Through my experience in the Digital Learning and Leading (DLL) program at Lamar University I have been exposed to many innovative education concepts. Two foundational concepts that have supported my learning throughout the program are the COVA method and Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE). COVA, an acronym for Choice, Ownership, Voice, and Authentic learning, is a learning method derived from a constructivist learning theory that aims to have students learn by creating experiences to learning material through meaningful, unique projects of the students choice (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, & Cummings, 2018). CSLE is an educational concept which aims to craft the most supportive, effective environments for learning to take place; it is learner centric and knows no bounds when deriving the best possible environment for learners (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, & Cummings, 2017). Through my experience with these concepts I have grown as a learner and as a result have seen these concepts influence my teaching. In this post I reflect upon these concepts to gain a better understanding of my journey as a learner and how it will impact me as an educator.
When beginning the DLL program I remember instantly realizing I was being placed directly into the COVA method when I was given the opportunity to select an innovative project plan. I remember it was not a pleasant feeling. I was pressured to select an appropriate topic and thought I was not ready or good enough to select a topic that could impact my organization. However, I charged ahead by selecting a familiar topic on course websites in hopes I could improve upon previous teaching sites I had created while impacting my school. In hindsight I was selecting a one-dimensional educational tool as my topic, a minor component of the greater innovation of implementing blended learning. However, using the COVA method I continued to learn, develop, and reflect on my plan until I had reached my final topic: using blended learning (and its many tools) to increase academic achievement and postsecondary readiness among special populations. To me this is evidence of learning and shows how effective the COVA method and a significant learning environments can be. Only now at the end of the program do I feel I have an innovation plan and the knowledge necessary to impact my organization.
As I progressed in the DLL program I realized the COVA method was forcing me to learn in a new way. I had transitioned from a traditional teaching method to learning through collaboration, evaluation, and reflection. While these are not new concepts, I was not use to learning with such a strong focus on these methods. A typical style of learning I was used to was to receive information and produce a work sample proving learning had taken place. After a few courses I realized instead of focusing on projects I should focus on collaboration, evaluation, and reflection. Through collaboration I gained unique insights to course material which motivated me to learn more. After learning, I evaluated what I had learned and how I could use it to impact my organization. I then took time reflect on my innovation plan and how I could do it better, which allowed me to continually develop and strengthen my plan. In short, COVA transformed me as a learner by pushing me to learn in new ways.
While the COVA method forced me to do a new kind of learning, it closely aligns with my learning philosophy. I believe learning takes place within the learner and is the process of creating new connections to known material. This aligns with the constructivist learning theory which aims to create experiential learning opportunities through discovery learning. In the DLL program, our learning took place within a digital environment and occurred through the connections we made to our innovation plan. The digital learning environment, created using Blackboard, aided our discovery learning by providing us with easy to follow courses and essential learning tools such as discussion boards and learning videos. Having gone through this, my perspective on learning has been reinforced. The learning I achieved through this program was significant, authentic, and came with ease. As a result, I now wish to provide the COVA method and a significant learning environment to my students.
In the past I struggled to provide COVA opportunities to students. Challenges arose as I tried to create significant learning environments that allowed for choice and ownership. However, after experiencing COVA and CSLE for myself, I have the confidence to overcome these obstacles. Using backwards planning to develop fluid instruction and action research to identify problems, creating significant learning environments is no longer a problem. I have learned to use a growth mindset and understand that if I keep working towards something I am bound to accomplish it. Through these lessons I am now able to create and foster environments in which significant learning takes place.
One way I will use COVA in the future is to create projects that continue to develop and overlap with each unit. For example, in teaching world geography a project that has students own and operate a business through various concepts within geography could impart significant learning on students. Students would have choice in the type of business they operate, could publish their learning through a student website or journal, could voice their thoughts and opinions in class discussions and in their journal/website, and the project would be authentic by selecting a business model which they are interested in working in. There are many ways to incorporate COVA into any subject matter.
As I reflect on the possibilities of COVA in the classroom, its impact on entire organizations would be momentous. To accomplish this learners and colleagues would need to be trained to use COVA methods. In being an experiential learner, I believe the best way to do this is through personal experience. To begin, I would identify and address the six sources of influence which stand to interfere with a successful implementation (Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, & Switzler, 2013). Teachers would need development featuring COVA methods while allowing time for teachers to develop their own COVA approach to their subject. Collaborative groups would need to be formed so teachers could support each other and overcome obstacles (Gulamhussein, 2013). Additionally, support and feedback would need to be on going so that teachers continually feel supported through difficult stages and are able to improve upon their initial ideas (Gulamhussein, 2013). Through training and development COVA could impact entire schools and have far reaching effects.
In short, my experience in the Digital Learning and Leading program has been filled with authentic learning through choice, ownership and voice. By participating in the COVA method via significant learning environments, I have grown as a learner and as an educator. Through the COVA method I adapted as a learner by finding a new way of learning, through collaboration, evaluation, and reflection. This has allowed me to make deeper, more meaningful connections to course lessons and as a result, COVA and CSLE have already begun to influence my teaching. Using the lessons and ideas I have learned through my participation in the DLL program, I will use continue to implement COVA and CSLE lessons to diverse audiences.
Harapnuik, D. K., Thibodeaux, T. N., & Cummings, C. D. (2018). Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning Opportunities. http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=7291
Cummings, C D., Thibodeaux, T. N., & Harapnuik, D. K. (2017). Using the COVA learning approach to create active and significant learning environments. In Keengwe, J. S. (Eds.). Handbook of research on digital content, mobile learning, and technology integration models in teacher education. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Submitted for Publication. – Using the COVA Approach to Promote Active Learning-Chapter Draft.pdf
Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education
Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the Teachers Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Teaching-the-Teachers-Effective-Professional-Development-in-an-Era-of-High-Stakes-Accountability/Teaching-the-Teachers-Full-Report.pdf
Heslop. (2014). Personal learning reflection. Retrieved from https://michellemyers1010.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/personal-learning-reflection/