Week 4 Reflection

26 July 2021

                       Week 4 Reflection

This week’s reflection is primarily a review of my proposed learning design plan in light of the nine dimensions, discussed by Gachago et. al (2020),  and in relation to Nancy Fraser’s participatory parity approach. My learning design plan will focus on Learning Outcomes 1 -3 of my course. I have now decided on the two interventions that I need to implement. My design interventions seek to incorporate the concepts of assessment as learning,  assessment for learning, gamification and adaptive release as  learning tools. Over the years, I have faced the challenge of my students not willing to do formative assessments on the basis that these assessments are not “for marks”. However, this is an incorrect view point as formative assessments have been proven to be effective in enhancing student learning and student success. The purpose of these learning design interventions is therefore to ensure that my students engage with the content on the platform and undertake a number of formative assessments that are designed to improve their learning experience and their deeper engagement with the content so as to ensure an enriching learning experience for them which could ultimately enhance their chances success.

Gachago et. al (2020) proposed nine dimensions on which course design could be positioned on and these are in terms of whether the course is “open/closed, structured/unstructured, facilitated/unfacilitated, certified/uncertified, with/without date commitments, homogenous versus autonomous learning path, content vs process centric, serious vs playful and individual vs collaborative.”

In terms of the first dimension ( (open/closed), my course will be closed as it is only open to students that registered for the course at CPUT. No external participants can take part.

In terms of whether the course is structured or unstructured, the course will be highly structured as each module will basically follow the same structure, in which I will start by providing the learning outcomes, followed by chunked content including short videos and concluding with self-help exercises and formative tasks. In terms of the third dimension which considers whether the design will be facilitated or unfacilitated. As the Course Convener, I will facilitate and collaborate with my students in both synchronous and asynchronous activities in order to ensure their active participation. The course is designed in such a way that grants equal access to all the students. Fraser (2007) postulates that justice is all about the “parity of participation”. I view this, in terms of learning design, as ensuring that all my students have equal access and equal opportunities. In this regard, the proposed learning design should ensure equal access, equal participation and recognition of the humanism and cultural significance of all my students.

Fraser (2007) further postulates that injustice may be as a result of lack of economic resources to facilitate participation or lack of social recognition or the status of inequality. As a teacher, I strongly believe that all humans are born equal and therefore all my students are equal and as such, I must develop a learning design that supports equal participation and affords equal recognition to all my students.

Fraser (2007) further posits that effective justice should be three-dimensional, that is, it should encompass distribution, recognition and representation which encompases the creation of structures and procedures to ensure equal participation and resolve conflict that may emerge. 

The way my learning design is structured should thus reflect inclusion and representativity. This will, to a greater extent support equal access and collaboration among my students (Gachago et. al’s, 2020 ninth dimension). For instance, I have just embarked on a programme to decolonise part of my curriculum by ensuring that I translate into local language the terms and concepts that my students find difficult to grasp or understand. I have thus developed a glossary with about 300 terms and concepts that have been translated from English into isiXhosa and Afrikaans. This is in line with Fraser’s (2007) idea of ensuring representativity, recognition and equal access. In this regard, I am recognising and ensuring the inclusion of the majority of my students who are Xhosa-speaking. The 300 words that are in the glossary were suggested by my students and I did this in order to give them a voice and ensure that they own the process and the outcome. In this regard, I subscribe to the notion of an inclusive and representative learning design. 

As part of ensuring that the student voice is heard in the learning design, I will involve my students in the learning design process so as to make the whole process participatory. I also concur with Fraser’s (2007) argument that the issue of voice is equally as important as equal access to resources and recognition. One of the key considerations in my proposed  learning design intervention is that “no student must be left behind” and such I endeavour to avoid misrepresentation which Fraser describes as a situation in which some people are wrongly denied the opportunity to participate at par with others in social interactions. As I alluded to earlier on, I treat all my students as equal and endeavour to ensure equity in my dealings with them.

