Reflection on my PIDP Courses

PIDP 3100 Foundations of Adult Education

This course introduced me to various teaching philosophies. It taught me that not everyone learns the same way or at the same pace. I learned that motivation for learning can vary tremendously from person to person. Understanding and accepting these differences exist helped me to be more empathetic when individuals were having a difficult time with their learning and to adapt instructional delivery to the classroom situation whenever possible.
PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development
This course was an eyeopener for me. The focus of this course was developing skills for course learning objectives, outcomes, DACUMS, course outlines and other instructional materials. Working on these skills made me aware that there was a purpose for everything that was taught within the classroom. Of course, we need to be flexible, but a skillful teacher uses the process to optimize the students learning by staying on track and creating a logical flow if information. Well thought out curriculum and course development was a sign of best pedagogic practices. This course was invaluable when I began to be involved in the course development project for our department.

 PIDP 3230 Evaluation of Learning
As I was taking this course I reviewed many of my existing evaluations/assessments, these included quizzes, exams and assignments. I discovered most of them were sadly inadequate and did not always reflect solid pedagogical principles. This course gave me the skills to restructure my existing assessments to an acceptable level and allowed me to incorporate best practices when developing new evaluations.

PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies
As instructors, we are always looking for the right mixture of instructional delivery and learning activities to engage our students and to create an atmosphere of effective learning.  This course introduced me to the many instructional strategies that I could use to nurture motivation to want to learn. The most important thing I learned was that just simply teaching a subject does not necessarily correlate with the students learning. There are physiological, behavioral and physical factors that affect how students comprehend and retain knowledge. We need to be aware of these conditions and align instructional strategies to complement the students learning preferences to provide effective learning.

The most important thing I have learned.

The most important thing that I have learned from the PIDP courses was that education is a complex subject. Much academic research has been done to explain the why, how, what and when to use recognized pedagogical principles to optimize student learning. Yet, much of what was happening in the classroom are the implementation of pedagogic best practices modified to reflect the actual situation. As educators, we need to be flexible and adapt to these unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable situations.

How has my thinking changed?

I have come to realize that the classroom environment and student engagement are dynamic. No matter how well you prepare for a class you should be ready for the unexpected. Brookfield suggests that “learning – particularly that involving risk, discomfort, or struggle – is highly emotional” (Brookfield, 2015, p.55). I should not be too hard on myself if every lesson does not go perfectly. I need to understand that predictability is not part of the equation, uncertainty is the norm.

Actions I will take based on what I have learned.

I will carefully consider the complexity and diversity of the classroom environment when choosing the instructional strategies and learning activities in my future classes. I need to be aware of and understand the myriad of emotions students may be experiencing during the learning process.  My response must be honest yet meaningful to the students.

The PIDP courses I have taken to date has helped me to realize my job as an educator was not just to teach, but to assist students in their learning by providing guidance, relevant knowledge and skill sets to want to become lifelong learners. I will continue to apply what I have learned into each of my classes to improve the students learning experience.

 

Reference

Brookfield, S. D., (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. 3rd.ed. San Francisco: Jossey – Bass.

Comment on Brookfield’s Chapter 20: Staying Sane: 16 maxims of Skillful Teaching

 

I found this chapter so enjoyable to read. It was insightful and refreshing to see how a distinguished educator like Stephen Brookfield views the educational process and his keen observations on what in his opinion were the most important things a new college teacher should know.

Brookfield (2015) identifies and briefly explains his current 16 maxims of skillful teaching. As a new teacher, I can relate to all his maxims. It was comforting to realize the issues I encountered with lesson plans, learning activities and learning resistance are all part of the teaching experience.

The following are a sampling of the Maxims I found most relevant for me:

Maxim # 1: I understand why Brookfield started with “Attend to Your Emotional Survival” as his #1 Maxim. As the instructor, you are the leader, the one in charge of administering the learning. If you allow your emotions to interfere with your teaching you will be perceived by the students as unstable or unreliable. You may lose your credibility with them. If you are in a state of emotional exhaustion “you’ll be in no fit shape to help students” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 265).

