29 March 2016

Examining Where Pedagogical Practices with Technology Begin

© robuart/Shutterstock © robuart/Shutterstock

When I was a graduate student in both my master’s and doctoral programs, I was asked which teachers throughout my years as a student had the largest influences on me. More specifically, I was asked to pinpoint the best and worst educators, in my opinion, of my career as a student.

When I was a graduate student in both my master’s and doctoral programs, I was asked which teachers throughout my years as a student had the largest influences on me. More specifically, I was asked to pinpoint the best and worst educators, in my opinion, of my career as a student. Reflecting back over the years, most of my teachers fade into the background; I can’t remember the name of my high school Advanced Biology instructor who I liked, or the Biology 101 college instructor that said I wouldn’t earn more than a 40 percent in his basic-level course. I remember the rigorous expectation of a middle school teacher who set the precedent that I hold for expectations of my own students, and I remember a college instructor who made test questions so difficult to navigate that I rarely require tests in my courses.

While these are not the full extent of my pedagogical beliefs and practices, these experiences that I had as a student have undoubtedly shaped the way in which I create syllabi, approach my classes, converse with students, handle conflict, encourage participation, and generate assignments. My face-to-face (F2F) classroom learning experiences far outnumber the online learning experiences that I had as an undergraduate and graduate student. By the completion of my doctoral degree, though, I did have experiences learning with at least four learning management systems (LMSs) and had similar experiences as described above with good, bad, and ugly online teaching organization and instruction.

Many colleagues of mine within my doctoral program and now, as a faculty member, however, did not have any experience with online courses as students. But now that they are first-year composition instructors, they are requested and required to teach online courses despite their hesitancy, unfamiliarity, and lack of online pedagogy development. As new instructors, we base the way we face our classrooms on our own experiences, like the ones I highlighted above: the positives and negatives that stick out in our minds.

That being said, I wonder, where do one's pedagogical beliefs regarding technology begin? Arguably, the most valued way to develop online pedagogical skills is through the experience of being an online student first. However, not all instructors have that opportunity. Participating in online courses as a student allows a potential instructor to see the classroom from the student perspective to gauge what assignments and tools are the most beneficial and to evaluate the effectiveness of communication methods.

In this sense, I’ve found technology to be a great opportunist and a great divider. Opportunities galore lay before the individuals willing to accept the challenge and seize the potential of the unknown world. Yet also, a severe tension remains between teachers, researchers, and scholars (particularly within education) who embrace technology and those who do not. I’ve been known in English departments, both as a student and as a faculty member, as “the one who does our tech stuff”—and received a variety of facial expressions in response to that introduction. I’m fascinated by individuals’ responses to technology in education and challenge all educators to critically examine where their pedagogical belief system in terms of technology began.


Abigail G. Scheg is a Course Mentor for General Education Composition at Western Governors University. She researches and publishes in the areas of online pedagogy, social media, first-year composition, and popular culture. She is the author or editor of multiple texts, including Applied Pedagogies: Strategies for Online Writing Instruction, Reforming Teacher Education for Online Pedagogy Development, Implementation and Critical Assessment of the Flipped Classroom Experience, Critical Examinations of Distance Education Transformation across Disciplines, and Bullying in Popular Culture.