All posts by Marshall P Duke

M8–Marshall Duke–Universal Design may be old wine in new bottles but it works well with every cuisine!

The three fundamental principles of UDL—engagement, representation and action/expression—strike me as not new.  However, they are newly examined within the context of online learning.  The same three things, I believe, are present in F2F teaching.  In my own experience, I have had in my classes over the years blind students, deaf students, learning disabled students, students with limited or poor English language skills, students with culturally-derived maladaptations, etc.  For all of these, I have needed to find ways to engage them, communicate information to them and assess their progress.   The notion of universal design adds something more, however, and that is that providing for students with special needs also improves class experiences for everyone.  I like this idea a lot.

To improve my online teaching in each of the three main areas of UDL, I will turn to the research literature, which to my ever-lessening surprise and increasing delight, is copious.  I like using audio commentary associated with  all visual material.  I like captioning on videos and labeling all slides in words.  I like having students do things like posting scholarblog comments, adding video, audio or text comments on Voice Thread and posting Diigo “discoveries.”  I really LOVE Screencast-o-matic and how it engages students and teachers both synchronously and asynchronously.  Once comfortable with these technologies, students and faculty alike can actually have a delightful adventure in scholarship.

My one major question—and concern—is that for some reason the three principles have been tied to three brain regions with a level of confidence that I doubt we would find among most neuroscientists. I mean we know a lot about the brain, but even now with fMRI and other sophisticated mapping techniques, things are simply not that “clean.”  From my perspective, the brain stuff is not necessary for the principles to be believable and to stand on their own conceptually.  Recent research in fact has shown that the notion of learning styles (upon which these principles seem to strongly depend)  is actually pretty much unsupported. For example see this report from the world’s leading and most influential psychology journal, Psychological Science.  In addition, Here is a link to a TED talk by Professor Tesia Marshik at the University of Wisconsin in which she summarizes the research on learning styles and sounds a strong note of caution about relying too heavily upon them.

Sad as I am to say it as a psychological scientist, learning styles have become an accepted way of conceptualizing individual differences in learners.  But this is OK with me because the idea has also resulted in multiple methods of presenting information in educational settings.   These multiple forms of presentation are salutary  because they help everyone learn better,  despite the findings that concepts like “auditory vs visual learning” and “teaching to different styles” have little or no evidentiary basis.    Like it or not, “learning styles” (like “Type A vs Type B personality” which has also been debunked) have entered our cultural consciousness and they are not about to disappear because “science” says they are inaccurate.  For me, this situation actually argues for UDL in that we should try to provide means of engagement, action/expression and representation for everybody and stop saying we’re doing this because of individual differences.  Rather we should see all this multiplicity simply as ways of potentiating learning in all students.

I started out our course with a pre-existing awareness of the needs for multiple means of representation, engagement and expression.  As I said above, these are not new to me, nor are they likely to be new to any of my fellow faculty colleagues.  However,  what I now know  as well are several remarkable  ways to do a better job of addressing these  needs in the F2F setting and online.   I also am aware that what we have learned in the forms of management systems, blogs, rubrics, assessment methods, OER’s, etc, are really (really!) just the tip of the iceberg.  The more I surf the net looking for more of these tools, the more amazed I am at how many there are!  Some are easy to use and some are more challenging.  But I am also aware that eight weeks ago, the word “easy,” which I just used in the previous sentence, would not have conceivably been present in this post!!

I now feel I know enough to know what I don’t know.  I also have a sense of where to go to find out how to do the things I want to do in the ways of engagement, representation and action/expression.  On that chart from way back in M2 which showed how we would progress in our online exerience, I have gotten past the early panicked focus on technology and have moved into a calmer and more directed phase of learning.  I hope that one year hence, I will be firmly footed enough to succeed in applying all this for real!

Thank you, Leah!   I am very saddened that you will be leaving Emory.  I hope and trust that our level of loss will be matched by your level of success in whatever you turn your hand to.

M7-Marshall Duke–OER, Where have you been all my life??