Maxim #3: Perfection Is an Illusion really struck a chord with me. I think we are all guilty of striving for perfection in our teaching environment. It is only natural to want students to come away from your lessons exclaiming how informative and enjoyable it was. ” Pursuing perfection slavishly will only lead to educators forgetting the real reason for teaching—- to help students learn” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 271).

Maxim #10: Remembering that Learning is Emotional.Sometimes as instructors we forgot that the content we are teaching was all new to the students. We need to step back and remember the times we were in similar situations and how uncomfortable and lost we may have felt. Empathizing with what the students may be experiencing allows us to better understand the resistance to learning that we encounter.

Maxim #11: Acknowledge Your Personality.  Being yourself in classroom is very important. Students need to see that you are genuine and honest in every aspect of your teaching. Building up trust between the teacher and student is one of the key elements to effective learning.

Maxim #16: Don’t Trust What You’ve Just Read. I found this to be the most interesting Maxim of all. i was ready to plasticize a copy of the Maxims and use it as a standardized model for skillful teaching (I still think I will!). Brookfield writes that “everything in this book should be regarded with great skepticism” (Brookfield, 2015, p, 276). in other words, even he does not possess the keys to the holy grail of skillful teaching. The only real certainty is that he will be surprised by what is coming. (2015)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Brookfield’s book. He introduced very practical solutions and applications to address the many issues facing teachers in the classroom everyday. He does not impose his ideology, instead encourages you to think and continue to try new things even if you fall flat on your face.

Fall Forward!

References

Brookfield, S.D., (2015).  The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd ed.  San Francisco: Jossey – Bass.

Fall Forward! (March 26, 2017) by NovaNews  http://novanews19.wordpress.com/

 

 

Why lifelong learning?

PIDP 3260 Blog Week 7PIDP 3260 Blog Week 7.jpg 2

Knowledge

Professional development

Practical skills

Lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated”[1] pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons (From Wikipedia).

As professionals, a standard level of competency is expected. In the educational programs the academic standards are monitored through summative evaluations of the students. Once they have graduated and met regulatory licensing requirements they are free to practice their profession. It is incumbent on members of any profession to maintain their competency through professional development. The following are some of the opportunities Professional development can provide:

  • Stay current by being up to date on the latest innovative technological changes
  • To keep your knowledge and skills current
  • To adapt to changes in the working environment or job skill sets
  • To enrich your life by broadening your intellectual and cultural growth

As educators, we need to model lifelong learning in the classroom and mentor students to develop the skills to become motivated self-learners.

These are a few of the essential skills students will need to nurture Lifelong Learning.

  • Critical thinking skills: Students need to be shown how to check and verify the authenticity of information.
  • Problem solving skills: Providing students with opportunities to brainstorm together and search out different paths to follow to get to the end solution are important learning skills to incorporate into our everyday teaching.  The value of collaboration cannot be over emphasized!
  • Presentation skills: Being able to present information in a clear and coherent way so that others can interpret it is an essential life skill.  Learning to interpret both visual and written presentations is equally of value.
  • Communication skills: Learning to use social networking as a learning tool among our students is vital.  While there is much discussion about responsible use of social media, are we teaching our students how to use these tools to expand their own learning?
  • Interpersonal skills: Appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication plus listening and questioning skills, being responsible and accountable for actions, awareness of social etiquette and expectations alongside self-management skills are essential for working as a member of a team.   Learning from and with others is what it is all about!
  • Confidence building skills: Developing an ‘I can’ attitude and assertiveness is so very important.  Education must aim to instill confidence in our students so that they know they can learn, explore and achieve successfully on their own.  Providing opportunities to do this is essential.
  • Self-directed learning skills: By giving our students the opportunity to determine what and how they will learn is a valuable way for them to determine the path of their own learning.  If educators constantly set the agenda for students, there is little scope for them to discover the joy of learning on their own.

