Keywords: authentic learning, constructive alignment, instructional design, transactional distance
Creationof the World Wide Web and the advent of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has brought a new range of tools and resources into Elementary Education in the form of e-Learning. In order for a teacher to successfully create authentic learning opportunities by combining face-to-face teaching and e-Learning, a well planned approach which considers the readiness of a student to use e-Learning and the ability of a teacher to develop and implement an appropriate alignment of outcome-based
education, where students construct meaning from what they do in activities and teachers align the planned learning activities with learning outcomes, is required.
Readiness for the Inclusion of e-Learning
The readiness of students to participate in the use of e-Learning is critical to the success of combining classroom learning or text-based learning with ICT-based learning. Pillay, Irving and Tones (2007)
found that readiness for online learning gravitates toward several issues:
technical skills, which affect a student’s ability to participate and interact;
computer self-efficacy, which influences a student’s ability to engage in deep learning and apply learned knowledge or engage in surface learning, involving memorization rather than understanding; and
Each of these issues focuses attention on the readiness of the student and the requirement of the teacher to recognize the student's readiness to engage in e-Learning.
Another focus of attention for the teacher is the development and implementation of e-Learning activities for students through the design of their process of teaching. In order for a teacher to combine traditional face-to-face teaching and learning with e-Learning successfully a well planned approach to using an effective Instructional Design is required. Instructional Design is a systematic process that is employed to develop teaching and learning activities in a consistent and reliable way (Reiser & Dempsey, 2007). In terms of Instructional Design, Merrill (2002) suggests that the most effective learning environments are those which are problem-based and involve students in four distinct phases of learning:
activation of prior experience;
demonstration of skills;
application of skills; and
integration of these skills into real-world activities.
Each of these four phases can be tied into the framing of a constructivist approach that fosters an
interactive and authentic environment for learning. The use of a constructivist approach to learning, in the form of task-based authentic learning activities, is conducive to effective educational activity design and development.
Constructive alignment involves outcome-based education where students construct meaning from what they do in activities and a teacher aligns the planned learning activities with learning outcomes (Biggs & Tang, 2007). Through outcomes-based learning and open-ended assessment, students can take ownership of much of their learning outcomes and a teacher can take ownership of how the Intended Learning Outcomes
(ILOs), Teaching & Learning Activities (TLAs) and Assessment Tasks (ATs) are structured in ways that send clear messages to students that they are going to need to demonstrate applied learning in order to successfully complete their tasks. Constructive alignment can be used to develop teaching and learning activities that are either teacher or student managed. Biggs and Tangs’ approach to teaching and learning places the teacher in a position of being able to reflect upon the steps taken to link ILOs, TLAs and ATs so that these are presented in terms of a common language that both the teacher and students can understand easily. This framework can motivate the teacher to plan, observe and reflect upon what they do and what their students do as learners. Constructive alignment is an approach to teaching and learning that facilitates deep learning for not only for the students but also for the teacher.
Transactional Distance: Bridging the Teaching and Learning Gap between Teacher and Student
Transactional distance, in the context of teaching and learning, concerns the separation that exists between teacher and students and among student peers. Transactional distance theory refers to the gap that can be crossed when there is a balance of dialogue, structure or course design and learner autonomy (Benson & Samarawickrema, 2009). The Transactional Distance Model, see below, shows the relationship dynamic between structure and dialogue and the effects of both on learner autonomy. High structure and high dialogue is the optimal combination for learner success, according to this model.
Transactional Distance Model
This model offers a framework for analyzing the management of transactional distance, through a constructivist perspective, that is, students generate knowledge and understanding from their experiences. In order for students to accomplish learning objectives, their teacher needs to be able to guide them to understand how to develop knowledge and skills that will allow them to reach learning objectives and achieve successful learning outcomes. Instructional design is used to create an instructional environment and materials that will bring the learner from the state of not being able to accomplish certain tasks to a new state of being able to accomplish those tasks (Kanuka, 2006). Authentic learning can be used to facilitate a
student's cognitive shift from not knowing to knowing how to be able to accomplish tasks through participation in meaningful settings that may include any or several of the attributes of authentic learning
elements listed in the table below. Furthermore, authentic learning can contribute to rewarding learning opportunities for students, such as collaboration, reflection, self-sufficiency and the ability to construct knowledge. Learning advantages gained in authentic learning settings often draw upon the synergies developed from the interaction of learner, task and technology, as shown in the table below (Herrington, Reeves, & Oliver, 2006).
Atributes of Authentic Learning Elements
Activity example – Country Collage & Presentation
The following authentic learning activity has been designed to demonstrate the integration of learner, task and technology. The ILOs, TLAs, and ATs are not included in this description. Yet, the reader can place
themselves in the position of thinking about what ILOs, TLAs, and ATs might be appropriate for this task-based activity depending on what the teacher wants the students to learn.
Students use the Internet to make a one page word document in the form of a collage representing the identity of a country. The country could be chosen individually by each student or could be selected by the
teacher for a specific reason, such as, the country's language is a subject of foreign language study at school or the country is the focus of a school geography unit. Several sessions with computers could be allotted in order to allow students to complete their collages with the support of their teacher if consultation is
Students experience positive learner autonomy, positive structure, and positive dialogue. The students create their work primarily by themselves and each student is focused on the structure of the activity by completing the task using images to represent the identity of a country in their collage. The presentation component of the activity provides dialogue opportunities so that each student can talk about his/her collage and explain the connection of the images to the selected country of study and the symbolism behind the images chosen. Additionally, each presenter could field questions about his/her collage from the class group in order to increase dialogue. Thus, beyond the issue of the separation of teaching and learning experiences between teacher and student and student peers, another issue that holds an important place in the development and implementation of appropriate delivery modes is the question of how students can accomplish learning objectives. The facilitation of face-to-face learning with e-Learning achieves this end.
The main technological tool for this activity is: the Internet, via both school owned and privately owned computers and Microsoft Word to design a collage. A high amount of constructive feedback and
information or idea sharing can be displayed among student peers and their teacher in this activity. This example illustrates the value of employing instructional design through authentic learning to produce
effective learning outcomes. Students experience the making of a graphic representation via computer technology, communicating with each other through the sharing of ideas, and demonstrating presentation skills, which could all be of importance to them in their future schooling and working futures.
Effective e-Learning can be considered the result of an appropriate readiness of the student learner to use ICTs and the ability of the teacher to develop and implement well structured and aligned teaching and learning activities that close any distance between what the teacher wants a student to learn and what a student actually learns.
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Herrington, J., Reeves, T. C., Oliver, R. (2006). Authentic Tasks Online: A synergy among learner, task and technology. Distance Education, 27 (2), 233-247.
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