Many years ago, while reading an article about a psychologist who was doing some work on person perception in paintings, I came across the name of E.H. Gombrich.  I had never heard of the man but wanted to see if he had written anything that I might be interested in (the art historians out there, please contain your laughter).   We had card catalogues in the library back then (I am quite old, remember) so I had to physically go to the library to search him out.  Having braved the frigid crossing of quadrangle, I entered the cavernous catalogue room of the library  and pulled out the drawer labeled “Gom to Gom.”  This label struck me as odd until I opened the drawer and realized the entire thing was nothing but E.H. Gombrich!  He was a giant figure in art history and he was totally new to psychologically provincial old me.

And so it was again  today with these OER’s and the Creative Commons. I felt the same sort of shock (and thrill, actually) I had felt standing before the card catalog in the library. I had not heard of these things (I admit total spaciness on this) and here they are, arguably among the most important advances in education in my lifetime (whiteboards and smart podiums have not really moved me that much).  As I read about what is available and saw how relatively easy they are to access and use, I was blown away.  Ready-made for my course on abnormal psychology, I found Open Access Youtube videos depicting various types of mental disorders.  I found PowerPoints from old friends at Yale who are teaching the same sort of abnormal psychology curse I am planning. I learned that Youtube videos are automatically closed captioned, that they can be translated via Google translate into and from any language, that I can actually embed them into a VoiceThread.    I found Flickr (anyone else old enough to refer to this as “My Friend Flickr”?) and Bookstax.   What a delightful afternoon of surprises.  I have not used these OER’s before, but clearly I will be using them now and will not wait until my online course.

The tutorial on finding OER’s was excellent.  The materials on copyright and varieties of Creative Commons licenses were helpful and enlightening.  This has been fun, pure and simple.


M4-Duke–Can a self teach itself something it does not know?

I have long been troubled by the notion of being self-taught which is expressed  in terms like autodidacticism and, more recently,  heutagogy (which was new to me and I never would have or could have taught it to myself, wherein lies essence of one of my concerns about heutagogy, itself.)  While I can’t retrieve the source from memory, I recall hearing a critic of self taught artists being quoted as saying, “Self-taught painters learn to paint from a person who does not know how to paint.”  This represents for me a quiet, gnawing worry that we have come to believe that self-determination of learning is a good thing–an apotheosis of a dimension that begins with pedagogy (teaching children) and passes through androgogy (adult learning which is less passive and more autodidactic) on the way to the ultimate goal of self-determination in heutagogy.  My worry here is this: if learners are to learn what they  must in order to deal with the exigencies and vicissitudes of life, even if these cannot be anticipated with specificity, there must be someone who has already learned something about doing this who can guide them in developing the capability to do so.  Had Leah not provided us with a reading on heutagogy, it would have remained far off my radar for..well..forever.  Yet, now that she has directed us toward it, we can think about it and decide, as in my case, that I am not so comfy with it!

So what is my sense of learner self-determination in my online course?  I am very much OK with directing students to topics that I feel they must master and having them teach themselves in any way or at any pace they choose so long as they fulfill the assessment rubrics that I develop for them.  I am not OK with their deciding what is important or not for them to know.  There will, I believe, always be a need for someone to be, at minimum, a “guide on the side” but a guide there must be.  As I think about how the notions of self-directed learning can be blended with traditional F2F classes, I do see great potential.  As I consider things now with admittedly a small amount of online knowledge and experience, I can see how my own way of thinking about education can be reconciled with modern approaches to distance learning.

I have always felt that the good teacher does not have to know what he or she knows in order to teach, but the good teacher must know what students know or do not know.  This allows for the overlay of an invisible rubric over the entire class (as well as individuals in it ) which represents where the learners are at the beginning and where the teacher hopes they will be at the end.  All of the activities in the course are then directed at transporting learners  (in rubric-ese) from level 1 achievement to level 4.

In my online course, I believe I will still need to get a sense of where the students are at the start and I will want to define clearly for them where they need to be at the end (course goals).   I will also want to include formative and summative assessments so I can monitor and evaluate their progress.  However, the BIG difference is that I will be widening the range of ways in which they travel to the goals which I as the teacher (ped-agogically) have set. If they wish to heutagogically travel outside of the content set forth and explore ideas in a more self-determined way, I am sure that they will gain much from their experience.  In fact, I will want to encourage and reward in some way such “expeditions.”


