Creating an “Invitational Classroom” in the Online Educational Milieu
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Parker Palmer, a scholar who studied effective face-to-face teaching, introduced the term the “invitational classroom” (1993, p. 71). In particular Palmer emphasized that “an air of hospitality” facilitated the inviting environment (p. 71). Hospitality in Palmer’s words means “receiving each other, our struggles, our newborn ideas, with openness and care” (p. 74). Palmer concludes that both teachers and learners experience positive consequence when the classroom is invitational. This paper explores a category of innovative teaching strategies, called artistic pedagogical technologies (APTs) (Perry & Edwards, 2010) that could facilitate the experience of an invitational classroom in online courses. APTs are teaching strategies founded in the arts. APTs described in this paper include photovoice, parallel poetry, and conceptual quilting. A study of the effect of these APTs on graduate students and instructors from a Canadian online university is discussed. Ethical approval for the study was granted by the Research Ethics Board of the host university. Study participants included a convenience sample of 3 course instructors and 26 students. The instructors had each just finished teaching one section of an online graduate course into which APTs had been introduced. The student participants had just completed one of these three study courses. All data were gathered after the study courses were completed and final grades submitted. Data were collected using one-on-one semi-structured interviews with participating students and instructors. Additionally student participants completed an online questionnaire featuring a 5 point Likert scale that assessed the effects of APTs on their experience in a particular course. Data analysis involved hand-coding of interview transcripts coupled with analysis using NVivo software and descriptive statistics. In summary, both students and instructors found the classroom environment changed in a positive way in part because of the APTs. Research participants reported that APTs initiated, motivated, sustained, and enhanced interactions between students, and between students and the instructors. These findings are further analyzed using Palmer’s concepts of hospitality and the invitational classroom and Vygotsky’s (1978) Social Development Theory. Practical ideas for educators regarding the use of APTS in teaching and e-course design are reviewed. Conference participants may be able to use the ideas presented in this paper to enhance their online courses development and teaching. The teaching strategies discussed are adaptable to different topics and disciplines, economical to create, and effective. The presentation could be of interest to e-course designers and teachers.