Through our own quest for lifelong learning and using these essential skills in our classes, we can hopefully teach students how to learn. Brookfield (2015) suggests that we should view ourselves as a helper of learning.

So why lifelong learning? Because it is good for your health and good for everyone around you.

References

Brookfield, S. D., (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Techniques, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey – Bass

Dr. R. Novak (2017).Rutgers Division of Continuing Studies: Why lifelong learning? Retrieved from http://continuingstudies.rutgers.edu/vp/news/why-lifelong-learning

Developing students as lifelong learners: 10 essential skills (October 26, 2014). Nova News. Retrieved from https://novanews19.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/developing-students-as-lifelong-learners-10-essential-skills/

Web Images. Retrieved from https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=A86.J7rY39dY11QAOhIPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByNWU4cGh1BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=Lifelong+Learning&fr=yhs-pty-pty_extension&hspart=pty&hsimp=yhs-pty_extension

Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifelong_learning

Accreditation, serious stuff!

Accred image

I am aware of a program that lost its accreditation a couple of years ago, in the college that I teach at. I don’t feel it necessary to name the program in order to comment on the issues and factors that contributed to the unfortunate situation..

There were several factors that were raised by the accreditation team. Issues ranged from outdated curriculum to required improvements to the physical environment of the programs facilities. The decision was made to suspend the program and make a wholesale change to the curriculum and improve the program amenities rather than a quick fix approach.

Loss of accreditation was a serious matter. A professional program without accreditation was meaningless for the graduating students. The professional regulatory body would not recognize their diploma from the educational institution and consequently the candidate would not be eligible to become a registered member to practice provincially or nationally due to the licensing requirements.

Loss of accreditation meant an accelerated closure of the program affecting employment stability for existing staff. A new cohort of students was abruptly told the program was not going to be available to them for the next intake. Many lives were either put on hold or sent into a different direction.

Program accreditation must be diligently monitored to ensure all the key stakeholders that the education the students are receiving are of the highest standards possible. Private and public educational facilities both need to be held accountable for the level of education that is expected of them. An accredited institution strives to continually improve themselves resulting in a better learning experience for the students. This is the situation I have observed at my college.  Administrators and all levels of support from the curriculum development team to department faculty are working hard to not only meet but exceed the accreditation requirements.

As this video reveals losing accreditation not only affects the educational institution!

Reference

YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/roDz5maLlis

Improving Lectures?

My comments on Brookfield’s  Chapter 6 Lecturing Creatively.

The traditional lecture is a method of teaching that can range from being painfully boring, to incredibly inspirational and meaningful. TED Talks are examples of highly motivational and informative lectures. As educators, we are obviously striving to achieve the latter. The trend has been to get away from the “solo performance” teacher simply communicating required lesson content, to a discussion method where teachers and students actively participate in the learning process. In Chapter 6 Lecturing Creatively Brookfield describes how there is a “false dichotomy between lecturing and discussion” (Brookfield, 2015, p.69).

According to Brookfield “Lectures are not by definition oppressive and authoritarian” (2015). We have all attended poorly presented lectures and possibly given a few of our own. I know I have bombed on few of my presentations. Reflecting on those sessions I realized I followed all the “what do to do to ensure a bad lecture” criteria. I created a situation where I was the performer, passing on what I thought was important information to the unsuspecting students. The instructional delivery was teacher focused, I talked and the students listened.

Thankfully through formative assessments from students and constructive feedback from a colleague I have been focusing on instructional strategies that are more learner centered and involving student participation.

