PLEASE NOTE THIS SITE IS IN A CONTINUAL STATE OF FLUX BY THE VERY FACT IT IS ALWAYS EVOLVING BASED ON USER COMMENTS AND FEEDBACK. HOWEVER THE FRAMEWORK MODEL ITSELF IS NOT SUBJECT TO CHANGE.
A pdf version of the main content of this site is now available in the National Teaching Repository.
Citation: Thomson, Simon (2022): SPaM – A Framework for Hybrid Education. National Teaching Repository. Educational resource. https://doi.org/10.25416/NTR.21229796.v1
Welcome to the website for all resources and information relating to the Subject, Pedagogy and Modality (SPaM) framework. This site is dedicated to the development and sharing of the SPaM Framework which encompasses three domains in support of the development of mixed modal (hybrid) education. Predominantly developed for use in a Higher Education setting where course/programme teams are developing curriculum, it can also be used in other settings.
At the top of the page you will see separate links for each element of the framework, as well as a page for resources and news. If you are on a mobile device you may need to access these through the “hamburger” menu icon (≡).
This framework is heavily influenced by and is an adaptation of the TPACK framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) from which both the Subject and Pedagogy domain descriptions are largely derived (albeit with a name changes). Having used the TPACK framework in both a curriculum development and academic development context my observation has been that the “Technological” domain of TPACK often resulted in discussions about “tools” with minimal consideration for understanding their use, leading to a technocentric approach to learning design and as such I had been seeking an alternative to this.
Additionally, my research into staff experiences of blended and hybrid learning has also led me to observe that ‘technology’ is not a useful term when trying to work with academic colleagues in developing hybrid experiences, largely because this always leads to discussions about tools. Subsequently for this reason I have completely replaced the “technological knowledge” domain from the original TPACK framework and brought in a new domain, “modality”. The main rationale for this is that during the Covid pandemic whilst we may have made good use of technology as an emergency teaching measure, it was clear that the majority of the teaching and associated resources were not designed specifically for the modality and so I spent considerable time exploring and supporting approaches to the different teaching modes and came to an understanding that ‘modality’ should be a key consideration in the future design of hybrid teaching and learning experiences and curriculum, and that the associated technology which is used will very much be influenced by the mode through which the teaching takes place.
Additionally, I also chose to rename the ‘Content’ domain in the TPACK framework to ‘Subject’ in the SPaM framework. In my work using TPACK as both an academic and as an educational developer the term “content” often leads to conversations about resources which is not a useful starting point for curriculum design. Content should not be “king”, as it is the knowledge and learning which should be front and centre of design and so for this reason I have chosen to replace the term “content” with “subject” and to reflect the fact that subject knowledge is the critical factor in any curriculum design and if the starting point for discussions.
The TPACK framework itself refers to the overlapping domains as “forms of knowledge” that which is “required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching” (Koehler, 2012) but in my experience it is unrealistic to expect the “teacher” to have extensive “knowledge” of all of these domain areas because the focus of their attention is often in the subject domain. So, whilst all three domains should be considered during a curriculum design process this does not necessarily mean an individual has knowledge of all domains.
Therefore in the context of curriculum design and development we should be drawing upon a range of experts to ensure we have an equal balance of knowledge for each domain to maximise the learning using a range of teaching modes. Whilst I recognise that on rare occasions some academic staff will be able to bring this balanced view from all three domains, it is often the case that they will almost certainly be experts in the subject domain, and increasingly in the pedagogy domain, but rarely in the modality domain. But, this is why many Universities have invested in educational developers and learning technologists so that these areas of expertise can be accessed by academic staff by working in partnership with these roles.
Regardless of who brings the expertise to each domain, what is critical is that when developing learning experiences these three areas are considered collectively, together and seen as equal importance, understanding and expertise. In the context of SPaM I simply refer to these as “domains”.
An overview of each domain is provided below but each domain also has a separate page with more detail on each which can be accessed from the menu at the top of the page.
This being the subject being taught (the “what”) and in particular the knowledge that needs to be covered in that course. This is the subject matter that the students will learn which will inform the content of the learning as well as any assessment of it and will sometimes be prescribed by professional bodies in some subject areas. However, “content” is not central to the philosophy of this domain as the focus should be on the learning and the knowledge that students should acquire.
