What is Process Learning at Sinclair?

Summary

Process learning at Sinclair is an enabling movement promoting learning-centered experiences for students and faculty. Process learning is a key part of Sinclair's migration toward becoming a Learning College.

What's in the Instructor's Tool Kit?

The instructor's tool kit can hold a variety of items including teaching/learning methods, technology, assessment, instructional design, and self-learner thinking (that is, willing openness to ongoing learning). For the most part, these tools aren't necessarily new or different. Just like a pair of well-worn shoes, they feel comfortable. In fact, most faculty members have used a variety of the tools at one time or another.

What brings new value to the teacher + learner equation is the systematized, cohesive approach of process learning.

No longer are the instructor's tools viewed as separate, unrelated elements but rather as integrated, interdependent tools that help faculty build better learners-lifelong learners. At the heart and sole (pun intended) of process learning is the faculty member's belief that he/she can use these tools to systematically grow better learners who know how to continuously improve their own learning processes. This instructor's tool kit, therefore, enables the migration from teacher-centered learning experiences to learning-centered experiences.

Teaching/Learning Methods?

From the methods portion of the tool kit, an instructor makes choices about which tool is appropriate for his/her students with a specific learning objective. While instructors certainly won't use all methods at once, it's important to understand that it is the faculty member who makes the decision about which tools to use in a given situation. Examples of the dominant teaching/learning tools include lecture, lab, and sometimes group work. With process learning, the tool set can be expanded to include teaching/learning methods such as (but not limited to) the following:

  • Cooperative Team-based Learning
  • Guided Discovery
  • Journal Writing
  • Project Work
  • Case Studies
  • Applied Critical Thinking
  • Problem-based Learning
  • Constructive Intervention
  • Open-ended Labs
  • Role Play

Technology

Technology applications in the process learning classroom (traditional and distance) are limitless. Technology tools range from an overhead projector on the low-end to the Interactive Classroom and beyond on the high-end. Some faculty currently use personal computers connected to high intensity projection devices to support lectures visually. In addition, a number of classrooms house PCs for student use. Laptop computers work well in collaborative, small group work to capture team ideas for immediate use, assessment, and sharing with others. Depending on the type of class, the technology brings workplace capabilities and rich context into the classroom, enabling authentic, seamless learning experiences for the students.

New technologies continuously create additional opportunities in the distance learning arena. Distance learning technology currently helps us offer courses through broadcast and cable television, videocassette, audiocassette, correspondence, satellite and microwave links, and over the Internet.

Assessment

Dominant classroom assessment tools consist of pencil and paper-based testing, essay testing, and some skill-based testing. Predominantly, however, these assessment tools test for knowledge-based objectives. Assessment becomes performance-based in a process learning environment. Formative assessment, summative assessment, group-generated performance criteria, and real-time performance assessment supply performance-based measurements as opposed to knowledge-based measurements. Instructors and students alike assess skills through techniques such as:

  • Portfolios
  • Interactive systems
  • Learning assessment journals
  • Peer-, self-, instructor-assessment

Instructional Design

In many cases, the current instructional design of a course is closely related to the text and instructor's manual. Typically, faculty members teach courses without student-centered materials because they simply have not had time to develop these materials. Instructional design is a key tool in the development of process learning skills. An activity development methodology helps faculty members construct authentic learning activities, test the activities with students, and validate those activities, while working to continuously improve the student performance outcomes through that activity design and/or redesign. Faculty can incrementally build activities without radically reengineering the entire course. At some point the individual activities can be positioned within learning modules using the NSF architecture. Process learning philosophy and activity design mesh well with the approach and intent of NSF learning modules.

Faculty as Self-Learners

Faculty become self-learners when they begin to systematically use the tools- methods, technology, assessment techniques, and instructional design. Given the subject matter, student audience, course objectives, delivery location, and a number of other deciding factors, the instructor chooses which tools to use to achieve the desired end result. For faculty members to facilitate student growth in the area of continuous process improvement, they must first understand and apply continuous process improvement techniques to their own teaching and/or learning processes. Robert Cornesky's workshop and text on quality in the classroom provide a significant number of quality tools and instructional strategies in this category.