These desirable pedagogic principles can be incorporated into the traditional lecture to improve the effectiveness of student learning. Brookfield describes several key points to successfully lecturing creatively. The most important consideration is to ask yourself, why you choose to lecture? The following are some of the common reasons for lecturing:

  • Establish the broad outlines of a body of material—such as presenting a group of conflicting opinions or different schools of thought related to a particular topic.
  • Set guidelines for independent study—highlight key questions and encourage curiosity for follow-up study.
  • Model attitudes you hope to encourage in students—encourage students’ critical thinking and open discussion by supporting their arguments with evidence (where possible) and explore alternative perspectives and interpretations.
  • Encourage learners’ interest in a topic—use personal animation or show passion for the topic of discussion.
  • Set the moral culture for discussions—be focused, rigorous and respectful, especially in early lectures; explore opinions that oppose your own; wrap up with concise, final conclusions.

One other key point I found to be interesting is the use of “clear verbal signals. I tend not to chunk my instruction into smaller pieces enough and clearly distinguish between new thoughts or ideas. This method is one that I will apply immediately into my classroom lessons. I can see how this will help students follow along my line of thought.

In summary Brookfield’s Chapter 6 explains that the lecture method itself is not the problem rather it is the way it is presented. Modifying the traditional lecture with a mix of teaching and communication approaches (Brookfield, 2015) using for example social media, clickers or verbal signals are important factors to improving the effectiveness of the learning. Creative lecturing “can provide students with a solid foundation of understanding that can be extended or critiqued in discussions and assignments” (Brookfield, 2015, p.82).

This video is an introduction to interactive class polling. I have not tried this but it looks interesting!

References

Brookfield, S. D., (2015) The Skillful Teacher: On Techniques, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey – Bass.

DEPAUL Teaching Commons (2017). Lecturing Effectively. Retrieved from http://resources.depaul.edu/teaching-commons/teaching-guides/instructional-methods/Pages/lecturing-effectively.aspx

Improving Lectures: “Lecturing Creatively” (August, 2004). Retrieved from www.go2itech.org/HTML/TT06/toolkit/delivery/print/

Unethical and Unprofessional Behavior

Dalhousie suspends 13 dentistry students from clinic amid Facebook scandal

Short CBC report: http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2646120787/

Most Canadians have heard or read about the thirteen male dental students from Dalhousie University who posted misogynistic and degrading comments about some of their fellow women classmates on Facebook. This unbelievably unethical and unprofessional behavior took place in an environment of so called higher learning. I assume that the university has a strict code of ethics and professional conduct that students are expected to abide by. There was outrage expressed by faculty and the students. Immediate and punitive action against the men involved was demanded by everyone.

The call for the students involved to be dismissed from the program by the student body and public shows that this group of people consider the scandal to be a moral temptation. These students posted the degrading comments that were hurtful and possibly causing psychological harm to the victims just to get a few laughs. What the thirteen male students did was simply wrong. In the public’s eye, there was only one solution, remove them from the dental program regardless of how that may affect their careers and lives.

The Administration on the other hand treated the scandal as an ethical dilemma. It took them considerable time to issue and confirm the resolution to this difficult situation. I assume that they used some model like Kidders to work through the sensitive dilemma facing them. The committee would need to determine which paradigm fit this situation the best and then decide on which resolution principle to use to resolve the dilemma. In making the decision they would need to consider what the pros and cons are for the victims, students, the University and for public opinion. The final decision had to be perceived as reasonable and equitable to everyone.

The following video was the decision:

(sorry for all the ads!)

http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2646023206/

References

CBC News. Dalhousie suspends 13 dentistry students from clinic mid Facebook scandal.  Posted: Jan 05, 2015 7:26 AM AT.  Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/dalhousie-suspends-13-dentistry-students-from-clinic-amid-facebook-scandal-1.288963

Faith, K. E., (June 1, 2015). What Dalhousie “Thirteen” can Teach Us About Ethics Education and Leadership in Dentistry. Retrieved from http://www.oralhealthgroup.com/features/what-the-dalhousie-thirteen-can-teach-us-about-ethics-education-and-leadership-in-dentistry/

Enthusiastic Learner

Brookfield Chapter 16: Understanding Students’ Resistance to Learning.