One other concept that I found interesting in Fraser’s article is the idea of framing, which she describes as a special form of misrepresentation in which the questions of social justice are designed and framed in such a way as to wrongly exclude other people. I linked this idea to the curriculum that I have been following over the years, a curriculum which I think was primarily designed and based on Western epistemologies at the exclusion of the Global South epistemologies. The curriculum was designed in such a way that it did not consider the culture, values, voice and beliefs of students from other cultural backgrounds, especially Africans. However, I have started the process of decolonising my curriculum by allowing my students to bring case studies from their own contexts, giving them a voice in determining how they want to be taught and assessed and so on. Fraser (2007) postulates that the “politics of framing” revolves around the setting of boundaries in the political space and the determination of who counts as the subject of justice, whose voice must be heard and who has the authoritative power to divide the political space. In this case I regard my students as the key players in the learning space and as such they must participate in the space and their voice must be topical. 

Fraser (2007) further argues that the “politics of framing” can either follow the affirmative or transformative approach. The former seeks to “contest the boundaries of existing frames” whilst the latter considers the forces of injustices as being global and not linked to particular state territories. In this case, in order to achieve social justice in my teaching and learning, I need to take a transformative approach to the framing of my curriculum and consider different global epistemologies including local indigenous knowledge systems. In this regard, the transformative approach is far much more deeper and seeks to ensure fundamental change of the social order and one way of doing this is “to democratize the process by which the frameworks of justice are drawn and revised” which in the HE sector could be done by ensuring that students fully participate in the teaching and learning process including the determination of the curriculum and its development.

As a teacher, I must not perpetuate injustice by denying my students a voice in deciding their destiny in so far as their teaching and learning is concerned.

As part of my teaching philosophy, I strongly believe that I must care for my students and be considerate of their contexts, their learning needs and their aspirations. As such, the learning space must not be arbitrarily determined by me as a teacher or by the university but by continued dialogues between all the actors and having the students at the centre. Fraser (2007) supports this notion when she advocates for dialogical democratic moments which will not “produce monological theories of social justice.”  In this case, the dialogical approaches are inclusive, humanistic and “treat important aspects of justice as matters for collective decision-making, to be determined by the citizens themselves, through democratic deliberation.” In my case, the citizens are the students and other key stakeholders involved in the teaching and learning process. This then becomes an effective approach that will ensure participation parity, inclusivity, equity and representativity. Fraser (2007) further underlines that participatory parity can only be achieved by the adoption of the democratic approach to social justice. Thus as a teacher, I must democratise the learning environment so that my students can all participate as equals as every student counts (ubuntu).

According to Gachago et. al (2020), the fourth dimension that one should look at when designing a course pertains to whether the course will be certified or not certified. The course that I teach, Applied Retail Research, is part of the curriculum for the Advanced Diploma in Retail Business Management and as such it is a certified course. The course has 24 credits and 4 summative assessments. Students taking the course have to attain at least 50% to pass the course. 

The fifth dimension is in terms of “eventiness” which refers to whether or not the course has deadlines and commitments that have to be honoured within set timelines. Yes indeed, my course is highly structured with specific modules and tasks that must be completed at set times, though through dialogue, I am very flexible on the timelines.  As part of the intervention for my Online Learning Design project, I am planning to use the adaptive release tool which will facilitate the gradual release of content as specific tasks are completed by the students. However, in view of Fraser’s (2007) idea of parity participation, one may argue that using adaptive release does not, to some extent, democratise the learning space as students are placed in a highly structured environment  in which they must follow a particular order of events and tasks without much room or personal independence to decide what to do and what not to do. I will therefore try to overcome this challenge by ensuring that my students are involved in the process ab initio and that they contribute to what content and activities will be covered in each and every module. I am sure this will ensure that their voice is heard and that they buy into the process thereby guaranteeing their participation.