What would a blended course in abnormal psychology look like?  At this point, I feel that it would need to be text-book based since there is much to learn in terms of history, language, theory, and modes of treatment.  While many students will just be “stopping in” for the semester, others will ultimately become professionals whose goal it will be to help people.  There are  many things that these people who may become clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers simply must know!  There is no place for pure heutagogy or self-determination here.   A self-taught potter’s off-round, leaking coffee cup might be cute in its own primitive way, but would any of us agree to a procedure performed by a “self-taught” cardiovascular surgeon?  I use hyperbole here to heighten the contrast, but at a less extreme level, I think what I am saying is that within each online course, there needs to be a all three sorts of learning–pedagogic, androgogic and heutogogic.  The traditional classroom, admittedly,  leans much too heavily on the first of these and, I believe, creates students who are passive and does not help them grow confident in their own capabilities.  The heutagogic extreme, while good for some, would create highly confident people who are dangerously unaware of what they don’t know. (Is there a presidential candidate out there who might fit this description?)  The balance among all three would seem to me an ideal place to aim for in online learning.

From the assessment perspective, I will need to include rubrics and assessment methods that address all three modes of learning.  Traditional quizzes and exams will help with the specific content that I consider critical to know.  This is early in Bloom’s hierarchy.  I would also want to provide assignments that would require application and integration such as studying case histories or looking at and analyzing films or literary works.  This would also afford opportunities for writing which we know is the one major activity that makes people smarter overall.   Finally, I would add an assignment which would be the greatest challenge and which would require autodidacticism and, yes, heutagogic behavior.  This would be a project in which, individually or as teams, students attempt to create an entirely new method of classifying abnormal behavior,  This is possible because, as a discipline, we are still not sure whether our current approach is adequate.  This is reflected in the continuing revisions of our diagnostic system (six since 1952) and in a recent decision by insurance companies to move away from the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic system and move toward use of the ICD-10, which is an international classification system for various diseases and disorders.  (I know that most of my class-mates may not be familiar with all this and I apologize for placing it here, but we are all androgogic!)

M2-Duke: Abnormal “Abnormal Psychology”

I will be attempting to transform a standard course in abnormal psychology into an online course. Having taught abnormal psychology in the “normal” manner for more than 25 years, teaching it online will be quite “abnormal!”   It’s my sense thus far, however, that this might be a fine thing to do for the following reasons:

  1. Teaching abnormal psychology requires lots of case examples, photos, videos, audio recordings, charts and graphs.  All of these should translate well into an online format.
  2. Students find abnormal psychology inherently interesting so they will be motivated to overcome some of the frustrations and challenges that starting out online seems to present (at least that’s how I feel about our experience this far).
  3. The study of abnormal behavior affords many opportunities for the use of interdisciplinary resources and materials.  Among these are artworks, music, film, dance and other media through which the stresses of life have been depicted.  Again, online presentation seems a natural!

I have loved learning abut Voice Thread and can see how it could be adapted to my style of lecture and discussion in face to face classes.  I really like interacting with students and VT allows that to happen with surprising ease. Also, Scholarblogs (SB) seems very accessible and it is something that most students are used to.  This means that I won’t need to be seen as, nor be, a high tech advisor.  Students will likely know more than I will about the platforms we will be using.

I also like diigo because it allows me to read and comment critically on research articles and websites.  Psychology has been under fire recently for some methodological sloppiness (well-deserved, I might add) and I think that, for students, having a professor comment on readings in a personal way will be very enlightening and engaging.  diigo felt oddly comfortable and casual–conversational–and I think that it will help me to establish the kind of relationships with students that I feel are critical to teaching.  These relationships are the things that I feared most losing in transition to online teaching.  I am intrigued by diigo’s potential for providing a channel for interspersonal connection.

Module 2-Duke: Steep learning curve. Hard climb. Rewards along the way.

Last week in our synchronous session we talked about a steep learning curve.  I feel like I’m on it.  Steep means that we can move upwards rapidly, but the climb is also harder.  Every time something new appears, I get a bit tense, but I find that if I read or listen a few times, a light bulb goes on and I can feel a palpable flash of understanding.  This is very rewarding (excellent behaviorist strategy, Leah!).  I can see how this class not only can provide conceptual knowledge but experiential knowledge.  I feel as if I’m flipping back and forth between student and teacher (much more on student side now!!), but I am also beginning to see how I can embed my course topic–abnormal psychology–into the VoiceThread and Scholarblog technologies.  Sometimes (after those flashes of insight) I am having fun and that’s good.