Reflection on teaching

I find myself thinking about how I teach currently versus how I would now like to teach. I am in a fortunate position of having an excellent Program, which is modern and represents aspects of the industry that I believe in. I am, therefore, teaching into a Program that I am happy to stand up and defend. My Program has also been set up by an innovative Head of Program and a lecturer who I respect. We have, as a Program, mapped our PLO’s to the AQF and most courses have had their CLO’s updated consistent to how the University advocates. Having said that, I am enjoying the examination of my chosen course. I find myself getting excited about changing the course, improving it to improve the student experience. My course already gets very high feedback, and it is relevant to the industry. However the course needs to better reflect student needs and industry expectations. There are definitely changes to be made. My advantage is that I am working with a good framework rather than a blank canvas. I can improve the CLOs and the assessment, update the textbook and introduce online teaching and assessment with confidence that the course will do what I want it to do. I find myself motivated to examine all courses in my Program, including the development of new courses, revise the PLOs and set up a you beaut Program that will become the envy of other universities! Our point of difference with other university programs is the inclusion of writing skills for public relations practitioners and the inclusion of marketing for journalists. This provides a well rounded student with high employability. After studying this course, I can now articulate my vision in a pedagogically sound manner. I can justify the teaching philosophy we have adopted and the learning theories we use to teach. I can provide solid explanations of the assessment and I can confidently engage students online. But more than all of that, I now (for the first time) understand how it all fits together. I have a big picture incorporating my little course in the world of tertiary education.


Thoughts about course level design

My chosen course is Media Writing, an introductory level course in the Bachelor of Professional Communication. I am using this course for Assessment Three. Before I provide my personal view of course level design, I find myself reflecting on why I chose the course for this assessment. I chose the course at the start of term because I had just finished teaching it and it is out of date. It needs beautifying. That’s what I thought then.

This is what I think now:

The course is part of the Professional Communication curriculum. It introduces concepts at the start of the course, and the students learning is scaffolded until they reach the level expected in the course learning outcomes. Also, the concepts students learn in Media Writing are scaffolded into other courses within the curriculum. Any new course design needs to consider Media Writing’s place in the curriculum, the expected level of student knowledge at the start of the course, and the expected student learning by the end.

Also, the Learning Outcomes of my new Media Writing course need to reflect where Media Writing sits in the curriculum, as well as how the course contributes to the Program Learning Outcomes of the Bachelor of Professional Communication.

Also, the Bachelor of Professional Communication is heading into a five year review. I need to be sure that the new Media Writing will still achieve what it needs to achieve in order to contribute to the new curriculum.


I am not simply writing a new course to make it pretty and teach students about writing for the media. The new course needs to do that as well as fit within the curriculum AND adhere to AQF requirements and university policies.

And at the same time that I am doing all that, I need to ensure students are actually meeting the course learning outcomes. I do this through course design and assessment. But in order to design a course and its assessment, I need to understand my student cohort. The design and assessment must be relevant for online students, and I know that most of the student cohort are part time, mature age and working full time in the industry – but not all. This is where my knowledge of learning theories becomes applicable.

Thanks to last term’s Nature of Learning and Teaching, I know that constructivism will only do part of the job for me in Media Writing. There are “rules” that students must master to meet the learning outcomes; rules that can only be taught through behaviourist methods. This move me into the “strategy” step of instructional design. I need to structure a course that gets students to where they need to be. Then I show that students are at that point through assessment.

I anticipate that the structure of Media Writing will be formal – there are rules to master before moving onto the next concept, and those concepts need to be mastered before moving onto advanced courses. However, student learning (particularly deep learning) can be encouraged through thoughtful course design.

This is now my starting point. Now I can begin!

Behaviourism in the 21st century

The question posed in this activity is whether behaviourism is still valid in the 21st century. One of the “new” learning theories presented in the readings is connectivism. I will respond to the activity question by reflecting on behaviourism’s relationship to connectivity.

I like the theory of connectivity as explained in the reading by Seimens. They way I read it, connectivism allows students to question everything. Or at least it is a theory that achnowledges that students’ learning will be impacted by everything in their lives. If there is conflict between what a student learns from one source and what they learn from another source, connectivism explains that a student is likely to form an opinion based on learning from a third source, or a fourth, or a fifth. In the 21st century, we, as lecturers, need to accept that we are not the only source of information for students. They may believe they know more than us, and they might! What connectivism allows us to do, as lectures, is set up students so they know how to question, or what to question.

My teaching area is Media Writing. From a behaviourist perspective, I teach the students rules about writing, they learn those rules and apply them in writing. If the writing illustrates the rules, the student is correct. If the writing does not illustrate the rules, the student is incorrect. For media writing this has been an accepted approach. As a lecturer I can draw upon examples of media writing to prove that the rules exist.

Within connectivism, students can easily check what I am teaching them. And they do. We have many discussions on writing styles, whether to use a single quotation mark or double quotation mark, how to introduce a news article, and many other examples.

Does this affect the way I teach? Absolutely! Until I completed the readings on connectivity, I was not aware of the terminology, but I absolutely agree with it. As a lecturer, I encourage students to question, and my understanding of connectivity theory allows me to acknowledge that the questioning will be constant from students who live in a digital age. Rather than frightening, it is liberating! I can encourage student activities that critique the content they have just been taught. Students can use their natural connectivity to find the responses, thus using a constructivism approach. And by the fact that I set the task, and apply boundaries to it, I am still working within a behaviourist framework.

In answer to the question posed in this activity “Is behaviourism still a valid learning theory?” I say yes. However, the context has changed. The setting has changed. And the students have changed. As we were taught at the beginning of this Theme, not one learning theory will apply completely. So it is with behaviourism. If we view behaviourism through its 1940s lens, then it is most certainly not valid. But if we view behaviourism with a knowledge of how learning takes place today, then yes.

I use behaviourism as a learning theory. And I maintain that I need to use behaviourism because students need to know the “rules” about media writing. I need to set boundaries for the students, otherwise assessment would be inconsistent and moderation impossible. But I do not use behaviourism in isolation. I use it with constructivism, which recognises students’ individuality, and connectivity, which acknowledges students’ exposure to myriad sources of information.