As teachers follow a learner-centered teaching approach, they are bonded to structure a course with attention to the process rather than to the outcome. This requires fully facilitating the learning process (i.e., by active learning methods) without shifting the primary attention to its outcome (i.e., to a formal product of the course, such as assignments or tests) (Blumberg 2019).
However, in our experience there are some major deficiencies making it difficult for teachers to implement more process-oriented teaching into courses. Lack of trust toward students capacity, or fear of not achieving desired outcomes may represent some of the deficiencies (Blumberg 2019).
We want to encourage and inspire our colleagues to shift bravely towards process-oriented teaching. Thus, sharing our pedagogical experience of implementing Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), a student-centered, group-learning instructional strategy and philosophy developed through research on how students learn best, as well as highlighting the development of meta-skills throughout the course process.
Presenting our course Developing coaching philosophy
In the Degree programme of sports coaching and management, at Haaga-Helia’s Vierumäki Campus, we have established a course, Developing coaching philosophy, that primarily emphasizes the process. We have set the course objectives so that the student
- understands how to self-develop own coaching behavior and actions by reflecting on personal coaching philosophy
- implements and develops reflective, analytic, and assessment skills
- understands and develops various meta-skills throughout the independent process-oriented guided inquiry learning
- improves the understanding of coaching philosophy-related theories
- develops peer and self-assessment skills
Implementation of process-oriented teaching
Grounding on POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning), we had students take on different issues, based on the course scheme and its components. We set a three week period for inquiry into the discipline. Each week a new issue was introduced for the students to solve. The issues (i.e., content-based questions) were structured progressively following one another. Therefore, to solve an issue, the students first needed to solve the previous one.
While solving the issues, students also wrote an evidence-based paper on their findings and solutions. The students graded themselves and their peers following the seven process skills identified by the POGIL-project: communication, teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, management, information processing, and assessment skills.
In one assessment, the students were asked for a coaching philosophy analysis. They attended and video/audio analyzed their pair’s training session. Specifically observing the components of the course organizing scheme they found important to analyze. These observable factors, such as communication, behavior, response to different situations, and others, were thus selected by the students. The students understood the importance of using the organizing scheme (content) of the course to demonstrate proficiency in the area.
Key elements of process-oriented guided inquiry learning
During the course, the main focus was on the process. Feedback, reflections, questions, support, and holistic scaffolding were emphasized during the process. Teachers did not shift their attention to the outcome, in this case, an evidence-based paper of findings and solutions. Intentionally, teachers did not discuss the outcome much with the students. While students were solving issues in small groups, the teachers took the position of a facilitator, moving between the groups supporting and challenging the students in solving the issues.
When using POGIL, we should dedicate our time to preparation and process more, than to the outcome. As Weimer (2013) expresses it: do not focus on covering the content, and do not teach to satisfy the outcome, only due to fear of losing its short-term level.
Meta-skills are shown to be a long-term solution in developing and promoting the learning process while achieving desired outcomes. These skills are obtained through a process-led learning environment where intrinsic motivation and discipline-specific transferable skills directly influence the practical acquisition of inquiries and ways of thinking when solving a problem. (Simonson 2019; Tuononen et al. 2022; Tynjälä et al. 2016.)
There should be a shift in the focus on how students do tasks and learn, rather than on what is done.
Outcomes of the process-oriented course
We found the results of the process-oriented learning approach amazing! Even though we did not emphasize the outcome during the course, except for our expectations on its form, the papers and analyses were of high quality, well established and presented.
Students were confident to discuss their findings and solutions, especially due to their deep understanding of the content. Since we chose that the process was more effective to focus on in learning, this was the outcome we wished for, without emphasizing it. In the end, the process-oriented teaching offered a more comprehensive and effective approach for fostering deep understanding, transferable skills, intrinsic motivation, resilience, and lifelong learning skills.
However, without the earlier built foundation of a learner-centered approach in our programme, we would not have been able to shift our attention to the process of learning.
Blumberg, P. 2019. Making learning-centered teaching work: Practical strategies for implementation. Stylus Publishing. Sterling. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.
Simonson, R. 2019. An introduction to process oriented guided inquiry learning for those who wish to empower learners. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Tuononen, T., Hyytinen, H., Kleemola, K., Hailikari, T., Männikkö, I., & Toom, A. 2022. Systematic review of learning generic skills in higher education — Enhancing and impeding factors. Frontiers in Education, 7, pp. 1-13.
Tynjälä, P., Virtanen, A., Klemola, U., Kostiainen, E., & Rasku-Puttonen, H. 2016. Developing social competence and other generic skills in teacher education: Applying the model of integrative pedagogy. European Journal of Teacher Education, 39, 3, pp. 368-387.
Weimer, M. 2013. Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.
Editing: Marianne Wegmüller