By: Linda Algozzini, Faculty Director, Core Learning; Dr. Grady Batchelor, Dean of Faculty and Student Success; Dr. Shannon Voyles, Associate Professor, Core Learning; Kimberly Bessolo, Instructor, Core Learning; and Valencia Gabay, Instructor, Core Learning
There are many benefits to seeking change for an individual or organization. Having a willingness to move from the status quo requires being aware of the need to adapt and remain relevant in an ever-changing society. This need to adapt and remain relevant in an ever-changing society became our challenge in shifting our Core Learning department’s culture to develop 21st-century practitioners. In short, our faculty needed to shift their legacy instructional practices to better anticipate and meet the corresponding needs of 21st-century learners by fostering those skills themselves, including creativity, analytic thinking, collaboration, communications and ethics, action, and accountability (Crockett, 2016). The award-winning APUS Group Coaching and Mentoring Framework (GCMF) became the strategy to affect that desired change.
Due to the nature of online education, educators who teach students in a virtual environment often do so in isolation. This not only means that educators lack mentors and a support system; it can also lead to discrepancies in their practice, in some instances without even realizing it. As a result, they may not be challenged to continually apply metacognitive processes in their practice. While this lack may seem to only impact the individual, the influence of this isolation affects the system through data and analytics, student persistence and engagement, and the many layers of teaching excellence.
The GCMF utilizes the following four theoretical constructs as the foundation structure: coaching and mentoring; metacognition; self-regulated learning; and community of practice theory. While each of these theories can stand alone, when they were connected inside the framework, they allow for significant shifts in faculty satisfaction, feelings of isolation, and teaching excellence. It also provides the faculty a medium in which to communicate, enabling and incenting them to work toward common goals for the betterment of the university and the students.
The GCMF design consists of participatory action cycles (action, reflection and evaluation) that act as a gateway to more self-questioning and high-order thinking, both individually and collaboratively. By using communities of practice as the medium, faculty mentor leads guide their teams through applying metacognitive processes and self-regulated learning into their daily tasks. Simply stated, metacognition is the ability to reflect on one’s thinking as it relates to knowledge and learning, while self-regulated learning broadens and expands one’s ability to master their own learning processes, supporting connections, motivation, and cognitive practices.
Knowing they have the support of their community of practice peers, faculty excelled at meeting the challenges to engage more fully in their work. The mentor leads, in turn, are guided through the process by the lead coach, their faculty director. The framework provides the department with an invigorated approach to lifelong learning and metacognition for the faculty members themselves, which then filters down to the students’ experience.
Applying this process to groups provides faculty with the means they need to shift their practices and approach, ultimately benefiting their students. Educators becoming 21st-century practitioners better enables them to guide adult learners in becoming more proficient and versatile critical thinkers, problem-solvers, communicators, and collaborators to succeed in a diverse marketplace. The process allows a single faculty director to shift the entire approach of her/his department within the span of several months, utilizing only free virtual platforms and technology.
Additionally, Osterwelder and Pignuer’s (2010) business model canvas was applied as a lens through which to view and understand the framework at both a macro- and micro-level. The canvas provided management an alternate perspective to review the GCMF through the lens of a business approach. This canvas placed importance on inclusion, diversity, and the core beliefs of those whom it would ultimately impact. Adding this layer facilitated shifts in mindset and approach, supporting the core APUS mission and the premise that the framework is applicable to settings inside and outside of higher education.
The framework is highly effective in moving the collective consciousness of faculty, enriching instructor-to-student and student-to-student engagement in the classroom and enhancing retention and persistence. Faculty feedback notes significant gains in faculty satisfaction, engagement, willingness to reach out and to assist peers, and adopting approaches to applying metacognition and self-regulated learning strategies in their classroom.
For more information on the APUS Group Coaching and Mentoring Framework, please see the following.