It is too bad that not all our students are as enthusiastic as this penguin!

Brookfield explains that he has spent much of his teaching career trying to understand why and how students resist learning (Brookfield, 2015). As the instructor, you naturally  assume it must be something you are doing or not doing to cause this resistance. As an educator and content expert you believe you can right this ship and get everyone on board. Unfortunately, resistance to learning has many complex roots and in most cases, are not completely resolvable.

Fear of change is a one of the key factors that influence resistance to learning, especially adult learners.

Adults students come in to our classes with many life learning experiences, some are positive and others are not. Brookfield argues that they may have poor self-image as learners because “they’ve suffered persistent sarcasm, systemic humiliation, and peer ridicule” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 219). Learning new things inherently involves change and at times with unpredictable results. Many students have experienced these situations and shy away from anything that resembles it. For example, within each new cohort in our program there are always one or two students that felt they already know the foundational lesson material because of their previous experience in the field. These students can be dental technicians or dentists from other countries or their parents are laboratory owners and they have limited exposure to dental technology processes. These students initially show a lack of interest or quietly tell their less knowledgeable classmates that their way is better. These actions can start to undermine the validity of your instruction if it is not carefully monitored.

Resistance to learning can also often be justified. A student’s perception of the instructor as being unqualified or the lesson content and learning activities seem to be irrelevant to their needs can dampen “enthusiastic learning”. Putting yourself in the shoes of your students and reflecting on your own positive and negative experiences will help you to be more attuned to your classroom situation (Brookfield, 2015). Critically reflecting on how you would react to poor or unclear instructions would enable you to better understand the challenges that the students face. When learning objectives are “clearly explained with ample time allowed for student questions, clarifications, and negotiations” there was far less resistance (Brookfield, 2015, p. 217).

Despite all of our efforts resistance to learning may never be resolved. Brookfield refers to this as a “dysjunction of learning and teaching styles” (Brookfield, 2015). We have all had a teacher that we just did not see eye to eye with. Personal characteristics, teaching methods or unreasonable expectations are only a few of the possibilities for the dysjunction. As educators, we need to have an arsenal of teaching modalities to at least minimize these issues.

“Going too far, too fast” is something I can relate to. I find myself constantly doing this and needing to reassess the students’ progress during the course. I have observed two factors that affect “going too far, too fast”. As the content expert, there are some processes that seem simple and straightforward and I assume that the students will absorb the information the same way. I do not allot enough time and move on only to discover that some students did not grasp the concept. Secondly, there can be quite a difference in how one cohort responds to the same information compared to another cohort. These variations in assimilation can be time consuming. I have found it important to have frequent informative assessments during the lessons and formative assessments scheduled throughout the course. This helps me to monitor the students’ progress relative to what I am wanting them to learn.

It looks like resistance to learning is the norm and here to stay. According to Brookfield “resistance is the constant hand on your shoulder as a teacher, your ever-present companion” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 225)

References

Brookfield, S. D., (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Techniques, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey – Bass.

Enthusiastic Learner. Retrieved from  http://imgur.com/gallery/PpyaemV

Where am I at now? Great question!

I have come to this profession late into my career. I owned and operated a commercial dental laboratory for over 20 years. I sold my business thinking that I would be riding off into the sunset.

Little did I know that for four years now I would still be involved as a part-time instructor in the Dental Technology program at VCC. I enjoy the interaction with the students and the chance to pass on some of my accumulated knowledge from the industry. Years of technical and business experience in my field did not prepare me for what was required to be a skillful teacher. I have found the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program to be invaluable in providing me with concrete pedagogic principles. I have been able to apply these concepts within my classes, giving me confidence and purpose when I am teaching.

