Modeling As a Metacognition Process

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Rethinking Online Writing and Communication Skills as a Process:
Teaching Skills through Interactive, Learning Style Based Modeling
Barbara Fedock
Elizabeth Young
Charles Butcher
SAS Online Doctoral Program
University of Phoenix
United States
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Abstract: Online instructors must accommodate the visual, verbal, and auditory learning style needs of
different generations of learners (Meyer & McNeal, 2011). To help Generations X, Y, and Z transfer effective
elements of the traditional writing and communication process, online instructors must rethink how to use
conventional best practices for online writing and communications (Edwards-Grove, 2012). Online writing and
communication skills must be modeled and become more of an interactive, learning style based presentation
rather than a process.
Introduction
All teachers must teach and reinforce effective writing and communication skills (Mason & Graham,
2008). Though not all online instructors teach communication courses, all online instructors post assignments
that require the usage of effective writing and communication skills (Bailey & Card, 2009). In face to face
classrooms, writing and communication skills are taught and reinforced from subject to subject as a process;
however, writing and communicating effectively online is more than a process (Conti, 2012). Online instructors
must accommodate the visual, verbal, and auditory learning style needs of different generations of learners
(Meyer & McNeal, 2011). To help Generations X, Y, and Z transfer effective elements of the traditional
writing and communication process, online instructors must rethink how to use conventional best practices for
online writing and communications (Edwards-Grove, 2012). Online writing and communication skills must be
modeled and become more of an interactive, learning style based presentation rather than a process.
Modeling As a Metacognition Process
Online instructors often fail to model written assignment and communication objectives and
expectations (Meyer & McNeal, 2011). Across the curriculum, effective face to face classroom teachers model
each assignment. In the modeling process, teachers present a step by step approach and make personal
connections to the topic. Modeling is a metacognition process for teachers (Smith, Rook, & Smith, 2007).
During modeling, teachers think aloud about a topic in order to clarify how they feel and why they think the
way they think. When teachers model, students form their own frameworks for critical thinking and problem
solving (Redondo, Torrance, & Robeldo, 2011).
Modeling to Make Connections
During online modeling presentations, online teachers must make connections to written assignments
and succinctly share real life experiences that are related to lesson purpose or objectives. Rather than just tell a
story, online teachers must model how to synthesize and evaluate how to utilize real world writing and
communication skills (Jones, Jones, & Murk, 2012). During or after the modeling, online students should be
invited to make real world connections and share personal applications. Making connections increases online
student learning outcomes (Cercone, 2008).
In online classrooms, learners often fail to connect to or define a specific audience for their writing or
for their communications. If the online instructor has not modeled how he or she thinks or feels, learners cannot
form a visual image of a potential audience for whom they are writing or communicating (Goldberg, Russell, &
Cook, 2003). In traditional classrooms, students write for an audience and that audience is generally the
instructor. Online students who do not actually see the instructor must conjure up an audience (Cross, 2009).
Online instructors need to help learners realize that the audience during written discussions is not only the
instructor, but the entire classroom and, sometimes, beyond (Abdullah, 2003).
Modeling Real World Applications
Online instructors must model real world application strategies that ensure all generations of learners
can transfer their online learning to the real world, especially to the workplace (Berge, 2008). Online learners
are often a mixture of Generation X, Y, and Z (Williams & Page, 2009). Generation Y students grew up in the
1980s to the late 1990s using technology. The mindset of many Generation Y learners is that technology usage
is regulated and perimeters for connectivity are well defined (Halse & Mallinson, 2009). Generation Y peer
relationships are often formed through technology , and Generation Y learners are more peer conscious than
Generation X, who were born from 1965 to 1983 (Donnelly, 2008). Generation X learners use technology as a
tool, but this generation does not rely on technology for establishing relationships (Lager, 2006).
Generation Z Learners
Generation Z learners born from the late 1990s onward were raised in a digital age that includes widely
accepted usage of technological advances and the Internet. Generation Z learners constantly seek connectivity
and technological engagements that influence their perspectives and focus. Relationships are generally built
through connectivity (Matthews, 2008). Face to face personal relationships are more difficult to develop, and
Generation Z students prefer to work individually rather than on teams. These students generally spend at least
three hours per day on the phone. The attention spans of Generation Z are different that the attention spans of
former generations (Labi, 2008b).
Generation Z learners are technologically savvy, and, since they are used to receiving fast
transmissions, they want instant gratification. For Generation Z learners, the proclivity to connectivity
influences their abilities to relate to an unknown audience and the appropriateness of their writing and
communication styles (Levickaite, 2010). Online instructors must rethink writing and communication modeling
techniques for Generation Z learners (Williams, 2008).
To address the writing skills and communication preferences of different generations, online
instructors must create a new interactive approach to the writing process (Anstey & Bull, 2006). In the
modeling stage, face to face classroom teachers demonstrate writing and communication skills in a step by step
process (Harris, Graham, Mason, & Friedlander, 2008). In the online classroom, visual students need models
that help them form visual images that guide them in writing or communicating (Kolb, 1984). Generation Y
and Z learners often prefer to text. Online instructors may use texting as a mode of writing and communicating.
The use of visual technology may increase learning outcomes (Rakap, 2010).
Modeling As a Form of Differentiated Learning
Effective online instructors must model alternative writing and communication presentations that
address differentiated learning (Chang, Kao, Chu, & Chiu, 2009). Instructors may include an auditory
demonstration, a message recorded on a phone, or phone discussions for auditory learners or for Generation Z
students who constantly engage in cell phone conversations and prefer immediate results (Matthews, 2008).
