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Wednesday, June 22 • 11:15 - 12:15
CON01.06c - When Students Become Experts: Engaging Learners Through Distributed Expertise

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How can participatory course designs and decentralized classrooms motivate learners, enhance student engagement, and enable learners to build upon their knowledge and skills? In this session, attendees will learn how the learning models of distributed expertise and social constructivism were used in the design of a course on Digital Culture delivered in a decentralized, SCALE-UP (Beichner, 2008) classroom in Fall 2015.

Without a front of room, this classroom offers plural and mobile points of focus that reinforce learner-centred knowledge and skill production through the learning models of (a) distributed expertise, and (b) social constructivism. Distributed expertise displaces the expert paradigm of teaching by assuming that all learners have knowledge to share and informally mentor each other to make new knowledge collaboratively (Jenkins & Kelley, 2013). Social constructivism purports that knowledge and meaning are constructed in a process of negotiation, as knowledge is not the property of an individual (Bodner,1986).

Students produced collaborative process-based term projects. Creative forms were encouraged, and, following Giroux’s (1991) concept of “border pedagogy”, both scholarly and popular texts were offered as source materials to invite “students to write, speak, and listen in a language in which meaning becomes multi-accentual, dispersed, and resists permanent closure” (p. 52).

In this presentation, participants will learn about outcomes of term projects from two semesters of the course in two different settings, and see the effects of the new setting on student engagement as part of a study in conjunction with the University Teaching Centre. Overall, outcomes show that students embraced the distributed expertise and social constructivist model, evidenced by their creative and entrepreneurial projects as well as their collaboration in the student-centered setting. Participants will walk away with an understanding of expert and distributive approaches and will have an opportunity to compare and contrast two sample activities using these strategies.


Kimberly Mair

Kimberly Mair is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Lethbridge.

Additional Authors

Victoria Holec

Victoria Holec has a BA in Psychology (UBC) and an MSc in Neuroscience (University of Lethbridge). She works as Analytical Assistant for the Learning Environment Evaluation (LEE) Project at the Teaching Centre at the University of Lethbridge investigating the effectiveness on teaching... Read More →

Wednesday June 22, 2016 11:15 - 12:15 EDT
UCC 59