This is the “how” – the consideration for the methods and approaches to teaching and learning. The way we teach is sometimes closely associated with subject areas, as particular discipline areas sometimes require certain approaches to teaching. Within this domain consideration should be made for core values, assessment and feedback approaches and course structure.
In a blended/ hybrid curriculum we need to consider the “teaching modes” through which the learning will take place (the “where & when”). It may be that one mode is favoured over another in some scenarios (e.g. online asynchronous for distance education) or it may be that a mix of modes works best. Modality could be in relation to location (online / on campus) or time (synchronous / asynchronous). Whatever the decision it is important that it is a conscious one and a consideration as to which mode will work best in what teaching & learning scenarios.
As the SPaM framework graphic suggests, these domains influence each other and considerations for one will ultimately impact the others in some way. The emphasis with the SPaM framework is the intersection of all three domains (SPaM) at the centre of the Venn diagram. As this suggests all three domains should be considered equally and holistically, observing that they influence and rely upon each other. However, the acronym SPaM purposefully puts the three domains in an order by which most academic staff will likely approach their curriculum development process and in some situations where the term SPaM may not be preferential the alternative acronym MaPS can also be used).
Through experience of being and working with academic staff , rightly or wrongly, the subject matter is almost always the natural starting point for curriculum design activity. This is to be expected as it is where most colleagues will have expertise, be most confident and find most comfort. With any subject being learned there is often specific benchmarked knowledge that needs to be taught in order for a student to pass (graduate) in that subject. So if we do start the process using “subject” as the point of entry, thee next logical consideration is more often or not the pedagogy, how this subject knowledge will be taught, what teaching methods will be applied and the general approach(es) taken to the teaching and learning process. Finally, we come on to modality, a domain consideration not often given much consideration (especially in campus based teaching) despite the fact that learners are often navigating a blended experience even if all the contact hours are campus based. Even in a fully online programme students will have at least two “modes” of study, that being online asynchronous and online synchronous.
However, modality really comes to the fore in a hybrid programme (that being a structured mixed of in-person and online) and yet even here often the modality is brought into the discussion last. However, it is particularly important to think about pedagogy and modality together, as the way we teach and assess may be directly linked to some specific modes of teaching. The brilliant article here helps to explain this “entanglement” in relation to technology use.
Ultimately, all three must work together in synergy to ensure the best designed learning experience, each will need to influence and compromise with each other depending on the mode of the course/programme. Often you will observe that the subject remains relatively constant, regardless of the teaching mode. However a fully online course may look very different compared to a fully on campus programme with regards to pedagogy and modality.
As pointed out to me on Twitter (see below) the framework may appear to lack some of the detailed areas for discussion that take place during the curriculum development process. However, it is not the intention of this framework to provide such details but these considerations feature within the outer context of the framework to acknowledge their existence and influence, but ultimately I would expect that the SPaM framework will co-exist alongside other approaches whilst acting as a key point of reference through which to join up those activities via the three core domains.
In this example it’s possible to map most of the 8 segments of Danielle’s model above to the SPaM framework (and I have attempted to do so below) with some lenses overlapping between the three domains. This demonstrates how SPaM enhances existing models by drawing attention to the need to consider Subject, Pedagogy and Modality holistically in the design of programmes/courses.
The local contexts within which the SPaM framework might be used are likely to draw upon other models and frameworks as part of established practices and processes. SPaM doesn’t exist in isolation to these existing approaches but acts as a single point of reference when planning or designing curriculum. The framework’s relative simplicity is it’s strength and will make it more likely that academic colleagues will remember these three core domains and broadly understand the merits of each.
Pragmatically, whilst a rich and detailed framework (of which there are many) may be of interest to an educational developer or an academic in the discipline area of education, I know from first hand experience a that a simpler, more accessible framework works best for the majority of academic colleagues whose day to day focus is not educational theory, but their subject area and research discipline.
You can find a full list of references for this work on the references resource page.
To cite this work:
Thomson, S. (2022). SPaM – A Framework to support the Development of Hybrid Education. SPaM Framework. https://spam.digisim.uk