Generation Z learners spend hours each week on the phone (Benjamin, 2008). Auditory online learners learn
from hearing the thinking process, and verbal learners need to ask questions and make connections (Loertscher,
& Koechlin, 2012) .
Modeling for Different Learning Styles
For concrete sequential auditory learners, step by step oral instructions and explanations via recorded
messages may increase cognitive learning and retention. For abstract random learners, listening is important
(Kolb, 1984). Abstract random thinkers and many Generation Z learners find it difficult to work in an
educational environment in which too many boundaries are established. These learners need time to process
information without having to explain how they feel (Richmond & Cummings, 2005).
Online instructors seldom model optional writing and communication instructional delivery strategies
that meet the needs of students who do not work well in a restrictive environment (Carter, Foulgar, & Ewbank,
2008). Concrete random learners need an unrestricted learning environment in which they can explore and use
intuition to discover ideas and concepts that produce effective writing (Kolb, 1984). Concrete random and
Generation Z learners like to feel that they have options for learning (Rakap, 2010).
Concrete abstract and Generation Z learners prefer to work through assignments by themselves and to
not be restricted by boundaries. For Generation Z learners, online instructors may include YouTube videos,
teleconferences, or Skype options for discussions or demonstrations of effective writing for assignments (Saeed,
N., Yang, Y. & Sinnappan, S., 2009). Concrete abstract learners may prefer exploring evaluations of case
studies or scenarios (Kolb, 1984).
In contrast, abstract sequential learners need a learning forum in which they can communicate with
the instructor and the learning community to express their views (Kerr, Rynearson, & Kerr, 2006). Effective
online instructors use Socratic dialogues to engage abstract sequential students in critical thinking writing and
logical organization discussions based on the assignment in which all students have the opportunity to support
and justify ideas and premises (Gose, 2009).
Avoid Writing Process Driven Best Practices
To meet the needs of technology savvy learners, online instructors must avoid creating assignments
that are writing process driven (Walsh, 2010b). Generation Y and Z learners need a more interactive,
technological, real world presentation approach. Assignment writing and communications may be written as a
blog. During the blogging, online instructors must model professional and effective writing and communication
standards. Students should be able to access the blogs via their phones (Tryon, 2006).
When modeling, online instructors must set high student expectation that include substantial, academic
comments and real world application of effective writing and communication skills (Zemelman, Daniels, &
Hyde, 2005). Twenty First Century employers communicate with employees through emails, texting, Skype,
and Webinars. Employee communications to employers may include PowerPoints, Voci presentations, or
simulations that include music (Saeed, N., Yang, Y. & Sinnappan, S., 2009). Online instructors must model
assignment options that demonstrate how to effectively write appropriate communications for technological
based global audiences and employers (McLawhon & Cutright, 2012).
Creating Sense of Community
Effective online instructors create and model a sense of community (Ting, 2009). Learners are
encouraged and expected to interact in modeling presentations, in discussions, or in technological based
activities (Regan & Berkeley, 2012). When online instructors promote positive and meaningful
communications, they build trust and create a sense of community in which all students share an equal voice
(Lassitter, 2009). Online Generation Y learners need to feel like they are part of a learning community of peers
(Imig, 2010). Generation Z learners interact more fully when they are connected to a Web community (Simon,
2009).
Modeling
Online students often lack the critical thinking skills to understand broad concepts (Gose, 2009).
Through the modeling process, online instructors set a purpose for each communication activity and written
assignment. When students know and understand the purpose for an activity or assignment, learning outcomes
increase (Guzel-Oxmen, 2009). Modeling provides opportunities for online instructors to ask students
meaningful why and what questions about the purpose of an assignment. Concrete sequential learners need
clarifications (Kohl, 1984), and Generation Z students expect instant clarifications (Labi, 2008b).
Concrete sequential learners prefer a structured, purpose driven environment in which questions can be
clarified (Richmond & Cummings, 2005). Generation Z students need immediate feedback and clarifications
(Matthews, 2008). Online instructors must use multiple strategies to help students visualize the purpose of an
assignment and how to effectively utilize writing strategies. Instructions may use charts, graphic organizers, or
frameworks to breakdown and visualize concepts (Sangineto, Capuano, Gaeta, & Micarelli, 2008).
Online instructors model appropriate and academic language during presentations. Through the use of
specific and content oriented language, instructors set the tone for writing (Mason & Graham, 2008). Terms are
explained or clarified. Students better understand learning perimeters and theoretical frameworks that support
assignments (Graham & Perin, 2007). Generation Z students must learn to transfer academic writing skills to
texting and technological communications (Matthews, 2008).
Conclusion
Writing and communication skills are taught in all online classes; therefore, online instructors must
create and model a real world audience to which students can connect when writing and communicating
(Anstey & Bull, (2006). Face to face teacher directed writing process best practices do not address the needs of
online learners. Different generations of learners need to be exposed to interactive instructional modeling
strategies (McIntosh-Elkins, McRitchie, & Scoones, 2007). In the real world, Generation Z learners engage in
constant connectivity activities, and Generation Y students build community through peer interactions
(Benjamin, 2008). Therefore, online instructors must rethink how they utilize traditional writing and
communication skills. Online instructors must model interactive writing and communication skills
presentations that go beyond traditional best practices.
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