Best Practices Framework Part 2 The Seven Principles

Posted By on Jul 19, 2014 | 0 comments

bestpractice2In our previous installment in this series, we discussed how ‘best practices’ were important in course design and included the union between structure and strategies, the yin and yang of course development.

To quote our first article, “Structure often includes instructional design tools such as learning management systems and multimedia production software. Strategy includes what we often refer to as ‘best practices’ – the appropriate combination of structure, engaging content, best practices and evaluation strategies to help ensure the transfer of learning”.

And while I speak to the online or blended learning environments, many of the methodologies we’ll discuss have evolved out of what is now considered the more traditional face-to-face learning environment, and with adaptations, are as applicable today as they have been in the past. Remember, Dewey spoke of ‘experiential learning’ long before it became ‘vogue’ in online learning.

A case in point is the first strategy I’d like to discuss, one of the foundations in the instructional design framework used at ID&CMS, is known as the “Seven Principles” (first published as the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” by Chickering and Gammon).[1]

Quoting from the more recent article, “Since the “Seven Principles of Good Practice” were created in 1987, new communication and information technologies have become major resources for teaching and learning in higher education. If the power of the new technologies is to be fully realized, they should be employed in ways consistent with the Seven Principles”.

Published in 1996, Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever”[2] updated the original seven principles with technology in mind.

In it, the authors (now Chickering and Ehrmann) say, “This essay, then, describes some of the most cost-effective and appropriate ways to use computers, video, and telecommunications technologies to advance the Seven Principles”.

You may smile and say to yourself, “In this day of rapid changes, an article from 1996 is as old as the wind.” And while true, that is partially the point. The information – applicable in 1987, updated to be more applicable in 1996, continues to be applicable today. You will find yourself doing some internal mental editing while you read the article, updating some of the already out-of date technology that’s described with technology that has replaced it, sometimes twice over.

I’ll list the seven with a few caveats that I’ve added. Other than that, I’ll leave the details of the principles themselves to the article, which I heartily encourage you to read.

Good Practice:

1. Encourages Contacts between Students and Faculty

This means “quality” contact time, which I consider to be interactive time. So while lecturing may have a roll in certain educational applications, traditional lectures have relied on passive transmission of information. While that is changing to a degree, simply being in a classroom with a teacher or professor is not interactive, and I would not consider it ‘contact’.

2. Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation among Students

Most of us would agree this facilitates deeper learning. There are both structures and strategies that support this end, and educators can do a great deal to include structures to support these goals. But educators must stay very aware of interactions between peers in online situations, as toxic emotions do exist and can manifest themselves in unique ways, especially in online discussion forums.

As a professor I work for recently noted abut online forums is “it’s amazing, the same person who seems to be an intelligent conversationalist in class, can turn into to someone unrecognizable by the type of comments they post on line.

It is essential in the online environment that facilitators recognize inappropriate behavior and mitigate it, or if that is not possible and in the extreme, isolate that person from the rest of the class so that others feel comfortable in participating.

3. Uses Active Learning Techniques

The caveat here is that educators try a variety of active learning techniques over time, and work to expand their repertoire, adding those they think effective and discarding others that may not be as effective. While they are valuable tools, too many online classes rely heavily on threaded discussions and generically phrased ‘reflection’ exercises, which can become repetitive.

4. Gives Prompt Feedback

Again, there is a ‘quality’ element to the feedback, which we’ll discuss in subsequent articles.

5. Emphasizes Time on Task

As with Principle #1, they key here is interactive time, and while time on task is not always interactive, such as reading or watching a video, it is greatly beneficial to include an interactive component when learners are reviewing more ‘passive’ content by increasing the learner’s engagement.

6. Communicates High Expectations

But also provides a high level of support.

7. Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Understanding that diversity in learners exists can be an extremely important precursor to effective course design, learning how to successfully accommodate diverse learning styles in your course design is important enough to be included as its own foundational element in our next article centered on Universal Design for Learning.

The article used as the basis for the one you’ve just read was retrieved from another good resource, the “Teaching and Learning Technologies Group” (TLT).  One characteristic of articles found here at ID&CMS, is we rarely discuss process without providing resources where you can find applicable strategies as well. Those of you who go to the TLT website and get to the bottom of the article will find a 2008 update by one of the authors (I know, that was ages ago too!), and links to a variety of resources on implementing the Seven Principles. You’ll have to be a bit creative and envision them within your own list of technology that’s replaced technologies described in the article.

Coming soon: Best Practices Part 3 – Universal Design for Learning

[1] Retrieved from:

[2] Chickering, Arthur and Stephen C. Ehrmann (1996), “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever,” AAHE Bulletin, October, pp.  3-6. Retrieved from:

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