Developing a learning design statement that reflects your teaching philosophy

In 2008 I began to draft more detailed learning design statements to include in the Subject Outline for each of the subjects I teach. The idea behind publishing such statements is to provide my students with a rationale for why a subject is designed the way it is, what to expect from the way I teach and why I teach that way, and what to expect in terms of the learning experiences they will encounter as students while studying the subject. To date I have developed these for ETL401 Teacher Librarianship, ETL411/511 ICT Experience, ETL523 Information Policy Issues, and the new undergraduate and postgraduate social networking subjects that were developed in late 2009 as part of my FLI Teaching Fellowship project for implementation in 2010. I taught INF506 in 201030 and 201090 sessions, and INF206 in 201090.

The following is an example of how my teaching philosophy informs the learning design of a subject.

INF506 Social Networking for Information Professionals


This subject has been designed to provide a broad understanding of the concept, theory and practice of social networking technologies within the context of libraries and information agencies and the work of information professionals, with a particular focus on Library 2.0 and participatory library service. Students are encouraged to immerse themselves within a range of social networking environments, to experience firsthand what it is like to be a member of social networks, and explore the potential application of social networking to support informational, educational, social and organisational needs of their clients and workplace.

The term ‘information professional’ is used throughout this subject to define (and be inclusive of) the range of roles and positions within the broader library and information services sector. This subject posits the information specialist position within organisations as an innovator and change agent in terms of planning, developing, implementing and evaluating social networking technologies to support an organisation’s goals.

In this subject, students examine their role in raising the awareness of their organisation and the community they serve with regard to social networking applications and issues, and supporting information policy development to address these issues. Students are provided with opportunities to develop their critical reading, thinking and writing skills in exploring and evaluating a range of social networking environments and tools to support information service provision, educational programs and collaborative practices within organisations and communities.

The learning experiences in INF506 are also designed to develop students’ awareness of a range of ethical, legal, technological and educational aspects of supporting the development of their clients and work colleagues as digital citizens. Learning tasks also require students to communicate effectively and work collaboratively with others using a range of technology tools, to develop their own capacity as a social networker, online learner and information professional. Students are encouraged to explore what it takes to become a social networking producer, rather than just a consumer. Reflective practice and evidence-based practice are is also central to the learning objectives, activities and assessment of this subject.

Design and evaluation

Collaborative learning, problem-based learning and authentic assessment approaches underpin the learning design of this subject. Students are required to demonstrate competence in basic operational skills of a computer, Internet and a range of Web 2.0 technologies. Students are required to develop critical evaluation skills in terms of content and age appropriateness of social networking sites and the potential application and integration of these environments to support the information and/or learning needs of individuals, groups, communities and organisations. Students’ participation in using a range of asynchronous and synchronous social networking technologies helps them develop understandings (in terms of online ethics and etiquette), and skills of communicating and learning within an increasingly socially networked world. The above knowledge and skills are required to successfully complete Assignments 1 and 2.

The philosophy (note this is drawn directly from my TP statement) underpinning this subject is that adult learners when confronted with the demands (and sometimes alienation) of an online distance learning environment learn best within a ‘communities of practice’ (CoP) ecology where they are provided with a set of physical, cognitive and affective scaffolds that encourages them to take responsibility for their own learning as well as contribute to the learning of others. Such an ecology supports adult learners as risk takers, something that adult learners try hard to resist at times(!), especially when confronted with new technology challenges, or being encouraged to share thoughts, ideas and experiences or publishing work which is open to the scrutiny of their peers and/or public.

It is believed that students supported by the above ‘communities of practice’ model and authentic learning principles, will become better equipped to take charge of their own learning journey, thus gaining greater insights into how they can support their own professional growth through online learning environments and social networks in the future, upon completion of their postgraduate studies.

At the end of the semester, students will be asked to evaluate the content, design and teaching of this subject. Students are requested to consider the aims of the course as a whole as they evaluate the contribution of this subject to their professional development and growth as social networkers and information professionals. Feedback from students will assist staff to revise and improve the subject, the course, and their teaching. Of course, it will also enable new cohorts to experience the subject based on students’ evaluation.

Learning, teaching and support strategies

INF506 uses CSU Interact as the subject’s online content portal which consists of topic-based modules, resources folder, and announcements and calendar tool. This is supplemented by a number of Web 2.0 tools and spaces that have been customised to support individual and collaborative learning activities in INF506 throughout the session. These include:

Delicious (social bookmarking)
To be used to share websites and recommend readings with the class throughout the session. Use the tag ‘for:sissocialmedia’ to recommend a website for inclusion in this collection.

Facebook (social group/networking)
Search under Groups for ‘INF506 Social Networking for Information Professionals’ and submit a request to become a member. This Facebook group will be used as the primary space to support class discussions on a range of social networking issues throughout the session.

Twitter (microblogging)
To be used as INF506’s communication ‘back channel’ where the subject coordinator and students share ideas, URLs and informal updates about their learning. Use the hashtag ‘#inf506’ for subject-related posts to Twitter.

Flickr (photo management/sharing)
To be used by the subject coordinator and students to store and share screenshots and photos documenting learning experiences in INF506 throughout the session.

Second Life (3D virtual world community)
To be used for INF506 synchronous learning activities. Our ‘home’ is at the CSU-SIS Learning Centre at

Resource-based, problem-based and immersive learning activities are used to support students’ completion of authentic assessment tasks. Online learning and assessment tasks encourage the development of students as critical evaluators of social networking technologies, communities, needs and services; effective information seekers and online collaborators; facilitators of inquiry and dialogue through the use of social networking technologies; leaders of Web 2.0 innovation in organisations; and reflective practitioners within a socially networked world.

This Wordle graphic captures the essence of INF506 learning experiences

Students are encouraged to:

  • engage in self-paced modules, online readings and online class discussions;
  • complete a number of formative activities using a range of social networking tools, including the development of an online learning journal (OLJ) to document reflections and evaluations of immersive learning activities;
  • complete an individual or group-based project on the application of social networking to support the information and/or learning needs of a group or organisation; and
  • complete an evaluative report on your learning using three experiences documented in your OLJ as evidence of meeting the learning objectives of the subject, including a reflective statement on your development as a social networker, and the implications for your development as an information professional.

You will apply the knowledge, skills and understandings acquired from your own experiences and other subjects studied (wherever they are relevant) to this subject, particularly those dealing with the application and use of technologies; information needs and services; e-learning, online collaboration and community building; information society and policy issues; and project management.  INF506 will allow you to explore theory, practice, issues and concerns regarding social networking, and how these impact on individuals and communities as well as education, business, government and information organisations. You will find that issues raised in INF506 will complement and expand upon some of the material explored in other INF and/or ETL subjects that you have studied.

Extracted from pages 4-7 from Charles Sturt University Subject Outline INF506 201030 W D-18 February 2010-Version 2.pdf

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