I have been very fortunate to have supportive instructors from the Center for Instructional Development and various other departments to give me guidance throughout the past few years. Being part of our programs course development for the past year has helped me tremendously to understand the key issues facing educators. Everyone involved has a genuine sense of responsibility to provide the best education possible for the students. I realize now how much effort is put into the development of an educational program. The work has been challenging, but at the same time very rewarding when it all comes together, even with all the hiccups. I am proud to be part of it.

My comments on Chapter 8: Teaching in Diverse Classrooms.

Brookfield is a British born and raised educator and has written this book based on his vast educational experiences in the United States.  As a Canadian I find it disheartening that Brookfield’s description of what I would refer to as stereotypical referencing of various ethnical, racial and cultural groups also still exists in Canada, particularly in the Metro Vancouver region. You just need to swap in Aboriginal, South Asian and Asian ethnicity as examples to clearly see we are no better off.

Team teaching would be ideal to improve the level of education in an environment of such cultural diversities. Brookfield mentions that “as teachers we all bring different gifts, and handicaps, to the table” (Brookfield, 2015, p.102). I am currently co-teaching in one of my courses and find it to be very enjoyable. The other instructor has many more years of classroom experience than I do, so, it has been an invaluable opportunity for me. We feed off each other’s ideas and the students seemed to be more engaged. Unfortunately, increasing demands on educational funding limits this type of teaching.

Mixing modalities is also an important key to working within a diverse classroom setting. One size does not fit all. However, adapting to different learning styles as Brookfield mentions is easier said than done (Brookfield, 2015). The students in our program are more inclined to learn best with hands-on and visual applications, so I tend to lean my instructional delivery in that direction to cover most of the class. I have found that practical exercises if explained clearly seems to by-pass cultural and language issues. This observation aligns with Brookfield’s argument that incorporating visual components along with the oral communication can enhance students understanding of the information or task at hand.

This short video reminds us of what diversity means.

References

Brookfield, S. D., (2015). The Skillful Teacher:On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey – Bass.

Video sourced from Creative Commons

My Comment on an article from Faculty Focus: When the Teacher Becomes the Student

My comments are in response to an article summarizing the experiences of a couple of teachers who were released from teaching responsibilities to attend a full load of courses in the institution they were teaching.

The topic title immediately caught my attention “When a Teacher Becomes the Student”. I thought to myself what an innovative and effective way to experience what the students are going through during their courses. Not only are you looking through the lense from the student’s perspective but you are walking the walk with them. I was surprised the teacher (student) found the initial orientation confusing and disorientating and they quickly moved from learning to survival mode (Weimer, 2017). As instructors, we believe that we prepare the orientation material with great care and explain the expectations clearly. However, it seems that we are forgetting that students need to orientate themselves with multiple courses within a short time and still make sense of it all.

Starling, one of the teachers involved in the experiment, emerged with renewed insight and described four things that he was resolved to change in his teaching protocol.

      1. Use group work on the first day and use it as a way to get students introduced to the content and each other.” (as cited in Starling, p.4). This was in response to addressing the issue of confusion and anxiety from receiving the course orientation material.
      2. Spend more time talking about the rationale behind assignments” (Weimer, 2017). This resolution was to address the tendency to spend too much effort clarifying what students are supposed to do rather than why they are being asked to do it.
      3. I will assign no superfluous material.” (as cited in Starling, p.4). ”…there is content my students need to know and content that is nice to know.” (Weimer, 2017)This resolution was to ensure students learning are focused on what was important and authentic.
      4. Knowing now that student gripes are often legitimate, I will complain less about complaining students.” (as cited in Starling, p.4). It is important that when we become aware of student’s complaints we should look inward first and self-assess what we are doing and not be so quick to judge the students perceived attitudes.

This was an enlightening article and a reminder to all educators to put themselves in the position of their students to be able to appreciate their legitimate issues and to accurately evaluate the credibility and authenticity of what we are teaching.

References:

Weimer, M., PhD., (2017, February 22). When the Teacher Becomes the Student. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/teacher-becomes-student/