What I Learned in the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program.

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.

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Welcome to the Future, Public Domain image
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What I Learned in the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program.

More Ideas for Creativity in the Classroom

The Fusion Blog offers 20 ideas to promote more creativity in the classroom. Not only are there twenty different ideas to choose from, but each idea offers additional resources to choose from. What a great post!

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20 Ideas to Promote More Creativity in Your Classroom – Fusion Blog (2016)

In particular, I like the ideas of making time for visual reflection, integrating time for hands-on reflection and keeping the classroom layout flexible. I have often re-arranged the layout of a classroom to suit an activity such as discussion groups or even smaller buzz groups.

When I first started teaching, I used to spend all my time lecturing. Nowadays, I like to break up my classes into short stints of lecturing and longer periods of discussion among the students on little problems or to deepen a point that was made in class. As students discuss the questions that I ask of them, I like to circulate in my classroom and eavesdrop, or ask more questions to move their discussions forward.

Reference

Guerrero, A. (2016). Twenty Ideas to Promote More Creativity In Your Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.fusionyearbooks.com/blog/creative-classrooms/

More Ideas for Creativity in the Classroom

Lifelong Learning

I told a friend earlier today that I will be continuing my studies next year, after I finish my Provincial Instructors Diploma in Adult Education. Her amused and sincere reaction was “What, you want MORE school?? Haven’t you had enough?”

Well, no.

And I will never have enough.

People in my family live very long lives, and I intend to continue living, and learning, for a very long time. As an instructor, I am a holder and communicator of knowledge – but I also come to the profession fueled by a deep and insatiable curiosity and desire to learn. And I hope to instill some of this in my students – whether they are 17 or 71.

I don’t recall many periods of my life when I was bored. There is so much around me that is interesting, that I want to know more about. I am enthused about undertaking a new topic, or learning about a new theory, or putting into practice new steps – whether they are in sports, or in a new technique, or in a new way of thinking. I love to read, and I love to listen to stories and accounts of historical events. I think I inherited this from my father, who was very curious about life around him and was always keen to spend time with me, to discuss current events or advances in technology. My mother, too, is a voracious reader. So it’s natural that I have learned to love books and newspapers, and learning about the world.

Some of the ways that I keep up in my core profession are: attending marketing seminars, subscriptions to journals and following thought leaders on social media. And it is the same, too, in my profession as educator – I attend conferences when I can, I follow many blogs, I read books and journal articles. When I complete the PID (which is soon!!) I hope to join a learning community in which instructors share stories, read books together, and generally keep in touch as a mode of support and sharing of what we are learning, what we are trying, and best practices from our time in the classroom or in online rooms.

I hope to instill a love of learning in my students, to make learning fun. Through this degree I have learned so many tools and techniques to raise students’ interest when it is flagging in class (because of the late hour – I teach many evening courses – or perhaps because the topic needs sprucing up). I have learned that students learn in various ways – by doing, by listening, by reading, by interacting with one another. In my classes I want to offer my students opportunities to learn – from me, from one another – and to find it fun and engaging. It’s a continuous process, sometimes it works, and sometimes it works less well – but I will keep trying. A life of learning, lifelong learning, is just much more fun.

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Christy Pongo – Open Book, 2014 – CC Attribution-NonCommercial
Lifelong Learning

Resistance to Learning

In Chapters 16 and 17 of “The Skillful Teacher”, Brookfield creates a taxonomy of reasons for students’ resistance to learning, and then presents some approaches that instructors may take, to overcome the resistance.

Some of the factors for resistance are innate to the learners, but others are caused by the instructors’ presentation and manner in the classroom – and can easily be remedied by adding more context, slowing down, or reviewing at the volume of material that is presented in a class and cutting away the excess. I’ll present the lists here and comment a bit more below.

What can cause fear of learning? Some possible reasons why students resist learning:

  1. Fear of change
  2. The teacher is unqualified
  3. The learning was prescribed without any attempt to justify how acquiring that knowledge would be in the student’s own best interests
  4. The learning is a waste of time
  5. The learning is taught by an incompetent fool
  6. There are unreasonable demands from the part of the instructor, with
    1. …pedagogic misjudgments
    2. …broken teacher promises
    3. …and clear incompetence

Brookfield then lists the possible reasons why students are resisting learning:

  1. Poor self-image as learners
  2. A fear of the unknown
  3. A normal rhythm of learning
  4. A dis-junction of learning and teaching styles
  5. Feeling that the learning activity is irrelevant
  6. The level of required learning is inappropriate
  7. Fear of looking foolish in public
  8. Cultural suicide
  9. Lack of clarity in the teacher’s instructions
  10. The students’ dislike of the teacher
  11. The material is going too far, too fast, too soon

