“…many of the problems and concerns that have been identified in the literature related to eLearning – such as, for example, low rates of participation, learner resistance, high non-completion rates, poor learner performance (Bates, 2005; Kanuka et al., 2006) – can be addressed by working with a team of instructional design experts.” (Kanuka, 2006, p. 2)
What is Kanuka’s argument?
Kanuka (2006) identifies that there is a gap in research between ‘content knowledge and instructional design models’ (p.2) and argues that pedagogical content should:
- become integrated with the roles and functions of instructional design;
- be a requisite component with programmes of instructional design; and
- a principal focus of further research.
An overview of Kanuka:
Kanuka (2006) explores the idea that instructional design in higher education is not a new idea. Instructional design degrees have been around for over forty years. As “computer technologies advanced so too did instructional design services” (p. 2).
Instructional design, as defined by Kanuka (2006) ‘is the process of translating general principles of learning and instruction into plans for instructional materials and learning activities’ (p. 3). ‘Most often the role of the instructional designer is described as a consultant in the instructional design process. The consulting activities commonly include communication, instructional strategies, editing, marketing, media development, evaluation and project management (Kenny et al., 2005 as cited Kanuka, 2006, p. 3). With a focus on higher education, Kanuka, 2006 states:
‘Within institutions of higher education, instructional designers provide consulting to teaching faculty or academics (often referred to as subject matter experts, or SMEs) in the production of curriculum development for eLearning activities. This entails the undertaking of:
- the analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation training and performance solutions (ADDIE);
- the development of course materials consistent with sound instructional design principle, and technological and pedagogical strategies;
- the design and implementation of learning elements; and
- the development of assessment and evaluation.
Kanuka (2006) focuses on ‘social constructivist’ and advises there has been a rise is this philosophical orientation in instruction design (see pages 4-5). Social constructivists “argue that educators will need to understand that learners will require a variety of different experiences to advance to different kinds and levels of understanding. To achieve this, educators need to spend time understanding their learner’s current perspectives and, based on this information, incorporate learning activities that have real world relevant for each learner” (p. 5).
“The growth of social constructivist perspectives within the field of education is based on the recognition of our increasingly complex societies. Educators within institutions of higher education are faced with the rise of information society and new technologies, the increasing diversity of students, new educational institutions, the increasing emphasis on learning over teaching, and the emergence of postmodern ways of knowing (Austin, 2002, as cited Kanuka, 2006, p. 5).
Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)
My understanding of Kanuka (2006) on Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) is that in order to have an effective teaching and learning space, it is not only about being an expert in the field of practice, but also about having a practical knowledge of pedagogy. It was Shulman (as cited Kanuka, 2006, p. 6) that became aware of the dichotomy between ‘teachers’ subject matter knowledge and teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy’ (see p. 6). Kanuka (2006) documents research that that the approach of content experts with a teaching degree is different to the approach of trained researchers. Shulman (as cited Kanuka, 2006, p.6) proposes PCK involves:
- an understanding of how to structure and present the subject matter to be learned
- an understanding of the common conceptions, misconceptions, and difficulties that learners encounter when learning particular subject matter
- knowledge of the instructional strategies that are effective at addressing students’ learning needs in particular classroom circumstances
What is important to note is the ‘assumption that pedagogy takes precedent over content is misguided’ (Kanuka, 2006, p. 8). Connections between pedagogy and content need to be made and the framework of PCK places this connection at the forefront.
Kanuka, H. (2006). Instructional Design and eLearning: A Discussion of Pedagogical Content Knowledge as a Missing Construct. Athabasca University: Canada. Accessible from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/e-jist/docs/vol9_no2/papers/full_papers/kanuka.htm (opens in a new window).