This week is the final week of PIDP3260 and I feel both joyous and sad. It’s the end of a wonderful year of learning about learning. I feel that I have learned so much, and at the same time I also feel that I barely scratched the surface of what I could know about teaching, and about learning.
I greatly enjoyed my courses at VCC, and once I am done with this current course, only the final Capstone Project remains. I am so very grateful to my instructors, who gently guided my studies and provided extraordinary insights and such valuable feedback on all my assignments.
The Provincial Instructors Diploma in Adult Learning program consists of seven courses, and one Capstone project. The courses can be taken in person over several weekends, or in an intensive fashion during one week each (followed by several weeks to complete assignments) or over several weeks online. One course is delivered in-person only (Delivery of Instruction), and one course is delivered online only (Media Enhanced Learning). Looking back, I feel that the time I spent in this program, given my teaching load, was time very very well spent. I learned tools and techniques to organize, deliver and assess my course materials, and met wonderful colleagues and delightful instructors.
PIDP3100, Foundation of Adult Education, was the first course that I took, in February 2016. It provides a sound theoretical background to the program, and introduced me to traditional learning theories, andragogy (the art and science of helping adults learn), self-directed learning, transformative learning, experiential learning, body and spirit in learning, motivation, the brain and cognitive functioning (fascinating!!), adult learning in the digital age (a topic of great interest, as I design and deliver a number of courses online), critical thinking and culture. I loved this course – it was a lot of reading, reflecting, and writing – and this was the course that started this blog, too. During that course, I self-assessed my teaching skills, strengths and weaknesses – and assessed them again a few weeks ago to measure how far I have come. The brief answer is “quite far!!!”.
PIDP3220, Delivery of Instruction, was the next course that I took. This course took place in a classroom, and it was challenging for another reason: we had to create three lesson plans and present three 10-minute mini-lessons in the course of five days. We learned several methods of presentation and student engagement. An important part of taking a class in person is meeting colleagues who are instructors. They are instructing different topics than I am. I met people who taught sailing, nursing, leadership, food preparation, carpentry… all different topics, yet each of us possessing a similar zeal to learn, and confer knowledge to our students. The most important lesson I learned in the course was about proper lesson delivery skills.
PIDP3230, Evaluation of Learning, was a challenging course that I took online. I learned the best practices of creating a knowledge assessment instrument, created a rubric for an assignment, created a video about an informal assessment strategy and finally created an evaluation plan. The assignments in this course were among the most challenging in the program – perhaps because I had not yet taken curriculum design, but also because I went into great depths to ensure a quality product for each deliverable. The most important lesson I learned in Evaluation of Learning was about the need for alignment between learning objectives, what I taught in class, and what I assessed in exams and other instruments of assessment. In my own educational journey I had experienced several classes where the instructor taught at one level, and assessed at a very different level. This is not good practice. I strive for alignment as best as I can in my own varied courses.
PIDP3210, Curriculum Development, was a intense one-week-in-class course experience for me, but oh so eye-opening. I created learning objectives, a course outline and syllabus for one of my courses, as well as a lesson plan. I loved our activities in class – I learned so much! I was taken aback by the hidden curriculum, and researched the topic further. I also reflected on what hidden curriculum lay lurking in my own past scholarly experiences.
PIDP3240, Media Enhanced Learning, was delivered online. The course focused on online discussions, infographics, podcasts, online presentations and open textbooks. I wanted to push myself a little, so I developed infographics and wrote a chapter for an upcoming open textbook on technology management. This is a challenging course for some – as there are so many tools online!! and so many discussions to keep track of !! – but the assignments quickly made us comfortable with the new forms of media. I am particularly happy at having tried to create infographics and continue to create them for my classes, and continue to investigate methods of visualizing data. I am also thinking of completing that open textbook about technology management… when I have more time.
PID3250, Instructional Strategies, was all about the student. We reviewed again how students learn (and what are the best practices of studying – a useful topic to introduce to my young students). I created presentations on motivation tips and strategies and student engagement techniques, reviewed ways of making my courses more engaging before, during, and after class; and wrote a long piece on the importance of a student’s feeling of belonging, to help him or her succeed in their studies. The course reinforced my empathy for my students, and their struggles as they continue their studies. With this course, I realized that over the course of the past few months I was becoming more and more learner-centered in my approach to teaching.
And finally, PID3260, Professional Practice, which I am now very sadly completing. The textbook by Stephen Brookfield, “The Skillful Teacher”, encourages me to take chances and try new approaches during my classes. I enjoyed reading about his various experiences in class, his successes and stumbles, and feel challenged to broaden my own scope of course delivery (lecturing is so 20th century!). The textbook also introduced me to the topic of cultural suicide, a topic that I explored in depth in one of my assignments. The course helped me resume my blogging practice, and also presented me with a method to evaluate ethical situations – a topic that I will be bringing to a few of my management of technology courses.
All of our courses required much reflection after each assignment, and after our assigned readings as well. I greatly, greatly, appreciate the reflective quality of the program. Structured reflection enables me to check in with myself after completing a major assignment or after a difficult evening in class. The reflective process helps me review any situation or idea by using a structured method.
While completing the program, I discovered again my love of learning, of reading, and of writing long well-researched assignments. I look forward to continuing all this in my next degree adventure.
I feel happy to be completing this diploma, and feel very sad to leave the supportive instructors and delightful colleagues that I met at VCC. As I return to school to teach, and to learn, in the new year I hope that we will all keep in touch in person and online.