Dilemmas of practice

a student of mine in the MAET Overseas program at Michigan State University
Teaching with tech by me
Although I've been a teacher in a face-to-face (f2f) classroom for over 30 years now, during this time I've also taught adolescents and adults in networked environments – completely online and in hybrid settings where digital discussion is part of a f2f classroom. I'm fascinated by learning in all of these environments, and that's led to some questions that I've tried to answer through researching my own classroom.

Pretty much from the beginning of my teaching vocation I was intrigued by what Lorrie Shepard refers to as the "dilemmas of practice." Within a few years I was publishing articles in educational magazines. I've participated and have written about action research projects too numerous to mention here. But despite how much I thought and wrote about how my students and I learn, I had the feeling my research methodology and/or the way I was disseminating my findings wasn't quite right.

In 2010 I entered the Michigan State hybrid EPET PhD program where my research focused on the ways students engage in productive online conversations in order to become valued members of learning communities. During my PhD work at MSU I learned a lot about how to set up rigorous academic research. And as I look back on it I can see how the research I was reading in my doctoral studies was informing my classroom teaching in articles like Learning from conflict: discussing controversial issues in the classroom and a related webinar I did for Common Sense Media.

After all this time, I've still got a lot of questions ... and a lot to learn. Here are some of the questions that I've addressed (and continue to think about) while researching my teaching and learning:
  1. In light of the changes made to my f2f high school setting going online due to COVID-19, I'm currently pondering a whole new set of questions. What were the best parts of taking the f2f learners online? How did some students overcome numerous obstacles to produce high quality work while others floundered including some who used to excel in a f2f setting? Can we assess and evaluate student work differently in this new environment?
  2. What can I do to develop the skills my students will need to be participating citizens in our democracy? I've tried to answer that in various articles like Teaching the art of civil dialogue for KQED and How I used the Ferguson riots to teach racial equality in school for The Guardian
  3. How do different types of feedback in peer review motivate student writers to revise? What type of feedback do students consider most helpful? Link to my doctoral dissertation.
  4. How do the quality and quantity of comments in online discussion relate to student motivation? (published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Educational Computing Research)
  5. What discourse moves create compelling online discussions? Dialogue Toolkit, with Carrie James, September 2014.
  6. What's the best way to teach vocabulary? (Teaching vocabulary within the context of reading was published in the Journal of Reading, March 1995).