Teaching presence includes some of the more easily identifiable components of our courses and our instruction, such as:
•The course design
•The tools we can offer students, such as Grammarly, paper reviews, and tutors
•The resources we use to teach the content such as audio, video, rubrics, instructor guidance, research articles, and the texts
•Timely, clear, and consistent feedback within discussions, grading feedback, and email communications
•Clearly communicated expectations
•Feedback that supports diverse learning preferences and styles
•And the engagement of instructors with all of the above to encourage improvements that can be applied to support student success
Course design is an important foundation for good teaching presence. Instructions for assignments should be clear and concise and take into consideration where the students are in their development through their courses. Thus, the difficulty level of wording may look different based on the level of the course.
An important consideration for each of us, as we teach a course, is to evaluate how our students are doing when it comes to an activity. Is the prompt too wordy? Does it invoke numerous questions to you, as the instructor, about what needs to be completed? Are students able to follow the directions successfully? Does the rubric match what is being asked?
If not, what considerations should be made?
Besides assignment prompts, it is also good to consider the design of our content when we teach a course. For instance, the design of the weekly guidance or announcements can set the tone for the course or a particular week. Have you ever had a professor who introduced a new topic in such an interesting way that made you want to research it in more detail? As instructors, we can also bring the content to life by designing interesting guidance, announcements, and discussion responses to grab the students’ attention and spark some interest.
Making sure students understand your expectations is very important. This is applicable to the activities specifically and as a whole. When students do not clearly understand what you want from them, this can be frustrating. Expectations are communicated with our words, both written and verbally, as well as our actions.
What is your late policy? Do you have certain expectations if a student wants to turn something in late? What is your personal acceptance process?
Actions: Do you do what you say you will do? For example, if you say you will not accept something, but do, do you fully explain to the student why you did so they do not question whether you really mean what you say, for example in an announcement?
What about your integrity policy? Will you allow re-writes? Do you expect re-writes? Do you let your students know that integrity reports will be checked? Do you give them examples and clarifications about what this process means and how it can support their writing development, but also create hurdles in their goals to succeed?
Do you expect your students to improve? Do you tell them this?
Consider how your communications about these areas could decrease understanding, feelings of support, and a dedication to mastering your course content.
When communicating with students consider the following to increase trust and connection:
Remember specific details about your students
Write down notes about each student (or go back to the introduction forum to remind yourself), including nicknames, hometown, favorite hobbies or sports teams
Students can feel more connected when an instructor can add these types of details into a response or feedback
Use Skype, Zoom, (or other platform)
Promote communication tools to your students to enhance their skills and knowledge
Expectations as Announcement Examples:
Expectations in Feedback Examples
Modeling: Our actions speak volumes about our expectations
Are you citing?
Are you providing meaningful forum postings?
Rubrics are often a misunderstood piece of the puzzle. Although they do support inter-rater reliability, they also support students in self-assessing their own work, when they know how to properly use them. In addition, the rubrics can support our communications for our expectations.
Consider helping students to know how to access their rubrics and letting them know how they will be applied to their performance.
As an instructor, it is important to also follow these as closely as possible. For example, if you are grading a “pretty good” paper, this would not mean that the student should automatically receive a “Proficient” on each piece of the paper. Be sure what you mark can be elaborated upon with your students to help them explore ways to improve.
Timely and Clear Feedback
Feedback is essential, but within feedback, all three areas of presence can be applied. For teaching presence, one must focus on timeliness and clarity. To improve each week it is essential that deadlines are met and that the feedback provides a way for learners to improve.
Have questions about teaching presence and how to apply in your online classroom? Leave us a blog comment or connect on our Facebook page.