Thursday, May 19, 2011

Design Overview

Course being developed: Risk Management: The balance between risk prevention and therapeutic risk taking (Level 8)

This course is being designed for the Occupational Therapy Postgraduate Programmes. Students will be able to select this course (as one of their electives) and when it is successfully completed it will count towards a variety of qualifications including: Bachelors of Occupational Therapy (Honours), Postgraduate Certificate in Occupational Therapy Practice, Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Therapy Practice and the course work component of the Masters by coursework.
Courses are developed at 20 credit level which recommends students spend 200 hours on a course within a 16 week semester. As students are often working they often choose to only enrol into one course at a time. 60 credits is required for a PG Cert, 120 credits for a PG Dip and 240 for a Masters.

Theoretical Perspective
Initially when looking at both the structure of the School of Occupational Therapy as well as how the courses which sit within the Postgraduate Qualifications I was under the impression a Constructivist model of learning would be the most appropriate theory to guide this development. Constructivism assumes that the learner will develop their knowledge as part of a process they undergo in making sense of their own experiences (Fiume, 2005; Rolloff, 2010). Learners are not seen as “empty vessels” just waiting to be filled with knowledge but bring with them their experiences which they seek meaning to (Rolloff, 2010). Vygotsky’s contribution to this theory of learning was around how students learn, that is how they construct meaning. To learn, Vygotsky emphasised the importance of problem solving within the process and this is reflected in his notion of learning by doing. Vygotsky emphasised the importance of experiential learning and the role lecturers/teachers have as facilitators of the process of problem solving (Jaramillo, 1996). I was comfortable with this sitting well with the Bachelors of Occupational Therapy students and see how the teaching and learning the programme uses fits within this theoretical perspective. I decided to read further because though I do see this as an important factor to how our Postgraduate students work I believe there were some important key areas missing. It was when I came across the Connectivist perspective that I thought this had more relevance to what we do in our programmes.

Connectivism acknowledges the shifts that have occurred in view to learning. It acknowledges learning is no longer an individual activity. It acknowledges the changing technology involved and how learners interact with these in an attempt to learn (Siemens, 2004).

The principles of Connectivism are:
Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.
Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision (Siemens, 2004)

Forming connections are the key to network learning. Yet not every connection has equal weight and influence in the entire structure. Connections can be strengthened based on a number of factors: Motivation, Emotions, Exposure, Patterning, Logic and Experience (Siemens, 2005).
To embrace connectivism then consideration to design of learning opportunities that place the person, their social behaviour and their community at the centre is important (Ravenscroft, 2011).

MacKey and Evans (2011) investigated how teachers engage in professional development. Like occupational therapists they are increasingly looking for online or blended learning as a means to combine work and study. They noted that web based technologies can improve access, equity and quality of professional learning opportunities. Establishing a cohort of professionals from different backgrounds in courses can provide rich interactions regardless of location and work commitments. This research found that the participants blended their formal learning into their daily work. They constructed their own network of practice selecting those they connected with both within the online and professional community. They concluded that a connectivist perspective is a useful tool when interpreting how working professionals access and interact with academic expertise alongside peers from different locations and practice areas. It enables learners to connect to others and learn from those who are expert in scholarly material and experts in professional practice (Mackey & Evans, 2011).

After reading all of this I could see clear links to our postgraduate programmes and how our postgraduate students learn. The vast majority of the students are working in the profession full time and are studying as part of their professional development. They utilise (though confidence and ability vary) the online technology to both build connections with each other and the learning environment. Facilitation occurs to form connections with each other. Students are taken through learning activities which encourages them to connect their learning to what they are doing in their professional life. For me this perspective has clear links to what we do in our Postgraduate programmes.

Please refer to the Discussion Forum on Design overview to view the table I have created that looks at Learning Outcomes, Learning Activities, Teaching strategies, Content and Assessment.

The following web site is where I got the criteria outlined by NZQA regarding a level 8 course.

Level 8 requires students to not only apply their specialised knowledge but critique and evaluate material relevant to their practice area. I believe the course above will enable students to do this. Learners come to these programmes and courses with the expectation they will both develop the knowledge they already have and develop further skills in analysis and evaluation. Often this can be daunting to a new postgrad student who has been away from study for many years and it is the responsibility of the lecturers to facilitate their learning.
The profession has expectations that the students who have completed these courses are better skilled to use evidence to guide their practice, confident in articulating their reasoning and more confident to present their own knowledge to colleagues and other health professionals. Though the OT board does not oversee these programmes (they are not required to as this isn’t the programme that gives registration) they are interested in ensuring practicing OT’s are involved in professional development and are insuring they have the most up to date knowledge.

Fiume, P. (2005). Constructivist theory and border pedagogy foster diversity as a resource for learning. The Community College Enterprise, 11(2), 51-64.

Jaramillo, J. (1996). Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and contributions to the development of constructivist curricula. Education, 117(1), 133-140.

Mackey, J., & Evans, T. (2011). Interconnecting networks of practice for professional learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 1-18.

Ravenscroft, A. (2011). Dialogue and connectivism: A new approach to understanding and promoting dialogue-rich networked learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 139-160.

Rolloff, M. (2010). A constructivist model for teaching evidence-based practice. Nursing Education Perspectives, 11(5), 290-293.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved 13 May, 2011, from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning as network-creation Retrieved 13 May 2011, from

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