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Finding Space, Redefining Space, Keeping it Simple: Rebuilding Teacher Agency through Experiental Professional Learning about Curriculum Design for Distance and Online Courses

Dr Sarah Stein

University of Otago, New Zealand

Background and Methods: When on-campus courses are redeveloped to online-distance mode, teaching contexts change. As a result, teachers’ self-efficacy and agency are affected. This small study explored the experiences of 40 academic teaching sta who participated in a workshop that aimed to facilitate the (re)design of their on-campus courses for teaching at a distance. Comments were invited about similarities or differences from face-to-face teaching, and reflections on how those views may have come about.

Findings and Discussion: A challenge for these teachers was their understanding of “space”: from the physical to the virtual, raising their awareness of communication and interaction processes. Well-versed practices became unreliable and unpredictable, routines were upended, roles and responsibilities had to be modi ed and technologies used differently. The teachers’ sense of agency was threatened.

With experience that comes from application, teachers realised that moving to a distance context meant that the changes to their sense of space allowed innovative practices to emerge. Simple, but clever uses of technologies within a well-designed course were keys to manageability of teaching, engagement for students.

Teaching is a practical activity. The workshop provided space for the teachers to engage in one aspect of activity, namely, course (re)design. The environment was created for the teachers to worked on their own courses. They did not simply hear about course planning but engaged in it. The experience meaningful, relevant and worthwhile. The learning gained from implementing their distance courses affected on-campus teaching as well. While the context change had a destabilising e ect on the teacher’s sense of self-efficacy, it was also the catalyst for teachers to question assumptions about teaching, courses, students, interactions, communications and technologies. The act of teaching, in turn, enhanced and developed the teaching. In this short presentation, evidence in the form of excerpts from the teachers’ comments are used to illustrate the ideas outlined above. The study thus provides some foundation for exploring threshold principles or the tipping points underpinning and enabling effective moves to online and distance teaching contexts.

(A copy of this presentation is unfortunately not available).