Dr. Aryeh Ben-chayim is the Head of MOFET's Online Academy, Distane Learning Project Cordinator at Bar-Ilan University and ICT Pedagogical Adviser at Beit-Berl College, Israel
The distance learning environments that are common today are asynchronous, characterized by open and accessible communication and information, and not limited by time and place.
Studies conducted on these environments point to pedagogical limitations that diminish the inclusion of important pedagogical factors such as interaction between teacher and student, interaction among students, providing the pupil with feedback and personal support, effective collaborative learning, and so on (Moore, 2013).
Nowadays, we are also seeing an increase in the inclusion of MOOC courses in academia; these are courses that are usually based on learning in large groups.
This type of course, in my opinion, intensifies and increases the pedagogical limitations in distance learning environments.
Thus, in order to overcome the pedagogical limitations in distance learning environments and to lead the process of change and innovation by means of distance teaching and learning, the "Mediating Teacher" Model for Distance Teaching and Learning was developed and tested on Israeli high-school students in the framework of the present writer's doctoral dissertation during the years 2010-2015.
According to this model, in addition to the distance teacher, a "mediating teacher" is present in the classroom.
The distance teacher, who is the "expert teacher" in the discipline that is being studied, relays the distance lesson to several classes simultaneously via a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning by means of video recordings of the lecture.
Meanwhile, the "mediating teacher" in the classroom mediates between the "expert teacher" and the students.
This mediation comprises affording the students support and encouragement in order to ameliorate their sense of self-efficacy, acquire self-discipline and the motivation to learn, monitor their behavior, and improve their learning and thinking skills.
Studies have found these factors to be essential when studying in distance learning environments.
In this manner, the student who is studying via distance learning does not find him/herself isolated when grappling with the difficulties of the environment and distance communication.
Through the "mediating teacher", a meaningful place for the human factor has been created, thereby mitigating and mediating the technological limitations.
The "Mediating Teacher" Model for Distance Teaching and Learning is based, therefore, on two parallel channels, and at the same time mediates between them:
a content channel that is tailored to every subject, and in parallel, a mediating channel by means of which, through mediation and support, the student acquires ways of learning and thinking that link the subjects that are studied (Egozi & Feuerstein, 1987).
This model features a content channel that is based on the "expert teacher", who engages in distance teaching either synchronously or by means of video recordings of lectures, and a mediating channel that is based on the "mediating teacher", who teaches in the classroom.
It should be mentioned that the mediating actions in the relationship between teacher and students occur continuously during the teaching and learning processes in an unconscious and unplanned way.
This is the reason why training in mediation is required.
The latter training organizes the mediating actions in a manner that maximizes their efficacy.
Being aware of the existence of the mediating components and understanding their correct use and most suitable timing while tailoring them to every pupil with his/her particular learning needs, cannot be taken for granted, and therefore prior training is required.
The principal mediating components with which the "Mediating Teacher" model deals are as follows: mediation for intention and reciprocity, mediation for meaning, mediation for expansion, mediation for a sense of self-efficacy, and mediation for monitoring behavior.
The objective of training in the field of mediated teaching is to increase the teacher's sensitivity toward the student's behavior and to raise the teacher's consciousness regarding his/her ability to influence the student's learning capability by means of improving the quality of the student's reactions during the interaction with the material that is being studied.
Through the experience of mediated learning, the student learns to focus on things, search for meaning in them, relate to experiences in the past and in the present and to the connection between them, seek and find broader and more profound insights within immediate stimuli, plan prior to acting, aspire to succeed, esteem him/herself and his/her actions, and so on (Feuerstein, Rand, & Hoffman, 1979).
In the framework of a project that is being conducted under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University, high-school students are participating in an academic distance course in which the "Mediating Teacher" model is being implemented.
From my own personal experience with the project, both the high-school teachers and the students display a great deal of interest in and satisfaction with the course.
The teachers inform me that the lessons are fascinating and interesting, and during the synchronous lessons, one can see the involvement and active participation of the students, who attend the lessons regularly, ask questions, react to the lecturer's questions, and perform the tasks required by the course.
Egozi, M., & Feuerstein, R. (1987). The theory of mediated learning and its place in teacher education. Dapim, 16, 34-36. [in Hebrew]
Feuerstein, R., Rand, Y., & Hoffman, M. B. (1979). The dynamic assessment of retarded performers: The learning potential assessment device, theory, instruments, and techniques. Baltimore: University Park Press.
Moore, M. G. (2013). Handbook of distance education (3rd ed.). Routledge, New York: Taylor & Francis Group.