How can an instructor respond to this? Here are some steps that the instructor can take, when students are not taking seriously the learning that the instructor is sharing:

  1. Sort out the roots of resistance
  2. Ask yourself if the resistance is justified
  3. Research the students’ backgrounds
  4. Involve students in educational planning, when appropriate
  5. Use a variety of teaching methods and approaches
  6. Assess learning incrementally
  7. Check that intentions are clearly understood
  8. Build a strong case for learning
  9. Create situations in which students succeed
  10. Don’t push too fast
  11. Admit the normality of resistance
  12. Try to limit the negative effects of resistance

Of all the approaches, I think (5) rings most true for me. I have found that, in my 13 years at BCIT and my new instructional engagements in other universities, that “class culture” always varies. I might be very lucky, and find myself in a classroom where all my students are actively engaged in the subject matter, and they ask good questions, and engage with one another during class with points and counterpoints. This was the class that I just finished this week!

But in other classes, my students are quiet …too quiet. And they are polite, and listen carefully – but when I ask if there are any questions, …more quiet.And so I put them into groups, and assign little problems for them to work on, and all of a sudden my class is abuzz with activity and focused chatter.

The recommendation that makes me least comfortable, in Brookfield’s list above, is researching the students’ backgrounds. I don’t want to ask, I don’t want to pry. I share, a little, about myself in my classroom – and am delighted when some of my students share, a little, about themselves as well: a new part-time job, or something funny that their parents said to them. I can gather so much from their little stories. But to research the backgrounds? This goes far beyond what I feel comfortable doing, or even asking “tell me about yourself, what brought you here”. I am here teaching adults. Pushing that boundary, wanting to learn more about their context or more about their life outside of school – for my younger students as well as my oldsters – just does not feel right to me.

The key to overcome resistance to learning is to be flexible, and do what works. And if that doesn’t work – then try something else. I want my students to succeed in what I teach, I would like them to come away having learned from the 40 hours that they have spent with me in my class; and I hope that enjoyed some if not most of the proceedings.

I know that I will never be able to reach ALL my students equally, but that does not fault me from trying. I believe that creating small successes, providing clear feedback – and encouraging feedback – helps build up my students’ desire to learn, and open them up to a lifetime of learning. After all, they are in my class, that’s a good first step. And when they return the following week – that’s a good second step. My ultimate goal, in the end, is to not only foster their enthusiasm for the management of technology and marketing courses that I teach, but to foster in them a desire, a lifetime desire, to keep learning and upgrading their skills – and sharpen their sense of curiosity.

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Sid – Apple and Education – No Copyright

Reference

Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher. San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass.

Resistance to Learning

What are Ethics? [video]

Although we might not realize it, we all face ethical issues on a regular basis. But how do we know how to respond well to these issues, to make better (as opposed to worse) ethical decisions? In this TEDx talk Dr. Michael D. Burroughs discusses the numerous kinds of ethical issues we face, possibilities for increasing our ethical awareness as “everyday ethicists,” and the importance of introducing ethics and philosophical education in our schools. Dr. Burroughs also discusses the role of ethics in the lives of children and ways in which adults can attempt to understand and learn from children in ethical discussions.

Why are we avoiding issues of ethics, and why are we avoiding engaging in respectful and civil dialogue about ethics? Many people simply do not have the tools to address issues of ethics.

Dr. Burroughs works with small children (ages 3, 4 or 5 years old) and observes the sense of ethics that already exists in people of such a young age. The respect, humility and eagerness to recognize issues of fairness and ethics is already displayed in young children.

When children already have such an ingrained sense of ethics, at what point of our lives do we begin to doubt this sense, or even lose it? This video inspired me, and made me think about my own ethical journey. I hope that you will enjoy this video as well.

What are Ethics? [video]

Faculty Focus on Critical Thinking

By coincidence, an excellent first-person article about critical thinking landed on my desk this morning. The author, Amy Mulnix, explains how she teaches creative thinking to her young students by being transparent about the process.

“What is it that my brain does when I’m integrating information? My first answer was that I just “see” the connections and parallels. How do I explain that to students? Fortunately, previous reflections served me well and a strategy came to me in the moment. I suggested we start by identifying the major ideas, topics, and characters from previous chapters. As we made the lists on the whiteboard, I felt a wave of relief as I personally started to see more connections among the material—connections I hadn’t identified before arriving in class. This gave me confidence that I had stumbled in the right direction.”

The article in full is found here on Faculty Focus

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Max S, Brain, Goodfon.su

Reference

Mulnix, A. (2016). The Power of Transparency in Your Teaching. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/power-transparency-teaching/

Faculty Focus on Critical Thinking