well actually, not much bad stuff would happen. And that might be a good thing. Say they wanted to try an approach that was new to them and they thought that it would be risky to do so so they were unsure about trying it. Asking about "Well what's the worst that could happen if you tried it that way?" might make a person realize that there's less risk than they thought. So maybe they should just try it!
Good luck with it Emma and thanks to all of you for a "meaty" thread here!
Thanks Beth- wow you are up early!!