According to Gachago et. al (2020), the sixth dimension that one should consider when designing an online course is whether the course is content-driven or process-driven. My course seeks to guide students throughout the research process by providing them with the relevant knowledge, skills and tools they require to successfully complete their research projects. In this regard, the course is a hybrid of both content and process. The content will be in terms of the various research theories, methods, tools and techniques that I will share with them whilst the process will be in terms of the step by step approach they need to follow as they implement their research projects.

The seventh dimension, according to Gachago et. al (2020) should consider whether the students will follow a homogenous learning path or an autonomous learning path. As alluded to earlier on, the course is highly structured and follows a modular approach and as such all the students follow a homogenous learning path which is designed to take them through the whole process. It is however important to note that the fact that the course follows a homogenous learning path may, to some extent, be a contradiction to Fraser’s (2007) democratic approach to social justice in that  a homogenous learning design places students in a box with little or limited autonomy. However, this challenge is mitigated by the fact that I will incorporate the student voice in the design of the homogenous learning design and they will also contribute towards the determination of the content to be covered and how it will be covered. This will ensure that irrespective of being homogenous, the course remains participatory and the voice of the students is prevalent throughout the whole course from the beginning till the end.  

The eighth dimension that Gachago et. al (2020) proposed is that of determining to what extent fun or playfulness is used in the course. In this regard, the dimension ranges, on a continuum, from seriousness to playfulness.

As I alluded to at the beginning of this reflection, one of the tools that I will incorporate in the proposed learning design intervention is the use of gamification in order to encourage student engagement and participation in the various learning activities. I will use a number of games that students must play as part of their formative assessments. However, I concur with Gachago et. al’s (2020) view that “playful learning is a course principle but depends on participants’ perception of playfulness.” In this regard, in line with Fraser’s (2007) ideas on social recognition, equitable distribution of resources and framing, it will be imperative for me to engage with my students and their context in order to be able to determine what they regard as being fun and playful.

The last dimension proposed by Gachago et. al’s (2020) focuses on the extent to which collaboration is built into the course design. This dimension ranges, on a continuum, from individual learning on one end to collaborative learning on the other. I am a firm believer in both cognitive-behaviourist and constructivist-connectivist learning theories. As such, the course design will incorporate activities done individually and other activities in which the students are required to collaborate with each other using tools such as Blackboard Collaborate, WhatsApp and so on. The idea of students working together fosters collaborative and social learning and to some extent reinforces Fraser’s (2007) ideas about social recognition and participation parity in that the students work together collaboratively, in groups, as equal partners and with equal access to the content and other resources.

However, in view of my context in which most of my students come from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, equity and participation parity may be constrained by the fact that some of the students do not have access to digital devices and internet data. As such they depend on assistance from family and friends and thus their participation may not be at the same level as those that have all round access to digital devices and internet data. In terms of design, I intend to ameliorate this challenge by ensuring that the same activities that are done synchronously can also be done asynchronously as a way of ensuring equitable access. I will also be very flexible in terms of the deadlines to ensure that no students are left behind.

In conclusion, Week Four has been an eye opener for me as I managed to conclude my learning design plan. The two readings that I focused on (Gachago et al., 2020 and Fraser, 2007) really enlightened me in terms of the key principles and dimensions that I need to consider for my proposed learning design intervention. As an advocate of equity in teaching and learning, Fraser’s (2007) concept of parity of participation is a living concept that I will endeavour to consider in my learning design and in my teaching and learning and assessment activities in order to ensure that there is inclusivity, equal representation and recognition in my class.

References

Fraser, N. (2007). Reframing Justice in a Globalising World. In Julie Connolly, Michael Leach & Lucas Walsh (eds.), Recognition in Politics: Theory, Policy and Practice. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 16. 

Gachago, D., Bali, M. & Pallitt, N. (2020). No Size Fits All: Design Considerations for Networked Learning Across Contexts in Higher Education.